And then came the war...

In the 1930s, Poland’s foreign policy was based on the idea of maintaining a balance in relations with its two large neighbours. Peace with the Soviet Union was to be guaranteed by the Soviet-Polish Non-Aggression Pact signed on 25 July 1932, which was supposed to remain in force until the end of 1945. In turn, a declaration of non-violence was signed with the German Reich on 26 January 1934. However, these international agreements did not protect Poland against the attacks by its two neighbours with imperial ambitions.

The Treaty of Non-Aggression, signed on 23 August 1939 in Moscow by the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and his Soviet counterpart Vyacheslav Molotov, together with its secret protocol, divided Europe into spheres of influence and decided on the independence of sovereign states. For Poland, it was in fact the beginning of its fourth partition.

Akt podpisania paktu Ribbentrop-Mołotow

On 31 August 1939, a general mobilisation was announced in Poland in the event of war with Germany. On 1 September 1939, German troops attacked Poland. When Britain and France declared war on the Third Reich, the Polish-German conflict turned into the Second World War.

During the first two weeks of fighting the Soviet Union maintained an appearance of neutrality, but early on 17 September the Red Army invaded Poland along its entire eastern border as anticipated by the Hitler/Stalin treaty.

Samochód przejeżdżający podczas wspólnej defilady w Brześciu Wehrmachtu i Armii Czerwonej oraz salutujący żołnierze


Waging war on two fronts was impossible. Poland’s defence against the Germans collapsed. The surprise attacks and an order from the commander-in-chief Marshal Edward Smigly-Rydz to avoid fighting the Bolsheviks by evacuating to Hungary and Romania led to large numbers of Polish soldiers and officers being captured.

By the end of September 1939 some 250,000 Polish soldiers (including 8,600 officers) and members of other uniformed services (border guards, policemen, prison guards and so on) had been taken prisoner by the USSR. It was unmanageable to detain such a large number of POWs, so privates and non-commissioned officers of Belarusian and Ukrainian origins were released. Those remaining were transferred to ten POW camps set up for this purpose and supervised by the USSR’s People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD).

These camps were still overcrowded. In October/November 1939 the Soviet authorities released most the privates and non-commissioned officers of Polish origin from areas occupied by the USSR. Under a POW exchange agreement, people from the territories occupied by the Germans were handed over to the Third Reich, while Germany handed over captured Polish soldiers (mainly of Ukrainian and Belarusian nationality) from territories annexed by the USSR.

About 26,000 Polish privates and non-commissioned officers remained in Soviet captivity. They were sent to the Rovensky, Krivorozhsky, Yeleno-Karakubsky and Zaporozhsky prison camps in Russia and Ukraine. About 6,500 policemen, gendarmes, prison guards, soldiers of the Border Guard Corps and Border Guard, government officials, military settlers, identified intelligence agents and counterintelligence officers were gathered in a camp at Ostashkov in the Kalinin region (now the Tver region in Russia).

Meanwhile extensive Soviet repression began in captured Polish territory. Political arrests mainly affected Polish public officials (army officers and police officers who had not been taken prisoner), intellectuals, members of political parties and social organisations, industrialists, landowners, traders, cultural activists and artists, foresters, people arrested while crossing the border and other “enemies of the Soviet authorities”.

As many as 112,000 people were arrested, while some 25,600 others died or were murdered, including victims of the Katyn Massacre detained in prisons in western Ukraine and western Belarus. Four deportation campaigns were carried out in occupied areas: 320,000 Poles were exiled deep in the USSR.

Poles as POWs in Kozelsk

In 1923, the Soviet authorities closed the monastery down. They arranged a sawmill in the main church (one of six) and converted the hermitage into an NKVD holiday home. Polish prisoners of war arrived there after the USSR captured the eastern territories of Poland. The first prisoner transports were sent to Kozelsk on 20 September 1939. The camp governor was Soviet army captain Vasily Korolov.

As of 1 December 1939, a total of 4,594 people were detained in the half-ruined monastery buildings in Kozelsk, including Rear Admiral Ksawery Czernicki, four generals: Bronislaw Bohaterewicz (Bohatyrewicz), Henryk Minkiewicz, Mieczyslaw Smorawinski and survivor Jerzy Wolkowicki, 24 colonels, 79 lieutenant-colonels, 258 majors, 654 captains, 3,420 other officers and 7 army chaplains. Seventy percent of the POWs were reserve officers from the Polish intelligentsia: professors, physicians, lawyers, engineers, teachers, journalists and many others. The only woman murdered in the Katyn Forest was also held in Kozelsk: the pilot and second lieutenant in the reserve forces, Janina Lewandowska, the daughter of General Jozef Dowbor-Musnicki.

