Row over memorial plan for ‘Accursed Soldiers’

 

 

 

 

 

 

A monument to Poland’s Accursed Soldiers, the underground units who fought Poland’s Soviet ‘liberators’ after the Second World War, will be erected in Zielona Góra – but only after a heated debate in the city’s council chamber.

The Accursed Soldiers (Żołnierze wyklęci) were armed anti-communist resistance movements, generally formed from elements of Poland’s underground Armia Krajowa. The AK was formally disbanded in 1945, but some members continued their activities, turning their struggle against what they saw as a new occupation of Poland, this time by Soviet Russia.

They engaged Soviet regular troops on several occasions, the most notable being when they won a battle at Kuryłówka, in Podkarpackie. The victory, though, was short-lived, for the Soviets returned in greater numbers, and razed the village to the ground.

The conflict between the AK and Soviet forces began at least as early as 1943. Clandestine Soviet units were in Poland, with orders to fight the AK; and the AK had its own plans to observe these spies and report on their activities to the Polish government in exile. By the end of the war, the Soviet secret services had rounded up at least 50,000 AK members and deported them to Siberia.

When the war ended, and the AK was disbanded, the various units and movements of the Accursed Soldiers were formed. Often hiding out in forests, they attacked the machinery of the Soviet state using guerrilla tactics. It is not known how many people were members – but a Soviet amnesty in 1947 drew more than 50,000 out of hiding.

The Soviet propaganda machine was at work throughout the period in which the Accursed Soldiers were operating (mostly in the first three years after the war – although the last imprisoned underground member was not released until 1967). To the authorities, the Accursed Soldiers were ‘the spitting dwarves of the reaction’, and they were declaimed as bandits and murderers. And indeed, there were atrocities carried out in their name, by opportunists and common criminals.

And that was the spark that caused the row over the monument in Zielona Góra. The motion to erect the monument won support from both sides of the chamber, but some councillors were against the proposal.

Councillor Andrzej Brachmański, citing the crimes committed in the name of the Accursed Soldiers, said: “The killing of civilians, children and women cannot be called a fight against communism. And the state wants to erect a monument to such people.”

He asked: “Do you want the state to put murderers and bandits on monuments?”

Councillor Jacek Budziński responded by saying it was only to be expected that ‘ordinary robbers’ posed as anti-communists.

He added: “Do you want me to read the names of 20,000 soldiers who died in combat? Do you want me to read the names of the 250,000 who were sent to the Soviet labour camps?

“This was not a civil war, but an occupation. People’s democracy came to us on Soviet tanks. Communism was imposed on us…you must honour these soldiers, and this is the opportunity to do so.”

The motion to erect the monument – an eagle with outstretched wings – was eventually passed by 14 votes to nine.

Picture: President Bronisław Komorowski pays tribute on the public holiday in memory of the Accursed Soldiers, March 1. W-Wa Jeziorki.

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