The Polish Combatants'
Association in Canada
The Polish Combatants' Association (PCA) is an organization composed primarily of the Polish veterans of the Polish 2nd Corps who fought alongside British and Canadian troops during the Italian Campaign, 1943-45, under the operational command of the British Eighth Army. Most of these men had been prisoners of the Soviet Union during 1939-1941, languishing in Soviet prisons or toiling in the slave labour camps. Many of these men lost friends and family members due to executions or the brutal conditions in the camps and prisons.
Because Poland was occupied by the Soviet Union towards the end of the war, most Poles could not safely return home. As a result, the PCA was established after the war to help the demobilized Polish soldiers adjust to their new lives as civilians and exiles, to continue military traditions, and also to keep everyone at the ready, as many were expecting World War Three to soon erupt. (This almost happened a number of times - with the outbreak of the war in Korea, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. - )
However, until the fall of communism in Poland in 1989 and in the Soviet Union shortly thereafter, the most difficult task of the PCA was to counter the unceasing and voluminous Soviet propaganda aimed at discrediting the Polish soldiers who fought with the western allies. There was an equal amount of propaganda which aimed to whitewash the Soviet atrocities against Poland and its people and promote communism. (For example, the Soviets constantly and loudly blamed the massacre of Polish officers in Katyn forest on the Nazis. They did not admit their guilt until 1990.). The task of countering the propaganda was entrusted to the Head Executive Board.
The Head Executive Board
The Head Executive Board (HEB) represents the Polish Combatants' Association (PCA) branches at the national level. Almost two dozen branches are located in towns and cities across Canada from Montreal to Victoria. The individual branches were organized by the immigrant Polish soldiers in the cities and towns where they were settled by the Canadian government after World War Two. Currently, the HEB office resides in Toronto.
In the late 1940s, the HEB lobbied the Canadian government on behalf of its members, all of whom had been forced to sign two year labour contracts (mostly in forestry and agriculture) as a condition of their immigration to Canada.
Also, right from the beginning, the HEB had to counter Soviet and Polish Communist propaganda. It was not a simple matter to convince the Canadian public and government that the Soviet version of the truth was false. Canadians simply had no first-hand understanding of the reality of Soviet-style communism.
The Head Executive Board also represents the Canadian branches internationally as a member of the World Federation of Polish Combatants' Associations which is headquartered in London, England. During and after World War Two the Polish diaspora spread around the world and the distribution of national organizations reflects this. The PCA has been active in many countries in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Africa and the Americas.
Polish Combatants' Association Head Executive Board Position
on the Soviet Version of World War Two History
On November 26, 2010, the Soviet parliament admitted that Stalin was directly to blame for the Katyn massacre. We can only hope that all aspects of the Soviet Union's aggression of 1939-41 and 1944-89 and culpability in the atrocities committed during those years, will be as plainly admitted in the coming years.
It is said that "The victor writes the history books." This has certainly been true of the Soviet Union (and the Soviet-dominated Polish communist government). The Soviet version of World War Two history glorifies the Soviet triumph over Nazism but completely ignores Soviet culpability and atrocities. The current Russian government has inherited the old Soviet attitude toward its history and continues to deny, deflect and minimize blame. In turn, western politicians and historians have rarely scratched below the surface of the Soviet version of events. Insensitive officials in the United States have allowed the erection of a monument to the memory of the soldiers of the Red Army (West Hollywood, California) and a bust of Stalin in a D-Day memorial (Bedford, Virginia).
The members of the Polish Combatants' Association would like to make it perfectly clear that we bear no animosity toward the Russian people who have suffered greatly since 1917 and continue to suffer today. Our argument is only with the political machine that was the former Soviet Union, its leaders, and the elements of the current Russian government.
More than seventy years have passed since the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939. The Polish veterans and survivors of the Soviet occupation of Poland (1939-1989) wish to put this history behind them, but they cannot. Until the current Russian government admits, and comes to terms with, the profound crimes against humanity committed by the Soviet government, the secret police (NKVD/KGB), the Red Army, and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, during the course of the second World War, it would be an insult to the victims to let the matter rest.
Was the Soviet Union an ally of Canada during World War Two? Was the Soviet Union an ally of the West? Yes, in the sense that its armies fought the Germans on the eastern front from June, 1941 to May, 1945 (and saved a lot of Canadian lives in the process), but no on all other counts. Listen to the victims. They know the simple truth.
The Soviet Union:
- Invaded Poland in September, 1939: for revenge for the loss to the Poles in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-20; to spread communism; and to gain territory, labour for the gulags, and resources;
Was not a signatory to the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war;
Was a willing and supportive ally of Germany until June 1941;
Also invaded Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland, Bessarabia and northern Bukovina;
Proceeded to murder and deport for slave labour, Polish citizens, immediately following the September 1939 invasion of Poland;
Instantly and easily switched sides and became an ally of the West after Germany attacked it in June, 1941;
Invaded Poland for a second time in 1944 on the way to Berlin;
Bullied the Western Powers into allowing it to keep Poland;
Plunged Poland into decades of Soviet domination; a period marked by police terror, poverty and despair, and always a relentless attack of lies and propaganda.
Was the Red Army the saviour of Europe? It kicked the Nazis out of eastern Europe. That is all.
At the start of World War Two, the Red Army was a brutal aggressor. Towards the end of World War Two, the Red Army liberated eastern Europe from the Nazis but by doing so, occupied eastern Europe on behalf of the Soviet Union. One oppressor was replaced by another. While we fully understand that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of common soldiers were conscripted into the Red Army against their will, the Red Army unleashed a terror against the Polish population equal to that of the Wehrmacht. It was also the primary organ o