The Cursed Soldiers

In view of the National Day of Remembrance of the "Cursed Soldiers" on 1st March, the Polish Banknote Printer and the REDUTA PWPW Foundation took part in the celebration of the day and an occasional exhibition was prepared on the fence surrounding the PWPW building.

Activists and soldiers of the Polish independence and anti-communist underground – the "Cursed Soldiers" (Indomitable Soldiers) – fell victim to Stalin's repressions in 1944-56. The majority of the then murdered were buried in collective, unmarked graves. We only got  to know the places of their burial in the 21st century.

A part of the "cursed" soldiers were not killed in battle but they were seized and murdered by the communist authorities. It was possible i.a. because of the announcement of two amnesties, encouraging the independence underground soldiers to come out. They believed the promises they would be safe. They believed, because they wanted to end the battle which appeared not to have ended with the end of the world war. They wanted to rest from ongoing struggle to survive, from continuous anxiety about their families and loved ones. They wanted at least a semblance of normality and peace. They were ready to live in Poland which was not the Motherland they fought for for so long – at first with Hitler's assault and after the war with  the NKWD and the communist authority. Probably many of them did not want to continue fighting also because of the opponent they had to face now – after all, the majority of those on the other side were their fellow countrymen.

But the new people's authorities did not suffer any such dilemmas and treated them with cruelty. First of all, they did not keep their promise announced with the amnesties. Those who did come out were interrogated in a sophisticated way and tortured, taken out to labour camps or otherwise repressed for years. Many of the "Cursed Soldiers" were simply murdered – often with a shot in the back of their heads (the so-called "Katyń method"). Others were shot or hung.  Death sentences often followed long "investigations" filled with tortures. Other sentences were issued in absentia – without the presence of the "defendant". Sometimes the sentences were announced after a promptly completed "trial". Many were lost without any court nor sentence sanctioning the crime.

Those, who were murdered were thrown into unnamed, unmarked trenches, to make it impossible for anyone to find and commemorate them. The communist security service wanted to make their honorable burial impossible. To delete them from human memory. How could this be achieved, when there were people among the living – their few comrades in arms, families, wives and children, who cherished that memory?

Repressions against the "Cursed Soldiers" lasted till 1956 (although the last cursed one was killed in 1963) – it took so long to loosen the Soviet grip after Stalin's death in 1953. At that time there were demands to penalize the security officers responsible for those crimes, when some were tried sentenced to prison. Many political prisoners were released from prison at that time, others returned from internments – among those some of the "cursed". The reforms introduced in Poland even brought a threat of Soviet intervention. Poland enjoyed "thawing", but that would not return the thousands of murdered back to life.

Memory of the "Cursed Soldiers", though purposefully distorted, survived. Today we can gradually discover the "white areas" and tragic fate of those, whom they concerned. Places of their burial are sought for across the country and some are being found.

In Warsaw death sentences were most often executed on the "cursed" ones in the infamous prison in Mokotów. Their collective graves were found i.a. in the so-called "meadow" in the Powązki cemetery in Warsaw, in section "Ł" (and the neighouring ones). Since 2012 the Institute of National Memory carried out a number of exhumations of the murdered underground soldiers – it is estimated that about 300 victims of repression were buried there. Some of them were identified based on the DNA material taken from the families, with the help from the Polish Genetic Base of Victims of Totalitarianism. In September 2015 a Pantheon – Mausoleum of the Cursed-Indomitable Soldiers was unveiled there.

Bodies of those murdered were also buried in other places in Warsaw, e.g. by the wall of the Mokotów prison, within the site of the penal-investigation prison No III (the so-called Toledo – another burial site of the "Cursed Soldiers"), in Służew and by the horse racing track in Służew, as well as on the Bródno cemetery, section 45N.

Exhibitions – The Cursed Soldiers