Highlights

Highlights, Women

Polish Gulag woman-prisoner befriended by John Paul II

By Ted Lipien

In my book, Wojtyła’s Women: How They Shaped the life of Pope John Paul II and Changed the Catholic Church, I describe how future Pope John Paul II, whom I had interviewed in Washington D.C. for the Voice of America (VOA) in 1976 when he was Kraków’s Archbishop, became familiar with many stories of immense suffering of Polish women under both Nazi and Soviet occupation. 1

Notes:

  1. Lipien, Ted (Tadeusz Lipień). Wojtyła’s Women: How They Shaped the life of Pope John Paul II and Changed the Catholic Church, Winchester, UK: O Books, 2008. Lipien, Ted. Wojtyła a kobiety: Jan zmienia się Kościół. Warszawa: Świat Książki, 2010.
Read more
Highlights

Petition for asylum for Polish refugee children introduced in the U.S. Senate in 1943

Throughout World War II, the arrests and forced deportations of Polish families to labor camps by Soviet Russia received practically no mainstream media coverage in the United States. After the Soviet Union became an important military ally against Nazi Germany with the sudden collapse of Stalin’s alliance with Hitler and his attack on Russia in June 1941, the propaganda agency of the Roosevelt administration–the Office of War Information (OWI)–deliberately covered up Stalin’s crimes, both the deportations of millions of people to Siberia and the mass executions of Polish prisoners of war.

Read more
Highlights

Deportations of Poles to Siberia noted in 1940 Congressional Record

A statement made on the floor of the U.S. Senate on February 8, 1940 by Senator John A. Danaher (R-Connecticut) may have been the first major public reference in the United States to the 1940 deportations of Poles and other nationalities to Gulag forced labor camps in the Soviet Union. Senator Danaher inserted in the Congressional Record the text of a resolution adopted by of the Star of Liberty Society, Group 803, of the Polish National Alliance in Stamford, Conn. It mentions in one sentence “the deportation of large numbers of Poles to Siberia.” The Polish-American organization in Connecticut adopted the resolution on January 14, 1940. By then the news of the first deportations of Poles from Soviet-occupied eastern Poland to Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union had already reached some Polish-Americans but was not known to most Americans.

Read more
Highlights

The Light of the Candle

Following the August 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact and the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, which started World War II, the Soviets began the first mass deportation of Poles on February 10, 1940 from the occupied eastern part of Poland. Whole families were arrested, usually early in the morning, and sent in overcrowded cattle train wagons to forced labor camps in the depths of Siberia and in other parts of the Soviet Union. Many elderly and infants died during the transport–bodies of some of the children tossed by guards into the snow; others left behind at various stops during the journey lasting many days with little food or water. Many more prisoners would die later in the Gulag camps, work settlements and collective farms from slave labor, harsh weather conditions, starvation, and lack of medial treatment.

There was almost a complete media silence in the West about the deportations. Western journalists either did not know or were afraid or unwilling to report on what was happening to millions of Stalin’s prisoners. In addition to Polish citizens, the Soviets also imprisoned and deported Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Tatars, Jews and members of many other ethnic and religious groups. Even after the war, the story of the deportees was rarely told. Many of those who had survived the Gulag camps, became homeless refugees in the West.

Read more
Highlights

A poem about Wojtek the Soldier Bear

Support Silenced Refugees

Wojtek can you hear me?

By Anne Kaczanowski


Wojtek can you hear me?  
Wojtek do you still remember me?  
Wojtek czy pamietasz? Wojtek czy jeszcze pamietasz mnie?  
The penetrating sound of friends transcend the pages of time  
And the bear turns his ear as the bell of the universe chimes  
He remembers as though it was yesterday as he looks back  
He was a little brown bear tightly held by a child in a sack  
The waves of the Caspian brought to Persia many broken souls  
A cascade of hopeful, starving and helpless deported Poles  
They were housed in civilian camps with clothes and a meal  
And Persia allowed them many gifts just to help them heal  
One day a Polish soldier appeared with a young girl he can’t forget  
He traded the boy a handful of coins and bought the girl a pet  
She took her gift into a civilian camp but quickly saw her error  
This was not the place to raise this mischievous, little bear  
After three months he was given to a group of Polish army men  
With blessings that he could become their mascot in a pen
 
