The Warsaw Uprising 1944 / Powstanie Warszawskie
The Second World War
Iran and the Polish Exodus from Russia 1942
By: Ryszard Antolak, December 2004
Thank you to all great people from Iran,
Poland and Polish people we only want good for your great IRAN
Please take care of my brothers, Polish army soldiers, some of them come from my home town in Poland.
Please contact all friends do not attack Polish People in Iraq an d Afanistan.
I wish all people from the great country of IRAN with 5 thousand years of history all the best!!
One more time.
We as the Polish People are only to help.
Poland did not got any contract like others.
It was long time polish slogan “for your freedom and ours”
Alex Lech Bajan
2004 North Monroe Street
Arlington Virginia 22207
Washington DC Area
WEB SITE: http://raqport.com
Exhausted by hard labour, disease and starvation - barely recognizable as human beings – we disembarked at the port of Pahlavi (Anzali). There, we knelt down together in our thousands along the sandy shoreline to kiss the soil of Persia. We had escaped Siberia, and were free at last. We had reached our longed-for Promised Land. – Helena Woloch.
In Tehran's Dulab cemetery, situated in a rundown area of the city, are the graves of thousands of Polish men, women and children. It is not the only such cemetery in Iran, but it is the largest and most well-known. All of the gravestones, row upon row of them, bear the same date: 1942.
In that year, Iran stood as a beacon of freedom and hope for almost a million Polish citizens released from the Soviet labour camps of Siberia and Kazakhstan. After enduring terrible conditions travelling across Russia, 115,000 of them were eventually allowed to enter Iran. Most of them went on to join the allied armies in the Middle East. The rest (mostly women and children) remained guests of Iran for up to three years, their lives totally transformed in the process. They never forgot the debt they owed to the country that had so generously opened its doors to them. Their reminiscences, as well as the many graves left behind in Tehran, Anzali and Ahvaz, are testimony to a chapter of Iranian history almost erased from the public memory.
From Poland to Iran
In 1939, the Soviet Union had participated with Nazi Germany in the invasion and partition of Poland. In the months that followed, the Soviets began a policy of ethnic cleansing in the area to weed out what they called socially dangerous and anti-soviet elements. As a result, an estimated 1.5 million civilians were forcibly expelled from their homes in the course of four mass deportations. Thrust at gunpoint into cattle trucks, they were transported to remote labour camps all over Siberia and Kazakhstan.
Their fate was completely changed in June 1941 when Germany unexpectedly attacked Russia. In need of as many allies it could find, Russia agreed to release all the Polish citizens it held in captivity. Shortly afterwards, provision was also made for the creation of an army from these newly-freed prisoners. It was to be commanded by General Wladyslaw Anders, recently released from the Lubyanka prison in Moscow. Stalin intended to mobilize this new army immediately against the Germans in the West; but Anders persuaded him to hold back until the Poles had recovered their health and strength after two years of exhaustion in the labour camps.
Swept onwards by the rumours that Stalin was about to allow some of them to leave his Soviet Paradise , these former prisoners of the Gulag system began a desperate journey southwards, some of them on foot, to reach the reception camps set up for them on the borders of Iran and Afghanistan. They travelled thousands of miles from their places of exile in the most distant regions of the Soviet Union. It was an exodus of biblical proportions in terrible conditions. Many froze to death on the journey or starved. Others kept themselves alive by selling whatever personal objects they had been fortunate enough to have brought with them. Exhausted mothers, unable to walk any further, placed their children into the arms of strangers to save them from certain death.
Arrived at the army reception camps in Tashkent, Kermine, Samarkand and Ashkhabad, the refugees attempted to enlist in the Polish army, for which the Soviets had allocated some food and provisions. There was nothing, however, for the hundreds of thousands of hungry civilians, mostly women and children, who were camped outside the military bases. Instead of increasing provisions to the camps, the Soviets actually cut them. In response, the Polish army enlisted as many of the civilians as they could into its ranks, even children (regardless of age or sex) to save them from starvation. In the baking heat, dysentery, typhus, and scarlet fever became rampant. Communal graves in Uzbekistan could not keep up with the numbers who were dying. By 1942, only half of the 1.7 million Polish citizens arrested by the Soviets at the start of the war were still alive.
