Propaganda films and books, manipulated TV series. For half a century, the communist authorities in Poland did everything they could to instill in the Poles the unquestionable gratitude toward the Soviets for freeing them from the German occupation. Millions still see the Red Army as liberators. But what was the reality?
1. They rescued in the morning and raped at night
When Bożena Kozłowska from Anin, near Warsaw, saw the first Russian soldier arrive, her eyes filled with tears. She could hardly believe it was the end of the German occupation, and that freedom and security would soon return. Joy quickly turned into consternation. The soldier urgently asked for vodka. As she recalled: Germans have always asked for water.
Later that day, the same soldier visited her again, but this time he was very drunk and arrived with a companion. They then attempted to rape Bożena and her sister. Women like Bożena were only saved thanks to the intervention of several soldiers of the Polish People’s Army. Alerted by the shouts of the two sisters, they ruthlessly dragged the would-be rapists from the house. This was, however, only an exception to the rule. Most of the time, the victims were defenseless, and multiple soldiers assisted each other in these crimes. A case from Pińczów is typical:
I report that on the night of 26 to 27 bm.  On 45, two Russian soldiers invaded. After the incursion, these soldiers terrorized me, putting a gun to my head and threatening to export me to Russia (…). These soldiers claimed that they had beenalready fighting in Poland forthe three years, so they had the right to all Polish women and that they were there by order of their commander. (…) they began to terrorize my wife by putting a revolver to her mouth, kicking her, pulling her hair and demanding that we surrender our daughters. When my wife said that she would not give up her daughters, they grabbed her by the hair, dragging her out of the apartment, where after throwing her on the ground, raped her in the most bestial manner.
2. The Red Army Soldiers robbed Poles and looted their homes at the moment of “liberation”
The Majkowski family, residents of the Krzeszów village of Skrzeszewo, found out about this behavior first hand. They were staying at home when a detachment of Soviet cavalry officers arrived. After a rather cordial welcome, the Poles were horrified that the Soviet soldiers had already managed to lead the mare and foal out of the stable. The senior of the family also lost his watch and the wedding ring. When the Russian soldiers finally left, the Majkowskis were left in the yard of their farm barefoot and in their underwear only – they were “liberated” from shoes and sheepskin coats. Marian Majkowski said: “This was the beginning of the first day of freedom… the new eastern freedom.” At least he could be happy that he survived. Many Poles did not have the opportunity to enjoy freedom from Nazism. The protocols of the Krakow Department of Forensic Medicine in 1945, recorded the following:
Szymon Piekarczyk – “shot at night by Soviet soldiers on ul. Prandoty “;
Zdzisław Walczyk – “individuals murdered by NN in uniforms of the Soviet Army in a stonemason’s factory”;
Paweł Kucharski – “At 0.30 a few Soviets stormed into the apartment looking to loot, executing the inhabitant with a fatal shot after pulling him out into the yard”;
Zbigniew Leja, a policeman “shot on the road in Borek Fałęcki by the Soviets, while on his way to help people who had been robbed by them”;
Józef Magda “robbed and shot by Soviet soldiers”;
Ludwik Kózka “while driving his own car, ambushed by the Soviets, robbed and shot”.
3.The Red Army requisitioned food, completely disregarding the needs of Poles
Stefania Pepławska from Cologne Chotum near Ciechanów witnessed such behavior of the Soviet units. She recalled how in January 1945 the “liberating” Red Army took all pigs from her parents’ farm. The soldiers looted all neighboring villages in a similar way, leaving their inhabitants to starve.
All this happened in accordance with the law, established by a new, allegedly Polish government. At the beginning of February 1945, the communist authorities of Poland pledged to provide 150,000 tons of grain, 250 thousand tons of potatoes, 100,000 tons of straw and hay, and 25,000 tons of meat for the Soviet troops by July 1. According to the estimates of the “allies” from the East, we were forced to give over 30% of estimated grain resources, 25% potatoes, more than half of Polish meat and more than 66% of straw and hay!
The Red Army men did not pay for the goods they requisitioned and usually did not even try to issue any receipts so that the Poles could later document their claims.
