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Tribute to Polish WWII military leader Anders

11.08.2022 14:00
Events marking the 130th anniversary of the birth of Polish World War II military leader Gen. Władysław Anders were under way in Poland on Thursday.
Gen. Władysław Anders
Gen. Władysław AndersPAP/Reprodukcja

An open-air exhibition documenting the odyssey of the so-called Anders Army from the Soviet Union, through the Far East to Italy, was set to open in the Baltic port city of Gdynia.

Its curator Dorota Lekka told the media that the Anders Army helped save tens of thousands of Poles from Soviet gulags during the war.

“They flowed in from the most distant corners of the Soviet Union to an army that became a symbol of free Poland,” she said.

The opening ceremony was due to be attended by Gen. Anders’ daughter, Anna Maria Anders, who serves as Poland's ambassador in Italy.

On Wednesday, she took part in commemorative events to honour her father in Kraków, southern Poland.

Born on August 11, 1892, Władysław Anders was in command of a Polish cavalry brigade at the start of World War II. Forced to retreat to the east, he was wounded and at the end of September taken prisoner by the Soviets.

He spent 22 months in Moscow's Lubyanka Prison run by the NKVD secret police. Tortured in countless interrogations, he was persuaded to join the Red Army, but he refused to meet any of the Soviet demands.

He was freed after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war and, following the signing of the Sikorski-Majski Pact, was appointed commander of the Polish Army in the Soviet Union.

In the summer of 1942, the Anders Army, comprising more than 115,000 men, including 78,000 soldiers and 37,000 civilians, freed from prisons and labour camps of the "Inhuman Land," was evacuated to Iran, Iraq and Palestine.

There, Anders formed and led the 2nd Polish Corps, which fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy.

General Anders was critical of the decisions of the Yalta Conference. In 1946, the communist authorities in Poland deprived him of his Polish citizenship and his military rank.

As a political émigré in Britain, he continued his political activity aimed at preserving the constitutional continuity of the Polish government-in-exile in London. He took part in the campaign for the release of Poles still held in Soviet labour camps.

Anders died in London on May 12, 1970, the 26th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino, and was buried, in accordance with his wish, at the Polish War Cemetery at Monte Cassino.

After the collapse of communism in Poland in 1989, his citizenship and military rank were posthumously reinstated.

In 1995, he was posthumously honoured with the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest state distinction.