Conversations with the Kremlin - Polish Ambassador Stanislaw Kot 1941-42
On 22 June 1941 Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union. The Polish government-in-exile in London, under the leadership of General Sikorski, concluded a treaty on 30 July 1941 with the Soviet Government.
The treaty led to the Soviet leader Stalin releasing from captivity all the Polish citizens (one and a half million) who had been deported from Poland to imprisonment in Soviet labour camps and exile in Siberia and Kazakhstan. A Polish Army, under the command of General Anders, was to be formed on Soviet soil in order to fight the Germans.
General Sikorksi appointed Stanislaw Kot to be the new Polish Ambassador in the Soviet Union. His task as Polish Ambassador was to:
- Rescue the Polish exiles.
- Help the Command of the Polish Army.
- Watch over the Soviet Government's fulfilment of the Polish-Soviet treaty.
Arrival in Moscow
Stanislaw Kot arrived in Moscow on 4 September 1941. He wanted to convince the Soviet government that the Polish government took their treaty of cooperation seriously and that the Poles wanted victory for the Allied cause. He tried to:
- Dispel the inveterate Russian prejudices against the Polish government.
- Emphasise the heroism of the Polish forces on all fronts.
- Urge the extraordinary propaganda value of a reconciliation between the USSR and Poland.
The Polish ambassador also wished to discover what Soviet intentions were towards the Poles and their view of the Polish role during and after the war. The high point of Polish-Soviet relations was the visit by General Sikorksi to the Kermlin in December 1941.
Conversations and Dispatches
During his time as Ambassador from September 1941 until July 1942 Stanislaw Kot had a number of conversations with representatives of the Soviet government. These were principally with Viacheslav Molotov (Commissar for Foreign Affairs) and Andrei Vyshinsky (Vice-Commissar for Foreign Affairs). Dispatches based on these conversations were sent to the Polish government-in-exile in London.
Letter to General Sikorski [Moscow, 5 September 1941]
We can already see great results arising from the deed of 30 July so far as the armed forces are concerned, and the people who are being systematically released bless Poland and you. ... General Anders looks wretched, but declares he feels well in himself...To rescue the young men he is issuing call-up notices from the age of seventeen... (p. 1)
Conversation with Molotov [8 September 1941]
Molotov: What is the position in regard to the arming of the Polish Army?
Kot: I understood Russia...would supply the arms.
Molotov: We cannot supply arms...Great Britain and America must realise that we are shedding our blood for them...they must provide us with arms. (p. 5)
Letter to General Sikorski [15 September 1941]
Work is boiling in the Embassy, but when the number of letters in today's post exceeds one thousand what can one do? [Letters were from Poles all over the Soviet Union] We are looking for candidates for delegates and above all for secretaries in the Welfare office... (p. 19)
Letter to Edward Raczynski, Minister for Foreign Affairs [Moscow, 22 September 1941]
As for a network of consular posts, there is no hope of achieving this...In the eyes of the Soviet people a consular service is identical with espionage. (p. 39)
Conversation with American Red Cross [Moscow, 2 October 1941]
The situation of the Polish citizens so far released is wretched. Their debility, total lack of clothing and footwear, and the complete lack of funds make their desperate position still worse. The Soviet government has stated that it is unable to give any help at all...the Ambassador...appeals to the American Red Cross for help... (p. 41)
To General Sikorski [Moscow, 15 October 1941]
This evening...we are all travelling to Kuibishev - Samara. There are some 70 of us...Moscow is to be defended desperately... (p. 70)
Cable to Polish Embassy in Washington [Kuibishev, 27 October 1941]
For some time now transports of Polish people have been routed to Uzbekistan and they are being employed on the cotton plantations and on irrigation and construction works...People are dying of hunger en route. (p. 79)
To the Minister for Foreign Affairs [Kuibishev, 8 November 1941]
The drive to join the army and the desire to flee from the north put in motion a great avalanche of Polish transmigration...The journeys of these people are marked by tragedy...they are being decimated by hunger and disease...Deaths occur in many of the transports, and the travellers bring with them seriously ill cases, who often end their lives at the railway junctions. (p. 97)
Conversation with Stalin [Kremlin, 14 November 1941]
Kot: So if I have understood you alright, we can form as many divisions as we have people for, on condition that we obtain equipment and food supplies from abroad.
