82 years ago, on April 3, 1940, the Soviet Union started the mass deportation to Katyn of the Polish officers held in camps in Kozelsk, Ostashkov and Starobelsk, located in today’s Russia and Ukraine.
After the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, approximately 250,000 Polish prisoners, including more than 10,000 officers, were taken captive. Later that year, in October, the Soviet authorities decided to create the camps for those imprisoned. The camps in Kozelsk and Starobelsk were destined for military officers, while the one in Ostashkov – for officers of the police, Border Protection Corps and the prison service.
On March 5, 1940, six members of the Soviet Politburo: Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Kliment Voroshilov, Anastas Mikoyan, and Mikhail Kalinin, signed an order to execute more than 20,000 of Polish prisoners, held captive in different parts of the Soviet Union, after bringing them to one place.
The Poles transported to Katyn died at the hands of the NKVD (The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) from a shot in the back of the head and were buried in nameless death pits in the forest near Smolensk, western Russia. Among those shot were officers of the Polish Army – distinguished commanders and strategists, policemen, officials, scientists, university professors, artists, writers, doctors, teachers and lawyers. They constituted the elite of the nation and its defense, intellectual and creative potential.
By killing Polish patriots, the Soviet Union wanted to prevent the rebirth of Poland and, as a consequence, lead to the country’s erasure from the map of Europe. Throughout the entire period of communist Poland, it denied its responsibility for the crime, claiming it was Nazi Germany who committed it in 1941.
It was not until 1990, that the Soviets admitted they were responsible for the mass-murder.
Katyn Massacre Victims’ Remembrance Day was established by Poland’s Lower House (Sejm) on November 14, 2007, and has since then been celebrated on April 13.