This month’s book review is about “Surviving Katyn“, also mentioning “Wrexham 4 Ukraine” and the wonderful support and donations that were received at the Wrexham Enterprise Hub.
Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is playing out vividly on our TV screens. Viewers are confronted with live evidence of Russian forces attacking large swathes of cities such as Kharkiv and Mariupol.
Refugees Seeking Shelter
In addition, there is clear evidence of crimes against humanity as they bomb residential areas. Women, children and older citizens have had to flee to safety by road and rail to avoid destruction and starvation.
The number of refugees seeking initial shelter in countries like Poland, Hungary, and Romania has surpassed three million. Putin clearly shows he is a relentless tyrant, intent on destroying the sovereignty of Ukraine.
The actions of Putin mirror in many respects the actions of the Stalinist State against the Polish people. In her book Surviving Katyn, Jane Rogoyska correspondingly addresses the role of Joseph Stalin in ordering the ruthless killing of 22,000 Polish prisoners of war in the Katyn Massacre of April and May 1940.
Stalin committed many other atrocities and war crimes, such as executions and the introduction of gulags or labour camps. For example, the deportations of Polish citizens in 1940-41 resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands. However, as the author emphasises, Katyn holds so much symbolic importance for the Polish people.
The author unravels and provides substantive evidence of Soviet responsibility for this heinous war crime within a well researched, politically challenging, and emotionally disturbing text.
In 1939, following the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany to the West, the Russian army invaded Poland from the East. Russian forces captured over 200,000 members of the Polish armed forces as the Poles retreated from the Germans. They were then taken to three prison camps across the Soviet Union.
In April 1940, 4,000 of those prisoners were murdered. Occupying German forces found the bodies in a mass grave in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk. The Russians under Stalin absolved themselves from responsibility by asserting that the massacre’s perpetrators were Hitler’s “fascist hangmen”.
The Allied leaders of Britain and the USA did not challenge Stalin’s version since they were dependent upon Russian support in their attempt to defeat Hitler.
Perhaps readers may consider this reluctance to challenge Stalin is reminiscent of our government’s attitude with Putin’s annexation of Crimea. They have been lenient with Putin’s oligarch friends in industry, property and football clubs, not to mention the Salisbury poisonings and unsolved deaths of personnel linked to financial dealings with Russian groups.
Jane talks at length about the hardships suffered by the Polish forces held captive. She describes how the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) secretly murdered over 14,000 on Stalin’s orders.
She pays special attention to how the Russians interrogated a talented group of Polish scientists, doctors, engineers, poets and skilled military men. Was the critical aim to eliminate Poles for specifically being Polish an act of genocide? It is more likely that it was because they were “irremediable” (impossible to change)?
The strength of Ukraine’s cyber intelligence system, their state security, and the people’s resilience are thwarting the might and prowess of the Russian troops. A key factor has been the leadership and orations of President Zelensky. He has emphatically refuted Putin’s use of fake news, political manipulation and state-sponsored deceit. All of which reject any respect for human life and the “moral principles” of warfare.
Stalin failed to accept responsibility for the murders of Polish soldiers at Katyn. It was only in 1990, during the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev acknowledged Katyn as a Stalinist crime.
With all the digital and first-hand evidence available, it will be interesting if the Nato countries charge Putin with war crimes.
The tragedy of any war is that so many people become refugees. They have to start new lives in communities away from their homes. In supporting over three million refugees, the actions of Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and the other countries bordering Ukraine have been exemplary.
Wrexham Pitches In
Within Wrexham and neighbouring areas, the efforts of the PISC (the Polish Integration Support Centre), Anna Buckley, Teams4u and other volunteers have straightaway sent lorryloads of clothing, food, medical supplies and other vital materials to support the refugees.
The efforts of the Polish community have been to the fore. They have been through the terror of a Russian tyrant, forced from their homeland and had to rebuild their lives. For Polish people worldwide, the Katyn Massacre will surely always be an umbrella term to label the murders of nearly 22,000 prisoners of war.
Surviving Katyn: Stalin’s Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth by Jane Rogoyska.
Publisher: Oneworld Publications (May 6th, 2021)
Length: 400 pages
Thank you for reading “Surviving Katyn and Wrexham 4 Ukraine”. For more book reviews, click here.