Controversies of The Polish–Soviet War - Atrocities


The Polish side claimed that during the Soviet retreat from Berdychiv, Kiev and Zhytomyr mass hostage-taking of civilians occurred, with hostages forced to go with the Reds all the way to the rear of the front. Similar claims were made that returning to Berdychiv the Bolsheviks threw out the sick and wounded from the hospital "disregarding the lives and honor of the medical personnel" and that in general the Soviet advance into Ukraine was characterized by mass killing of civilians and the burning of entire villages, especially by Budyonny's cossacks, designed to cow the Ukrainian population. Behind Polish lines, the Soviet forces hanged suspected enemies on the spot. Ultimately, in the pacification of Ukraine that began during the Soviet counteroffensive in 1920 and which would not end until 1922, the Soviets would take tens of thousands of Ukrainian lives. On 7 June the same day Budionny's Cossacks, spreading terror in the rear of recently broken Polish frontlines, burned a hospital in Berdychiv, with 600 patients and Red Cross nuns inside.

Some first hand accounts from participants may support the claim that such behavior was found on both sides. The rights of prisoners of war were often diseregarded; for example in January 1918 in Cichinicze near Mohylow Bolsheviks shot patients and personnel of a Polish hospital. Particularly notorious were the accounts concerning the former officer of the Imperial Russian and Bolsheviks armies, Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz, who switched sides in the conflict and became a general in Poland. Although Bułak-Bałachowicz is claimed to be a national hero to Belarusians in Poland for protection against Bolshevik terror, and his refusal to kill peasants on orders from Soviets, witness accounts claim that he was known to behave like an absolute ruler of the territories controlled by his troops, even conducting public executions As one Polish officer wrote in a letter to his wife: "This is the person without ideology. The bandit and the murderer and his comrades – subordinates are just like that. They know no shame and are similar to barbarians... I witnessed throwing the cut-off heads of Bolsheviks under his feet... I drank with him all night long and in the morning he with his group and me with my regiment went to the fighting. The massacre of Bolsheviks was horrific". There is evidence that the bands of Cossack "Colonel" Vadim Yakovlev were similarly cruel. He was a Don Cossack Ukrainian and Bolshevik officer who also switched to the Polish side along with his band and allegedly was a bloody marauder of villages and towns in Ukraine, Belarus, and was responsible for several anti-Jewish pogroms.

Read more about this topic:  Controversies Of The Polish–Soviet War

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Famous quotes containing the word atrocities:

    It is unheard-of, uncivilized barbarism that any woman should still be forced to bear such monstrous torture. It should be remedied. It should be stopped. It is simply absurd that, with our modern science, painless childbirth does not exist as a matter of course.... I tremble with indignation when I think of ... the unspeakable egotism and blindness of men of science who permit such atrocities when they can be remedied.
    Isadora Duncan (1878–1927)

    The nineteenth century planted the words which the twentieth ripened into the atrocities of Stalin and Hitler. There is hardly an atrocity committed in the twentieth century that was not foreshadowed or even advocated by some noble man of words in the nineteenth.
    Eric Hoffer (1902–1983)