Ignorance is renewed with each newborn, and by the time any man figures out anything, he can almost feel the mortician leaning over his stiff face. Though all lessons are embalmed within history, few care to explore that infinite corpse. Lewis Mumford, "So far from being overwhelmed by the accumulations of history, the fact is that mankind has never consciously carried enough of its past along with it. Hence a tendency to stereotype a few sorry moments of the past, instead of perpetually re-thinking it, re-valuating it, re-living it in the mind."
Far from learning from history, people tend to distort it to their own ends, and thus during the last commemoration of Russia's defeat of Germany in World War II, many commentators conveniently forgot that those two countries had collaborated to start the war in the first place. After the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Nazi Germany invaded Poland and Czechoslovakia, while Soviet Russia poured troops into Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the eastern portion of Romania. Russians massacred 22,000 Poles at Katyn alone, imprisoned 100,000 and deported 1,200,000 to Siberia, Kazakhstan and other places within the Soviet Union. More than half would die.
In the Polish city of Brest-Litovsk, conquering German and Russian troops paraded together on September 22, 1939. On June 22, 1941, Germany invaded Russia itself, however, thus ending that evil alliance. Working from London, what's left of the Polish government arranged for its citizens in Siberia to be transferred to British controlled Iran, and from there, many of the surviving Polish children could finally consign to posterity their horrific experiences of the Russian Socialist Paradise. In 1981, Irena and Jan Tomasz Gross published a selection of these accounts in their book, War Through Children's Eyes. Here are three:
DOCUMENT NO. 87
TADEUSZ S. Born 1927
DOCUMENT NO. 30
My Life in Russia
We were deported to Russia on February 10, 1940. When we arrived we were given very poor housing. There were many bedbugs, lice, and fleas. After a few days they sent the children to school and the older people to work. Children were forced to go to school, and whoever refused was imprisoned in the bathhouse and denied food. When we first got to school we were mocked and beaten--if a Pole said there was a God he was beaten up. Father had to work very hard to earn enough to support the whole family, and not only my father but so did all the Poles who were deported to Russia. For two years we lived in that awful, poor, stupid Russia. After two years the Poles started leaving Russia. Polish people had to get a pass to leave Russia. The trip South was awful. People died of hunger in the train cars and their corpses were thrown out the window along the way. We came to Vologda and were issued food ration cards and bread for the trip. My father was walking toward the car with his bread when a prisoner tried to steal his bread. Fortunately, the police arrested the prisoner and took him away. They would throw the corpses out of the cars and the train would grind the bodies apart on the tracks. From Vologda we left to Chkalov. There, the Polish outpost gave us food and we went all the way to the harbor in pahlevi. The end.
DOCUMENT NO. 31
It took place in February. The Russians came and did a house search. They were looking for weapons. They took us to the station in country wagons. There were very many people in our freight car. It was cramped and stuffy. When the train started we cried that we would never see our home again. We traveled for four days and nights. They didn't give food we used snow to make water. In Siberia the barracks were cramped again. I was going to school. They taught us that there was not God. Once I spoke up in Polish and our teacher sent me to the supervisor and he yelled at me. They drilled two holes in the ceiling. The commander would say into one: "Boh, Boh daj pieroh" [God, God, give a dumpling] and nothing would happen. To the other hole he said: Soviet, Soviet daj kanfiet [Soviet, Soviet, give a candy] and candies would fall down. He would laugh that God gave nothing. The Polish children ran away. Dad died of hunger. He swelled up. They wrapped him up in a sheet and threw him into the ground. My brother didn't have shoes and didn't go to work they took him to prison for two months. Over thirty people died at the settlement. We would stand on a line for bread from evening till morning. More than once we didn't have bread for two days in a row. We waited for our pay for a long time, because the paymaster wasn't there and there was nothing to buy bread with. At first we sold clothes in Russian villages to get bread, but then we ran out of clothes.
I am 13.
Poland was occupied by both Germans and Russians, then just Germans, then just Russians. To a Pole, this plot is all too familiar, for in 1772, Germans and Russians also carved up Poland. Swallowed up by Tsarist Russia, Prussia and Hapsburg Austria, Poland would not regain independence for 123 years. With such a history, Poles are understandably leery of Russia, but according to Russian Andre Vltchek, a prominent voice among the American left, Poles and other Eastern Europeans are nothing but ingrates for turning their backs on Russia, "Many countries that Russia had liberated, betrayed her in the most vulgar manner ["] Czechs and Poles desecrated monuments to its soldiers."