WA = General Władyslaw Anders' book, An Army in Exile
June 21, 1941
A German sergeant who deserted to the Soviet forces told Soviets that the German Army would attack at dawn the following morning. Stalin was reluctant to believe the soldier’s story and it was not until the German attack took place that he finally accepted that his attempts to avoid war with Germany until 1942 had failed. (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/RUSbarbarossa.htm)
June 22, 1941
Hitler lauches Operation Barbarossa.
July 5, 1941
Polish Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski opened negotiations with Soviet Ambassador to the United Kingdom Ivan Maisky to re-establish diplomatic relations between Poland and the USSR.
July 12, 1941
British ambassador to Moscow, R Stafford Cripps and Molotov signed an agreement in Moscow:
“His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics have concluded the present Agreement and declare as follows:
(1) The two Governments mutually undertake to render each other assistance and support of all kinds in the present war against Hitlerite Germany.
(2) They further undertake that during this war they will neither negotiate nor conclude an armistice or treaty of peace except by mutual agreement.
The present Agreement has been concluded in duplicate in the English and Russian languages. Both texts have equal force. Moscow, the twelfth of July, nineteen hundred and forty-one.
By authority of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom:
STAFFORD CRIPPS, His Majesty’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics. By authority of the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics:
MOLOTOV, The Deputy President of the Council of People’s Commissars and People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics.”
July 30, 1941
Polish-Soviet Agreement signed in London by Polish Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski and Soviet Ambassador to the United
Kingdom, Ivan Maisky, also known as the Sikorski-Maisky agreement:
1. The Government of the USSR recognizes the Soviet-German treaties of 1939 as to territorial changes in Poland as having lost their validity. The Polish Government declares Poland is not bound by any agreement with any third power which is directed against the USSR.
2. Diplomatic relations will be restored between the two governments upon the signing of this agreement, and an immediate exchange of ambassadors will be arranged.
3. The two governments mutually agree to render one to another aid and support of all kinds in the present war against Hitlerite Germany.
4. The government of the USSR expresses its consent to the formation on territory of the USSR of a Polish Army under a commander appointed by the Polish government in agreement with the Soviet government, the Polish Army on territory of the USSR being subordinated in an operational sense to the Supreme Command of the USSR, in which the Polish Army will be represented. All details as to command, organization and employment of this force will be settled in a subsequent agreement.
5. This agreement will come into force immediately upon signature and without ratification. The present agreement is drawn up in two copies, in the Russian and Polish languages. Both texts have equal force.
The Soviet Government grants amnesty to all Polish citizens now detained on Soviet territory either as prisoners of war or on other sufficient grounds, as from the resumption of diplomatic relations. (The subsequent Polish-Soviet Military Alliance was signed on August 14, 1941. WA)
August 4, 1941
Anders’ cell door opened and he was called for.
He met Beria and Merkulov, told he was a free man and that the Poles and Russians must “bury the hatchet because their sole aim must be to defeat the Germans.”
Beria and Merkulov told Anders this was the objectve of a treaty with Great Britain and of the recent Polish-Soviet agreement, both recently signed. Under this Agreement there would be an amnesty for all Poles and a Polish army would be formed.
Anders was told he had been appointed by the Polish authorities, with the consent of the Soviet Government, to be Commander of this new army.
Anders asked for the release of Colonel Sulnik (pseudonym Sarnowski) and although told there was “no such person in the prison,” he was released a few days later.
Anders spent 20 months in prison, seven in solitary confinement. (WA)
Unspecified date (Katyń)
Anders met Colonel Berling, a former officer of the 1st Brigade of Piłsudski’s Legions and Lieutenant-Colonel Dudzinski, who
had served with the 20th Infantry Division and described them as “both rather vague about their experiences.”
They confirmed what Anders had been told by Captain Kuzel, that there had been three main Soviet camps for Polish POWs:
– Kozielek and
The first two camps were exclusively for officers. Anders was “very careful” as Berling and Dudzinski seemed “too insistent for close cooperation with Soviet Russia…”
Anders had read a copy of a fortnightly magazine The Problems of the Middle East (“quickly” withdrawn from circulation). Topics included:
– Problems of future Soviet policy in the Middle East,
– Emphasising the necessity of occupying the oilfields,
– Reaching the Persian Gulf,
– Organising a revolution in India.
Other Soviet magazines printed “hostile epithets” about England, France and America. Soviet newspapers were still “full of enthusiastic articles” about Ribbentropp’s visit to Stalin in Moscow, Molotov’s visit to Hitler in Berlin and Stalin’s meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka. (WA)
Anders met Polish Major-General Bohusz-Szyszko, who updated him on the state of the war since he was arrested in 1939. (WA)
Anders requested and received the release of Mrs Bronislawa Wyslouchowa, who became Chief Inspector of the Women’s Service. (WA)
Anders realises there were about 11,000 officers whom he could not trace.
