In February 1945, the Big Three, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met in the Russian Crimea
to conclude discussions concerning several issues including the question of Poland's eastern
border, the establishment of a Polish Provisional Government, and the holding of free and
democratic elections at the close of the war.
The agreement reached at Yalta was heavily promoted by the Allies as a great success, and was met with euphoria in
the western world as a sign of international peace to come. But for the Polish regiments which had fought in the
Battles of Dresden, and Monte Cassino it had come as a crushing blow. They had just liberated the cities of
Piedimonte, Ancona, and Bologna, but tragically lost their homeland to the Soviets. Everywhere the Poles went,
Italians showered them with flowers and adoration shouting, "Viva Polonia! “ The reality was heartbreaking.
Throughout the Conference at Yalta, and talks leading up to it, neither Churchill nor Roosevelt bothered to inform
Polish Prime Minister Mikolajczyk that they had ceded Poland over to Stalin. Since that fateful day, Churchill had
been putting enormous pressure on Mikolajczyk in a desperate attempt to get him to accept Soviet demands although
unbeknownst to him it was already fait accompli. It caused considerable embarassment and annoyance to Churchill
that the Prime Minister made continuous demands for the protection of the Poland's eastern border. Aware of the
situation, the Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov spilled the beans to put an end to the wrangling. Churchill was
infuriated at being exposed in this way, and in an emotional rebuttal refused to accept responsibility claiming that
Britain and the US were also victims of Soviet chicanery.
(That an imperial power succumbed to such naivete is nonsense. This conspiracy of secrecy had been long in the
making.) Barely a week after Warsaw's capitulation, President Roosevelt invited several members of the Polish
American Congress to the White House. It was a photo opportunity that smacked of propaganda. Behind where
Roosevelt was seated, was a large map of Poland clearly illustrating the demarcation of its eastern border along the
Riga Line rather than the Curzon Line, so coveted by Stalin. Without saying a word, Roosevelt used this ploy to
deceive everyone into believing that the US supported Poland's border claims. In his discussion with Charles
Rozmarek, President of the Polish American Congress, Roosevelt promised that Poland would be treated fairly at the
peace conference. In seeking re-election, Roosevelt did not want to alienate the large Polish American electorate.
With his affable charm, and conniving deception, he won their confidence, and in November 1944 was re-elected to a
fourth term in office.
Churchill tried to dodge questions about Russia's trustworthiness, and expressed his confidence that Stalin would
respect the terms of the Yalta Agreement. He stated, " I know of no government which stands to its obligations more
solidly than the Russian Soviet government." . But three months after the Yalta Conference, the Russian government
already reneged on its agreement. The NKVD had embarked on a massive manhunt for the members of the Polish
Home Army. They were arrested, tortured, and hanged. Thousands more Poles were deported to the Russian gulag.
Polish troops which had helped the Red Army drive the Germans out of Lwow, Wilno, and Lublin, were repaid for their
efforts by execution. Among those arrested were sixteen prominent leaders of the Polish Underground. The Polish
government was aware that their disappearance was linked directly to British interference. The British Foreign
Minister, Anthony Eden convinced the Polish government to give him a list containing the names of all the Polish
Underground leaders. In turn, he surrendered the list to Stalin, with a warning that should any of the Poles be
harmed, Russia would be severely reprimanded. With this list, the NKVD was able to track down each member, and
invited them to a meeting to discuss the future of a coalition between the Red Army and the Polish Underground. The
sixteen men were never seen or heard from again. All enquiries made by the Prime Minister Mikolajczyk concerning
their whereabouts were met with typical Soviet evasion and lies. At the opening of the UN Conference
in San Francisco in April 1945, which was boycotted by the Soviet government, Molotov arrived in a show of
belligerence and openly declared that the sixteen who had disappeared had in fact been arrested by the Soviet
government. And then he promptly stormed out of the building with his entourage.
The ensuing public criticism over British and American mishandling of the entire debacle was deftly handled by
Roosevelt and Churchill. Roosevelt did a spin on the Yalta agreement, emphasizing that it supported the principles
outlined in the Atlantic Charter (Sept 1941), and which had been signed by the Russian government. Churchill
resorted to his usual rhetoric and grand eloquence in an effort to placate an angry House of Commons. Shrewd
politician that he was, he introduced the subject for debate in the Commons. To his surprise, a motion was called for a
vote of confidence. Unphased, Churchill worded the question in such a way that to have voted against it would have
charged the House of Commons with disloyalty to the British nation and a lack of patriotism. Not surprisingly, it
resulted in a unanimous vote for Churchill.
In a blistering speech in the Commons, MP Dunglass denounced Churchill for the "transfer to another power the
territory of an ally. " and that Churchill failed to permit the Polish government to have " the full right to choose their
own government free from the influence of any other power. " The following day twenty-five MP's who opposed the
Yalta agreement introduced an amendment to the vote of confidence. The amendment was defeated by 385 votes it
was supported by only 25 votes, while 11 abstained.
The Soviet government promised to hold general elections in Poland but adamantly refused to allow the presence of
British and American observers. Stalin assured them that the election would be conducted democratically. The
subsequent installation of a Polish government was not one chosen by the Polish people, but by Stalin himself.
Neither did he allow equal representation of Polish officials from other areas, as was stipulated in the Yalta
agreement. On November 24 1945, Prime Minister Mikolajczyk had no choice but to resign. In his place, the Soviets
appointed Tomasz Arciszewski, head of Poland's Socialist Party. On July 5, the British and US governments formally
recognised the Provisional Government and withdrew recognition from the legal Polish government-in-exile, in London.
With the British economy in shambles, the public and the government showed little if any appreciation to the Poles for
their sacrifices in the war, especially for their part in winning the Battle of Britain. Attlee, who replaced Churchill as
Prime Minister stated emphatically that "everything should be done to ensure that as few Poles remain in...[England].”
The presence of the Poles had become an embarassment to Britain who had betrayed it's most trustworthy and
valuable ally. Poles were subjected to vicious diatribes by the British public. A survey indicated that the British
wanted the Poles to repatriate. The British government used propaganda to impress upon the Poles how bad their
future would be in England if they remained. The Atlee government ordered all Polish military personnel to return to
Poland. If not, there was no guarantee they would be allowed to stay in England. The Poles could not return to
Poland, now under Soviet domination. Many who had already repatriated were immediately arrested and deported to
Siberia. Less than 20 % of Polish military (approximately 30,000) returned to Poland. The remainder chose to live in
Britain, or other western nations. In the meantime, the British government set up a Polish Resettlement Corps to help
the Polish soldiers find work.