Tag Archives: Kazakhstan

DOGS AND BLOGS

DIPLOMATIC DOG: Scruffy Nellie the Haggis Pudding.

Scruffy Nellie

http://diplomaticdog.wordpress.com

Dear Nellie, I may associate you with the ‘m’ word, but it comes only from a sense of jealousy, a very bad emotion, one which my Babusia would never have had. There’s you, a stray ‘m’ in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, with two thousand five hundred and something followers reading about your daily adventures and fillusopical musings, and you, my latest follower are only number seven, possibly 007. Oh Nellie, now that I’ve got it off my chest I feel so much better about you! You are but a dear sweet little dog with beautiful curls as you gaze into the lens like a true pro.

Tess

Tess c1972

When I was young I had a dog as my closest friend for many years. Tess was a black, white and tan mongrel with her tail chopped off (that’s why the photo is this way round). Yes they used to do things like that, but you’re much too young to know. She looked much like a short haired fox terrier as you can see in the photo. Babusia loved Tess very much and always gave her lots of cuddles when she visited us near Lincoln (a very difficult word to spell). Tess died over 30 years ago, but I still remember her with great affection, and her love of licking my ears! Maybe I will tell you more about Tess another day, and the five other dogs in my life.

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POLISH–SOVIET DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS 1941-44

Aktobe Province

Aktobe Province, Kazakhstan taken from Wikipedia.

Urszula was charged with espionage and sentenced to 10 years hard labour due to her work as an Embassy Delegate. I wanted to understand the political situation that led to her false conviction and this blog is the result of my research. The official timeline is below, but Urszula, with the help of her friends on the ground, started providing relief to the destitute Poles arriving from the far north long before the official channels were up and running. She made demands on local authorities to provide food and shelter based on newspaper reports of Polish-Soviet agreements signed thousands of miles away. Her bluff worked and she was appointed Embassy Delegate for the Aktyubinsk (now Aktobe) Province, an area of over 300,000 sq km, about the size of the UK and Ireland combined.  There were 20 Delegates in total and she was one of only nine selected from representatives of the Polish deportees. She did her best in very difficult conditions and I will select passages from her embassy reports (found in the Sikorski Museum) for a future blog.

The earliest arrests of embassy staff that I have found recorded were in July 1942. However Urszula was arrested two months before this on 10th May 1942. She was released from the gulags 10 years later when she was sent into eternal exile in the small Siberian settlement of Dolgiy-Most.

POLITICAL TIMELINE

  • 22nd June 1941 The Germans attacked the USSR and made a rapid advance towards Moscow. Stalin quickly needed allies and was forced to negotiate with the Poles due to pressure from the UK and US.
  • 30th July 1941. The Polish-Soviet Agreement was signed whereby the Soviets recognised the Polish Government-in-exile based in London and released all the Poles held in the USSR. Ambassador Kot opened the Polish Embassy in Kuybyshev (now Samara) because Moscow was too close to the German front. According to a Soviet press release [1] the embassy opened 20 local offices with 421 delegates “to whom the local authorities rendered every assistance in their work”!!! (my exclamation marks). This 421 total must include the ‘Maz Zaufania’ (Men of Trust/Confidence) appointed by the Delegates to work in smaller communities. Local staff were entrusted to distribute cash, food and clothing to the released Poles wherever they could be found.
  • 19th July 1942. A protest note [2] was sent by the Polish Embassy in Kuybyshev to the Soviet Government over the closure of 8 local offices. The Charge D’affaires limits himself “to protesting against the action of the Soviet authorities in closing down the Embassy’s relief organization; and to insist that the Delegates and their staffs who have been arrested be immediately set free”.
  • October 1942. By this time 109 Delegates and their staff had been arrested. Subsequently 93 were released, leaving 16 either dead or in prison. [3]. There is a surprising story by Norbert Kant [4], a Man of Trust not arrested until Sep 1943. (Should this be 1942?) Following a long interrogation over many days and nights Norbert became so tired that he agreed to write a false confession. The NKGB colonel deemed it very unconvincing, checked the basis for his arrest, and had him released. A very lucky man!
  • 16th Jan 1943. The Supreme Soviet ordered local authorities to take over all Polish welfare institutions. Soviet passports were compulsorily issued to persons of Polish nationality who had been living in the eastern districts of the Second Republic which the Soviets incorporated on November 1-2, 1939. Only persons living in central and western regions of Poland before the war were recognized as Polish citizens.
  • 13th April 1943. What little concord existed between the Poles and Soviets deteriorated soon after the Germans announced the discovery of a mass grave in the Katyn forest.
  • 25th April 1943. Complete breakdown of diplomatic relations. Tadeusz Romer, Ambassador since late 1942, left the USSR.
  • 22nd May 1943. An Australian Legation took over the representation of Polish interests, but were obstructed at every point by the Soviet authorities. They were strictly limited by the new definition of Poles as defined by the Soviet Government in Jan 1943 (descibed above). What little aid they were able to send out was often intercepted and distributed by the communist Union of Polish Patriots in a move to gain favour with the Polish communities. Their biggest success was organizing the evacuation of 310 children and 8 staff out of the USSR. Even with this success, despite their best efforts, 17 staff and children were left behind in prison.
  • August 1944. The Australians were replaced by the Polish National Liberation Committee (PKWN, all communists controlled by the Soviets) and Poland became a prawn of the Soviets.