Anders meets Polish diplomat from London, Dr Józef Retinger, a personal friend of General Sikorski.
August 13, 1941
Stalin met with Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka at a Moscow railway station, when the latter was on his way from Berlin to Tokyo. (WA via Soviet newspapers)
August 14, 1941
Polish-Russian Military Agreement signed by Polish Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski and Soviet Ambassador to the United
Kingdom Ivan Mayski:
- A Polish army will be organised as soon as possible on the territory of the USSR and the army will become a part of the Armed Forces of the Sovereign Polish Republic.
- It will be destined to take part in the common struggle of the armies of the USSR and other Allied Powers against the German Reich.
- At the end of the war the army will return to Poland.
- … Polish units will be used at the front when they have reached full preparedness for battle…
- Soldiers of the Polish army on the territory of the USSR will be subject to Polish military laws and regulations…
- Armament, equipment, uniform, kit, motor vehicles etc will be supplied as far as possible,
(a) by the government of the USSR, from their own stocks,
(b) by the government of the Polish Republic from supplies obtained under the Lease-Lend Bill.
August 14, 1941
Anders selects Colonel Okulicki, graduate of his own staff college, as his Chief of Staff. (WA)
August 16, 1941
Anders’ first official conference with Soviet authorities:
He obtains permission to organise two divisions and a reserve regiment.
The Soviets expected these units would be ready for battle in the USSR on 1 October 1941 but Anders called this “sheer fantasy.”
The new Polish army headquarters were to be in Buzuluk.
The 5th Division, stationed at Tatistchev, became the only division to get arms from the Soviets.
The 6th Division and Reserve Regiment were established at Totskoie.
Anders was alerted to the apparent Soviet Policy regarding its troops:
“… The Soviet High command did not recognise, and ignored in its strategy, any necessity to economise soldiers’ blood, just as Soviet economic policy took no account whatsoever of the value of human life.” (WA)
August 22, 1941
Anders’ first order was published:
“That in accordance with agreements concluded between the Government of the Polish Republic and the Government of the USSR, Polish sovereign forces were being created on Russian territory.”
He also announced that by the order of the General Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces, he had been appointed Commanding General of the army and that “our aim was to continue the struggle with the eternal enemy of our country—Germany.”
He also called on all Polish citizens to do their duty, established a Women’s Auxiliary Service and put no barriers on conscription. (WA)
August 25, 1941
British and Soviet troops enter Persian territory. (WA)
End August 1941
Anders receives permission “with great difficulty” and flies to Griasovietsk camp. He tells “emaciated
faces” they “would soon be free again, able to strive for Poland.”
Anders learns that Colonel Berling “and his friends had volunteered for enlistment into the Red Army, without even applying for commission, while German-Russian friendship was still firm.” (WA)
September 1, 1941
Entire Polish army at Totskoie was still without rations. (WA)
September 5, 1941
Anders’ first meeting with the new Polish Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Professor Stanisław Kot, who apparently could not speak Russian, at the Polish Embassy in Moscow. Kot handed over letters from President of Poland Władysław Raczkiewicz and instructions from Polish Prime Minister General Sikorski.
Anders is told of Polish soldiers who had worked in Polish territories occupied by the Soviet army, who were “evacuated eastwards” by the NKVD. “Those who could not stand the devilish march were shot on the way. Nevertheless these soldiers were in much better physical condition than the miserable creatures who came from prisons and forced labour camps.” (WA)
September 10, 1941
Anders flies to his new headquarters in Buzuluk and encounters “enormous” problems, including shortages of “everything.” (WA)
September 12, 1941
Anders writes to General Headquarters of the Soviet army asking them to agree to the creation of further divisions.
September 14, 1941
Anders’ first visit to the Totskoie army camp, made up of small tents pitched in a forest for the 6th Infantry.
Anders took his first parade of 17,000 soldiers:
“… I shall not forget the sight as long as I live, nor the mingled pity and pride with which I reviewed them. Most of them had no boots or shirts, and all were in rage, often the tattered relics of old Polish uniforms. There was not a man who was not an emaciated skeleton and most of them were covered with ulcers, resulting from semi-starvation, but to the great astonishment of the Russians, including General Zhukov, who accompanied me, they were all well shaved and showed a fine soldierly bearing…
“… I took the salute of a march past of soldiers without boots. They had insisted upon it. They wanted to show the Bolsheviks that even in their bare feet, and ill and wounded as many of them were, they could bear themselves like soldiers on their first march towards Poland.”
Anders visited Tatistchev camp, also in a forest, where the 5th Infantry Division was being organised.
On seeing the state of the men released from the Soviet labour camps who were arriving to join the Polish army, Anders wrote, “… it became clear to us how the Russians had systematically drained from Poland all people of value to the nation, whatever their racial origin, class or religion… ‘beheading’ the community, which is always the first step to the sovietisation of a nation, making it an inert and amorphous mass of humanity.” (WA)
Anders lists the six waves of ‘deportations’ of Poles to the Soviet labour camps. These are not repeated here.
