On March 1, 2020, the 10th edition of the National Day of Remembrance for Cursed Soldiers was celebrated in Poland. Who were the Cursed Soldiers? What is this day? How was the memory of them built?
Stand against the army of evil
let your faith do a miracle
may the power that you have within you lead you
straight to glory and victory.
A country that has already suffered so much
he was made to fight for his freedom.
Gray Rambler, Don’t give up. All quotes from the compilation “Hard as steel – a musical tribute to the NSZ (Narodowe Siły Zbrojne – National Armed Forces)”, unless otherwise stated.
Soldiers cursed, in short, is the Polish equivalent of the Forest Brothers. The history of the Polish anti-communist underground begins in 1939. The Third Reich and the USSR occupy Poland. The structures of the Polish state begin operations in the underground. His armed wing is also born, which will eventually be named the Home Army. The Home Army mainly conducts actions against Germany (there were also anti-Soviet actions) and is subject to the Polish government in exile in London. During World War II, this will not be the only large militant organization. Before World War II, two large political blocks stood in opposition to the government – nationalists (a large National Democracy organization was established in the 19th century and a smaller one, popular mainly among right-wing youth, formed in the 1930s, the National-Radical Camp, ideologically similar to the Roman Iron Guard and Spanish Falange) and agrarian movement. Nationalists formed several groups, which after the final merger received the name National Armed Forces. Nationalists were mainly directed against the Red Army and communist activists, but also against Germany. The agrarian movement created the Peasant Battalions. Despite the ideological differences, all these formations can be considered the Polish independence underground.
During the war, the USSR began work to create a communist system in Poland. The Polish Workers’ Party and the People’s Army were created by Moscow. Communist formations functioned to the detriment of the Polish independence underground.
In 1944, the Red Army entered Poland. The incoming Red Army treated the soldiers of the independence underground as enemies. Home Army soldiers were murdered on the spot or sent deep into the USSR. A year later the war ended. The German occupation was replaced by the Soviet occupation. It was not a time of peace for Poland. An anti-communist uprising began.
In 1945, the Home Army was dissolved. On its basis, several other organizations were created. The most famous of them is Freedom and Independence. The National Military Union was another new organization. All the time, military operations were conducted by the radically anti-Soviet National Armed Forces.
On the other hand, units of the Red Army and NKVD, as well as Polish communists were sent to fight against anti-communist formations. The Ministry of Public Security and its Security Offices searched, tortured and killed Polish patriots. A special formation of the Internal Security Corps was also established. A special counterintelligence unit was created in the “People’s Polish Army”. Its name is Military Information. Military Information was extremely cruel even compared to the Gestapo and the Security Office. In practice, this formation consisted of NKVD and Smiersz officers dressed in Polish uniforms. The communists believed that the destruction of soldiers fighting for Poland’s freedom was necessary. The repressions also affected veterans of World War II who did not continue the armed struggle after 1945. The anti-communist uprising ended in 1953. As a result, 5,000 Polish patriots were sentenced to death (half the sentences were carried out), more than 20,000 died in Stalinist prisons. To humiliate the soldiers of the Polish anti-communist underground, they were convicted based on a provision penalizing collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. It was common practice to keep Polish soldiers and German criminals murdering Poles in one cell.
Convicted by a sentence
People’s Military District Court
For the death penalty and forgetfulness
Dawid Hallmann, Condemned to death
During the communist period, the memory of the anti-communist underground could not function for obvious reasons. After the fall of communism in Poland, the situation was not better. The heroes of World War II were cultivated, silencing the post-war resistance. There were several reasons. First, many representatives of both the post-communist camp and the left-wing of the democratic opposition, for ideological reasons, did not support the commemoration of these soldiers. An excellent example is Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of the largest Polish newspaper (“Gazeta Wyborcza” – liberal-left newspaper, having the opinion of a newspaper for intelligence). Adam Michnik is a very well-known figure of the democratic opposition in the 1980s., but in his youth he was a Trotskyist, and his brother was… a Stalinist judge sentencing the Polish patriots to the death penalty. Stefan Michnik lives today in Norway, Poland still demands his extradition. The second reason is ideological. The National Armed Forces were an important resistance force. The liberal-leftist elites were obsessed with the legacy of National Democracy. The National Armed Forces were portrayed as anti-Semites, reactionaries and even Nazi collaborators (which, in short, is not true). Today, leftist environments are attacking the memory of the anti-communist underground differently. They began to be accused of pacifying national minorities. Portal readers can independently assess the truthfulness of these theses.
Nationalist youth groups and the small anti-communist party the Republican League took up the fight for memory about soldiers. The Republican League began to talk about the “cursed soldiers”. This name has been adopted today. I remember that when I was very young, right-wing circles in my city demanded the monument to Freedom and Independence. The city was ruled by post-communists and the topic was considered “controversial”. I would add that the monument was built and stands near the train station.
Who is my friend who is the enemy?
What is the poison that circulates in my body?
What fight when everyone can be an enemy?
What revenge when I do not want to close myself?
Schmaletz, Revolutionary NSZ
The memory of the cursed soldiers was born, in my opinion, as a result of several phenomena. The first of them were television theaters on Polish Television. Among them were several dedicated to the victims of Stalinist repression. It is worth mentioning two because they relate to characters that have become the symbol of the Cursed Soldiers. It was the first to tell the story of Danuta Siedzikówna (nickname “Inka”), a nurse from the Home Army. She was captured by the communists, but she did not release her commander and was shot at the age of 17. It is worth adding that even in the reality of Stalinism, according to the law, it was impossible to execute persons under 18 years of age. The second drama concerned the history of Captain Witold Pilecki. Pilecki was an officer in the Home Army during World War II. He led the Germans to arrest him and take him to the Auschwitz camp. He began organizing the Polish resistance there and prepared underground reports about the situation in the camp. Later he joined the Polish army in Italy, but he returned to communist Poland. The communists arrested him and murdered him. A political and historical myth was built around Pilecki. Various initiatives began to appear to honor him. The popularization of its history and positive response among young people, not only engaged nationalist activists but ordinary pupils and students with right-wing views.
