This story is about Maria Czernek, 97, the last living Katyn Massacre widow, being decorated for her activity in cultivating the memory of the Katyn Massacre victims. I am posting it because it includes one of the best short, balanced and complete synopsis of the Katyn Massacre that I have read. My only criticism is that it does not mention Bykownia – but that is personal.
[At the award ceremony the audience was] reminded that Poland’s post-war communist authorities attempted to eradicate the memory of the 1940 Katyn Massacre from public memory, and stressed that it took “heroic efforts” by people like Czernek to preserve remembrance about the killings.
“They were forgotten, banned from schoolbooks and from collective memory. It took heroic efforts over years by people like you to preserve this memory”, Deputy Interior Minister Zielinski told Czernek at the awarding ceremony.
Czernek received the distinction for her activity in cultivating the memory about the Katyn Massacre victims, a large part of whom were policemen.
The Katyn Massacre was a series of mass executions of Polish POW’s, mainly military officers and policemen, carried out by the Soviet security agency NKVD in April and May 1940. The killings took place at several locations but the massacre is named after the Katyn Forest in west Russia, where some of the mass graves of the victims were first discovered.
The massacre was initiated by NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria, who proposed to execute all captive members of the Polish officer corps. The victim count is estimated at about 22,000. The executions took place in Katyn Forest, the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons, and elsewhere. About 8,000 of the victims were officers imprisoned during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, the rest were Polish intellectuals, deemed by the Soviets to be intelligence agents and saboteurs.
In 1943 the government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in Katyn Forest. When the London-based Polish government-in-exile asked for an investigation by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Stalin promptly severed diplomatic relations with the London-based cabinet. The Soviets claimed that the killings had been carried out by the Nazis in 1941 and denied responsibility for the massacres until 1990, when it officially acknowledged and condemned the perpetration of the massacre by the NKVD.
Soviet responsibility for the Katyn killings was confirmed by an investigation conducted by the office of the Prosecutors General of the Soviet Union (1990–1991) and the Russian Federation (1991–2004), however Russia refused to classify them as a war crime or genocide.
In November 2010, the Russian State Duma passed a declaration blaming Stalin and other Soviet officials for having personally ordained the massacre.
Thanks to PAP Last Katyn widow receives award.