70 Years Ago This Month
By Douglas W. Jacobson
“Men, at this moment we are the only part of the Polish nation which is able and has the duty to voice its will, and for this reason we must prove by word and deed that we are faithful to our oath of allegiance, and to our fallen comrades-in-arms who fought and died for an independent, sovereign and truly free Poland. Our country, deprived of its rights of speech, looks toward us, but it does not want to see us as slaves of a foreign force. It wants to see us with our banners flying as forerunners of true freedom. As a return to Poland is impossible today, we must wait in closed and disciplined ranks for a favorable change in conditions. Long live the glorious Republic of Poland.”
– General Wladyslaw Anders in his Orders of the Day, 6 July, 1945 after Great Britain and the United States had formally recognized the Soviet-backed Polish government in Warsaw.
General Anders was born in 1892 in a small village near Kutno, Poland, which at that time was part of the Russian empire. During his very distinguished military career, General Anders would serve Russian Tsar Nicholas II in World War I; be captured, tortured and imprisoned by the Russians in 1939 at the outbreak World War II; then be released in 1941 and ordered to form a Polish army to fight alongside the Russians.
Understanding completely the extent of Russian treachery, Anders nevertheless followed the orders and took command of the Polish POWs being released from Russian Gulags after the invasion of Russia by the Germans. Anders’ task was complicated by many factors, not the least of which was an acute shortage of Polish officers following the Katyn massacre. Continued friction with Soviet authorities, along with the lack of adequate food, clothing and weapons, finally caused Anders to lead his men – now known as “Ander’s Army” – out of Russia via the Persian Corridor into Iran, Iraq and Palestine. Under Anders’ command, more than 40,000 Polish soldiers and 70,000 civilians were able to leave the Soviet Union and join the Western Allies. Anders Army was thus formed into the 2nd Polish Corps fighting with the British throughout the Middle East. General Anders would go on to lead the Polish 2nd Corps in Italy and victory at Monte Cassino.
The end of the war, however, brought the bitter reality of Soviet-dominated Poland and Anders was forced to remain in exile in London. He became Inspector-General of the Polish forces in exile and continued to agitate for a free and independent Poland. Following his death in 1970 he was buried, according to his wishes, amongst the men of the Polish 2nd Corps at the Polish War Cemetery at Monte Cassino. In 1989 his Polish citizenship and military rank were posthumously reinstated.
Douglas W. Jacobson is the Polish-American author of the award-winning book, NIGHT OF FLAMES: A Novel of World War Two. Mr. Jacobson has been a frequent contributor to this newspaper and has written a second historical novel set in Poland in World War Two, THE KATYN ORDER, which will be released in May, 2011. You can visit him on the web at http://www.douglaswjacobson.com.