The 1940 Cold-Blooded Murder of 21,857 Polish Citizens: The Katyń Massacre

In 1939, the Nazi Germans and Soviet Russians divided Poland amongst themselves. The Soviets quickly arrested the “cream of the crop” of Polish Citizens: military officers, police, university professors, landowner, lawyers, and other leading Polish citizens, about 25,000 of the best Poland had. On or about March 5, 1940, Stalin approved an NKVD (Soviet Secret Police) order for the murder of these Polish citizens.

On April 3, 1940, and continuing through May 1940, these executions, cold-blooded murders, were carried out. The prisoner was handcuffed, taken to a soundproofed room or area, approached from behind, shot in the back of the head, the body taken out the back and dumped in a truck, and the next one led in. This went on for days and weeks until 22,000 of the finest Polish citizens had been murdered, their bodies dumped in mass graves, covered up. Many of them (~5000) were buried in a mass grave in the Katyń forest, and this tragic event has since been known as the Katyń Massacre.

In 1943, the invading Germans found the mass graves and publicized it. The Allies, weak-kneeded and not wanting to offend their “ally” Joseph Stalin, ignored this. They did not want to “offend” Stalin. After the war when German Nazis were being tried and convicted of their war crimes, the allies again chose to ignore this particular Soviet crime. It was not until the 1990s and the fall of Communism that the Russians began to change their tune, and not until 2010 that the Russian Duma (parliament) admitted that the Stalin regime was at fault.

But, blame aside, the stark fact remains, 22,000 people, the top leaders of Poland, were murdered at the hands of the Soviets. But today, Poland is a strong and proud, independent country, one that has risen beyond this tragic loss, has produced new leaders, and is a model of freedom as well as the resiliency of national spirit. Poland lives today. It was crippled in 1940, but rose beyond that. But those terrible events of 1940 began 75 years ago today, on April 3, 1940.

You can read a more detailed history of the Katyń Massacre in English here, or in Polish here. And for an excellent dramatization of these sad events, see the Polish film, Katyń, directed by acclaimed Polish director Andrzej Wajda and nominated for an Academy Award.

Posted in historic sites, history, History of Poland | Leave a comment

Celebrating Poland’s “Accursed Soldiers”

History books may tell you that Poland was “liberated” by the Soviets/Russians during World War II, but the truth of the matter is that from the very start of World War II, the Soviets/Russians planned to subjugate Poland–the Molotov-Ribbentropp line where the Soviets and Germans met in 1939, dividing Poland among themselves shows you that. During World War II, first split among Germany and Russia, then totally subjugated by Germany, and eventually “liberated” by Russia, the Poles fought back against both occupying forces. The conclusion of World War II found Poland given up by it’s allies (USA, Great Britain, and France) to the Russians, a bone to Stalin. But the Poles did not give up so easily.

During World War II, the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) fought the foreign invaders. And even after the loss of support from the allies, they fought the Soviets/Russians. World War II in Europe may have officially ended in May of 1945, but many elements of the Home Army fought on for years afterward, battling the foreign occupation and puppet government of the Soviets, established on Polish soil. These elements fought the Soviets for several years and tens of thousands were captured and exiled to Siberia. An “amnesty” in 1947 drew out another 50,000, who were summarily exiled. It was not until the 1960’s that some of these soldiers, called Poland’s Accursed Soldiers, were rehabilitated and returned from exile–those who survived.

Today, on March 1, Poland remembers these Accursed Soldiers, the Żołnierze Wyklęci, Polish soldiers, men and women, who continued to fight the foreign invaders for years after the “end” of World War II, and end which saw Poland sold into Soviet slavery by Churchill and Roosevelt. Today, Poland remembers, and now you can, too. To read more, see this article: http://inside-poland.com/t/remembering-the-accursed-soliders/. Now you know the rest of the story.

