The Augustów Roundup

Another Soviet crime against Poles in the period of the occupation which ended in 1989

By Frank J. Dmuchowski

The magnitude of the Nazi and Soviet Crimes of outright murder against Poles is in the millions during World War II. It is important for us to never forget and to always remember why these men and women and children died. However the murder of Poles by the Soviets did not stop with the end of the war. It continued with the Soviet effort to remove all elements who might be a threat to the Soviet-installed “Polish-Communist” government. Actions took place all over Soviet-occupied Poland to root out and kill Polish partisans. One of the actions which took place was in the Augustów-Suwalki area of current north eastern Poland. This article deals with that particular action.

It is also important to remember smaller events and not just the large ones like the Katyń massacre, lest we forget that the Soviets murdered Poles throughout all of occupied Poland and for long after the war ended albeit often by the Soviet puppet regime of Communist Poland. For example, the Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko was murdered on October 18, 1984.

It is important for all Poles and Polonians to remember in order to counter Moscow’s continuous efforts to rewrite history and stuff it down the throats of the naïve, particularly in Western Europe and the United States. Thankfully some newspapers such as the British newspaper the Daily Mail manage to get the Polish side out. For example they reported in their September 17, 2015 issue that: “Katarzyna Pelczynska-Nalecz, Warsaw’s envoy in Moscow, was called to the Russian Foreign Ministry to explain the dismantling on Thursday of a statue of Soviet General Ivan Chernyakhovsky in the Polish town of Pieniezno. Chernyakhovsky was among those responsible for disarming and arresting thousands of Polish underground army soldiers towards the end of the war, many of whom were sent to Soviet prisons or labour camps, and died there. This earned Chernyakhovsky the nickname ‘executioner’ in some parts of Poland.”

Moscow has the habit of aggressively trying to impose its “still red” version of history. Well the town of Pieniezno said “enough is enough” and took down the statue come hell or high water! Good for them! However this is only one battle in a never ending effort to keep Moscow from telling its version of history as the “only one”. You say “Russia’s ‘Pravda’ has never left and never will”.

In this article I feature the Wikipedia article on the Augustów roundup whose accuracy I validated from other more detailed sources, some of which are also cited in the full Wikipedia article. Wikipedia when properly used can provide an exceptional entrée into Polish history. I would certainly encourage my readers to use this source which is available in many languages in addition to English and Polish. The articles are well vetted although some of vetting can be quite controversial until the issue settles down.

Wikipedia can provide a first approach for understanding a particular historical event. More detailed research depending on your interest can occur by just following underlined links in the particular article you are interested in.

Wikipedia Article on Augustów Roundup:
“The Augustów roundup (Obława augustowska) was a military operation against the Polish World War II anti-communist partisans and sympathizers following the Soviet takeover of Poland. The operation was undertaken by Soviet forces with the assistance of Polish communist units, and conducted from July 10 to July 25, 1945 in Suwałki and Augustów region (Podlasie) of northern People’s Republic of Poland.

Out of 2,000 arrested by the Soviet forces, about 600 have disappeared. They are presumed to have been executed and buried in an unknown location in present-day Russia or Belarus. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance has declared the 1945 Augustów roundup “the largest crime committed by the Soviets on Polish lands after World War II”. The crime has been called “second Katyn”, “small Katyn”, “little Katyn” or “Podlaski Katyn”, in reference to the Katyn massacre, the Soviet execution of about 20,000 Polish soldiers, policemen and intellectuals that occurred in the 1940.

