Jozef Stalin Deported Two Million Poles

Polish children in boxcarJozef Stalin deported two million Poles from Eastern Poland in 1940 and sent them to forced labor camps in Siberia. Only a third survived. This significant piece of WWII history remains little known and seldom told in the scope and death count of the “Holocaust.” Both Adolf Hitler and Jozef Stalin wanted to eradicate Poles.

The world recently honored the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Now Imagine this story. An invading dictator commits to eradicating an entire culture. Families are awakened in the middle of the night and armed soldiers barge in at gunpoint. Family members are given an hour to collect their belongs and then are marched to waiting trains, the wooden, cramped boxcars waiting for their human cargo. Families are squeezed into the trains, travel for two weeks with little food, water or bathroom facilities. When finally released in a foreign land they are marched to a detention camp where the able-bodied are forced to work as slave labor in the frozen forest, felling trees for wood. Sound familiar?

Beginning February 9, 1940 they were evicted from their homes and experienced the above chain of events. Finally in late 1941, Polish refugees were released to make their own way home, mostly by foot. “Home” no longer existed, so not knowing where else to go, they headed south to warmth, walking hundreds of wretched miles.

Sybiracy_(deportacje_1940-1941)Many refugees made their way to Tehran, Iran (then known as Persia.) Refugee camps sprang up to accommodate the massive number of people in need of shelter, medical care, and a huge number of orphans.

The most unusual refugee camp for displaced Polish persons was established in the lush gardens of the Shah’s palace. The Middle East and India played a significant role in the resettlement of displaced Poles. From there, Poles were loaded on large ships bound for Africa, India, Mexico and other locales. Greg Archer’s* family also reached Tehran, before settling in Africa among the Masai. Why knew?

Think about your family’s heritage and journey to unknown parts. Then consider how much do you really know? Sometimes if you delve into the past, you may discover surprising tales of survival.

I’ve included links to the Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum, which is dedicated to the Polish citizens in Eastern Poland who faced murder and exile during WWII. The site features helpful information and survivor testimonies, but I will warn you. There are a lot of broken links on the site and some of the solid information is only in Polish.

I also include a link to an interesting story of Polish refugee camp in Mexico. The top photo of two children in a box car has frequently been misidentified as Jews deported by Hitler. Note the logo and CCCP lettering to the left. #Poland, #Stalin, #Siberia

*Author of Grace Revealed, 2015

Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum 

Hacienda Santa Rosa – A Polish Refuge in Mexico

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Tags: Poland, Polish History, World War II - Europe

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