Posted in history, History of Poland, My love of Poland | Leave a comment

27 Reason not to Visit Poland

If you like to remain uninformed, if you do not appreciate art and culture, if you’d rather remain ignorant about history and geography, and if you would rather lead a boring, mundane life, then I have the perfect solution for you: Do not visit Poland. If you do, your boring, mundane, uncultured, uninformed, and lackluster life will be forever ruined, forever changed, because you’ll discover a priceless gem in all of the preceding categories. So be careful, don’t read on, let you be hooked by Poland and all its charms, drawn in by it’s magic, and become a Pola-holic or Pola-phile like me. Once you step over that threshold and learn about Poland, you won’t be able to turn back, your safe and isolated existence will be forever changed, you’ll be drawn into my world, my love of Poland.

I warned you, but if you must, read on to find out 27 good reasons why you should not visit Poland here:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/annaneyman/27-reasons-you-should-never-visit-poland? I hope you have a strong will, because once you read the above, you’ll be drawn in, unable to resist. Why, I imagine within day’s you’ll be seeing out the best airfares and times to visit. And you may just run into me there. You see, I’ve had a drink of this Kool-aid, I’ve succumbed to Polands magical, mystical charms, I am hooked, addicted. I spend all my waking time thinking and dreaming about how I can next go back to Poland to see what I’ve missed on my previous visits, and uncover new treasures. They are everywhere.

 

 

 

Posted in attractions, history, My love of Poland | Leave a comment

Not Your Grandma’s Pączki

I love to make my own pączki, much like my mother still does, and the way her mother did, and was taught by her mother’s mother. You get what I’m saying, right? There is a long family tradition here. And they are the best. But two people can only eat so many pączki, so I bought some at my local grocery store this year. Then I decided to take a good look at the ingredients and compare with my Mother’s and my Babcia’s (grandma’s) recipe:

paczkiWhich one do you prefer? Which one do you think tastes better?

Case closed!

 

Posted in food | Leave a comment

Tłusty Czwartek — Fat Thursday

Today is Fat Thursday in Poland, Tłysty Czwartek in Polish. As the Christmas season and the following Karniwal come to an end and the season penitence, fast and abstinence–Lent–approaches, Poles take a bit of a time out to indulge in a favorite food on this day–pączki. What is a pączek (singular for the plural, pączki)? It is a yeast-raised donut, usually sugared and stuffed with something yummy. In Poland today, people line up at their favorite bakery and buy them by the dozens. Millions upon millions of pączki will be sold today in Poland–and eaten.

I am fortunate. Here in Central Florida, each year, Publix sells pączki at this time of year.

Paczki01

Inside this package is a bit of supreme goodness. Pictured below are the last moments of the pączek i devoured just a moment ago:

Paczki03

A glazed and sugared, raspberry-stuffed yeast donut, gently fried and packaged just for my eating pleasure–and I did take great pleasure in its demise. Good thing they come four to a package.

So, why not join millions of Poles in Poland and around the world this Tłusty Czwartek–Fat Thursday–and enjoy some delicious pączki. I found mine at Publix in the deli/bakery section:

Paczki02

Smacznego!

Want to learn more about Fat Thursday? Check this out: http://polska.pl/en/experience-poland/cuisine/fat-thursday-not-always-on-a-sweet-note/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stalin’s Deportations Began 75 Years Ago Today

75 Years ago today, on February 10, 1940, Stalin and his NDVD (Secret Police) began the mass deportation of Polish Citizens to Siberia. Beginning in 1940 and continuing into 1941, somewhere between 300,000 and 1,500,000 Poles were  evicted from their homes and forcibly relocated to Siberia. This action took place in about four waves of action. Many never returned.

You can more about the Soviet deportations of Polish citizens at the Kresy-Siberia Foundation, but caution, it is a sad story: http://kresy-siberia.org/muzeum/?lang=en.

A number of books have been written about these dark and sad days in history. You can find a few of them here:

– Maps and Shadows, by Krysia Jopek, available here:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1607720086/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_SmL2ub16KCAKD
– The Ice Road, by Stefan Waydenfeld, available here:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1607720035/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_fmL2ub16HDN4C

It is not a pretty story, and a story that has been mostly buried in history. You see, once the Germans turned on the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin became an Ally of the western powers. Unwilling to anger Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt quietly buried, hid, and ignored the terrible crimes committed against the citizens of their ally, Poland. To this day, this sad story remains basically unknown outside of Poland.