[1] Press release on 6th May 1943 by Mr. A. Y Vyshinsky, Assistant People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR.

[2] Note of July 19, 1942, from Mr Sokolnicki, charge D’affaires of the Polish Embassy in Kuybyshev, to Mr. A. J. Vyshinsky, deputy chairman of the council of people’s commissars, on the unilateral decision to close the offices of various delegates and the arrest of Polish Embassy Delegates in the USSR.

[3] p111 Deportation and Exile by K. Sword.

[4] Extermination by Norbert and Anna Kant, reviewed on DerekCrowe.com

DEPORTATIONS FROM POLAND – DISPUTE OVER NUMBERS.

Polish deportations

from Kresy-Siberia.org

From September 1939 – July 1941 Stalin and his Soviet administration controlled Kresy, the eastern borderlands of Poland. They used this period to deport many families to Siberia and Kazakhstan, with educated and upper class citizens targeted to pre-empt any opposition to their dictatorial rule. The deportations were based on four mass arrests, but the reported numbers arrested have varied widely over the years.

10th February 1940. Osadniks (ex military given land to farm on leaving the army), foresters and their families were sent to gulags and forest camps, mostly in the north of Siberia. This group had the highest death rate due to the unexpected night arrest in the middle of winter.

13th April 1940. Mostly women and children were arrested as “dangerous social elements” and sent to forced labour on the kolkhozy of Kazakhstan. These were mainly the families of the 22,500 men murdered in the Katyn Forest massacre. As Urszula says, ‘It appeared that the Russians had arrested the husbands of nearly all the women in the wagon.’ My father aged 14 was one of these deportees along with his younger sister.

Urszula writes that she was arrested on the 13th Aprilin Rawa Ruska, changed trains in Lwow on the next day, and arrived at Alga 13 days later. Karta lists 49 trains leaving eastern Poland 13-20 April 1940. The one that has the closest match is listed as having left Rawa on the 20th. I cannot explain the discrepancy, but a single train from Rawa to Alga is not possible because of the change of track width in Lwow. This train carried 1333 deportees, slightly above the average number.

June/July 1940. Refugees who had escaped from German occupied western Poland, including many Jews, and were now living in the Kresy.

June 1941. Sent from the Lithuanian SSR to gulags and work camps.

Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum*

Victims of Repression 2009**

10 Feb 1940

220,000

140,000

13 Apr 1940

320,000

61,000

Jun/Jul 1940

240,000

78,000

Jun 1941

200,000

41,000

TOTALS

980,000

320,000

It is important to qualify that there is documentation of 320,000 deportees but we don’t know the full number because some archives remain closed and some documents no longer exist.

* Based on figures previously used by the Polish Government

** The publication of Institute of National Remembrance “Poland from 1939 to 1945. The Personal Losses and Victims of Repression under Two Occupations “, edited by Wojciech Materski and Tomasz Szarota, Warsaw, 2009. Based on research of NKVD train records by Dr. Alexander Guryanov and published by Karta. Some observers claim that the NKVD records are incomplete.

These four mass deportations by no means account for all the hundreds of thousands of Poles deported and murdered, the total is probably over a million. The death rates are estimated at 16-50%,  and maybe a quarter escaped from the USSR, mostly with General Anders.