Like the other camps for Polish prisoners of war, the Kozelsk camp was not prepared to accommodate such a large number of people. The poorly heated rooms were overcrowded. Due to an insufficient supply of water and hygiene products, bedbugs and lice were common. The number of sanitary facilities was insufficient and, worse still, they were not cleaned or disinfected. The prisoners slept in crowded units, on bunk beds, often without mattresses or pillows. Over time, they started to give funny names to each unit. The generals lived in “Bristol”, the majors in “Old Folks’ Home”. The former Orthodox church became “Indian Tomb”, there was also “Lice Hotel” on “Misery Square”, “Circus”, “Philharmonic Hall”, “Shanghai”, and “Monkey Grove”.

The daily food ration per prisoner-of-war included 800g of bread, 30g of sugar, a portion of groats for breakfast and soup for dinner. Meat, fish and vegetables were distributed irregularly. Once a week, officers received a ration of tea, cheap tobacco, matches and soap. Due to poor living conditions in the camp, prisoners developed diseases of the lungs and digestive tract, rheumatism, and vitamin deficiencies. The health care in the camp was provided by educated physicians from amongst the POWs themselves.

Polish officers detained in the camp had to obey rules that prohibited them, for instance, from leaving the camp without permission or staying in a unit other than their own. It was prohibited to leave the barracks after dark, and lamps had to be lit throughout the night. It was also strictly forbidden to express any religious or patriotic feelings, organise meetings, or play cards. Persons on duty were selected from among the prisoners to be responsible for cleanliness and order. A senior camp officer was also appointed; this function was performed by Colonel Ryszard Malinowski. Starting from November 1939, the POWs were allowed to send and receive letters, but they were, however, subject to censorship.

The special NKVD unit operating in the camp was tasked with keeping operational records and a network of agents and informers among the POWs. The Major of State Security, Vasily Zarubin was sent to the camp. Cultured, well-read and fluent in various languages with many years’ experience of working abroad, he defied the image of the uneducated and primitive NKVD officers working in the camp. Zarubin was the only member of the camp staff saluted by the POWs. Despite his efforts, e.g. offering access to books from his small library, he managed to recruit only several dozen prisoners from among the several thousand held in Kozelsk. It was probably his report that helped Beria make the decision to execute the Poles held in camps in Kozelsk, Ostashkov and Starobelsk.

Political and educational work in the spirit of communist propaganda, glorifying the achievements of the Soviet Union, was also carried out in the camps. Radio programmes from Moscow were broadcast through loudspeakers and talks and lectures were organised. The POWs had access to the Soviet press and could also use the library of the former NKVD holiday home. The club screened Soviet films such as “Alexander Nevsky”, “Volga, Volga”, “Mother” and “Chapaev”.

As noted by Lieutenant Stanislaw Swianiewicz, a Kozelsk survivor, prominent Sovietologist and a professor of economics and law in his civilian life: “Kozelsk can therefore be described as a kind of institution for studying the mentality and characteristics of different types of people, whom the Soviet Union managed to capture in 1939 thanks to its alliance with Hitler.”

The operational and political work undertaken by the NKVD in the camp failed to bring about the expected results. According to NKVD reports, the Polish POWs harboured hostile feelings towards the Soviet Union and declared their willingness to fight and liberate their homeland from the hands of both aggressors. They flooded the camp headquarters with applications and petitions, demanding to be sent back to Poland or to a neutral state. Few declared their readiness to cooperate with the Soviet authorities.

The prisoners boycotted the camp rules, treating them as an element of Soviet indoctrination. Official Polish holidays and religious feasts were celebrated contrary to the ban. Clergymen held secret religious services. There were also Orthodox Christians, Jews and Protestants in the camp, and participation in ceremonies held by other faiths was practiced. When Christmas celebrations were banned and Catholic priests and other clergymen were deported from the camp on 23 December 1939, this caused widespread indignation. Only one priest remained in Kozelsk, namely Major Jan Ziolkowski, who was kept in solitary confinement at the time.