In the aftermath of the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland, the Polish government evacuated to the West and created the Polish Underground State. While no war was declared between Poland and the Soviet Union, the relations were tense, and eventually broke down in 1943 in the aftermath of the revelations of the Katyn massacre. The Soviets eventually created their own Polish communist puppet government, the Polish Committee of National Liberation (Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, PKWN) and refused to deal with the Underground State just like they refused to deal with the government-in-exile; its leaders and soldiers on “liberated” Polish territories were persecuted. While the Underground State’s military arm, Armia Krajowa, officially disbanded on January 19, 1945 to avoid armed conflict with the Soviets and a civil war, some refused to lay down their arms; others found it simply difficult to return to civilian life, as those with ties to non-communist resistance were discriminated against by the authorities.[5][6][7]

The operation was undertaken by Soviet forces of the Red Army, the NKVD and SMERSH with the assistance of Polish UB and LWP units, and conducted from July 12 to July 28, 1945 in the Suwałki and Augustów regions of northern People’s Republic of Poland. This operation included not only Polish communist territories, but also former Polish territories annexed by the Soviet Union and given to the Lithuanian SSR (see Soviet occupation of Lithuania).

More than 2,000 Polish (some estimate as many as 7,000) alleged anticommunist fighters and sympathizers were arrested and interrogated in two waves of mass arrests. The majority were detained in Russian internment camps. The last ones were released and returned to Poland in 1956. 600 disappeared, their fate uncertain to this day. More recent research puts the number of those disappeared at 592 or 593. They include 27 women (including pregnant ones) and 15 teenagers.[8] The “Augustów Missing” are presumed to have been executed and buried in an unknown location in present-day Russia.

Despite demands from many Polish citizens for this incident to be investigated, it was denied by both the Soviet and Polish communist governments. As late as the 1980s, the last decade of the People’s Republic of Poland, government representative Jerzy Urban declared that the Polish government had “no evidence to support the theory that a group of Polish citizens disappeared in the Augustów region in 1945.” After the fall of communism, the new Polish government supported the investigation, carried out by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which classified it as a communist crime. While it is commonly accepted that the Soviet Union, backed by communist Polish forces, arrested and likely executed approximately 600 Polish citizens connected to the anti-communist resistance, no conclusive information on their exact fate and resting place has yet been found. In 1995 the Russian government confirmed that 590 Polish citizens were arrested and 579 were put on trial, but that there is no information on their subsequent fate. In 2005 IPN noted that the research possibilities on Polish territory had been exhausted; even the archives of Polish secret services involved in the operations were analyzed but contained only cursory information that they were aiding the Soviets without being given much information. However, Polish requests to the Russian government for support in the investigation were not productive, and many have been ignored. A symbolic monument has been built in the village of Giby, where a mass grave was found (these were later proven to belong to German soldiers from a nearby field hospital).

In May 2011, Russian historian Nikita Petrov declared that he found a KGB document proving that the Poles were executed by NKVD. This has evoked interest in Polish mainstream press and from the IPN, which declared that it would seek the documents located by Pietrov for further analysis. On 18 April 2012, Polish Institute of National Remembrance announced that it has received the Soviet-era documents concerning the executions.” (Wikipedia article ends)

While it is not possible to list the names of all of the victims who were executed I would like to list a few to serve as a reminder of all of them. The following are from the village area of Nowinka which is near Augustów. You will notice the names of three members from the Łazarska family. In reviewing the list of those who disappeared and were assumed killed we often find multiple individuals from the same family. My source here is the article “Not Only Katyń” by Ireneusz Sewastianowicz and Stanisław Kulikowski on the Doomed Soldiers website. This is a very detailed article for those wishing to pursue this important topic in more detailed
Some names of Augustów roundup missing from the Village of Nowinka:
Łazarska, Danuta; Łazarska, Eugenia; Łazarska, Władysława; Sotaolewski, Piotr; Warakomski, Franciszek; Zaręba, Tadeusz; Zieliński, Tadeusz; Żukowski, Jan

Polish history is replete with many individuals falling victim to invaders. None more so than World War II and the continued Soviet occupation until 1989. In this article, in giving the names of a few of the victims of the Augustów roundup I have tried to bring the tragedy of this terrible period to the level of the individual. One can quote the numbers murdered but that becomes overwhelming and often mind-numbing that such violence could exist. This makes it difficult to grasp the full horror of the event that caused so many Polish patriots to die.
Remember we must continue to tell what happened lest the world should forget!

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