It was 75 years ago that the last commander of the dominant WWII Polish resistance movement, the Home Army (AK), 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.
“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 the protection of Polish civilians against extermination,” wrote General Okulicki.
The Polish government in exile, in the UK, took the decision to disband the AK, in view of the fast proceeding Soviet offensive. Although the authorities did not intend to openly fight the encroaching Communist regime, they did not recognise 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,” General Okulicki wrote to his troops.
To protect the AK 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 AK 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 London-based government in exile]”.
In his book, historian Professor Krzysztof Komorowski wrote about Soviet operations to exterminate the members of the Polish resistance. 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 AK and anyone suspected of sympathising or aiding them.
The methods of extermination included brutal interrogations, torture, imprisonment, the deportation of around 50,000 Poles to gulags and labour camps in the Urals and Siberia, and executions with a bullet to the back of the head.
The AK soldiers who chose to continue their fight against the Soviet regime, became known as the Indomitable Soldiers. 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.