The POWs engaged in self-education. They organised illegal lectures and talks, given by eminent specialists being held in the camp. They covered a wide spectrum of topics, from Greek theogony to Stefan Zeromski’s literary works to the embalming of corpses. Foreign language courses were taught. Kozelsk also had a library, which the soldiers created with the books they had taken with them to war. The “Monitor” and “Merkuriusz” newspapers were illegally published. The daily “spoken news reports”, prepared based on news and articles, became a specific social phenomenon in the camp.

The POWs set up choirs, musical ensembles and theatrical groups, with the performances of the famous Poznan satirist, second lieutenant Tadeusz Hernes enjoying great popularity. In their free time, POWs played chess and cards or even organised spiritual séances.

The liquidation of the Kozelsk POW camp began on 3 April 1940. On that day, the first transport of 74 Polish officers set off for Gnezdovo, and from there to the Katyn Forest. Throughout April, transports departed almost every day. The last POW was sent from the camp on 20 May. POWs were escorted to Smolensk and Gnezdovo by the 136th Independent Battalion of the NKVD Transport Troops stationed in Smolensk.

The Katyn Massacre

On 5 March 1940 the Political Bureau of the USSR Communist Party Central Committee took a decision to execute the Polish POWs. This was based on a recommendation from People’s Commissioner for Internal Affairs Lavrentyi Beria to Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin:

They are all declared enemies of the Soviet authorities, not showing any prospects for improvement.

The decision agreed that the 14,700 prisoners held in the POW camps in Kozelsk, Starobelsk and Ostashkov and 11,000 detainees held in prisons in the western regions of Ukraine and Belarus should be processed under a special procedure:

[W]ithout summoning those arrested and without pressing charges, or presenting the decision to close the investigation and the indictment … and with the highest penalty against them all: execution by firing squad.

The document recording this decision bears four handwritten signatures of Politburo members voting “For” (Joseph Stalin, Kliment Voroshilov, Vyacheslav Molotov and Anastas Mikoyan) with notes that Mikhail Kalinin and Lazar Kaganovich also agreed

A USSR NKVD “troika” was set up to implement the decision: Vsevolod Merkulov (first deputy People’s Commissioner for Internal Affairs); Bakhcho Kobulov  (deputy People’s Commissioner for Internal Affairs); and Leonid Bashtakov (head of the 1st Special Department).

125 NKVD officers were appointed to carry out the killings. On 26 October 1940 by secret order No. 001365 the officers were rewarded by Lavrentyi Beria “for successful execution of special tasks” and received an equivalent of a monthly salary or 800 roubles.

The prisoners were dealt with on the basis of transport lists (in fact death lists) sent from Moscow. The first three documents with the names of 343 people reached Ostashkov camp on 1 April 1940.

The lack of full access to the key documents stored in Russia’s archives means that final numbers and names of the victims are still not publicly known. However, researchers know that the Soviet leadership’s genocidal decision led to the murder of 4,415 POWs held in Kozelsk (buried in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, 2 km from Gnezdovo station); 6,295 POWs in Ostashkov (shot in Kalinin in the NKVD headquarters basement and buried in the forest in Mednoe); and 3,820 POWs from the camp in Starobelsk (shot in Kharkiv in the NKVD headquarters basement and buried near the village of Pyatikhatki).

Likewise it remains unknown how many Polish POWs from Kozelsk were murdered in the NKVD villa on the site or in the NKVD prison in Smolensk. Diaries found in the death pits show that others were murdered in the Katyn Forest itself: Adam Solski’s journal (quoted elsewhere here) and Stanislaw Swianiewicz’s account.

394 people survived the mass killings in the three camps, mostly those whose return had been requested by the German embassy and the Lithuanian mission in Moscow as a result of their families’ efforts in occupied Poland. Some survivors were recruited as secret agents, or had expressed a readiness to fight alongside the USSR, or had knowledge considered useful. Other officers taken from the camps to Moscow’s Lubyanka NKVD prison also survived.

A further 7,305 people were murdered in prisons in eastern Poland annexed by the USSR. The “Ukrainian list” handed over in 1994 by the Ukrainian Security Service includes names of 3,435 prisoners transported to Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson and murdered there. The Polish authorities still do not know the names of 3,870 prisoners from the so-called “Belarusian list” murdered in Minsk after being sent there from Brest, Pinsk, Baranavichy and Vileyka.

