Poland’s ‘Accursed Soliders’ (Żołnierze wyklęci) have only recently got their own memorial day – celebrated on March 1 – after years of tarnished reputation resulting from a Soviet propaganda campaign.
The soldiers in question 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.
However, they have in general been ‘rehabilitated’ and March 1 is now the national memorial day for the Accursed Soldiers (Narodowy Dzień Pamięci Żołnierzy Wyklętych).
Picture: From June 1947. Henryk Wybranowski (killed Nov. 1948), Edward Taraszkiewicz (killed Oct. 1951), Mieczysław Małecki (killed Nov. 1947), and Stanisław Pakuła.
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