- July 13, 2011
Commemoration of the 67th Anniversary of the “Ostra Brama” Operation
On Wednesday, as every year, Poles in Lithuania commemorated another anniversary of the ”Ostra Brama” Operation, which chief aim was to liberate Vilnius from German occupation.
This operation was conducted as part of a Polish national uprising, Operation Tempest. It started on July 7, 1944, and in six days soldiers from the Polish Home Army (AK) liberated the city and flew the white-red flag on Gediminas’ Tower. However, in a few hours the flag was torn and replaced with a red flag, brought by soldiers of the Red Army, who in the process made Vilnius and whole Lithuania a “brother” country of the Soviet Union for long decades.
”We have gathered here in our Vilnius Monte Cassino and we wish to pray for those who gave their lives for our better life, that we now have.” – said Rev. Kazimierz Gwozdowicz, inaugurating the open-air mass for the fallen Polish Home Army soldiers, who died near Krawczuny. Here, on Wednesday, Vilnius Poles and guests from Poland for the 22nd time honoured the heroes who died in fight for Vilnius against Hitler’s forces. Unfortunately, because of the growing anti-Polish feelings in Lithuania, for the first time in years Lithuanian nationalists tried to disrupt the ceremony.
A small group of nationalists, led by Julius Panka, picketed the Wednesday’s ceremony. They held posters with slogans slandering Polish Home Army, amongst others reproaching it for tragedy in Dubinki, a town which Polish Home Army troops pacified in revenge for incident in Glinciszki village, where Lithuanian policemen had butchered Poles collaborating with Germans.
After the ceremony some Poles, including former Home Army soldier, Stanisław Tarasiewicz, tried to explain to nationalists that they accept false history and thus dishonour Lithuania.
“I did not kill any Lithuanian because the Home Army did not fight against Lithuania. We fought against German collaborators” – Stanisław Tarasiewicz said, however, this and all his other arguments were ignored.
“Oh well, there’s no cure for chauvinism, and the best response to stupidity is silence” – the old comrade said walking away from picketing neo-fascists.
Julius Panka, the organizer of the annual neo-fascist marches that take place on March 11th, wasn’t bothered by the “history lesson” of Polish former soldier. He was only upset that he had found out about the anniversary ceremony just a few hours before it started and was not able to gather his adherents to picket the celebrations in Krawczuny.
“Had we known it earlier, we would have come here in greater numbers” – Julis Panka said trying to outshout the Member of the European Parliament and the leader of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania Waldemar Tomaszewski, who at that moment was giving speech at the ceremony.
“None of this land residents dishounoured themselves by collaboration with Germans. Unfortunately, our brothers in faith who live here today did collaborate with Hitlerian invaders. We know the truth about the Ponary massacre and other similar incidents, may God judge them for this. We cannot let the collaborators and post-fascist forces distort the history” – eurodeputy Waldemar Tomaszewski said to the assembled company. He also talked about the Glinciszki massacre.
“We know about this tragedy (Editorial Note: Glinciszki massacre) not from pseudo-historical studies or Soviet archives, but from a direct contact with our families and our friends who were affected by these matters. This is what the media should talk about today” – said Waldemar Tomaszewski and he mentioned also the incident in Dubinki. He stressed that the Dubinki operation was at odds with the Christian beliefs of that day’s Home Army commanders and was later condemned by them.
“We can condemn it as well” – said Tomaszewki. He added that it had to be also remembered that in the Dubinki massacre along with the Lithuanian collaborators who settled in until then Polish village also local Poles were killed.
The eurodeputy noticed that the commemoration of the next anniversary would probably be presented in Lithuanian media in negatively. He appealed to the gathered not to be discouraged by the growing anti-Polish smear campaign in Lithuania.
“The place and the date of the Krawczuny ceremony have not changed for years, thus in a year we will gather here again.” – said the leader of EAPL.
At the end of the ceremony the gathered sang: ”We won’t forsake the land we came from… .”
OPERATION ”OSTRA BRAMA”
Operation ”Ostra Brama” – an armed operation initiated by the troops of Polish Home Army (AK), on 7 July 1944, as part of a Polish national uprising, Operation Tempest. It was aimed at AK’s independent liberation of Vilnius from German occupying forces. According to the Operation Tempest assumptions the AK was to act as the host of the land towards the Red Army. The framework of the operation was created in March, 1944 by the Vilnius County staff – it assumed that the city was liberated by joint forces of Vilnius and Nowogród Home Army districts.
The operation started at night on July 6, 1944.
Apart from 17 thousand-strong infantry and artillery detachments, Germans also used armoured and air force units. Vilnius and Nowogród AK districts mustered around 10 thousand soldiers, only infantry and artillery divisions. Despite the fact that Germans had military advantage over Poles, AK forces managed to liberate major part of Vilnius. After a week of fights, on 13 July, the AK soldiers flew white-red flag on the Castle Mountain. It only remained there for a few hours. The Red Army soldiers torn it and replaced it with their red flag. Then, they disarmed the AK commanders and soldiers, majority of them was taken prisoner or sent to Siberia.
*Caption under the picture: Polish Home Army ex-soldier Janusz Bohdanowicz tried to talk to Lithuanian nationalists picketing the ceremony – but with no effect. Photo: Stanisław Tarasiewicz
Tłumaczenie Eliza Łuszczewska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu Translated by Eliza Łuszczewska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu
Korekta Magdalena Jez w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu Corrected by Magdalena Jez, as a part of vocational training in the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu