Survivors of communist oppression in Poland
Dedicated by the Canadian Polish Congress-Ottawa District to all the victims of the communist regime in Poland, those exiled, imprisoned, and all oppressed from 1939 to 1989.
The signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact paved the way for World War II, which began with the Nazis Germany (1 September 1939) and Soviet Union (17 September 1939) attack on Poland. More than half of the country ended up under Soviet occupation.
During 1940 and the first half of 1941, the Soviets deported a total of more than 1,200,000 Poles in four waves of mass deportations from the Soviet-occupied Polish territories. People were sent primarily to the far north and eastern Russia, including Siberia.
The Soviet forces murdered almost all captured officers and sent numerous ordinary soldiers to the Soviet Gulag. Polish military personnel and civilians were killed in the Katyń massacre (22,000), but thousands of others were victims of NKVD (Secret Police) massacres of prisoners in mid-1941.
The brief amnesty reached between Stalin and the Polish authorities in late 1941 allowed a Polish Army to be formed and Polish citizens were released from the Soviet Gulags and work camps. Nonetheless, hundred of thousands were not aware of the amnesty. Therefore, in the neighborhood of only 120,000 Polish citizens eventually were evacuated to Iran. This newly formed Polish Army fought with the Allies to the end of WWII. (www.armiaandersa.pl)
At war’s end the majority of Polish WWII veterans chose not to return to their homeland as it was occupied by communists and thereby they were stripped of their Polish citizenship. As displaced persons, they settled elsewhere in the world. A significant number came to Canada and some settled in the Ottawa Region.
The period of communist rule imposed by the Soviet Union over Poland began in 1945, after the end of the World War II, and lasted until 1989. These years were marred by Stalinist repressions, social unrest, political strife, and severe economic difficulties.
From the earliest stages of communism, various opposition groups endeavored to resist this new regime. During the Stalinist period (1945-1956), many of the participants of such movements were sentenced to death and executed. Even after de-Stalinization in 1956, any opposition to the regime was forbidden and threatened with severe sanctions.
Life under the communist regime was increasingly intolerable.There was further civil unrest in the late 70’s, which led to a significant strike in 1980 and the formation of the trade union Solidarność. On December 13, 1981 Martial Law was declared. It was a crackdown on Solidarność, and the free labour union was suspended. Most of its leaders were detained. During the initial imposition of Martial Law, dozens of people were killed and several thousand citizens were interned or imprisoned, some of them tortured in prisons.
Much larger numbers were subjected to various forms of harassment. Although Martial Law was lifted in 1983, many political prisoners were not released until a general amnesty occurred in 1986. Thousands were forced to leave Poland, some of them chose to reside in the Ottawa area.