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333 ALBINA F. NOSKOVA VICTORY AND ENSLAVEMENT A Democratic Regime for a Society in Transition Modern scholars are still debating many of the critical issues relating to what happened in Poland after the war ended. Did the Red Army bring liberation or Soviet occupation? Did Poland win or lose the war? Was the regime the result of violence and treachery on Stalin’s part? Were the Polish communists mere puppets? The answers to the questions about liberation and victory are obvious enough: the Red Army, alongside the Polish army, brought liberation, not occupation , and this was a victory because it saved the country from being destroyed by the Nazis. Confirmation for such a view can be found by reviewing those half-forgotten German policies of “Lebensraum” and the “Eastern Master Plan.” Speaking on 11 January 1960, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński recalled such policies in a conversation with Władysław Gomułka: “During the war, the Nazis thought, ‘We’ll win the war and the rest will be taken care of by the crematoriums, because we do not want the Poles, we need only their land[;] they would do the same if we lost the war.’“ The only way to win the war was by uniting with the Soviet Union at the cost of millions of soldiers’ lives. For those Poles who had lived through the nightmare of Nazi occupation, the experience determined their attitude toward the Red Army in 1944–45. They welcomed the Soviet troops with open arms, greeting them as liberators and in no way perceiving them to be invaders. This was a commonly held view of the Red Army’s arrival, although some people were of a different opinion. The latter were defined by Soviet intelligence officers as anti-Soviet and hostile. Although academics acknowledge the fact of the Red Army’s liberation of Poland, they also conclude that there were violations of Poland’s right to make its own decisions, independent of the Soviet Union. Indeed, many felt that, with liberation, came a threat to national freedom, and the govern- 334 ALBINA F. NOSKOVA ment in exile, trusted by the Poles to bring about a Polish revival, began to foster a bitter feeling of defeat. Fears began to mount concerning the Soviet presence. People remembered the events of 17 September 1939. They knew about the Katyn massacres. There was the painful memory of the defeat of the Warsaw Uprising, a defeat that many blamed on Stalin. There was also growing indignation regarding the actions of the NKVD, which suppressed the armed underground forces that were trying to resist Soviet occupation and the establishment of communist rule. All this had a negative effect on the atmosphere in Poland and created a climate of anxiety that led to mistrust between the Provisional Government and a large part of the population. However, as suggested by the well-known Polish scholar Krystyna Kersten, for most people this mistrust and prejudice toward the Polish Workers’ Party (Polska Partia Robotnicza, or PPR) did not develop into a perception of the new government as a non-indigenous regime, and that was important. It would appear that Stalin’s actions can be largely explained by geopolitical reasons as well as the desire to guarantee security in postwar Europe. Along with his coalition partners, the Soviet leader was convinced that Germany would make a rapid recovery, something he repeatedly mentioned. He believed that the next Drang nach Osten campaign would need a much shorter time frame, and, following that logic, Europe and the country that defeated Nazism needed a strong, geopolitically allied Poland. Stalin declared Russia ready to provide Europe with this version of Poland, adding that anyone in Poland who did not want to work in tandem with the Soviet Union (such as the government in exile) under the proposed conditions would be defeated and that those who attempted to interfere with these efforts (such as the underground forces) would be suppressed. One must pose another pertinent question: at that time, given the conflict between Polish and Soviet opinions on matters of national and state interests, was there ever any real possibility of Poland shaping its own destiny and creating ideological imperatives and a social system that differed from those of the Soviet Union? The Hungarian writer Sándor Márai lived through this era and provided the answer to that question in the spring of 1945: “At Stalingrad, that great nation, at the cost of unprecedented casualties, changed the flow of events...


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