Friday, February 10, 2012

Poles Get the Boot

Seventy two years ago today, on February 10th 1940, 220,000 polish nationals from the Soviet occupied Kresy region were rounded up and sent to northern Russia. On April 13th another 320,000 would be sent to Kazakhstan. A third wave of 240,000 deportations occurred at the beginning of July, and a fourth large wave of 300,000 was conducted at the beginning of June 1941. Together with many mini deportation events the Soviets moved an estimated 1.7 million Poles; about a third of them were children. By the end of 1941 an estimated 760,000 of the deportees (about a third) were dead; most of the dead were children.

Half a world away, in Hollywood California, the long running ultra-violent kid’s show “Tom and Jerry” would debut on February 10th 1940. The first episode was called “Puss Gets the Boot”. The plot involved Jerry (the mouse) teasing Tom (The cat; real name Jasper) until he was forcibly removed from his home. Tom and Jerry ran for many years, and would eventually win the Academy Award for animated short film seven times.

On June 16th 1941 Nazi Germany would invade the Soviet Union through occupied Poland, and the deportations were put on hold. Under the Nazis things went from bad to worse for many Poles.

About 140,000 of the first wave of Polish deportees were classified as “Osadniks”. This was the name given to veterans of the 1920 Polish-Soviet war who were given parcels of land in the Kresy region. The battle of Warsaw (August 12-25 1920) was the deciding battle of the Polish Soviet war. The victory was due in large part to the fact that the codes used by Lenin’s forces had been cracked by Jan Kowalewski and a team of Methematicians from Lwow and Warsow universities. The crippling defeat of Bolshevik forces in 1920 coupled to the Soviet desire to annex the Kresy region transformed the “Osadniks” into enemies of the state.

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