The Katyń Massacre is still an event that can be manipulated and used in current politics, hence the importance of reminding the truth about it – says Jane Rogoyska, the author of the book “Surviving Katyń. Stalin’s Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth”.
As she explains, one of the reasons for writing this book was precisely the feeling that the history of the crime in Katyń is still relevant to today’s events, and that the passage of time makes it increasingly easy to question the facts.
“This story can still be manipulated, it can still be questioned, there are still people who believe that Mikhail Gorbachev lied and it was actually a Nazi crime. And the state’s support of false narratives is all the more incentive for people not to believe the facts, to succumb to conspiracy theories,” says Rogoyska.
Rogoyska admits that in the West – and not only in the UK – Katyń is beyond the general public’s awareness and the majority of young people, in particular, have not heard of it at all, and if someone with an interest in World War II or the history of Central and Eastern Europe does know about the event, it is usually superficial knowledge, i. e., that Polish officers were murdered in the forest in Katyn during the war and that it was a Stalinist crime. This is partly due to the natural factor that each nation looks at history from a different also own perspective, and partly due to certain changing fashions or academic trends. As she points out, most books on Katyń in English were written before 1990 – and there were plenty of them – while most of those published after 1990 are in Polish and some in Russian.
“It’s understandable that in Poland when the archives were opened after the years of communism and you can talk about it, scholars threw themselves into researching the subject, whereas in the West it was somehow considered as a closed story and not researched further enough,” says Rogoyska.
“That was one of my goals, to restore interest in the subject, but also to update what was written in English, because for obvious reasons, all the books that were written before 1990 were based largely on speculation,” she adds.
“So, few people in Britain know about the Katyń Massacre anymore, apart from perhaps some older people, and most of the books in English on the subject were published before the 1990s when the crime wasn’t yet fully known, so part of my motivation was the pursuit of bringing the full story to people,” says the author.
She adds that “the book is about the workings of the NKVD. It also offers a contemporary exploration of the manipulation of truth and its impact, which I think makes it relevant to many contemporary events where the truth is being manipulated and distorted.”