These 1940 killings of Polish POWs and other prisoners were accompanied by decisions to deport victims’ families to Kazakhstan for 10 years.


After March 1940 the relatives and loved ones of the Polish POWs in Kozelsk, Starobelsk and Ostashkov stopped receiving their letters. For many years the families of the POWs awaited their return, thinking they had gone missing somewhere in the East.

After Germany attacked the Soviet Union, the Polish government in exile resumed diplomatic relations with the USSR and effectively withdrew from the position that the countries were at war. An agreement on 30 July 1941 to normalise relations (the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement) provided for the release of Polish citizens who had been imprisoned and deported and announced formation of a Polish army in the USSR.

People eager to join the Polish Armed Forces in the USSR began to gather from remote prisons, gulag camps and places of exile. General Wladyslaw Anders was released from Moscow’s Lubyanka prison and took command. The absence of officers among all the incoming Polish volunteers raised concerns. The plenipotentiary for missing persons was writer and painter Jozef Czapski a cavalry captain, and survivor from the Starobelsk POW camp who collected information about Poles in the USSR. When Prime Minister Sikorski and General Anders raised the issue of missing Polish officers in a face-to-face conversation with Stalin on 3 December 1941, they were told that the officers “had fled to Manchuria”.

The Graves are Revealed

On 13 April 1943 Radio Berlin announced discovery of mass graves of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest. Facing defeat on the eastern front, Germany used this crime for propaganda purposes to try to break up the anti-German coalition and win international support for fighting the Soviet Union.

Professor Gerhard Buhtz, Director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine and Forensic Science at the University of Breslau (now Wroclaw), led the exhumations. Polish-language newspapers published by the Germans in occupied Poland began to print lists of names of identified victims, and propaganda posters appeared.

Stalin and Polish communists under his control denounced this ‘provocation’. On 28 April 1943 in the Izvestia newspaper Wanda Wasilewska accused the Third Reich of perpetrating the crime. A few days later Polish communist leaders did the same.

To bring to international attention the murder of the Polish POWs, the Germans invited the International Red Cross (IRC) to carry out exhumations and investigate the killings. The Polish government in exile also asked the IRC to investigate. Stalin accused the free Polish authorities of cooperation with the Third Reich and “terminated relations with the Polish government”. Moscow refused to participate in the IRC’s work.

The Germans invited forensic experts from all over Europe to investigate the crime in the Katyn Forest. These experts confirmed beyond doubt that the killings had been carried out by the Soviets. With the consent of the Polish government in exile, the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross (PRC) operated in Katyn. The Commission identified 2,733 out of more than 4,243 exhumed bodies. A first makeshift cemetery consisting of six collective graves was established. Generals Bronislaw Bohaterewicz and Mieczyslaw Smorawinski were buried in individual graves.

The Fight for Truth Begins

Despite knowing about the Soviet murders of the Polish officers in Katyn, the governments of the United States and United Kingdom chose not to give the issue widespread publicity: their alliance with Stalin against Hitler was more important than the fates of POWs from an allied army.

After the Soviet annexation of the Smolensk region, an NKGB-NKVD team in the Katyn Forest fabricated evidence and prepared ‘witnesses’ to promote a new false Soviet version that the Germans had committed the killings in 1941. In January 1944 the witnesses were brought before an ad hoc Soviet committee headed by Nikolai Burdenko and foreign journalists.

Two symbolic graves were built to replace the previous site. On 30 January 1944 with participation of soldiers from the 1st Corps of the Polish Armed Forces in the USSR under the command of General Zygmunt Berling (previously a POW at the Starobelsk camp who had agreed to cooperate with the Soviets), ceremonies were held at the graves to remember Polish officers allegedly murdered by the Germans. Military chaplain Father Wilhelm Kubsz celebrated a Holy Mass for the souls of the deceased.

This section of the Katyn Forest was separated by a tall wooden fence. A small obelisk with inscriptions in Russian and Polish (the Polish version had errors) was erected at the site of the Massacre:

In Blessed Memory. Here lie the enslaved officers of the Polish Army horrifically murdered by the German-Nazi occupying forces in the autumn of 1941

In the 1970s the obelisk was replaced by a plaque with a new inscription:

To the victims of fascism - Polish officers, executed by the Nazis in 1941

In 1946 the Soviet Union tried to include the alleged murder of the Polish officers in Katyn in September 1941 in the indictment against the top German war criminals in Nuremberg. There were unconvincing witness testimonies and numerous errors/inaccuracies in the Soviet prosecution case: the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg did not indict the Germans for killing the Polish officers.

