74 years ago, the last commander of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), general Leopold Okulicki, issued the order officially disbanding the Polish underground armed forces, which were formed in February 1942 to fight against the German occupation of Poland.
Polish head of state laid a wreath to mark the 70th death anniversary of WWII cavalry captain Witold Pilecki.see more
“Soldiers of the Home Army! I am giving you your last order. You should continue your work in the spirit of regaining full independence for our State and ensuring protection of Polish civilians against extermination”, wrote general Okulicki
The Polish government in exile, in the United Kingdom, took the decision to disband the Home Army, in the view of the fast proceeding Soviet offensive. Although the authorities did not intend to openly fight the encroaching Communist regime, they did not recognize the new Soviet-imposed government in Poland.
“We do not want to fight the Soviets, but we will never agree to any other life than in a sovereign, independent and just Polish State. The current Soviet victory is not the end of the war. We cannot, even for a moment, lose faith that this war could end in any other way than with the victory of the just Cause, the triumph of good over evil, freedom over slavery”, general Okulicki wrote to his troops.
To protect the Home Army soldiers against Communist repressions, the underground forces were ordered to disband and continue their work by non-military means, with a view to achieving the full liberation of Poland.
In the second confidential order, issued to the commanders of the local Home Army divisions, general Okulicki wrote:
“Under the conditions of the new occupation, we must focus on rebuilding independence and the protection of civilians against extinction. Therefore, we must take advantage of all forms of legal activity, attempting to infiltrate all areas of life of the Provisional People's Government … Maintain small clandestine military staff and the whole radio network. Maintain communication with me and act in cooperation with the office of the Government Representative [the London-based government in exile]”.
In his book on the final days of the Home Army, historian Professor Krzysztof Komorowski explains that despite the efforts to protect the soldiers of the underground forces, the Soviet operation to exterminate the members of the Polish resistance began with brutal force. The Soviet People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) and the Polish Communist Security Service (SB) conducted multiple operations aimed at uncovering, capturing and eliminating members of the Home Army and anyone suspected of sympathizing or aiding them.
Arrested Home Army soldiers were subject to brutal interrogations and torture, sentenced to prison, deported to gulags and labour camps in the Urals and Siberia (estimated 50,000 people), murdered in prisons in Poland, execution style, with a bullet to the back of the head, and buried secretly in unmarked graves.
Some of the Home Army soldiers who chose to continue their fight against the Soviet regime, become known as the Doomed Soldiers (or Cursed Soldiers) as their noble cause seemed to be hopeless at the time. The notable Polish heroes, who continued their fight after 1945 and were murdered by the Soviet regime, include cavalry captain Witold Pilecki and medical orderly Danuta Siedzikówna, who was barely 17 when she was murdered by the NKVD.