Anders’ growing disquiet at missing officers.
September 16, 1941
The forced abdication of the Shah of Iran announced after an Anglo-Soviet invasion of his country. He was replaced by his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
end October 1941
The Polish Embassy in the USSR moved from Moscow to Kuybyshev.
Anders continued to make enquiries about missing officers.
Regarding Polish Jews and the feelings against them because of the way some had enthusiastically greeted the Soviet troops in 1939, Anders refused to agree to a separate unit on the basis that doing so would have led to other separations, “… as we were creating an entity which was the continuation of the former Polish army, all citizens—without distinctions of faith or nationality—should find a place in it.” (WA)
Ambassador Kot approached Stalin with four requests:
- All Poles still detained be released;
- Strength of army brought up to 100,000;
- Army transferred to southern Russia;
- Allowing the Polish Embassy to carry out welfare activities for Polish citizens. (WA)
Anders, with General Bohusz-Szyszko, flies to Teheran to meet General Sikorski.
Sikorski expresses “faith in the loyalty of Stalin and the Soviet Government.”
Anders quotes evidence to Sikorski of: “deliberate mass murder and destruction of Poles… that the so-called amnesty had not been properly carried out, as hundreds of thousands of men were still rotting in prisons and camps, and that there was a most disquieting lack of information about the thousands of officers still missing.” (WA)
December 2, 1941
General Sikorski, Kot and Anders fly to Moscow to meet Stalin. They were told that the Soviets wanted the Polish army to
equal only 30,000, many fewer that those already enlisting and which, if agreed to, would mean starvation for the rest.
Anders suggests moving the army and the masses of refugees to the Middle East. Apparently, Sikorski objected at first, then took it up with Stalin. (WA)
December 3, 1941
Anders described one of the sessions with Stalin:
- Sikorski said, “A great number of our most valuable people are still in labour camps and prisons.”
- Stalin’s reply was that that was “… impossible, because the amnesty applied to all Poles, and all Poles were released.” Stalin confirmed this with Molotov but later said that the missing officers “escaped” or had not arrived.
- Anders pointed out that the releases from the labour camps have been specific. First to be released were the Jews, then Ukrainians, then those Poles not fit enough to be of value as workers. He added that there were men in his army who insist there are thousands of Poles still in the Soviet camps.
- Molotov said the missing men were not in the camps and Anders replied “I still affirm most solemnly that they are… the fittest are kept, because you are short of manpower…”
- Stalin was willing to grant a loan to the Polish government-in-exile for helping Polish civilians.
- Sikorski pointed out the inadequate conditions of the Polish army—soldiers frostbitten, light tents, lack of food and suggests a move to Persia where Britain promised to assist them.
- General Panfilov, Deputy Chief of the Red Army General Staff, admitted that rations were reduced from 44,000 to 30,000 men and that on September 1, 1941, the entire Polish army at Totskoie was without rations.
- Stalin agreed that Polish supplies “should be increased sufficiently for it to be organised on Russian soil.…”
December 4, 1941
The Stalin-Sikorski Declaration signed. The declaration stated that:
- “German Hitlerite Imperialism” was the worst enemy of humanity and that both countries would fight until final victory;
- That Poland and the Soviet Union country would give one another full military support and that the Polish armed forces in Soviet territory would fight side by side with the Soviet army;
- That peace-time relations would be based on “peaceful neighbourly co-operation and the observance of mutual obligations.”
December 5, 1941
The Polish delegation returns to Kuybyshev.
General Sikorski attends Mass at Totskoie and Tatistchev camps and takes the march past of troops, some already in new British uniforms. (WA)
Sikorski goes to Teheran via Saratov.
Sikorski has an audience with the new Shah of Persia. This was followed by a press conference and according to General Anders, was more diplomatic than the Soviets deserved. Anders believed that Sikorski was influenced by pro-Russians who gave him a “completely false picture of the real situation.” (WA)
December 7, 1941
Japanese attack on United States’ military fleet in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii.
December 8, 1941
President Roosevelt signs a declaration of war with Japan and the USA formally enters World War 2.
Anders returned to Polish army headquarters in Buzuluk and continued to try and get the troops further south to warmer climate.
Temperatures dropped to -52 deg C and some men froze to death in their tents.
“Those who—sick, exhausted and in rags—arrived to join the army from the distant provinces of the boundless Soviet Empire were in a dreadful plight, but their transports were not allowed to remain by the Russians, who sent them on further to the south on the pretext that they would there await the arrival of the troops. But their journey did not end in the south. They were sent by rail to Turkestan, and from there by boat along the Amu-Daria for forced labour. Only a few of the many thousand men ever returned alive.” (WA)
© Barbara Scrivens, 2014
Updated May 2019