The Katyn Massacre issue returned during the Cold War. In 1951 the United States House of Representatives established a committee to investigate the Katyn Forest Massacre chaired by Ray John Madden (the Madden Committee). The final report drawn up in 1952 held the Soviet Union responsible.

Nevertheless for decades the USSR promoted official lies about German responsibility, as did the subordinate communist authorities of the Polish People’s Republic. Death certificates passed to the families had false dates such as the date of end of the Second World War. The families of victims were subjected to harassment: widows were dismissed from work, and children faced difficulties enrolling at university. The communist authorities oppressed those who fought for the truth. Among others Father Tadeusz Rusek and Father Leon Musielak (a Kozelsk prisoner) were sent to prison from three to five years.

In the 1970s the Soviet Union began to publicise a war-crime against civilians in the Belarusian village of Khatyn which had been burned down by the Germans in 1943. Khatyn was chosen from among many locations affected by war-time atrocities as its pronunciation resembled Katyn. A complex of monuments marking the crime in Khatyn was built where the village had stood; foreign heads of state visiting the USSR including the US President Richard Nixon were invited to lay flowers there. This manipulation was supposed to erase the memory of the Katyn killings and link any similar massacre to the Germans.

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By contrast the memory of victims of the Katyn Massacre was preserved by Polish émigrés and the Polish government in exile. In the early 1950s the Polish community in the United States supported the world’s first Katyn monument at St Adalbert’s Church in Detroit. Monuments and plaques were erected in London, Paris, Toronto, Rome, Melbourne and Johannesburg. In the West the writings of such authors as Janusz K. Zawodny, Jozef Mackiewicz, Zdzislaw Stahl and Jozef Czapski reminded the world of the murdered POWs and demanded the truth.

In Poland the “official” memory was challenged by the “unofficial” version. Plaques dedicated to the victims of the Katyn Massacre were placed in churches. Names of those murdered were engraved on family tombs.

Memory of Katyn motivated the democratic opposition in communist Poland. Despite harassment by the communist secret police, the opposition distributed books, calendars, leaflets, brochures, posters, stamps and postcards commemorating the victims. In 1978 a group of independent researchers including Adam Macedonski, Andrzej Kostrzewski and Stanislaw Tor established an underground Katyn Institute in Krakow; it published the Katyn Bulletin and other literature on the Massacre.

In one especially tragic act of protest at the communist authorities’ silencing  of the facts of the Katyn Massacre, on Krakow square on 21 March 1980 former Home Army soldier and retired baker Walenty Badylak set himself alight and died.

On the initiative of Father Stefan Niedzielak, Stefan Melak, Andrzej Szomanski and Marian Jeznach and the leading historian specialising in the Katyn affair, Professor Jerzy Lojek, a monument - the Katyn Cross - was erected on 31 July 1981 at the Powazki Military Cemetery in Warsaw. It bore the date of the Massacre: 1940. Repeatedly destroyed by the Security Service and re-built, the monument symbolised Poland’s fight for the truth. Father Niedzielak, chaplain of the Katyn Families, was murdered on the night of 19/20 January 1989. His killers have not been identified.

In October 1989 a group of researchers on the Katyn Massacre (Andrzej Chmielarz, Jerzy Jackl, Stanislaw Maria Jankowski, Andrzej Kunert, Bozena Lojek, Adam Macedonski, Marek Tarczynski, Jacek Trznadel, Jedrzej Tucholski and Wojciech Ziembinski) established the Historical Committee for the Investigation of the Katyn Massacre in Poland. The Committee and the Polish Katyn Foundation has published the Katyn Notebooks containing scholarly articles and source material on the Massacre.

Diaries and memoirs found during the German exhumations in the Katyn Forest are invaluable sources on Polish prisoners of war in Kozelsk. All entries end abruptly in late April and early May 1940, evidence that confirms the killings were carried out by the Soviets. Equally valuable are memoirs of prisoners of war who survived Kozelsk, including Professor Stanislaw Swianiewicz and Professor Zdzislaw Peszkowski.

