A report on Operation Vistula

UPA members caught by soldiers of the Polish Army
The city of Bukowsko burned down by the UPA in 1946
Monument to Polish soldiers killed by UPA in Jasiel, south-eastern Poland, in 1946
Signature page of Polish-Ukrainian repatriation agreement signed by Khrushchev, 1944
Resettlement of Ukrainians in 1947
Lemko house in Nowica
Inscription in Polish and Ukrainian at a church in Beskid Niski, Poland: "In memory of those expelled from Lemkivshchyna, on the 50th anniversary of Operation Vistula, 1947–1997"

Codename for the 1947 forced resettlement of 150,000 Ukrainians(Boykos and Lemkos) from the south-eastern provinces of post-war Poland, to the Recovered Territories in the west of the country.

- Operation Vistula
UPA members caught by soldiers of the Polish Army

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Monument commemorating the deportation of Lemkos. Peremozhne, Luhansk region (Ukraine)

Lemkos

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Ethnic group inhabiting the Lemko Region (Лемківщина) of Carpathian Rus', an ethnographic region in the Carpathian Mountains and foothills spanning Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland.

Ethnic group inhabiting the Lemko Region (Лемківщина) of Carpathian Rus', an ethnographic region in the Carpathian Mountains and foothills spanning Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland.

Monument commemorating the deportation of Lemkos. Peremozhne, Luhansk region (Ukraine)
Tablet inscription in Polish (left) and Ukrainian: "In memory of those expelled from the Lemko Region, on the 50th anniversary of Operation Vistula, 1947–1997."
Ukrainians in Poland, 2002. Note strong presence in the Recovered Territories in the north and west, due to forced resettlement during Operation Vistula.
Lemko open-air museum in Zyndranowa
Ethnographic groups of southeasternmost Poland, Lemkos in light blue.
Highlander groups of westernmost Ukraine, Lemkos in blue.
National map of languages (Outer Eastern Carpathians; Prešov Region; and Subcarpathian Voivodeship, 1876)
Prešov area Lemkos (left side) and Przemyśl area Ukrainians in traditional attire. Photo: Village Mokre near Sanok. 2007

Depopulation of these lands occurred during the forced resettlement, initially to the Soviet Union (about 90,000 people) and later to Poland's newly acquired western lands (about 35,000) in the Operation Vistula campaign of the late 1940s.

Map showing Poland's borders pre-1938 and post-1945. The Eastern Borderlands is in gray while the Recovered Territories are in pink.

Recovered Territories

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The Recovered Territories or Regained Lands (Ziemie Odzyskane), also known as Western Borderlands (Kresy Zachodnie), and previously as Western and Northern Territories (Ziemie Zachodnie i Północne), Postulated Territories (Ziemie Postulowane) and Returning Territories (Ziemie Powracające), are the former eastern territories of Germany and the Free City of Danzig that became part of Poland after World War II, at which time their former German inhabitants were forcibly deported.

The Recovered Territories or Regained Lands (Ziemie Odzyskane), also known as Western Borderlands (Kresy Zachodnie), and previously as Western and Northern Territories (Ziemie Zachodnie i Północne), Postulated Territories (Ziemie Postulowane) and Returning Territories (Ziemie Powracające), are the former eastern territories of Germany and the Free City of Danzig that became part of Poland after World War II, at which time their former German inhabitants were forcibly deported.

