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Should Poles and Poland be grateful to the Red Army for its actions during World War II?
June 6, 2014 was the seventieth anniversary of D-Day. I celebrated on Facebook and on this blog. I expressed gratitude to the young American men, average age 22, who charged into Nazi machine gun fire on Omaha Beach and other landing sites.
My friend Natasha Vaubel wrote to remind me to be grateful to the Red Army.
On Facebook, I acknowledged that the Red Army caused the greatest number of casualties to the Nazis. I said, though, that I am not grateful to the Red Army. I gave my reasons for this lack of gratitude. Just one such reason. The Red Army invaded Poland in 1939, along with Nazi Germany. After the war, I see the Red Army's advance into Eastern Europe as an invasion and an occupation.
Facebook friend Magdalena Paśnikowska advanced her reasons for gratitude to the Red Army. The Red Army made a huge contribution to defeating the Nazis. The average soldier should not be conflated with Stalin or other evil Soviet leaders, who did very bad things to Russians, as well as to Poles.
A Russian woman, Anna Domasheva, responded to the thread. Ms. Domasheva's response was so powerful and eloquent I asked for, and received, permission to post her response. Please read it below, in full, with very few, minor proofreading changes by me.
Ms. Domasheva referred to another blog post by me entitled "What the Heck is Wrong with the Irish?" Recently news has come out about an alleged mass grave of infants in Tuam, Ireland. People have been eager to attribute evil to the nuns who ran the orphanage associated with the alleged mass grave. I wanted to say that we don't yet know the full story of the alleged mass grave and we shouldn't rush to associate cruelty to children with one ethnicity – Irish people – one religion – Catholicism – or one order – the Bon Secours nuns.
Anna Domasheva writes:
First of all, if ever one person can stand for a nation – and I believe we all can – then I beg you for forgiveness, for the pardon of the unpardonable: for what your families, friends, and fellow countrymen had to endure.
I read this thread from the beginning and I noticed how closely the debate came at the end to Danusha's previous post ("What the heck is wrong with the Irish?"). Basically, it was becoming the same question, but with "Russians" instead of the Irish.
I thought about other historical comparisons, and a few names came to mind.
Do you know who these people were: Feliks Dzierżyński, Wiaczesław Mężyński, Stanisław Kosior, Andrzej Wyszyński?
Feliks Dzierżyński: the founder and first head of the all-powerful Cheka-NKVD police, the foremost organizer of the Red Terror, having introduced torture and mass summary executions in Russia on an unprecedented scale, unimaginable in czarist times. [Dzierzynkski was Polish. The Cheka, his brainchild, went on to become the KGB.]
Wiaczesław Mężyński: successor of Dzierżyński as the head of Cheka-NKVD, idem for the professional activities.
Stanisław Kosior: head of the Communist Party of Ukraine in the 30s – and a major architect of the Holodomor.
Andrzej Wyszyński: a state prosecutor of Joseph Stalin's Moscow trials (his favorite sentence: "Kill them all as the mad dogs they are!!!")
These people are personally responsible for millions of deaths.
No, they did not personally rape and kill hundreds of thousands of women.
But do you believe that what the horde of dirty "Ivans" did in 1945 was more evil than what did these refined gentlemen – three of them belonging to ancient Polish nobility – did to Russia during the years 1918 – 1953?
I do not think so.
They gang-raped my country, murdering not only its body, but its soul.
They made – amongst other diligent servants of the regime – the crime of Katyn possible.
One could be tempted to ask: how is it possible that in an enormous country – run first by a bloodthirsty Russian lunatic and then by a bloodthirsty Georgian thug – the bloodthirsty himmlers-goebbels-görings of both the lunatic and the thug were Poles?
So – what the heck is wrong with the Poles?
Because a nation is built by its saints, not by its monsters.
Because "my" Poles are not Dzierżyński, Mężyński, Kosior and Wyszyński.
My Poles are: Witold Pilecki, Jan Karski, the heroes of Armia Krajowa, Warsaw Uprising and Solidarność.
And I thank them. I thank you. Thank you for the freedom. Spasibo. Za naszą i waszą wolność.
Can it be then that the army of thugs terrorizing the women of Eastern Europe/Germany in the spring 1945 – had also its true heroes?… albeit dead by the time Soviets entered Prussia?
The 22-year-old boys at Omaha beach could land in Normandy and land heroically and the majority would survive (sad majority though – 70 %) amongst other reasons thanks to their Russian counterparts: to the 18-years-old boys – every bit as bright-eyed and bright-minded as the American soldiers in D-Day photos – who were taken from their first university years to the front in the 1941 – and were all dead by the time the thugs came to Germany as winners.
No. No – happily enough, not of all them dead … A young artillery officer, appalled with the atrocities of Soviet troops, was arrested by NKVD in February 1945 in Eastern Prussia. He was destined to spend many years of his life in the Gulag, nearly die of cancer at the end of his term, overcome the illness and finally write a book that would contribute to changing the world to a freer place. The officer's name was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose poem "Prussian Nights" Danusha cites in the very beginning of the thread.
-- Anna Domasheva
Ms. Domasheva sent the following photos; please scroll down to read her reasons for choosing these photos.
Of the photographs, above, Anna Domasheva wrote:
Here are several high school graduation shots of 1941 – and these are actually the last civilian photos for the majority of the boys and the male teachers (and in the photo from the Leningrad school – also for the girls, who would very probably die of starvation during next winter). The graduation balls in the Soviet Union were held Saturday evening June 21, and the war began at dawn on Sunday June 22.
The last two photos are by great Robert Capa. His famous "Magnificent Eleven" at Omaha beach needs no introduction. The second one is less known, though for me it's as emblematic of the World War II as the first. The shot was captured during Capa's voyage to USSR together with John Steinbeck in 1947-1948 (Steinbeck wrote "A Russian Journal").
The photo has no specific name, but I call it "Women or Victory Day".
These women could as well be Polish, Slovak, British or American – though of course it's above all women of Eastern Europe.
This is about the loss that no victory can restore to you. About the solitude of Victory Day.