 

Posted in history, History of Poland, Kresy | Leave a comment

St. Stanislaus RC Church in Tarnoruda, Ukraine

When I visited my cousins in Ukraine, we were fortunate to visit the church where my great-grandfather and his parents would have attended, St. Stanislaus in Tarnoruda. After World War II most of the Poles in the area (including some of my family) were “relocated” to Poland and as a result there are few Polish (and thus few Roman Catholic) people left in the area. However, we were fortunate to find the caretaker and visit the church.  I wrote about it previously, and that post has a link to the pictures I took.

However, I recently came across some pictures of this church on the Internet. Here is one of them:

St.Stanislaus.TarnorudaBut on top of that, I recently found some pictures on the Internet from a church procession in Tarnoruda in 1929. You can look them up for yourself, but here they are as well: Tarnoruda02 Tarnoruda01

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Roman Catholic Church in Łuka Mała

When I visited the home of my ancestors in 2011 in what is now Ukraine, we briefly visited the town of Łuka Mała, also called Mała Łuka. Our goal was to see the Greek-Catholic Church where my great-grandmother had been baptized in 1886. On our way there, we passed a former Roman Catholic Church. The church had been built about 1918. At that period in history, Poland had just risen from the ashes of World War I again as a once-again independent nation after well over 100 years of partition. This part of the world was heavily Ukrainian (Ruthenian) though a big mix of Poles lived there as well. Most likely the church was built as Poland attempted to Polonize the area after “regaining” that territory after World War I. But after World War II, the borders shifted yet again and this area became the Ukrainian SSR. All Poles (including some of my family) were forced to leave and relocate to Poland. Only Ukrainians (also including some of my family) were allowed to remain. And so this Polish Roman Catholic Church was more or less abandoned. Today it is in essence a barn, a storage shed as you can see in this picture.

Luka01

 

 

But here’s a picture of it when it was being builts, somewhere shortly after 1918.

PIC_1-U-3946

 

And another picture, this one when it was in use, between 1918 and 1937

PIC_1-U-3946a It sure looks different today…. Now it’s got “wings”–more sheds on the side.

LukaMala04And it suffers from age, and is in need of repair.

LukaMala03But it was once a Roman Catholic Church, and you can still see that glory in the building today….

LukaMala02I was fortunate, I got to see this building. The historic photos above (black and white) are from http://audiovis.nac.gov.pl/. Search for “Łuka Mała.”

You can find this church on Google Maps here.

Posted in historic sites, history, Kresy, Photos | Leave a comment

2014 Pierogi Party

Leon and Ewa’s 10th Annual Pierogi Party is now history! This year about 30 of us gathered and made about 433 pierogi, and consumed well over 1/4 of them as well. Now that the party is history, I’ve posted a “few” pictures from it. You can see them here: http://photos.leonkonieczny.com/2014%20Pierogi%20Party/.

A special thanks to all who attended, both old and new friends. We had a blast!

Thanks again from Leon and Ewa, as well as our elves, Tommy and Joe.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I am in Poland every day of the week–yet at home in Florida, USA

I am totally blessed. You see, I get to spend some time in Poland every day of the week, and from the luxury of my home office in sunny Florida, USA. How do I do it? It’s easy, it’s called the Internet!  I am Facebook friends with a few people with ties to Poland, but much more so, I follow various Polish Facebook groups. This morning if got on Facebook only to discover a wonderful video from Kazimierz Dolny, a city I visited in 2010. But now I got to see the bird’s eye view, and got to see the castle ruins which were closed when I was there.

Every day when I check out Facebook, I find news and information and pictures about and from Poland. Often times they take me back to my visits there, and they always make me long to visit again. Yes, my heart truly is in Poland and i long to return again and again and again. But luckily through the modern miracle of the Internet, with Facebook and various web sites, i can wander the streets of Kraków one minute, see Kazimierz Dolny from the air another minute, and peruse a 150-year-old map of Galicia–where some of my ancestors lived–the next minute. It is wonderful. But it often brings two tears to my eyes. The first tear, for the memory of what I’ve already seen and experience. And the second tear, the longing to return again, to visit Poland and the Kresy (borderlands) to see and experience even more…..

Posted in culture, Kresy, My love of Poland | Leave a comment