the history
After the Invasion by the Red Army

Those lands inhabited by the military settlers i.e. the provinces of Volhynia, Polesie, Bialystok, Nowogródek and Wilno, with the exception of a part annexed for a short time to Lithuania, found themselves completely in the hands of the USSR. From the very beginning did the settlers become aware of their future outlook. In 1920, as soldiers of the Polish Army, they had contributed to the victory over the Red Army, the present occupant, who had not forgotten that defeat. The Soviet method of liquidation of inconvenient nations, social groups or individuals was well known to those borderland people. They were also unsure, given the changed conditions, how their Ukrainian and Byelorussian neighbours would act, especially as many of them had welcomed the Soviet soldiers with flowers and banners. Could it be that given the breakdown of the existing order of law serious disharmony would arise, as often happened in places where national, class, cultural and religious differences existed?

To a large degree the settlers' premonitions proved correct. As the stories in this book show, directly following the 17th September, Ukrainian and Byelorussian gangs made attacks on many military settlements involving looting and killing. Indeed apprehensive of such assailants aimed with knives and axes, the settlers families went to bed fully dressed and the men folk slept within reach of their own weapons'.

Immediately following the army came officials of the NKVD (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs) who began the introduction of Soviet administration. In the villages local committees were formed with Ukrainians and Byelorussians as members. The attacks continued while the new authorities simply looked on. Large scale excesses were suppressed because the Soviet interests were not served by nationalistic agitation from the Ukrainians and Byelorussians. Near £uck (Volhynia) in the Osada Szczurzyn just five days after the Soviet entry, during the night Ukrainians murdered most of the settlers only those who managed to flee being saved. At the same time seventeen settlers were murdered in the Grodno region, ten of whom were from Osada Lerypol and a further seven from Osada Budowla.

Within the first week of the Red Army's entry the NKVD, together with local committees, began arrests among various Polish groups, some of whom were military settlers. Since the documents which granted the authority for these arrests are unknown it is very difficult to discover what criteria were involved. For example: in Nowogródek district NKVD arrested 23 settlers of the total 43 in the Osada Puzieniewicze and a few settlers in the Osada Niechniewicze, while in others only individuals or no-one at all were taken. In the Osada Krechowiecka in Volhynia, consisting of 86 settlers, there were no attacks nor was anyone arrested. Maybe it depended to some degree upon denunciations or the settling of personal scores among the local population.

In Równe on the 24th September the NKVD arrested Dezydery Smoczkiewicz, the Chairman of the Volhynian Council of the Settlers and on 27th October in the Osada Jodkiszki near Lida, Wladyslaw Malski, a senator and member of the executive Committee of the Association of Settlers, was arrested. During the first three weeks following the Red Army's entrance on the territories annexed to Byelorussia, the NKVD arrested 2708 people, among whom were 110 military settlers. The foremost reason given for the arrests of settlers was their involvement in the Polish-Bolshevik war. There were instances where after a few days the settler was released from arrest, perhaps at the intervention of local people. However, these were singular, happy exceptions because in the majority of cases all traces of the arrested were lost and only now are families finding their names listed as murdered by the NKVD in documents made available by the Russian and Ukrainian authorities.

Very rapidly the administration of the annexed land was transformed to the Soviet model. This was undertaken by the army, the NKVD and by the newly arrived Soviet party activists appointed to the higher administrative posts. Ukrainians and Byelorussians were placed in the lower bureaucratic levels. On the 22nd October 'elections' to the local Councils were organised. These, organised on the Soviet pattern gave 'the voters' no alternatives. A few days later on 26-28 October in Lwów and 28-30 October in Bialystok, there were meetings of the Supreme National Assemblies during which resolutions were passed annexing Polish territories to the respective Soviet Republics of the Ukraine and Byelorussia. In both of these Assemblies it was resolved to confiscate 'landowners' land' without recompense to which in the resolution of the National Assembly in Lwów was added: 'the question of the settlers' land was handed over to the peasant committees'. The next stage of Sovietisation was a decision of the Supreme Council of the USSR, according to which Polish citizens who found themselves on 1-2 November 1939 on land taken over by the USSR became Soviet citizens.

Official attacks upon the settlers began the moment the Red Army entered. On the afternoon of 17th September leaflets were scattered from a plane over Luck proclaiming that the landlords and settlers were to be crushed. Edited in Lwów a newspaper printed in Polish Slowo Zolnierza (The Soldier's Word), later retitled Czerwony Sztandar (The Red Flag) wrote on the 20th September: 'The needy peasants, noting the approach of the Red Army, on their own have settled grievances with their hated enemies - landowners, Polish officials and settlers'. Two weeks later S. Dzierzynska, after describing military settlers as sons of wealthy peasants (kulaks), maintained: 'this clique must have been a sure support in the fighting against the revolutionary movement of workers and the Ukrainian and Byelorussian peasants as well as in the war against the Soviet Union being prepared by the Polish Government'. In the proclamation concerning the election to the Ukrainian Supreme Assembly it was triumphantly declared: 'There are no more landowners, whereas the spongers from monasteries, flunkies, high officials and lickspittles - the settlers are already deprived of the authority to rule the land of the people'. Most of the delegates to the Assembly expressed themselves in a very similar vein. According to Professor M. Panczyszyn, '35,000 settlers like spiders were sucking the last drop of life blood from the Ukrainian peasant'. While J. Szkalubyna, a peasant from the Province of Stanislawów went so far as to say that: 'The resolution concerning the apportionment of land meant that the richest parcels of land passed into settlers' hands who, being armed, brutally oppressed our peasantry by stirring up national hatred. They beat the peasants, and if the slightest resistance was exhibited in our village, the settlers attacked and the peasants were beaten to unconsciousness or even to death'. In the Byelorussian Assembly many accusations were aimed at the military settlers described as 'faithful servants of Polish fascism' as our 'unrelenting enemies' and demanded Ñclear them from our land'.

The military settlers along with 'landowners' and 'capitalists' were spoken of as the most hostile group for whom there was no place in the Soviet order. To reinforce such demagogic assertions false data were provided about the number of military settlers which actually never exceeded 9,000 people in the whole Eastern Borderland. Notwithstanding this the pronouncements issuing from the Assemblies put the figure at 37,000 military settlers in the territories named Western Byelorussia and another 35,000 on the land called the Western Ukraine. It is quite clear that the term 'military settlers' pinpointed and hastened the campaign against them and included those civilian settlers who had nothing to do with the army but who had acquired their land precisely by those same methods and conditions of allotment used in all other Polish territories.

There is no doubt whatsoever that these attacks, inspired from the highest levels, were monitored all the way down to the final encounter with the settler group. Moreover such action was not long in coming. Even by November some committees had started evicting settlers. That happened in the Równe district of Volhynia where many settlers received an order to quit their homes. Examples are such Osadas as: Krechowiecka, Hallerowo, Bajonówka, Jazlowiecka, Boleslawice, Woronów. On more than one occasion the settlers families were given just a few hours to pack the possessions accumulated over 18 years. Similar instances occurred in Grodno District (Osada Budowla and others). As is shown in the accounts related here quite often local families moved into the settlers homes without permission and simply divided the settlers property between the two families but there were also certain Ukrainians and Byelorussians who not only did not actively participate in the destruction of settlers but actually positively helped them. The family of the writer of these words experienced such help.

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Deportation to the Soviet Union, 10 February 1940

In the Soviet Special Posioleks