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by: Giedre Mileryte
Stalin’s regime left a deep scar in the memories of Lithuanians and Poles in emigration and brought about a change in their geopolitical imagination. In the real threat, Lithuanian-Polish relations were reviewed anew. Concentration camps and massive murders - the signs of Stalin policy - caused disagreements and mutual offenses to be forgotten. After very strong hostility, mistakes were rethought, which was followed by the attempt to cooperate for expressing the common painful experiences to the world. While trying to form their identities anew, both Lithuanian and Polish emigrants were trying to show to the world what was happening in their homelands beyond the Iron Curtain. Speaking publicly about these things to the West became their only form of fighting. By analyzing the case of Lithuanian-Polish relationship in emigration, this article shows how Stalinism was manifested in Soviet foreign policy and demonstrates how this policy caused and even determined the political imagination of its neighbors in the West, the Poles and the Lithuanians. While this geopolitical imagination could not be legally achieved in occupied Lithuania and Poland, a Soviet satellite state, émigrés in the West were undoubtedly thinking about a different outcome for their countries. If Stalinism is mainly described by showing the behavior with its own society, does that mean that it is also revealed by specific shapes in the exterior? Occupied Lithuania and satellite state Poland could not consider that legally but emigrants in the West were thinking about that undoubtedly.
The period between the two world wars (1918-1939) was marked by a deep mistrust and hostility in Lithuanian-Polish relationship. 1920 Polish troops occupied Vilnius. The „liberation“ of Vilnius became a common national mission. When Germany attacked Poland, Polish political circles started emigrating to the West immediately. In 1939 the government was formed in emigration, in Paris [latter in London], headed by Władisław Sikorski. After two weeks, the troops of the Soviet Union invaded the Eastern part of Poland the question about Vilnius appeared in the international arena again. The Soviet Union offered to return Vilnius to Lithuania for allowing military garrisons to enter the country. Lithuania signed the agreement. Despite Polish dissatisfaction, the joy of Lithuanians was huge but 1940 Lithuania was occupied.
After the War Lithuania regained Vilnius, but became a part of Soviet Union. The emigrants from both countries were not satisfied with the present conditions. In various conversations, the diplomats of both countries exchanged opinions and agreed that cooperation is the only condition of a better future. The ideas about Central East Europe federation were reborn. However, the possibilities of agreement were complicated by the fact that Lithuanian emigrants were very heterogeneous. The Polish emigrants were bigger in number and also faced these difficulties. The Polish emigration was subdivided into „impregnable“ London and an open for contact with the country and a more sophisticated „Kultura“ monthly magazine edited by Jerzy Giedroyc. The war and the situation of Europe after it emphasized the lack of strategy in creating a clear relationship between the Polish and their Eastern neighbors. J. Giedroyć imagined that the mission of „Kultura“ was to break various stereotypes, to contemplate the past, to learn from it. He understood that only after accepting the present territorial changes, Poland be able to form normal contact with neighbors. All the activities of J. Giedroyć showed that he learned from history and tried not to repeat mistakes of interwar period. He understood that territorial conflicts destroy the safety of the whole region, and started to educate the new Polish generation.
Polish-Lithuanian relations; emigration; soviet foreign policy
Time stamp: 201205151239