The documentary film, A Forgotten Odyssey, describes the invasion of Poland by the Soviet Union on September 17, 1939 and the consequences of that invasion.
The truth is, the odyssey of the Polish people after the Soviet occupation was not forgotten. It was hushed up by the West.
Warsaw Memorial to the Villages Overrun by the Soviets
As the Soviets rounded up the officers of the Polish military to be later executed in the Katyn Forest Massacre, 1.7 million Polish citizens including the families of the officers, shopkeepers, and even entire villages that resisted Soviet authority were herded onto cattle trains and sent to Siberia, Kazakhstan, and remote regions of Russia.
The people were packed into train cars with a nothing but a cast iron stove in the middle of the car. Food and water were infrequently offered, and no lavatory facilities were available. To relieve their bladders and their bowels, they were provided only with a small hole in the floor of the train car.
One survivor recalled that her grandmother became ill on the trip. No medical attention was provided and her grandmother died. Their captors tossed the body of her grandmother into a ditch and the train moved on.
When the captives reached their various destinations, they were put to work at hard labor, still without adequate food, water, or medical care. In at least some cases, the captives had to kill wild animals on the steppes. But in a hostile environment wild game was scarce; some of the captives were reduced to catching steppe rats for food. One man recalled that he was assigned to work in the bitter cold at night, and that to stay warm he would splash water on his clothes. The water would freeze almost immediately into a hard shell, and the icy shell helped keep him warm.
After the Germans betrayed the Soviets and invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Britain convinced the Soviets to offer amnesty to the Poles and allow them to form a Polish Army to fight Hitler. The Soviets allowed a number of the Poles to travel to Iran where the Allied forces were moving war supplies to the Eastern Front. The difficult journey to Iran through inhospitable territory may have been the greatest trial the refugees had yet faced. By the time the Poles reached Iran, they were starving, but they were generously received and fed by the American and British soldiers there. They were not, however, allowed to speak of their treatment at the hands of the Soviets, lest they offend the Soviet Union, the new ally of America and Britain.
On the Railroad Ties are the Names of the Villages Overrun by the Soviets
Many of the Polish refugees who reached Iran entered the military service to fight alongside the Allies, not realizing that the Allies had already agreed to turn the eastern half of Poland over to the Soviet Union. At the conclusion of the war, these soldiers found they had won the war, but had lost their home. Over 110,000 of them and their families emigrated to England, and the rest relocated to other parts of the world.
Of the 1.7 million Poles sent to the work camps in the Soviet Union, only about 500,000 are known to have survived. Many of the survivors tried to forget these horrible years and later in life refused to talk about the experience at all. In all, over 6 million Poles died during World War II at the hands of the Germans or the Soviets.