Their salvation finally came when Stalin was persuaded to evacuate a fraction of the Polish forces to Iran. A small number of civilians were allowed to accompany them. The rest had no option but to remain behind and face their fate as Soviet citizens.
The evacuation of Polish nationals from the Soviet Union took place by sea from Krasnovodsk to Pahlavi (Anzali), and (to a lesser extent) overland from Ashkabad to Mashhad. It was conducted in two phases: between 24 March and 5 April; and between the 10th and 30th of August 1942. In all, 115,000 people were evacuated, 37,000 of them civilians, 18,000 children (7% of the number of Polish citizens originally exiled to the Soviet Union).
A makeshift city comprising over 2000 tents (provided by the Iranian army) was hastily erected along the shoreline of Pahlavi to accommodate the refugees. It stretched for several miles on either side of the lagoon: a vast complex of bathhouses, latrines, disinfection booths, laundries, sleeping quarters, bakeries and a hospital. Every unoccupied house in the city was requisitioned, every chair appropriated from local cinemas. Nevertheless, the facilities were still inadequate.
The Iranian and British officials who first watched the Soviet oil tankers and coal ships list into the harbour at Pahlavi on the 25th March 1942 had little idea how many people to expect or what physical state they might be in. Only a few days earlier, they had been alarmed to hear that civilians, women and children, were to be included among the evacuees, something for which they were totally unprepared. The ships from Krasnovodsk were grossly overcrowded. Every available space on board was filled with passengers. Some of them were little more than walking skeletons covered in rags and lice. Holding fiercely to their precious bundles of possessions, they disembarked in their thousands at Pahlavi and kissed the soil of Persia. Many of them sat down on the shoreline and prayed, or wept for joy. They were free at last!
They had not quite escaped, however. Weakened by two years of starvation, hard labour and disease, they were suffering from a variety of conditions including exhaustion, dysentery, malaria, typhus, skin infections, chicken blindness and itching scabs. General Esfandiari, appointed by the Iranians to oversee the evacuation, met with his Polish and British counterparts to discuss how to tackle the spread of Typhus, the most serious issue facing them.
It was decided to divide the reception area into two parts: an infected area and a clean area, separated from each other by a barbed wire fence. On arrival, those who were suspected of having infectious diseases were quarantined in the closed section for four days, or else sent to the camp hospital. 40% of patients admitted to the hospital were suffering from typhus. Most of these died within a month or two of arriving. At this time there were only 10 doctors and 25 nurses in the whole of Pahlavi.
In the clean area, the arrivals were channelled into a series of tents where their clothes were collected and burned. They were then showered, deloused, and some of them had their heads shaved in the interests of hygiene. As a result, women began to wear headscarves to conceal their baldness. Finally, they were given sheets, blankets and fresh clothes by the Red Cross and directed to living quarters.
Food provision was inappropriate. Corned beef, fatty soup and lamb, distributed by the British soldiers, caused havoc with digestions accustomed only to small pieces of dry bread. They could not tolerate the rich food, and a large number died purely from the results of over-eating.
Beggarly, unwell and dishevelled, the Polish refugees were nourished more by the smiles and generosity of the Iranian people than by the food dished out by British and Indian soldiers. Iran at that time was going through one of the unhappier episodes of her history. Occupied by the Russians and the British, her relations with the soldiers of these two countries were understandably strained and difficult. With the Poles, however, there was an immediate affinity which was evident from the moment they arrived and which extended from the lowest to the highest levels of society.
