The enormous fortress in Olsztyn is just one of 25 medieval castles in the so called Trail of the Eagles’ Nests. The castles were guarding the 14th century border between Poland and Silesia (at that time a part of Czech Kingdom of Bohemia).
The Katyń Massacre (zbrodnia katyńska) “…was a mass execution of Polish nationals carried out by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the Soviet secret police, in April and May 1940. The massacre was prompted by Lavrentiy Beria’s proposal to execute all members of the Polish Officer Corps, dated 5 March 1940. This official document was approved and signed by the Soviet Politburo, including its leader, Joseph Stalin. The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000, with 21,768 being a lower limit. The victims were murdered in the Katyń Forest in Russia, the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons and elsewhere. Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, with the rest being Polish intelligentsia arrested for allegedly being ‘intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials and priests’.
The government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the Katyń Forest in 1943. When the London-based Polish government-in-exile asked for an investigation by the International Red Cross, Stalin immediately severed diplomatic relations with it. The Soviet Union claimed the victims had been murdered by the Nazis, and continued to deny responsibility for the massacres until 1990, when it officially acknowledged and condemned the perpetration of the killings by the NKVD, as well as the subsequent cover-up by the Soviet, British, and American governments.” (source)
On March 21st, 1980, a retired baker and veteran of the Home Army, Walenty Badylak, self-immolated in protest of the Soviet cover-up of the Katyń massacre. Badylak chained himself to a water pump in Kraków’s Main Square, doused himself with gasoline, and set himself on fire. Badylak’s death was only reported in local press and dubbed as an act of a mentally ill retiree. Badylak’s rightful outrage was aimed at Polish officials who, under Soviet control, aided in covering up one of the greatest atrocities of the Soviet regime. (source)
A memorial plaque where Walenty Badylak perished reads: In this place on the day of 21st of March 1980 Walenty Badylak a soldier of the Home Army committed an act of self-immolation in protest of the demoralization of youth, the destruction of work and against the conspiracy of silence around the crime carried out against Polish officers in Katyń by Communist-Bolshevik murderers. He couldn’t live among the lies, he died for the truth.
One of the worst things was that most of the victims weren’t even aware of their fate. That was because the transportations to Katyń were announced as a “standard” procedure of deportations that the Soviets were executing for decades before [and after… read about Gulags - Siberian camps]. Imagine all the families hoping that their men will eventually make it back from Siberia! From what I read so far Mr Badylak is indeed the only known survivor of the massacre itself, but tens of soldiers actually escaped from conveyances, including my grandfather, in order to rove back and defeat their homeland from the underground… only later to discover what IN FACT did they escape from.
After the war Poland was left with terrible deficiencies in “intelligence” positions, such as the mentioned officials, lawyers, also university professors, scientists etc [plenty of them were actually transported to Gulags] - and the Soviets easily took advantages of that situation. During the first years after the war my home town [as most of the Polish towns or smaller cities] was ruled by a simple man who couldn’t even read or write AT ALL - a convenient puppet in the hands of newly established socialistic government.
Teach the children about death, teach them about the ancestors.
In Poland we don’t celebrate Halloween. Our tradition is to gather at relatives’ graves during the days of All Saints [1st Nov] and All Souls [2nd Nov]. We light candles praying for their peace - it illuminates the cementeries in truly an exceptional way. The graveyards are full of contemplative people whispering tenderly between the graves, telling their children stories of their forefathers, the candles heat up the autumnal air that smells of the flaming wax and withering nature… the atmosphere has no comparison.
All Souls Day in Poland is also called Zaduszki [literally: for the souls/spirits] and it commemorates the old-Slavic festival Dziady [the word means grandfathers, forefathers or just old men] - our ancestors prayed for those who couldn’t find the way to the Nawia, mythological land of the dead [x]