Polish American Congress
Washington Metropolitan Area Division

        65th Anniversary Observance of the Katyń Forest Massacre
Sunday, April 17, 2005, 12:00 noon

Memorial Mass for the victims was celebrated at
Our Lady Queen of Poland and St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish,
Silver Spring, MD

The General Intercessions during the Mass (Modlitwa Wiernych) included a roll call of those victims of Soviet terror who died as Prisoners of War in 1940, whose relatives are among our community today:

Capt. Kazimierz Tarnawski
    Father of Hanna Tarnawska Raczyńska

Lt. Tadeusz Borzuchowski
    Grandfather of Barbara Borzuchowska Andersen

Lt. Wacław Dankiewicz
    Grandfather of Joanna Dankiewicz Sznajder

Capt. Józef Kozłowski
    Grandfather of LtCol. Jan Kozłowski

Col. Konstanty Prince Drucki-Lubecki
    Uncle of Doda de Wolf

Capt. Stefan Teodor Sarnowski
    Uncle of Grażyna Leonardi

Lt. Edmund Zadzierski
    Uncle of Anna Pankiewicz

Lt. Władysław Drzewiecki
Major Eugeniusz Lityński
    Uncles of Anna Szczepańska

Judge Aleksander Tudek
    Uncle of Aleksander Macander

Stanisław Popowicz
Uncle of Krzysztof Murawski

Ens. Józef Powroźnik
Cousin of Sylvia Daneel

Capt. Stanisław Chróścielewski
Lt. Aleksander Iliński, MD
    Cousins of Wanda Spasowska

What is the Katyń Forest Massacre?

For a comprehenvsive analysis, see:
Report No. 2505 of the 82nd Congress, December 1952:
Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances on the Katyn Forest Massacre
(PDF, 3.7 MB)

In brief: As a result of the Russian attack on Poland on September 17, 1939, a large portion of the Polish army situated east of the Vistula River fell into Russian hands. About 181,000 men were captured and scattered throughout hundreds of labor camps in the Soviet Union. As a result of further arrests in late 1939 and early 1940, this number increased to 230,000. Of that number, 14,500 were officers. Most of these officers were confined in three prisoner-of-war camps: Starobielsk (125 miles east of Kharkov), Kozielsk (95 miles south of Smolensk) and Ostashkov (half way between Moscow and Leningrad, now St. Petersburg).

Beginning in November of 1939, families of these prisoners started receiving correspondence from these camps. After the war, it was established that at least 2,000 prisoners from Starobielsk and Kozielsk camps contacted their families. No letters were ever received from men in the Ostashkov camp. The reason was that of the men on Ostashkov, only a very small number were officers. The majority of these men were members of the Polish National Police and Frontiers Guards KOP, who were definitely not allowed any outside contact.  The same rule evidently applied to the few officers interned in the camp.

In May of 1940, all correspondence from Starobielsk and Kozielsk suddenly stopped. In fact, not a single letter was received in Poland from any of the camps after May, 1940.

After the German attack on Russia in 1941, a political pact and then a military agreement were signed between Russia and the Polish government in London. The Polish army began to form on the territory of USSR and the Russian government agreed to release all Poles from POW and labor camps, General Anders, who was released from Butyrki prison in Moscow on July 4, 1941, immediately opened talks with the Russian officials concerning the fate of the officers at the three camps, who were not returned with the others.

On September 20, 1941, Stanisław Kot, the Polish Ambassador to Moscow, in a conversation with the Russian vice-minister, A. Wyshinsky, requested that the search for the missing officers be renewed. His request was supported by an official note from the Polish government-in-exile in London. This re­quest was repeated at further meetings between the two diplomats. Finally, the Russian vice-minister categorically stated that: “all Polish POW in the Russian territory, if any still existed, will be released”. But none arrived at the recruiting centers. According to Stalin, they had all escaped. Not once during these conversations was the possibility mentioned that any of the missing POWs had been captured by the Germans.

In October 1942, a group of Polish railway workers servicing trains on the Warsaw-Smolensk line were told by Russian peasants that in the Katyń woods there were massive graves of Poles murdered by the NKVD in the spring of 1940. The news reached the Germans, who sealed off the area and started investigating.

In April of 1943, the shocking news was announced by the Germans, to the Polish nation and to the whole world. For years afterwards, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, the Soviet government denied any part in the massacre. It was not until 1990 that a formal admission that the murders were committed, not by the Germans, but by the Russians, was finally made.

Today we observe the 65th anniversary of the Massacre in the Katyn Forest and other execution sites of the 14,500 Polish Officers. As we pray that the victims of Katyn enjoy eternal happiness, we honor their noble sacrifice and their heroic death for the Polish cause.