On 11th April 1942 Josef Zajac, chief of Polish forces in the Middle East, noted in his diary on a visit to Tehran that the Persian population were better disposed to them than either the British or the White Russian émigrés (who were distinctly hostile). His relationship with the Iranian Minister of War, Aminollah Jahanbani (released a year earlier from prison for plotting against Shah Reza Pahlavi), was genuinely friendly and cordial. During the course of their discussions together on 13th April 1942, they discovered that they had been students together at the same French military academy. Personal friendships such as these further smoothed relations between the two populations. Contacts between Polish and Persian soldiers were equally cordial. The custom of Polish soldiers saluting Persian officers on the streets sprang up spontaneously, and did not go unnoticed by the Iranians.
Isfahan: The City Of Polish Children
Washed up in the detritus of evacuees arriving at Pahlavi had been over 18,000 children of all ages and sexes (mostly girls). Not all of them were orphans. Some had been separated from their families during the long journey through Russia. Their condition was especially desperate. Many were painfully emaciated and malnourished. Orphanages were set up in immediately in Pahlavi, Tehran and Ahvaz to deal with them as a matter of urgency.
The first major orphanage to be opened was situated in Mashhad, and was run by an order of Christian nuns. It opened its doors on March 12 1942. The children at this home were predominantly those transported over the border from Ashkabad by trucks.
Eventually, however, Isfahan was chosen as the main centre for the care of Polish orphans, particularly those who were under the age of seven. They began arriving there on 10th April 1942. It was believed that in the pleasant surroundings and salutary air of this beautiful city, they would have a better chance of recovering their physical and mental health.
Iranian civil authorities and certain private individuals vacated premises to accommodate the children. Schools, hospitals and social organizations sprang up quickly all over the city to cater for the growing colony. The new Shah took especial interest in the Polish children of Isfahan. He allowed them the use of his swimming pool, and invited groups of them to his palace for dinner. In time, some of the children began to learn Farsi and were able to recite Persian poems to a delegation of Iranian officials who visited the city. At its peak, twenty-four areas of the city were allocated to the orphans. As a result, Isfahan became known ever after in Polish émigré circles as The City of Polish Children.
Exile in Iran
The refugees remained in Pahlavi for a period of a few days to several months before being transferred to other, more permanent camps in Tehran, Mashhad, and Ahvaz. Tehran possessed the greatest number of camps. A constant stream of trucks transported the exiles by awkward twisted roads from the Caspian to Quazvin, where they were put up for the night on school floors, before continuing their journey next morning to the capital.
Tehran s five transit camps, one army and four civilian, were situated in various parts of the metropolitan area. Once again, certain Iranian authorities and individuals volunteered buildings (even sports stadiums and swimming baths) for the exclusive use of the refugees. Camp No.2, however, (the largest) was nothing more than a collection of tents outside the city. Camp No. 4, was a deserted munitions factory. No. 3 was situated in the Shah s own garden, surrounded by flowing water and beautiful trees There was also a Polish hospital in the city, a hostel for the elderly, an orphanage (run by the Sisters of Nazareth) and a convalescent home for sick children (Camp No. 5) situated in Shemiran.
Most able-bodied men (and women) of military age enlisted forthwith in the army and were assigned to military camps. Their stay in Iran was a short one. The army was quickly evacuated to Lebanon and included in the Polish forces being reformed there. Their route to Lebanon was either overland from Kermanshah (6 rest stations were set up for them along the way to Latrun), or by ship from the southern port of Ahvaz. The remainder women, children and men over the age of military service - remained behind in Iran, some of them for periods up to three years.
Something more than food and clothing are necessary for the human spirit to survive and grow. Art and Culture are antibodies to feelings of despondency and decay, and within a few months of their arrival, the exiles had set up their own theatres, art galleries, study circles, and radio stations all over the city. Artists and craftsmen began to give exhibitions. Polish newspapers began to spring up; and restaurants began to display Polish flags on the streets.