In my opinion, “General Nile” also had a great impact on the cult of the Cursed Soldiers. I am quite critical of Polish historical cinema, but this film deserves accolades. The film told the story of General August Fieldorf, nickname “Nile”, an experienced soldier (as a young boy he took part in the Polish-Latvian liberation of Daugavpils in 1920), commander of a special unit of the Home Army (Directorate of Diversion), author of many spectacular actions in occupied Poland. After the war, he wanted to live in peace, but he was arrested by the communists and sentenced to death.
These images were created during the liberal discourse. Probably the political leadership of Polish Television and other cultural institutions was not aware of the impact of the works on society.
Hardy their neck, cowardly world
it wants to close in the scrolls of oblivion.
Although so many years have passed,
the soldiers still cursed it.
Tadeusz Sikora, For the soldiers of NSZ
Another element of the fight for truth is the actions of conservative-national environments. On the one hand, it was related to the activities of the center-right (Law and Justice) for anti-communist reasons, and on the other, nationalist youth groups for both anti-communist and strictly national-Catholic reasons. Nationalists in Poland had to fight for the truth about the history of the national movement, including the history of the National Armed Forces.
It is worth mentioning pop culture activities. It is worth mentioning the CD “Hard as steel – a musical tribute to the National Armed Forces”. The compilation contained various types of music. It is worth mentioning that although the national-Catholic circles were political plankton at the time of its release, the album met with a two-page review in “Gazeta Wyborcza”. Of course, negative, as an example of trash.
Among the creators noteworthy was Dawid Hallmann (artist and social worker, still involved in Polish-Latvian contacts), who also created a card game about cursed soldiers.
Finally, the so-called “fashion for patriotism”. Patriotism became fashionable among Poles, and because it was created by nationalists, they naturally dominated its overtones. This phenomenon relates to three themes. First, the Polish Television series “Time of Honor”. Pretty well-filmed series about the underground from World War II (“Cichociemni” unit, elite special-operations paratroopers of the Polish Army to operate in occupied Poland. The modern Polish special-forces unit GROM adopted the name and traditions of the „Cichociemni”), and the last seasons were about the fight against communists. It was visible on the streets because young Poles began ordering hairstyles straight from the 1940s. Currently, anti-fascist No. 1 in Poland, Przemysław Witkowski (representative of the extreme left), in his book about the links between pop culture and ideologies, accuses Time of Honor of strengthening nationalism in Poland.
Secondly, November 11th March of Independence in Warsaw. In its early years, the march, as a result of its anti-system, nationalist-revolutionary overtones (which was associated with the annual riots against the police, Antifa and LGBT) had a huge impact on that part of society that was furious with the liberal rule.
This drove the popularity of nationalism. In the meantime, nationalist clothing companies appeared. These began to sell T-shirts with Cursed Soldiers. You could see them everywhere on the street. Unfortunately, currently, the same trend can be seen in Poland with LGBT bags. This, however, built interest in the subject of Cursed Soldiers.
A holiday was established in 2010. It’s been 10 years. In the meantime, on the one hand, nationalist circles throughout the country organized anniversary manifestations, on the other, center-right organizations organized their forms of celebration. Currently (apart from official ceremonies) the most important is the “Wolf Trail” run (the symbolism of the wolf in the worship of cursed soldiers is very important. The outstanding Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert wrote about them – “because they lived the right of the wolf, the story is silent for a long time”). The run is organized by the Freedom and Democracy Foundation. Interestingly, even President Andrzej Duda participates in it. This is probably the largest running event in Poland. The cult of cursed soldiers is very clear, sometimes it takes (unfortunately) even slightly grotesque forms when it is associated with excessive commercialization.
Wolves have their paths,
I followed the wolf trail
death chased me through the woods like a hound
she stopped at the stream
a short flash over the mountain slope,
God’s will, my fight is over today.
Andrzej Kołakowski, Epitaph for Major “Fire” (song from the “Conter-revolutionary” album). Major Józef Kuraś, nickname “Fire”, fought against Communists in Podhale (the region in Poland near the Carpathians) and died in 1947. His body has not found to this day.
The Institute of National Remembrance is also of great importance. It is a governmental institution established to fight for historical truth about Polish history. The Institute has always defended the memory of cursed soldiers. State institutions and social activists search for the bodies of murdered patriots. The communists buried them in unmarked places. In recent years, many important corpses have been found, unfortunately, we are still waiting for the most important of them.
You hide me, my land of Podhale
mountain forest sways me to sleep.
So many times your hand has protected me.
Today, God called me to report.
Andrzej Kołakowski, Epitaph for Major “Fire”
The history of the cursed soldiers shows that it is worth fighting for historical truth. The right hand often gives up in the fight against the left, while fighting with it is possible. Of course, some nationalists may feel disappointed that the cult of the Cursed Soldiers did not lead to the National Revolution and that the cult itself was “nationalized” by the state and became part of the national identity, and the largest right is organized by the center-right. Despite this, it is proof that thanks to pop culture and slow fight we can finally achieve success.
I will recognize, attack, then scatter!
Even if I disappear I will win!
Schmaletz, Revolutionary NSZ
Michał Szymański – lawyer, Polish nationalist, history enthusiast. President of the Board of the Foundation “Polska Zwycięska 1920-2020” working for the memory of the Polish-Bolshevik war and the Warsaw Battle of 1920. He published in many national-conservative magazines and portals.