The 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade

(1 Samodzielna Brygada Spadochronowa)

1919 - Reclaiming Grodno Governorate

Polands Reclamation Of The Kresy Region

Remembering that in the 3rd partition the Grodno Governorate was created and controlled by Russia, in World War 1 the "Grodno Governoratebecame occupied by Germany (although it belonged to Russia) with the Polish citizens being persecuted by the Germans who were essentially "tenants" on land belonging to Russia.

At the end of World War 1 the Belarusian National Republic became independent from Russia. This lead to a Polish-Soviet war from 1919-1921. This war came to an end when the "Peace Treaty of Riga" came into effect at which point the region came to be known as the "Second Polish Republic" with Poland claiming rights to this region having won the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-1921.

Again, in simple terms, Polands reclaiming the Grodno Governate AKA Kresy region from Russia (as a result of Russia's war with Poland when Poland was fighting to protect land in which Poles, Lithuanians, Belarussians, Tartars and German colonists lived) was simply Poland attempting to re-establish old borders..

The Osadniks

In 1921 Poland  then rewarded Polish soldiers who had fought in World War 1 for Poland. They were given (sometimes sold) land in the "Kresy Region" which is currently western Belarus and western Ukraine. Roughly this equated to 20 hectares each. These people were called Osadniks meaning "Colonists" or "Settlers".

This must have hurt Russia's pride, to know that Poland had rewarded Polish soldiers with land that Russia had formerly regarded as its own.

This is a very simple view of the history of the region but one which helps us understand the backdrop of 1939.

The important point to take from this is that land that had originally belonged to Poland had been seized by Russia with Russia allowing the Germans to occupy it following which Poland reclaimed the land after World War 1.

You can imagine that both Germany and Russia were rather miffed at this and the contention must have started brewing at this point. It would take 20 years of this brewing before Russia would come back and invade the area in an attempt to re-seize Grodno Governorate (Kresy region) back for itself.

In A Nutshell - Everything Pre Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

  • From the outset Poland was an internally governed country, it did not belong to Russia or Germany, in part or in full.
  • Polands borders have been ever changing and the subject of frequent forcible seizure by Germany (Prussia) & Russia
  • Germany & Russia have a history of making pacts and then double crossing each other as well as 3rd parties
  • Russia, Germany, Austria and others have no valid claim over Polands original territories yet frequently use these lands as bargaining pawns.
  • When we see this backdrop in the lead-up to 1939, we begin to understand more about what was behind the rationale of Germany and Russia brokering a deal under the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement to divide Poland amongst themselves. We also more understand Hitlers wish to exterminate the Poles and Stalins equivalent to this being death by hard labour in Soviet Gulags.

Understanding the history of Polands formation and it's struggle to survive up to 1939 leads us nicely on to the next part: The Molotov-Ribentrop Agreement.