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5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Poetry: Includes a Revisionist-Refuting History of Poles Sent to Siberia in the Last 500 Years, April 4, 2009
This review is from: Polish Poetry from the Soviet Gulags: Recovering a Lost Literature (Hardcover)
I am not knowledgeable about poetry. For this reason, my review is limited to the chapter authored by historian Marek Chodakiewicz. He combines facts and personal experiences related to his family (from the Grodno area), and estimates that 20% of present-day Poles have or had family members sent to the Gulags. [My own parents and grandparents were among those sent there].

Already 500 years ago, Muscovy would kidnap Poles and others for purposes of slave labor, and resettle them eastward. This tendency increased during the Partitions, and especially as a form of tsarist reprisal for the Polish insurrections of 1830 and 1863. Even after some of the deportees' descendants had survived many generations in exile, they were subject to renewed horrors. For instance, about 150,000 Soviet Poles perished during the Communist purges of 1934-1938.

WWII opened a new chapter in Russian aggression against Poland, the murder of Poles in places such as Katyn, and the deportation of Polish citizens to the interior of the USSR. In recent years, certain revisionists, based on Soviet archives, have tried to degrade the number of Poles exiled in 1939-1941 to only 390,000, which is 3-6 times smaller than previous estimates. Chodakiewicz refutes this revisionism. To begin with, he reminds us that closed Soviet archives, despite not having been written for propaganda purposes, are nevertheless well known to be notoriously unreliable. He points out that the 390,000 figure would make sense only if the number of prisoners per railroad car was 25, as stated in Soviet guidelines. To the contrary: There is a large body of testimonies, by both Polish and Jewish deportees, showing remarkable consistency about the fact that the numbers of prisoners per railroad car was 27-70 (occasionally higher), averaging about 40. Chodakiewicz supports a figure of 1,250,000 Polish deportees sent eastward during 1939-1941. This, of course, means that only a small fraction of these deportees were freed as a result of the Nazi-attack-induced "amnesty" of 1941.

The "liberation" of Poland from Nazi rule in 1944 by the Soviet "ally" did not change things. The deportations of Poles started anew. Approximately 50,000 Kresy Poles were arrested and sent to the interior of the USSR in 1944-1947, as were at least 100,000 Poles from Poland as defined by her post-WWII boundaries. This is in addition to 2,000,000 Poles expelled from the Kresy and resettled in postwar Poland.

Many of the surviving Siberian deportees were not freed until 1956, or even later. During the years of the Soviet puppet state (1944-1989), mention of the Siberian exiles could only occur sporadically, informally, and underground. After 1989, this once-taboo subject came out in the open. Many memorial societies have since been formed, including the Siberia Virtual Museum on the Internet.
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Location: Chicago IL, USA

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