A U.S. Government propaganda photo of a Polish grandmother with a child, refugees from Soviet captivity, Iran, 1943.
Our Silenced Refugees website and online museum
will attempt to recover the voices of hundreds of thousands of Poles arrested by the Soviets after Russia had invaded and occupied eastern Poland in 1939 while the Soviet regime was in alliance with Nazi Germany. Thousands were executed; many more were deported from their homes in horrible conditions to forced labor camps and collective farms where more died from hunger, illness and maltreatment. The money collected will be used to expand and maintain the website and to bring to light more stories of former Polish child refugees and their families.
Some of the Polish slave laborers managed to leave the Soviet Union in 1942 after Stalin had released them following Hitler’s attack on Russia. They became refugees in the West, but their story still could not be told. Three sisters, ages 7, 8, and 9, Polish evacuees from Russia, Iran, August 1942. Photo by Lieutenant Colonel Henry I. Szymanski, U.S. Army.
The United States government, eager to preserve its military alliance with Stalin against Hitler, used propaganda and disinformation in photographs, press releases and radio broadcasts to paint a deceptive picture of Polish soldiers and civilians evacuated from Russia. The vast majority of refugees chose not to return to Soviet-dominated communist-ruled Poland where would risk imprisonment and persecution. The wartime U.S. government censorship and use of Soviet propaganda were condemned after the war, but the effects of past disinformation and new Russian propaganda can be seen again today.
Our mission is to bring to light the real story of Poland’s silenced refugees from Russia.