The Truth At Last

The decline of the Soviet Union opened an opportunity for Moscow to reveal the truth about the Katyn Massacre.

On 13 April 1990 in Moscow Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev handed over selected documents on the Katyn Massacre to Polish President Wojciech Jaruzelski. The TASS press agency issued a statement that responsibility for the Katyn Massacre lay with “Beria, Merkulov and their helpers” and that “the Soviet side, expressing its regret over the Katyn tragedy, declaring it to be one of the grave crimes of Stalinism.”

The USSR Supreme Military Prosecutor’s Office revealed the burial ground of the Starobelsk POWs in Kharkiv (Pyatikhatki) and the Ostashkov POWs in Mednoe. In 1991 first Polish-Soviet exhumation works were carried out at those sites, uncovering remains of Polish officers and policemen murdered by the NKVD in 1940.

After the USSR dissolved, the Polish side continued to press Moscow to declassify and publish all documents concerning Katyn.

On 14 October 1992 special envoy of Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin and head of the Russian Archives Professor Rudolf Pikhoya handed photocopied documents from the so-called “closed package no. 1” to President Lech Walesa in Warsaw. The package contained documents recording the decision of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union dated 5 March 1940 to execute the Polish POWs and prisoners from Western Ukraine and Western Belarus, and its implementation under orders issued by NKVD head Beria. During his visit to Poland in 1993, Boris Yeltsin laid flowers at the Katyn Cross at the Powazki Cemetery in Warsaw.

On 5 May 1994 General Andriy Khomich (Deputy Head of the Ukraine Security Service), handed the Polish authorities a list of prisoners murdered on the territory of Soviet Ukraine as part of the Katyn Massacre (the “Ukrainian list”).

Subsequent agreements signed with the authorities of Russia and Ukraine enabled further exhumations in Katyn and Mednoe (1994/95), and Kharkiv (1994/96).

The names of prisoners murdered in Soviet Belarus have still not been made public. These Polish citizens were probably murdered in Minsk and buried in the Kuropaty nature reserve.

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As soon as the truth about the Katyn Massacre was officially revealed, planning began for a  dignified memorial to the victims. The Katyn families themselves shaped Poland’s work to build Polish war cemeteries at the sites of the massacres and organise proper burials of the victims’ bodies.

As a result of drilling and excavation in the Katyn Forest, all the graves constructed in 1943 by the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross were found and all the death pits were uncovered. These works proved beyond doubt that the bodies buried near the Katyn Memorial were the remains of Polish officers murdered by the NKVD in the spring of 1940.

On 31 August 1995 bone remains from the death pits were buried in the Polish Red Cross cemetery. In the presence of family members of General Smorawinski, Father Zdzislaw Peszkowski, a delegation from the Katyn Families and the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites (ROPWiM), a second funeral of the Katyn generals took place on 7 September.

Since individual graves in Katyn, Mednoe and Kharkiv were impossible, a decision was made to build military necropolises with collective graves. The only exceptions were the graves of two generals from Katyn: Mieczyslaw Smorawinski and Bronislaw Bohaterewicz.

ROPWiM and its Secretary General Andrzej Przewoznik played a key role in establishing the Katyn cemeteries and preserving the memory of the Katyn Massacre. Following a competition for a design of the memorial area, the proposal submitted by sculptors Zdzislaw Pidek and Andrzej Solyga was selected

Sixty years after the Massacre in 2000, three Katyn cemeteries were consecrated at the burial sites in Kharkiv, Katyn and Mednoe.

On 21 September 2012 a fourth Polish War Cemetery was opened in Kyiv-Bykovnia after it was proved that this was the burial place for bodies of Katyn Massacre victims on the “Ukrainian list” who had been murdered in different prisons.

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Since November 2004 Poland’s investigation into the Katyn Massacre has been conducted by the Institute of National Remembrance. The Institute treats the killings as a war crime and a crime against humanity that are not subject to statutory limitation.

On 14 November 2007 the Polish Parliament established 13 April as the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Katyn Massacre.

Based on: Katyn. In the Footsteps of the Crime: Kozelsk — Smolensk — Gnezdovo — Katyn Forest by J. Rogoża and M. Wyrwa, Centrum Polsko-Rosyjskiego Dialogu i Porozumienia, Warszawa 2019.