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Poland and the region 'know Russia’s imperial ambitions': president

19.09.2022 11:55
Poland’s president has said that “Poles, and other peoples of our region […] know Russia and understand its imperial ambitions better than the West […] because of our historical experience symbolised by September 17.”
Andrzej Duda.
Andrzej Duda.PAP/Radek Pietruszka

Andrzej Duda made the remark in an article published in the Times of Malta newspaper on Sunday.

1939: Poland carved up by Nazi Germany and Communist Russia

The Polish president noted that that the Soviet Union’s aggression against Poland, on September 17, 1939, “two-and-a-half weeks after the Wehrmacht’s and Luftwaffe’s attack, was the implementation of the secret part of the Nazi-Soviet Pact signed on August 23, 1939 by the heads of the two diplomacies, Ribbentrop and Molotov.”

Duda added: “For my nation, the most important consequence of the pact was the joint liquidation of the independent Polish state and the division of our territory between two occupying powers, Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.”

The president stressed that “Under German occupation, Poland suffered enormous human and material losses. The Nazis killed six million citizens of the Republic of Poland, including nearly three million Polish Jews. They destroyed and burned thousands of Polish towns and villages, most of all the country’s capital, Warsaw.”

‘Crimes of Communist Russia went unpunished and forgotten’

In the Polish head of state’s view, although only a few of the perpetrators of German genocide stood trial after the war, “Nazi Germany’s crimes were at least morally condemned by the entire free world. Unfortunately, this does not apply to the crimes of Communist Russia, which went unpunished and often forgotten.”

In his article, Duda mentioned the extermination of 22,000 Polish prisoners of war at Katyń Forest, the deportation of half a million of Poles to gulags and forced settlements in Siberia and the Asian part of the Soviet Union, as well as brutal NKVD terror and ideological indoctrination aimed at crushing the Polish national identity and tradition.

Although “The Nazi-Soviet pact collapsed less than two years after its conclusion, when Germany attacked Stalin’s Russia on  June 22, 1941”,  the president went on to write, “the principle stating that the fate of the Central and Eastern European countries was to be decided not by their free peoples but by the rulers of the imperial powers remained in force.”

‘Subjection to Russian empire continued for half a century’

For the people of Poland, Duda noted, “the defeat of the Third Reich did not bring the long-awaited freedom. The subjection to the Russian empire continued until the fall of communism – for half of a century.”

He added: “It was not until the democratic changes initiated in 1989 by the Polish ‘Solidarity’ movement that the Poles and other nations of Central and Eastern Europe truly liberated themselves and regained the sovereignty of their states. Most of them gradually became full members of the European Union and NATO.”

‘Russia has always wanted power over all of Central and Eastern Europe’

The president stressed that “the independence of any country from our region has always been a thorn in the Russian imperialists’ side. Thus, as soon as Moscow recovered from the shock of losing its Stalinist sphere of influence, it started moving toward restoring the empire.”

He added: “We remember the military assault on Georgia in 2008. We also remember several brutal suppressions of the freedom movements in Belarus and Ukraine. Finally, we remember Russia’s hostile policy towards independent Ukraine, the military annexation of Crimea and Donbas in 2014 and, above all, the ongoing full-scale genocidal war against the sovereign Ukrainian state unleashed on February 24, 2022.”

Duda pointed out that “Russia has always wanted power over all of Central and Eastern Europe.”

‘Free Poland, free Ukraine and other states of our region will never agree to this’

The president stressed: “But a free Poland, free Ukraine and all the other independent states of our region will never agree to this. For our peoples, it is a matter of life and death, preserving identity and survival. It is a matter of our future, security and prosperity.”

The article was simultaneously published in the Polish monthly Wszystko Co Najważniejsze as part of a project carried out with the state-run Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) and the Polish National Foundation (PFN). 

Monday is day 208 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.