4. Even rank-and-file soldiers of the Red Army completely disregarded the Polish authorities
The head of the Kamieniogóra region (now Kamienna Góra) suffered from the brutal treatment by Soviet soldiers. He was arrested by Red Army soldiers during an attempt to reach the site of the murder of an officer of the Citizens’ Militia. His explanations and assurances that he was a representative of Polish authorities fell on deaf ears. One of theSoviets barked vulgarities at him. The Soviet commander in the same region warned: “If you Poles do not stop meddling, we will disarm you and shoot you like dogs”.
5. On “recovered territories” they harassed and discriminated against Poles, favoring the Germans
This was the case, for example, in Wroclaw, where the Soviet administration consisted mainly of German officials, many of whom until then had faithfully served Hitler. The German mayor even ordered to hang up posters calling on all Poles and Jews in the city to report to the offices for job allocations!
6.They robbed prisoners and laborers returning from Germany, including their own countrymen.
Nothing was sacred for Stalin’s soldiers. Nobody was worthy of respect. They even attacked people who had gone through hell in concentration camps. A young prisoner of Buchenwald, Wiesława Chełmińska-Rupiewicz, was robbed by a Soviet officer of all her belongings at the Warsaw West Station. It was May 1945. The degenerate left her in her underwear and attempted to shoot her.
The Soviet war correspondent, Vasily Grossman, came across 250 young emaciated Ukrainians in Poznan. Those women were in a terrible state: almost naked, lousy and hungry. As it became clear later, they looked very normal before the Soviet army entered the city. It was the ones who came to “liberate” them that took literally everything from them.
7. They allowed mass rapes on prisoners and forced laborers returning to Poland.
Particularly tragic was the fate of women who spent the war in Germany – as prisoners of camps or forced laborers and were returning to Poland. They fell victim not only to robberies, but also to the most heinous acts of sexual violence. Representatives of the State Repatriation Office in Stargard in May 1945 stated that only a few women avoided rape by krasnoarmiejców (Red Army soldiers). After her return to Poland, Janina Zajac described terrifying scenes. She and her traveling companions hid from the Soviets in an apartment. She said, “we were paralyzed with fear”. Young women were lucky if they didn’t get noticed. However, the young couple with a three month old baby in the next door room was not so lucky. The young mother was so brutally raped all night that she died in the morning.
8. They dismantled and removed over a thousand industrial plants from Poland
According to Soviet sources, in the area within today’s borders of Poland, the “liberators” dismantled and transported out 1119 enterprises. Thousands of kilometers of railway, electric and telephone lines, innumerable quantities of raw materials, means of transport, crops, cattle, pigs had been stolen … By January 1, 1948, no less than 283,000 wagons with spoils had crossed Poland’s Eastern border.
On the Oder river, the Soviets confiscated 98% of the river fleet. In port cities, 70% of shipbuilding assets became the possession of the eastern “allies” . And this was the decision of the National Defense Committee. From the factories of Upper Silesia alone, in March 1945, 26 thousand tons of rolled products, 4 thousand tons of various metal products, 3 thousand tons of sheet metal, 2 thousand tons of steel pipes, 560 tons of steel ropes and 2.4 tons of silver went to Russia. A lot of other “trophies” from many other areas of Poland were looted by up to 80,000 soldiers who served in the “trophy units”, or robbery units, of the Stalinist army.
The value of confiscated materials and damage to the pre-war territories caused by the Soviet army alone was calculated by the Polish communist authorities to be in the ballpark of at least PLN 2.67 billion. This does not include losses in infrastructure, housing developments and costs associated with the stationing of Soviet garrisons in Poland.Theselosses adjusted for inflation are conservatively valued today at up to 54 billion dollars!
9. They disarmed and arrested Polish Home Army soldiers who had earlier allied with the Russians to take back Polish cities from German hands
It happened, among others, with branches of the Home Army in Vilnius and Lviv. On July 25, 1945, in a village of Skarobowo, the Soviet units surrounded soldiers of the 27th Volhynian Division of the Home Army. Poles were lured there to allegedly inspect their troops before their joint march to Warsaw. The same fate met the soldiers of the 3rd, 8th, 9th and 26th Infantry Divisions of the Home Army, with a total of 6,000 people. The Soviets disarmed and arrested Polish Home Army soldiers, who had earlier allied with the Russians to take back Polish cities from German hands.
Some of the soldiers of the 27th Volhynian Infantry Division of the Home Army, together with the Red Army, had earlier captured Minsk Mazowiecki, Sokołów, Radzymin, Tłuszcz and Węgrów. In Dębe Wielkie on August 19, soldiers of the 30th Infantry Division heading towards Warsaw were disarmed. Under the orders of the Soviet command, all detained Poles were to be treated as prisoners of war. However, they were often treated worse than criminals.
