“They died, only because they were Polish,” exhibition about the NKVD killings of Polish people opens at the Sejm.
Published July 9, 2017
"They died only because they were Polish, and Bolshevism fought anything that represented Poland,” said IPN (Polish Institute of National Remembrance) Chairman Jarosław Szarek while opening the exhibition, which initiates an international conference “Polish Operation of the NKVD 1937-1938. The forgotten genocide.”
“The aim of the exhibition and conference is to take the necessary steps to bringing back from obscurity these less known dramatic events from the Polish history. While the Poles who were murdered were technically not Polish citizens, they undoubtedly belonged to the Polish nation,” said Michał Dworczyk, the Deputy Defense Minister, during the inauguration of the exhibition, which was a part of the international conference.
The conference was organized in the Sejm (Polish Parliament) in Warsaw to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Polish Operation of the NKVD, darning which the Soviets killed over 111 thousands Polish people who lived on the Soviet territory. At least 139,835 people were arrested, many of whom were transported to gulags. The mass shootings were ordered on August 11, 1937, by Nikolai Yezhov, at the time the head at the Soviet NKVD.
“They died only because they were Polish. It was enough to have a Polish surname, to speak Polish, or to go to church in order to be arrested, investigated, and then sentenced to death by an ad hock three-member kangaroo court, which most of the time ruled in favor of a shooting, and then have all your assets seized,” said the Chairman of the IPN, Jarosław Szarek. He emphasized that “values related to being Polish – the love of freedom, devotion to the Western civilization and to the Church – went against the Bolshevik ideology, thus, deserved a death sentence.”
Szarek also added that the IPN still acquires new documentation related to the crime from the Georgian, Ukrainian and Russian sources.
“The information is very sparse. The memories of those, who survived, are poignant – families living in unspeakable fear, who claimed that inexplicably the [II World] war brought them relief, although the war was an even bigger act of genocide, itself” said Szarek.
He emphasized that Russians cooperate keenly with Poland on this matter. He also mentioned prof. Nikolai Ivanov, who “settled in Poland and made the mission of his life to expose the truth about this genocide to the Polish people. It is very special that our Russian friends help us to bring the memory back,” he added.
Kornel Morawiecki, the Marshall of the Sejm, emphasized the scale of the crime. “It is a tragedy equal to none other, if we consider the percentage of Polish people who were killed. Even communists and NKVD’s own staff were murdered for being Polish. It is something we cannot forget as Polish people or as humans.”
Jan Józef Kasprzyk, Head of the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression, said that the 80th anniversary of the NKVD’s crime was “a good moment to broach a subject of exhumations, which should be carried out, among other places, in Kurapaty, in Belarus, where several dozen thousands of Poles died as a result of the “Polish Operation.”
The event was attended by Boris Bielenkin, the Deputy Chairman of Moscow’s Memorial Historical and Civil Rights Society, who stressed that “one of the fundamental aims for Memorial’s activity was research into the history of repression of Polish people, based not on statistics, but on knowing individual names and faces.”
The conference’s program included lectures by academics from Poland, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. The exhibition presented archived prison photographs of several dozen Poles, who became victims of the NKVD. The photos came from Memorial Society’s collections. The exhibition’s authors were Aleksandra Kaiper-Miszułowicz, Sergiusz Kazimierczuk and Dr. Paweł Rokicki. The conference was organized by MON (Polish Ministry of Defense), National Center for Culture, and “My-Razem” foundation. The event took place under the patronage of Antoni Macierewicz, the Defense Minister.
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