DAD’S DEPORTATION FROM POLAND TO THE SOVIET KOLKHOZY

Zbigniew MuskusMy father, Clive Zbigniew Muskus born 18th October 1925, said very little about his time during WW2 when I was a child. He was well into his seventies when he gave me this account.

When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939 Dad was 13 years old living with his parents Wladyslaw and Urszula Muskus, and younger sister Grazyna, in the market town of Rawa Ruska near Lwow. Within a few weeks the Germans handed over to the Russians who had invaded from the east on 17th September 1939. Communist propaganda started almost immediately with compulsory mass meetings.  Responsible citizens were dismissed from their posts and replaced by the unemployed and petty criminals.  Mass arrests started.  The NKVD arrested Dad’s father on 6th January 1940.  Apart from a brief sighting at the railway station that was the last time Dad saw his father.

On 13th April 1940 the rest of the family were arrested as ‘dangerous social elements’.  The hammering on the door came in the middle of the night.  They were allowed to pack as much as they could carry, with food a priority, in preparation for a journey to ‘another place of habitation’.  Taken by lorry to the station they were pushed into a wagon and the door slammed shut.  Eighty five people were crammed into a wagon with wooden shelves on each side and a small hole in the middle. It was 5 or 6 days before food was provided, then soup and grains were provided once a day.  With many stops and never much speed they travelled east. He remembers crossing the Volga River and following the journey on a small atlas. After thirteen days they reached the town of Alga on the endless steppes of Kazakhstan.  Four nights were spent in an empty school before the NKVD allocated the prisoners to different kolkhoz or collective farms.

Dad’s group of about 30 were taken to Tokmansay and found shelter on the straw in the granary.  It was a badly run farm inhabited by Kazaks with only one Ukrainian who could speak Russian.  They started from scratch, first making an outside fireplace from scrap iron and clay, on which to cook.  The fuel was dried cattle dung.  Dad worked on the vegetable plots during the summer, irrigating the beds from irrigation channels. In return for the work a little milk and barley grains was provided from time to time. He also trapped susliks, a rodent ground squirrel that lived on the steppe, which they skinned and cooked.   The food they had brought with them soon ran out.  Travelling without a permit was not allowed, but somehow his mother walked and hitched to the town and neighbouring settlements to barter clothing for food.  She walked 30-40 km a day.  They knew that they would starve if they didn’t move quickly.  After trudging several hundred miles in total his mother got permission for their group to move in the autumn.

Maxim Gorky was a larger farm at the next settlement, about 60 km away, with more enterprises including milk cows and pigs.  Dad harvested by day and stole by night.  The guards turned their backs as they took whatever food was available.  Strips were cultivated up to a km wide and several km long, and then abandoned after a few years.  Oxen were used for local transport, but camels were used for longer journeys to pull the grain carts to the silos over 50 km away.  It was important to have a docile camel at the front because they tended to be very uncontrollable, but liked to follow one another.  Dad found it very comfortable sitting between the two humps and enjoyed collecting the camels from the steppe.

His Mother thought that survival would be easier in the town of Aktyubinsk.  Noticing that the supplies of wool were not used locally she suggested starting a knitting enterprise.  The authorities agreed and with permission they moved into digs with a deported Russian family.  Dad went to school during the winter of 40/41, enjoying mathematics and learning Russian.  He is not sure how his mother produced food for himself and his sister, probably by bartering knitwear.

When the Germans attacked the Soviets in June 1941 all the Poles were moved back out to the farms.  Dad was allocated work with the village smithy, a job which he enjoyed. Everything was made from scratch, starting with nails he became skilled at making metal buckets.  Hearing that a Polish Army was being formed his Mother gained permission to travel to the H.Q. at Buzuluk where she met General Anders.  He had been released from the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow and had heard little about the Polish deportees.  She also made contact with the Polish Ambassador Professor Kot.  Urszula was appointed welfare officer for the Aktyubinsk area.

Dad, now 15, joined the Polish Cadet Force and travelling in a similar railway wagon as before, but with more space and better food, and part of the journey with Uncle Karol, went to an officer’s training camp in Tashkent during the winter of 1941/42.  He crossed the Caspian Sea to Persia on 13th March 1942, exactly two years after deportation to Kazakhstan.  To be continued…