Among the organizations formed to care for the educational and cultural needs of the exiles was the influential Institute of Iranian Studies begun by a small group of Polish academicians. In three years from 1943 to 1945 this group published three scholarly volumes and scores of other articles on Polish-Iranian affairs. Most of the material was later translated into Farsi and published under the title Lahestan .
By 1944, however, Iran was already emptying of Poles. They were leaving for other D.P camps in places such as Tanganyika, Mexico, India, New Zealand and the UK. Their main exit route was Ahvaz, where an area of the city still called Campolu today, is a distant echo of its original name Camp Polonia. Mashhad s last children left on the 10 June 1944. Ahvaz finally closed its camp doors in June 1945. The last transport of orphans left Isfahan for Lebanon on the 12 October 1945.
The deepest imprint of the Polish sojourn in Iran can be found in the memoirs and narratives of those who lived through it. The debt and gratitude felt by the exiles towards their host country echoes warmly throughout all the literature. The kindness and sympathy of the ordinary Iranian population towards the Poles is everywhere spoken of.
The Poles took away with them a lasting memory of freedom and friendliness, something most of them would not know again for a very long time. For few of the evacuees who passed through Iran during the years 1942 1945 would ever to see their homeland again. By a cruel twist of fate, their political destiny was sealed in Tehran in 1943. In November of that year, the leaders of Russia, Britain and the USA met in the Iranian capital to decide the fate of Post-war Europe. During their discussions (which were held in secret), it was decided to assign Poland to the zone of influence of the Soviet Union after the war. It would lose both its independence and its territorial integrity. The eastern part of the country, from which the exiles to Iran had been originally expelled, would be incorporated wholesale into the Soviet Union. The Polish government was not informed of the decision until years later, and felt understandably betrayed. 48,000 Polish soldiers would lose their lives fighting for the freedom of the very nations whose governments had secretly betrayed them in Tehran, and later (in 1945) in Yalta.
There were four mass deportations of the civilian population of eastern Poland in 1940/41 alone:
a) 10 Feb 1940. 250,000 from rural areas sent to Siberia in 110 cattle trains.
b) 13 April 1940. 300,000, mostly women & children 160 trains) mostly to Kazakhstan and Altai Kraj.
c) June/July 1940. 400,000 to Archangielsk, Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk etc.
d) June 1941. 280,000 to various part of USSR.
Some 500,000 Poles had also been arrested by the Soviets between 1939 and 1941, mostly the government officials, judges teachers lawyers, intellectuals, writers etc. So the total of 1.7 million Poles were in captivity in the Soviet Union.
Under an agreement signed on 30th July 1941 by the Polish premier, General Sikorski and the Russian representative I. Mayski, Russia agreed to release all the Poles who had been arrested under what was termed an amnesty . The word amnesty was extremely ill-chosen. The amnesty was signed in London in the presence of Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden.
Although the amnesty was announced in July, the news did not filter through to many of the remoter camps of eastern Siberia until December. For others, the news never reached them at all, and they remained in Russia.
General Anders himself took the responsibility to evacuate the civilians before he had even discussed it with the British.
They had studied at the Ecole Superieure de Guerre in Paris. General Anders, who visited Jahanbani in Teheran a few months later, was also a graduate of this school.
On Jan 6 1943, the Polish embassy was told to close all 400 of its welfare agencies on Russian soil (including orphanages and hospitals). Two months later, all Polish citizens remaining on Russian soil were deemed to be Soviet citizens.
The president was Stanislaw Koscialkowski.
The word kish-mish passed into the vocabulary of the survivors. Many Polish boys were named Dariusz, still extremely popular as a boy s name in Poland today.
Polish soldiers were not even allowed to participate in the Victory parade in London in 1945.
Faruqi, Anwar. Forgotten Polish Exodus to Iran. Washington Post. 23 Nov 2000.
