80 years ago, the first deportation of Poles from eastern Poland took place. This brutal operation of the Soviet NKVD was the beginning of the great “ethnic cleansing” which aimed at uprooting any trace of Polishness from the territories occupied by the USSR in 1939.
The largest group of people deported deep into Russia in the winter of 1940 were military settlers and forest service workers and their families, whom the Soviets considered a politically hostile element. According to historians, the first deportation carried out by the NKVD was the heaviest in terms of mortality. It is estimated that umpteen thousand people, including thousands of children, died.
After a mass for the deportees from 1940 celebrated in the cathedral of the Polish Army, a Memorial Appeal was held at the Monument to the Fallen and Murdered in the East.
“The nightmare of those days comes back to us. We were children then. The oldest of us remembers and will never forget the pain of that February night when the first mass deportation of Poles to Siberia took place. I was one of them”, said Kordian Borejko, the president of the Siberian Association.
According to historians, in the years 1940–1941 the four waves of deportation of the Polish population from the territories occupied by the USSR in 1939 involved about a million Poles. Tens of thousands of them have never returned to their homes.