The young soldiers accepted their gift with excitement of a boy  
They fed and hugged the little bear and filled his heart with joy  
They nursed him from a vodka bottle filled with sweet milk  
And cuddled him in their sleeping bags like a tiny piece of silk  
They taught him how to play and showered him with love  
And he believed that he had been given a family from above  
He was no different than the soldiers who took him in  
They had both been abandoned in a world full of sin  
The soldiers had suffered a lot and the bear gave them hope  
And together they were bound like a tightly twisted rope  
They taught him how to smoke and how to drink their beer  
And when he wrestled them to the ground, everyone would cheer  
The rays of the Middle East sun would become a soldier’s wrath  
But a hole was dug in sand with water so the bear could have a bath  
He was a smiling little warrior and from the wild easy to tame  
And so the soldiers decided that Wojtek should be his name.  
They taught him to speak Polish and showed him that they cared  
And recognized him as a Polish spirit wrapped in the body of a bear.  
Wojtek never thought of himself as anything other than a man  
He lived his life in unison under a highly orchestrated plan  
They battled the Mediterranean but their greatest challenge lay ahead  
But Wojtek was refused the ship to Italy and their hearts filled with dread  
Someone said he was a bear and only soldiers could be on the ship  
So they enlisted him as a Private so he could make the trip  
So now he had a number, was a soldier in every sense of the word  
And nobody in the 22nd Transport thought this was absurd  
He continued to boost the morale of soldiers fighting to death  
And became legend for many who had taken their last breath  
He watched the ammunition being carried by exhausted men  
It was just as easy for him to do the same job as a team of ten  
So he proudly carried the boxes to show his soldiers that he could  
And they cheered and bestowed their pride as every soldier should  
The battle had been fought for so long on this shattered, bloody hill  
But this time it would take more than just courage and skill  
The thirst for freedom was carried in every soldier’s boot  
And Wojtek did everything but pick up a gun and shoot  
He was a story to many who heard about the things he had done  
He enlightened and uplifted the soldier’s spirits with Polish fun  
The battle raged and the smoke of thunderous canons filled the air  
And alongside the Polish soldiers fought this majestic bear  
He become the mascot of the regiment that he served so well  
And their emblem became Wojtek carrying the bloody shell  
And when the war was over the soldiers had to rebuild their lives  
But where do you put a bear that was strong enough to survive?  
They took him to Scotland where many soldiers had decided to go to  
And finally realized that Wojtek’s best home would be Edinburgh Zoo  
Wojtek had come on a long journey and for a time been free  
Walking on the grounds with soldiers and enjoying the shade of a tree.  
It broke every soldier’s heart to leave their brother behind the cage  
He was one of them, but now the reality of life was on a new stage  
So the Polish soldiers who stayed, visited him every chance they had  
And shared a cigarette as they talked of good times and bad  
The dimensions of time take Wojtek back to where he is today  
But if you speak Polish ……he can hear what you say  
Wojtek czy pamietasz ? Wojtek czy pamietasz mnie?  
Wojtek do you remember ? Wojtek do you still remember me?  
And Wojtek turns his head and looks the soldier square in the eye  
And tears stream down the cheeks of both in a silent, bonded cry  
Tak braciszku pamiętam, tak braciszku jeszcze cię pamiętam  
Yes my brother I remember. Yes my brother I still remember you.  
Wojtek we will all remember you.  
We will never forget you.    

hania kaczanowska 2015

 
Read more
Blog, Highlights

Planned assassination of a journalist linked to Polish children prisoners in Soviet Russia

Support Silenced Refugees

A Soviet-instigated plan to kill an anti-communist woman journalist in the early years of the Cold War was linked to her attempts to tell the story of thousands of Polish children who in 1940-1941 had been deported with their families from eastern Poland to Siberia and Central Asia where many died from brutal treatment. The assassination plan was revealed in 1953-1954 by a defector to the West from communist-ruled Poland and was never carried out.

Read more
Highlights

How U.S. Lied About Polish Refugee Children to Protect Stalin

How the Roosevelt Administration Shipped Polish Refugee Orphans to Mexico In Locked Trains and Lied About It to Protect Stalin The Untold Story of Polish Refugee Children from Soviet Russia: “A Group Lost in History” Support Silenced Refugees The current crisis at the U.S. southern border and the Trump administration’s efforts to keep migrants in Mexico, some of them children,…

Read more
Highlights, Iran

Polish refugee families in Iran

Support Silenced Refugees This U.S. Government propaganda photo showing Polish refugee families awaiting evacuation was taken by the Office of War Information (OWI) photographer in Iran in 1943. To protect Stalin and the anti-Germany military alliance with Moscow, pro-Soviet propagandists in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration did not publish photos of Polish children who were starved, ill and near death…

Read more