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To the families of victims of the World War II

Auschwitz II - Birkenau

On 75. on the anniversary of the liberation of auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the Vice-President of Poland YWCA Alina Kozińska-Bałdyga addressed the families of all the victims of World War II.

Auschwitz II - Birkenau

I am writing this letter to all families of World War II victims on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp on January 27, 2020. Auschwitz is one of many horrible symbols of this war. The war began on September 1, 1939, when German troops attacked Poland. Then on September 17, Russian troops joined them entering Poland from the east. The symbol of their aggression is Katyn.

The fact that the January 21-22 commemorations in Israel took place with the participation of the Russian leader, yet without the President of Poland, should be a very disturbing sign for all of us, ordinary people in Poland, Russia, Israel, in other European countries, as well as in the USA, Canada and all over the world.

This situation means that politicians still use history to divide people. By giving speeches, they want to teach us hatred, manage our emotions. Why do they do that? Do they want us to listen to them again and be ready to go killing whenever they tell us to?

1.3 million people died in Auschwitz. One of them was my uncle - my mother's brother, Jacek. He was a scout of the Gray Ranks. He was caught during a small sabotage action: on the wall of a cinema he wrote the "only swine watch the German line" slogan. He was 14 years old then and three years later, having spent his youth in a concentration camp. My grandmother carried a deep wound in her heart for the rest of her long life. In memory of her brother, my mother christened her son Jacek, too.

My grandfather Stanisław died in Katyn. He was a legionnaire, a geographer. I remember when my son over half a century after the Katyn massacre told me: "You know, mother, I think that the most terrible thing for grandfather Stas when he was being killed was not that he would die, but that his hands were tied and he would not die like a soldier should". Recently I talked to my mother. She survived both the Pawiak prison and Ravensbrück camp. She is 97 years old and has vivid dreams. She told me, that the boy who killed Grandpa Staś was young himself. He killed because he was very hungry and was promised the bread. But he was not given bread anyway, and after killing many others he finally committed suicide.

4.5 thousand Polish officers died in Katyn alone, in Ostaszków, Kozielsk, Starobielsk the Russians killed another several thousand. Katyn is a symbol. My brother Jacek once told me: "You know, so many were daily transported to Treblinka from the Warsaw Ghetto. And you don't talk about Treblinka."

Poland lost 6 million citizens. Russia has lost 23 million. There are many families who are still experiencing the trauma of war not only in Poland, but also in Russia, Ukraine, Germany or other parts of Europe and the world. This trauma remains stuck in memory and in genes for subsequent generations – that’s the way it is. There are also families who did not survive the war at all, since all their members were killed. Just go to the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw to realize how many people are not even mentioned by anybody anymore.

When I visited the Jewish Historical Institute, in the records collected in the Emanuel Ringelblum Archive I noticed a line by a young mother, painfully aware that nobody would ever know that her daughter existed at all.

We are all victims of the war. Warsaw is a city of two terrible uprisings - one in 1943 and one in 1944. That is why Warsaw should always cry for peace. There is no just war, only peace is just. My dream is Europe united all the way to the Urals, a Europe in which we will stop fearing neither Germany nor Russia.

It is time for us ordinary people to clearly tell the politicians: we want peace. Speak the words of forgiveness and reconciliation, unite, not divide. And take care of saving lives on our planet. Only united, acting in solidarity, we will be able to face the great challenges of the future.

Warsaw, Jan. 27th, 2020      Alina Kozińska-Bałdyga, Vice-President of Polish YWCA