Stalin: You have understood me perfectly.
Kot: ...all that remains is to indicate the place where we can proceed with the formation of detachments...
Stalin: ...it will not be Uzbekistan, to which place Polish citizens are travelling illegally.
Kot: Uzbekistan was not our idea, but was indicated... by the Soviet military authorities.
Stalin: Are there still Poles not released?
Kot: We lack the officers from Starobielsk, Kozielsk, and Ostashkov, who were transferred from those camps in April and May 1940.
Stalin: We have released everybody... (p. 110-113)
Sikorski meets Stalin [Kremlin, 3 December 1941]
Sikorski: I have with me a list of some 4,000 officers who were carried off by force and who even now are still in prisons and labour camps...Those men are here.
Stalin: That's impossible. They've fled.
Anders: But where could they flee to?
Stalin: Well, to Manchuria, for instance.
Sikorksi: ... The conditions in which the Polish Army is now being formed are quite unsatisfactory. The soldiers are freezing in summer tents, they feel the lack of food and are simply condemned to slow death. For this reason I propose to transfer all the troops...to Persia...I am ready to make a declaration that these troops will return to the Russian front and that they might even be reinforced by several British divisions.
Stalin: ... I know that when you go to Persia you will not return here...If they want to go, let them go. (p. 142-149)
To Minister for Foreign Affairs [Kuibishev, 10 December 1941]
... it was not possible to eradicate Stalin's suspicions concerning the illegal irruption of Poles, against the Government's agreement, into Uzbekistan; and from 25 November onward a forced, violent evacuation of 45,000 Poles began from there. (p. 163)
Cable to Polish Embassy in Washington [13 March 1942]
Last month on General Anders' instructions Joseph Czapski travelled to...Moscow with a memorandum on the fate of 8,300 officers carried off in April 1940 from Starobielsk, Kozielsk, and Ostashkov, concerning whom all news has been lost...Among the twelve generals are Stanislaw Heller, Skuratowicz, Orlik-Lukowski, Plisowski, Smorawinski, and others...We are afraid that the few who survive will be skeletons. (p. 227)
Conversation with Vyshinsky [24 March 1942]
Kot: President Stalin has agreed to a swift evacuation, because the quantity of food rations is to be reduced on 1 April...According to the plan, the first detachments are to to leave Krasnovodsk on 26 March. (p. 223)
Conversation with Vyshinsky [2 June 1942]
Kot: Taking the Soviet Union's difficulties with food supplies into account, we would like to organise the mass transfer of Polish children abroad...there are about 160,000 children, Polish citizens, in the Soviet Union...The constant mortality among the children, their mass mortality, is a painful thing.
Vyshinsky: You have spoken of mass mortality, among the children. I am forced to state that there is no such thing...The plan to transfer 50,000 abroad is quite fantastic. Why we are waging a war, and a very hard one at that. (p. 239-241)
Conversation with Vyshinsky [8 July 1942]
Kot: I wish to say goodbye. I am forced to leave my post and to leave Russia owing to the state of my health and lack of strength. (p. 269)
On 22 July 1942 a message was sent to Ambassador Kot in Teheran telling him that the Soviets had abolished all the Polish delegations as they had engaged in hostile activity and espionage instead of welfare.
In April 1943 the Soviet government broke off diplomatic relations with the Polish government-in-exile after the discovery, by Nazi Germany, of the buried remains of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn in Russia.
Conversations with the Kremlin and Dispatches from Russia
Author - Stanislaw Kot
Publisher - Oxford University Press in 1963.
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This page was added on 11 March 2012.