Particularly characteristic are the events that took place in the Vilnius region. Already in the middle of 1943, the Soviets proposed a joint action. To discuss the details, the commander of the Home Army unit went to the camp of the communists. Staff officers accompanied him. The Poles were arrested immediately. In the meantime,several Soviet apparatchiksarrived at the Polish base and the events happened quickly. Lydia Lviv, who was then in the AK branch, remembered those events:
Around 1:00, the Soviet partisans surrounded our base and disarmed our unit. Their commissar spoke. He said that nothing would happen to anyone, that it would still be a Polish detachment, still under Polish command, but it would be communist and with Soviet oversight. The next day Colonel Fyodor Markov himself arrived. The AK partisans were divided into groups. About 50 Poles were shot, 80 disarmed, and from the remaining 70 a “people” unit was created. The latter, however, quickly escaped and re-joined the ranks of the AK units. Similar cases of betrayal of the Poles by the Soviets were a dime a dozen. In one of the Soviet orders, from December 1943, the following was recorded: “Resistant partisans, during the disarmament must be shot on the spot.”
10. In Poland, they created a network of camps throughout which over 100,000 Poles were housed
In the years 1944-1945 the Soviet security department controlled over a hundred such facilities in our country. They can be called labor camps, but those who liken them to concentration camps are not mistaken. They were often located at the former concentration camp sites, and the Reds used for themselves the barracks formerly issued by the Germans. Almost half of the people imprisoned in the Soviet camps belonged to the Home Army and other underground liberation organizations. Among them were also members of the Polish state administration (starosts, mayors, postmen, railwaymen, rangers) … all people who could potentially be hostile to the “new” Poland.
The German death camp at Majdanek, in which the Nazis murdered about 80,000 people, was occupied by soldiers of the Red Army on July 23, 1944, and quickly went under the NKVD control. Two weeks later, probably on August 8, officers of the 3rd Infantry Division arrived at the camp. Then came the rest. Among others, there camethe command of the27th Volhynian Infantry Division of the Home Army, disarmed by the Soviets, and 30th Poleski Infantry Division of the AK heading to join the fighting in Warsaw. At Majdanek, there were officers of the District Commands of the AK Lublin and Lviv, as well as Polish police officers and representatives of the Provisional Substitute Administration cooperating with the Home Army.
The prisoners were kept in two windowless bug infested barracks. Wooden beds were used for sleeping, and they used German military coats as bedding. The soldiers were allowed to leave the buildings and when they did, they aroused interest of the visitors to the former German concentration camp. When the Soviet guards were asked by the visitors who those prisoners were, they would respond that they were collaborators with the Third Reich.
The NKVD also quickly utilized Auschwitz, Działdowo. It was almost like it was under German occupation: guard towers, fences with barbed wire, dogs. Only the “tenants” andguards changed. The latter were armed. No one did medical experiments on the prisoners, and nobody gassed them with a Zyklon B, but people died in an alarming number anyway.
Other Soviet camps were active in Bialystok, Bielsko, Blachownia, Brest nad Bugie, Bytom, Chełmno, Ciechanów, Dziełów, Dęblin, Działdowo, Elbląg, Gorzów Wielkopolski, Grabów, Grudziądz, Hrubieszów, Inowrocław-Mątwy, Iława, Katowice, Kąkolewnica, Kędzierzyn, Kętrzyn, Kijany, Kraskow, Krzesimów, Krześlinie, Krzystkowice, Lędziny, Lipnia, Łęgnów, Majdanek, Łabędy, Mysłowice, Nakło nad Notecią, Opole, Ostrów Mazowiecka, Otwock, Oświęcim, Pila, Poznań, Poniatowa, Przemyśl, Pustków, Pyskowice, Racibórz , Rembertów, Ryki, Sanok, Sępolno Krajeńskie, Skopanie, Skrobowo, Skrudów, Sokołów Podlaski, Sokółka, Starogard, Świętoszów, Wągrowiec, Wrocław, Toruń, Toszek, Trzcianka, Warsaw, Wołkowyskach, Zabrze, Zdzieszowice, and Cold Waters,Żagań … It’s those camps that best symbolize “friendship” and ”liberation” that came to Poland from the East.