Kunert, Andrzej. K., Polacy w Iranie 1942-45. Vol I. R.O.P.W.i M. Warsawa. 2002.
Mironowicz, Anna, Od Hajnowki do Pahlewi. Editions Spotkania. Paris 1986.
Woloch, Helena, Moje Wspomnienia. Sovest. Kotlas 1998
On September 1st., 1939, 1.8 million German troops invaded Poland on three fronts; East Prussia in the north, Germany in the west and Slovakia in the south. They had 2600 tanks against the Polish 180, and over 2000 aircraft against the Polish 420. Their "Blitzkrieg" tactics, coupled with their bombing of defenceless towns and refugees, had never been seen before and, at first, caught the Poles off-guard. By September 14th. Warsaw was surrounded. At this stage the poles reacted, holding off the Germans at Kutno and regrouping behind the Wisla (Vistula) and Bzura rivers. Although Britain and France declared war on September 3rd. the Poles received no help - yet it had been agreed that the Poles should fight a defensive campaign for only 2 weeks during which time the Allies could get their forces together and attack from the west.
There are many "myths" that surround the September Campaign; the fictional Polish cavalry charges against German tanks (actually reported by the Italian press and used as propaganda by the Germans), the alleged destruction of the Polish Air Force on the ground, or claims that Polish armour failed to achieve any success against the invaders. In reality, and despite the fact that Poland was only just beginning to modernise her armed forces and had been forced (by Britain and France) to delay mobilisation (which they claimed might be interpreted as aggressive behaviour) so that, at the time of invasion, only about one-third of her total potential manpower was mobilised, Polish forces ensured that the September campaign was no "walk-over". The Wehrmacht had so under-rated Polish anti-tank capabilities (the Polish-designed anti-tank gun was one of the best in the world at that time) that they had gone into action with white "balkankreuz", or crosses, prominently displayed in eight locations; these crosses made excellent aiming points for Polish gun-sights and forced the Germans to radically rethink their national insignia, initially overpainting them in yellow and then, for their later campaigns, adopting the modified "balkankreuz" similar to that used by the Luftwaffe. The recently-designed 7TP "czolg lekki", or light tank, the first in the world to be designed with a diesel engine, proved to be superior to German tanks of the same class (the PzKpfw I and II) inflicting serious damage to the German forces, limited only by the fact that they were not used in concentrated groups. They were absorbed by the Germans into their own Panzer divisions at the end of the campaign.
On September 17th. Soviet forces invaded from the east. Warsaw surrendered 2 weeks later, the garrison on the Hel peninsula surrendered on October 2nd., and the Polesie Defence group, after fighting on two fronts against both German and Soviet forces, surrendered on October 5th. The Poles had held on for twice as long as had been expected and had done more damage to the Germans than the combined British and French forces were to do in 1940. The Germans lost 50,000 men, 697 planes and 993 tanks and armoured cars.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians managed to escape to France and Britain whilst many more went "underground" . A government-in-exile was formed with Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz as President and General Wladyslaw Sikorski as Prime Minister.
The Fourth Partition:
Under the German-Soviet pact Poland was divided; the Soviets took, and absorbed into the Soviet Union, the eastern half (Byelorussia and the West Ukraine), the Germans incorporated Pomerania, Posnania and Silesia into the Reich whilst the rest was designated as the General-Gouvernement (a colony ruled from Krakow by Hitler's friend, Hans Frank).
In the Soviet zone 1.5 million Poles (including women and children) were transported to labour camps in Siberia and other areas. Many thousands of captured Polish officers were shot at several secret forest sites; the first to be discovered being Katyn, near Smolensk.
The Germans declared their intention of eliminating the Polish race (a task to be completed by 1975) alongside the Jews. This process of elimination, the "Holocaust", was carried out systematically. All members of the "intelligentsia" were hunted down in order to destroy Polish culture and leadership (many were originally exterminated at Oswiencim - better known by its German name, Auschwitz). Secret universities and schools, a "Cultural Underground", were formed (the penalty for belonging to one was death). In the General-Gouvernement there were about 100,000 secondary school pupils and over 10,000 university students involved in secret education.
