A memorial ceremony was held at the Monument to the Fallen and Murdered in the East, in Warsaw, on Friday, state broadcaster TVP Info reported.
Friday marked 83 years since the Soviet Union’s People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) launched a crackdown against the country’s ethnic Poles.
Under the so-called “Polish Operation,” between 1937 and 1938 arrested 139,835 Polish citizens of the USSR, of which 111,091 were directly murdered and 28,744 were sent to the labour camps, according to historians.
President Andrzej Duda issued a letter to mark the occasion, which was read out by his aide Paweł Szrot during the memorial ceremony in Warsaw.
The president noted that the “Polish Operation” had been designed to exterminate the Soviet Union’s Polish minority.
Duda wrote: “The persecutors targeted Polishness. Not the country with its administration and army, but the spirit, identity and culture which distinguished our compatriots in the East.”
The president added: “According to today’s estimates, 111,000 Poles were killed and 30,000 were sent to labour camps.”
Duda stressed that on August 11 Poland paid tribute to compatriots who 86 years ago were “buried in nameless graves” or “put into livestock cars bound for the labour camps of Siberia or the steppes of Kazakhstan.”
Karol Polejowski, deputy head of the state-run Institute for National Remembrance (IPN), said that the NKVD’s “Polish Operation” amounted to genocide, with ethnic Poles targeted because they “wouldn’t be Sovietised” and due to their Catholic faith.
Also in attendance at Friday’s memorial ceremony were Poland’s lawmakers, as well as senior military and law enforcement officials, TVP Info reported.
Source: tvp.info, prezydent.pl, IPN, PAP