70th anniversary of the Augustów Massacre - “They simply vanished without a trace”
Published: August 29, 2015
Teresa Kaczorowska, a journalist and writer, was a guest speaker at the Ronin Club in Warsaw on August 17, 2015. She is the author of many books, including Dzieci Katynia (The Katyn Children) and Obława Augustówska (The Augustów Mass Murder), the latter being the theme of her presentation hosted by Marcin Wolski. Actress Ewa Małachowska was invited to read out an extract from the book.
Wolski reminded the audience that the Augustów Mass Murder – a horrific communist crime committed in July of 1945 on the Polish civilian population – was treated as a taboo and deliberately concealed by the government of the Communist Polish People’s Republic (PRL). First information about the crime began emerging only in 1980s, but to this day it is widely unheard of, and remains a blank spot in our history.
“This massacre was not just an accidental error in the Red Army’s military proceedings of accessing the occupied territories. This was a premeditated crime, committed on the territory stolen from Poland. Although the Białystok region was under the Soviet control shortly after signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, after the war the area remained a part of Poland. Despite that, it was subjected to a brutal pacification action by the Soviet Union. Was it just a single mass extermination operation in order to break the Polish resistance movement, or was it a rehearsal before the larger scale pacification that was to take place across the entire country? This book raises many questions…”
Other participants of the program were: Waldemar Michalski and Joanna Sasinowska from Bellona S.A. publishing house; Wojciech Walulik, the mayor of Augustów city, who has been calling for investigation of the Augustów mass murderr many years; and the representatives of the International Motorcycle Katyn Rally, who also visited the Augustów Primeval Forest to commemorate the victims of the Augustow massacre.
Teresa Kaczorowska began by emphasizing that the Augustów Massacre, also known as the Little Katyn, took place after the World War II was over.
“…the territory of allegedly independent Poland was invaded by SMERSH, Russian NKVD military counterintelligence unit, which came to Poland with the mission to conduct pacification on a wide-scale in the area adjacent to the Augustów Primeval Forest, which included such counties like Suwałki, Sejny, Augustów, Sokółka, as well as parts of Belarus and Lithuania. That larghe scale pacification mission was conducted from July 12 to July 19, 1945. Massive forces consisting of 45 thousands of NKVD formations and Red Army soldiers, with the assistance of the Polish UB (communist security service), LWP (Polish People’s Army), and Civic Militia, had being arresting averybody within their reach, regardless of their age or gender. 7,049 Polish citizens were arrested and detained at the borders, in farmland sheds, basements, on the streets. Barns and warehouses served as filtration camps where people were selected either to live or die with brutal methods of torture, applying three different intensity levels of torture. The Soviet apparatus of terror subjected all these detained to inhuman interrogation methods. Victims subjected to the level three intensity interrogation method had no chance to survive.
Out of the total 7,049 arrested, around 2,000 never returned home. The exact number remains unknown to this day and their families never learned anything about their fate. The arrested were simply rounded up at meetings, captured in the fields whilst haymaking, or on the streets while walking. When taken from home, they were requested to take their ID cards with them for identification purposes. Once gone, they never came back; they simply disappeared, vanished without a trace."
Around 2011, two secret cryptograms were found in Moscow’s archives revealing that this operation was a large scale pacification action planned and ordered by Stalin and implemented by his people. This information was published by Nikita Petrov from Moscow’s Memorial. The purpose of that pacification action was to destroy the strong underground resistance movement operating in the north-east Poland, the territory the communists had difficulties to subjugate to Moscow.
The book by Teresa Kaczorowska is a narrative of the Augustów crime, described in a form of reports and survivor testimonies by 7 witnesses. The memory of Augustów Massacre survived thanks to these witnesses, who, together with their families, had to endure years of intimidation, invigilation, discrimination and being treated like criminals by the communit governments in Poland. To this day, it is not known how the captured victims died and what happened to their bodies. Their burial locations are unknown.
The characters described in the book are:
- Marian Tanannis, from Sejny, nicknamed “Murka,” who was captured, interrogated and released. He was one of the youngest members of AKO (Polish Civilian Army), operating after the dissolution of the Home Army;
- Prelate Stanisław Wysocki from Biała Woda, who lost his father and two sisters in the Augustow pacification;
- Krystyna Świerzbińska, who experienced Siberian deportation from Jaziewo as a child. She lost her father in the pacification;
- Tadeusz Jagłowski from Kopiec village. He lost his brother;
- Józef Kucharzewski from Giby, who lost his sister;
- Marian Bućko from Krasny Bor, who lost his father;
- Teresa Staśkiewicz (maiden name: Wołąsewicz), who also lost her father.
Wojciech Walulik, the mayor of Augustów, appealed for dissemination of knowledge about the Augustów Massacre, the largest post-World War II crime on the Polish nation. He would like to see this genocidal crime to have its proper place in history books after 70 years of cover-up.
”The Augustów Massacre took place in July, nearly two months after the end of the war, and Soviets, our so called “liberators,” committed genocide on the Polish nation. We have to remember that. It was not just a regional crime. The Katyn lie was the cornerstone of the PRL, and the Augustów Massacre was another such cornerstone…”
The mayor emphasized the role of Nikita Petrov in revealing this crime. He also officially thanked Teresa Kaczorowska for writing her book. He also reminded the audience that July 12 was finally recognised this year by the Polish Parliament as the Augustów Massacre Commemoration Day.
He finished his speech on an optimistic note. “We will be 90% right in saying that the graves of our loved ones are nearby, on the Belarusian side of the border. This is because when the borders were set after World War II, the Polish-Belarus border was moved a few hundred meters in depth and a few kilometres in length. It was a perfect location in the eyes of NKVD – in the forest, on the sidelines, near the lake, to hide the bodies of their victims. Satellite images verify that land in this place looks disturbed. Roads and the travelling time of the trucks also point out to that area. However, we would need to cooperate with Belarus in order to examine the site. Since it is the frontier zone, no one can do anything without appropriate permits. The site is within the area of Kalety village.”
The mayor of Augustów emphasized that he relied on the support from Poland’s highest authorities when approaching Belarus regarding this matter.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: Top Secret NKVD / NKGB Reports Concerning the Augustów Roundup
August 21, 1945 Report from Abakumov to Beria
August 24, 1945 Report from Abakumov to Beria
Augustów Roundup In Polish Press
"Grom's" file found In Lubyanka
In Moscow's Service
Russia Refuses to Help