The Polish Jews were herded into Ghettos where they were slowly starved and cruelly offered hopes of survival but, in fact, ended up being shot or gassed. In the end they were transported, alongside non-Jewish Poles, Gypsies and Soviet POWs, to extermination camps such as Auschwitz and Treblinka; at Auschwitz over 4 million were exterminated. 2000 concentration camps were built in Poland, which became the major site of the extermination programme, since this was where most of the intended victims lived.
Many non-Jewish Poles were either transported to Germany and used as slave labour or simply executed. In the cities the Germans would round-up and kill indiscriminately as a punishment for any underground or anti-German or pro-Jewish activity. In the countryside they kept prominent citizens as hostages who would be executed if necessary. Sometimes they liquidated whole villages; at least 300 villages were destroyed. Hans Frank said, "If I wanted to put up a poster for every seven Poles shot, the forests of Poland would not suffice to produce the paper for such posters."
Despite such horror the Poles refused to give in or cooperate (there were no Polish collaborators as in other occupied countries). The Polish Underground or AK (Armia Krajowa or Home Army) was the largest in Europe with 400,000 men. The Jewish resistance movement was set up separately because of the problem of being imprisoned within the ghettos. Both these organisations caused great damage to the Nazi military machine. Many non-Jewish Poles saved the lives of thousands of Jews despite the fact that the penalty, if caught, was death (in fact, Poland was the only occupied nation where aiding Jews was punishable by death).
Fighting on all Fronts:
The Polish Army, Navy and Air Force reorganised abroad and continued to fight the Germans. In fact they have the distinction of being the only nation to fight on every front in the War. In 1940 they fought in France, in the Norwegian campaign they earned a reputation for bravery at Narvik, and in Africa the Carpathian Brigade fought at Tobruk.
Polish Squadrons played an important role in the Battle of Britain, accounting for 12% of all German aircraft destroyed at the cost of 33 lives. By the end of the war they had flown a total of 86,527 sorties, lost 1669 men and shot down 500 German planes and 190 V1 rockets.
The Polish Navy, which had escaped intact, consisted of 60 vessels, including 2 cruisers, 9 destroyers and 5 submarines ( one of which was the famous "Orzel") which were involved in 665 actions at sea. The first German ship sunk in the war was sunk by Polish ships. The Navy also took part in the D-Day landings.
When the Soviet Union was attacked by Germany, in June 1941, Polish POWs were released from prison camps and set up an army headed by General Anders. Many civilians were taken under the protection of this army which was allowed to make its way to Persia (modern-day Iran) and then on to Egypt. This army, the Polish Second Corps, fought with distinction in Italy, their most notable victory being that at Monte Cassino, in May 1944, and which opened up the road to Rome for the Allies as a whole. One of the "heroes" of the Polish Second Corps was Wojtek, a brown bear adopted in Iran as their mascot; at Monte Cassino Wojtek actually helped in the fighting by carrying ammunition for the guns. He died, famous and well-loved, in Edinburgh Zoo in 1964, aged 22.
All the Polish forces took part in the Allied invasion of Europe and liberation of France, playing a particularly crucial role in the significant Battle of the Falaise Gap. The Polish Parachute Brigade took part in the disastrous Battle of Arnhem in Holland. In 1945, the Poles captured the German port of Wilhelmshaven.
In 1943 a division of Polish soldiers was formed in Russia under Soviet control and fought on the Eastern Front. They fought loyally alongside the Soviet troops, despite the suffering they had experienced in Soviet hands, and they distinguished themselves in breaking through the last German lines of defence, the "Pomeranian Rampart", in the fighting in Saxony and in the capture of Berlin.
