They Died for Their Loyalty to Poland

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The crimes of Nazi Germany committed in the Polish territories it occupied, starting in 1939, including the Holocaust of the Jews, are widely known. Soviet crimes, equally horrific and shameful, remain less known around the world. On the 84th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, I pay tribute to its victims. I also want to recall this crime of the NKVD as a still valid warning against Russian imperialism, which continues to threaten Europe and the world today.

The Katyn massacre was committed by Soviet Russia in the spring of 1940. It was a war crime. The perpetrators took the lives of over 20,000 Polish citizens, most of them prisoners of war, officers of the Polish Army and officers of the State Police, who died because NKVD investigators considered them to be irreconcilable enemies of communism. The decision to execute them was made at the highest levels of the USSR authorities. Initially, the Soviets tried to persuade captured officers and other imprisoned Poles to abandon their allegiance to the independent homeland and cooperate in the interests of Moscow. But they failed. As the head of the NKVD, Lavrenty Beria, stated in a note to Stalin, Polish prisoners of war were "hardened enemies of the Soviet authorities with no promise of improvement."

President Andrzej Duda pays tribute to those murdered. (Source:

Therefore, more than 20,000 people had to die. No trial, no charges, no opportunity to defend themselves. They died because they were loyal to their homeland and nation. The Katyn massacre, committed on prisoners of war, was a violation of all moral norms and international law, including the Geneva Conventions.

These people were murdered because they threatened Soviet interests. Their deaths were an irreparable blow to our nation. Part of the intellectual elite was killed: lawyers, doctors, officials, teachers, journalists — reserve officers mobilized to serve in the army due to the approaching war. They were killed to prevent the rebirth of a sovereign Polish state. Thanks to this crime, the Soviets were able to introduce a new, totalitarian order in our country much easier from 1945.

Today — 84 years after those events, and 35 years after the fall of communism in Poland — we are witnessing another revival of Russian imperialism in Europe. And we must be aware that this revival did not begin on February 24, 2022, with Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine. Already in 2008, Russia attacked Georgia, and in 2014 it carried out the armed annexation of Ukrainian Crimea and Donbas.

By unleashing the greatest conflict in Europe since World War II two years ago, Vladimir Putin clearly showed that he was pursuing the same goals as the leaders of Soviet Russia. He is trying to use violence to destroy the values ​​of the free world: freedom, peace and security. That is why, since the beginning of the aggression, Russian troops in Ukraine have been committing murders and rapes against the civilian population, seeking to terrorize the entire Ukrainian nation and to break the will of the defenders to resist.

Putin does not hide his imperial aspirations at all. In numerous public statements, he often refers to Ukraine not as an independent and sovereign state, but as a territory belonging to Russia. He even compares himself to Tsar Peter the Great, arguing that — like the ruler from three centuries ago — he is not conquering neighboring countries, but fighting for the lands that rightfully belong to Russia.

Of course, these are all blatant lies that have nothing to do with historical truth. Lies have been an integral part of Russian imperial propaganda for centuries. For half a century, the Soviets denied their responsibility for the Katyn massacre. They confirmed Russian involvement only in the early 1990s. Today, Russia denies the crimes it has committed in many Ukrainian towns. That is why we, Poles, perfectly understand the suffering of Ukrainians, we sympathize with them and support them in their fight.

I have been repeating for two years: Russian imperialism must be stopped, Russia must withdraw from Ukrainian lands, and war criminals must be punished. Russia violates international law, is an aggressor and occupier of Ukrainian lands.

Today, citizens of the countries of the free, democratic West must be aware that Russian imperialism will not stop in Ukraine. If this country is conquered, then it will be the turn of others, such as the Baltic states or Moldova. And then on to the next one. Therefore, the nations of the Western world must be united in opposing Russia's imperial aspirations. Only united in defense of freedom and democracy can we bring an end to cruel war crimes; for peace to reign again in Europe.

On the 84th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, I remember the fallen and honor their memory. Their heroic attitude and sacrifice are a signpost for us today. And the murder committed by the Soviets should be a warning against what Russian imperialism is capable of. We must do everything we can to stop him.

The text was published as part of the project "We Describe Poland to the World", implemented by the New Media Institute.

Translation from Polish by Andrew Woźniewicz.


The authorities of the Russian Federation consistently lie about the past in order to find justification for their current aggressive policy. Poland is key in this hoax.


The aim of the Soviet invasion of September 17, 1939, was not only to take over a specific area, but also to permanently eliminate the leadership layer of the conquered lands. Mayors and former mayors, as well as other professional groups representing the Polish state or constituting local elites, found themselves under a direct threat.


The “Polish Operation” of the NKVD in 1937–1938 was a genocide that resulted in the death of at least 111,091 innocent people. This event is no less important and no less worth commemorating than the Katyn massacre, or the Volhynia massacre.


In the context of the debate that has flared up in Poland after the publication of a much-needed report on war losses suffered as a result of German aggression and criminal occupation, it seems obvious that the time has come to start work on preparing estimates of losses as a result of Soviet actions.