The "Home Army", under the command of General Stefan Roweki (code-named "Grot"), and after his capture in 1943 (he was later murdered), by General Tadeusz Komorowski (code-named "Bor"), fought a very varied war; at times in open combat in brigade or division strength, at times involved in sabotage, often acting as execution squads eliminating German officials, and often fighting a psychological campaign against German military and civilians. It was a costly war since the Germans always took reprisals.
The Intelligence Service of the Home Army captured and sent parts of the V1 to London for examination, providing information on German military movements (giving advanced warning of the German plan to invade Russia), and gave the RAF full information about Peenemunde, where the Germans were producing V2 rockets.
The crime of Katyn was discovered in 1943 and created a rift in Polish-Soviet relations. From now on the Home Army was attacked by Soviet propaganda as collaborating with the Germans and being called on to rise against the Germans once the Red Army reached the outskirts of Warsaw.
Secretly, at Teheran, the British and Americans agreed to letting the Russians profit from their invasion of Poland in 1939 and allowing them to keep the lands that had been absorbed. The "accidental" death of General Sikorski at this time helped keep protests at a minimum.
When the Russians crossed into Poland the Home Army cooperated in the fight against the Germans and contributed greatly to the victories at Lwow, Wilno and Lublin only to find themselves surrounded and disarmed by their "comrades-in-arms" and deported to labour camps in Siberia.
On August 1, 1944, with the Russian forces on the right bank of the Vistula, the Home Army rose in Warsaw; the Warsaw Rising. Heroic street-fighting involving the whole population, using the sewers as lines of communication and escape, under heavy bombardment, lasted for 63 days. The city was completely destroyed. Not only did the Russians cease to advance but they also refused to allow Allied planes to land on Russian airfields after dropping supplies. After surrendering many civilians and soldiers were executed or sent to concentration camps to be exterminated and Warsaw was razed to the ground.
The defeat in Warsaw destroyed the political and military institutions of the Polish underground and left the way open for a Soviet take-over.
With the liberation of Lublin in July 1944 a Russian-sponsored Polish Committee for National Liberation (a Communist Government in all but name) had been set up and the British had put great pressure, mostly unsuccessful, on the Government-in-exile to accept this status quo. At Yalta, in February 1945, the Allies put Poland within the Russian zone of influence in a post-war Europe. To most Poles the meaning of these two events was perfectly clear; Poland had been betrayed. At one stage the Polish Army, still fighting in Italy and Germany, was prepared to withdraw from the front lines in protest; after all, they were supposed to be fighting for Polish liberation. It is a reflection on Polish honour that no such withdrawal took place since it could leave large gaps in the front lines and so was considered too dangerous for their Allied comrades-in-arms.
The war ended on May 8th, 1945.
The Poles are the people who really lost the war.
Over half a million fighting men and women, and 6 million civilians (or 22% of the total population) died. About 50% of these were Polish Christians and 50% were Polish Jews. Approximately 5,384,000, or 89.9% of Polish war losses (Jews and Gentiles) were the victims of prisons, death camps, raids, executions, annihilation of ghettos, epidemics, starvation, excessive work and ill treatment. So many Poles were sent to concentration camps that virtually every family had someone close to them who had been tortured or murdered there.
There were one million war orphans and over half a million invalids.
The country lost 38% of its national assets (Britain lost 0.8%, France lost 1.5%). Half the country was swallowed up by the Soviet Union including the two great cultural centres of Lwow and Wilno.
Many Poles could not return to the country for which they has fought because they belonged to the "wrong" political group or came from eastern Poland and had thus become Soviet citizens. Others were arrested, tortured and imprisoned by the Soviet authorities for belonging to the Home Army.
Although "victors" they were not allowed to partake in victory celebrations.
Through fighting "For Our Freedom and Yours" they had exchanged one master for another and were, for many years to come, treated as "the enemy" by the very Allies who had betrayed them at Teheran and Yalta.