Map showing Poland's borders pre-1938 and post-1945. The Eastern Borderlands is in gray while the Recovered Territories are in pink.
Early Piast Poland at the death of Mieszko I in 992, who is considered as the first historical ruler of Poland and the creator of the Polish state, after his realm was recognized by the papacy.
Map (published in 1917 in the United States) showing Poland at the death of Boleslaw III in 1138
Polish nationalist propaganda from the 1930s: "Nie jestesmy tu od wczoraj. Sięgaliśmy daleko na zachód." (We are not here since yesterday. Once we reached far west.)
Location of the annexed part (orange) of the Province of Pomerania and of the other "Recovered Territories" (green)
Castle of the Dukes of Pomerania in Szczecin
Gdańsk was a principal seaport of Poland since the Middle Ages. From the mid-15th to the early 18th century it was the largest city of Poland. Lost by Poland in the Second Partition in 1793.
Location of the former Free City of Danzig (orange) and of the other "Recovered Territories" (green)
Location of East Brandenburg (orange) and of the other "Recovered Territories" (green)
A 19th-century map of Piast-ruled Greater Poland: Lubusz Land, stretched on both sides of the Oder, marked in yellow, northwestern parts of Greater Poland annexed by Brandenburg, marked in green
Location of Posen-West Prussia (orange) and of the other "Recovered Territories" (green)
Birthplace of Stanisław Staszic, a leading figure of Polish Enlightenment, in Piła (nowadays a museum)
Location of Silesia (orange) in the "Recovered Territories" (green)
Polish city names in Silesia; from a 1750 Prussian official document published in Berlin during the Silesian Wars.
Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights/Ducal Prussia as a feudal fief of the Polish Crown (1466–1657). Warmia was directly incorporated to the Polish state until the First Partition of Poland (1772)
Location of southern East Prussia (orange) and of the other "Recovered Territories" (green)
Władysław Gomułka (center), minister in the Polish People's Republic who oversaw the integration and development of the Recovered Territories between 1945 and 1948
US Department of State demographics map from 10 January 1945 Germany – Poland Proposed Territorial Changes
Piast Castle in Opole before its destruction by the local German authorities between 1928 and 1930
The former headquarters of the pre-war Polish newspaper Gazeta Olsztyńska in Olsztyn, destroyed under Nazi rule in 1939, rebuilt in 1989
Polish soldiers marking the new Polish-German border in 1945
The baroque interior of the Lubiąż abbey was removed and transferred to Stężyca, in eastern Poland in order to replace church stalls destroyed by the Germans.
Mămăligă is a dish which was very popular with Poles in East Galicia. People from these areas who resettled in the Recovered Territories brought this and other culinary traditions with them to their new homes.
"The 10th stage, Zgorzelec to Wrocław, leads you through primeval Polish lands." Photograph from the June 1955 Peace Race
Municipal House of Culture in Zgorzelec, place of signing of the Treaty of Zgorzelec in 1950
Boundary stones of Germany and Poland in the Ueckermünde Heath
Pre-1945 administrative division (yellow)
Projected Polish administration (Okreg I-IV) in March, 1945
Integration into the Voivodeships of Poland as of June, 1946
Present-day administrative division of Poland, Western and Northern Lands in dark green

The territories were resettled with Poles who moved from central Poland, Polish repatriates forced to leave areas of former eastern Poland that had been annexed by the Soviet Union, Poles freed from forced labour in Nazi Germany, with Ukrainians forcibly resettled under "Operation Vistula", and other minorities, which settled in post-war Poland, including Greeks and Macedonians.

Polish People's Republic

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Country in Central Europe that existed from 1947 to 1989 as the predecessor of the modern Republic of Poland.

Country in Central Europe that existed from 1947 to 1989 as the predecessor of the modern Republic of Poland.

The Polish People's Republic in 1989
Poland's fate was heavily discussed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Joseph Stalin, whose Red Army occupied the entire country, presented several alternatives which granted Poland industrialized territories in the west whilst the Red Army simultaneously permanently annexed Polish territories in the east, resulting in Poland losing over 20% of its pre-war borders - areas primarily inhabited by ethnic Belarusians or Ukrainians. Soviet-backed Polish communists came to power and oversaw the country's entry into the Warsaw Pact in 1955.
Border changes of Poland after World War II. The eastern territories (Kresy) were annexed by the Soviets. The western territories, referred to as the "Recovered Territories", were granted as war reparations. Despite the western lands being more industrialized, Poland lost 77,035 km2 (29,743 sq mi) and major cities like Lviv and Vilnius.
The 1970 Polish protests were put down by the Communist authorities and Citizens' Militia. The riots resulted in the deaths of 42 people and over 1,000 injured.
Queues waiting to enter grocery stores in Warsaw and other Polish cities and towns were typical in the late 1980s. The availability of food and goods varied at times, and the most sought after basic item was toilet paper.
The new Warszawa Centralna railway station in Warsaw had automatic doors and escalators. It was a flagship project during the 1970s economic boom and was dubbed the most modern station in Europe at the time of its completion in 1975.
Lech Wałęsa co-founded and headed the Solidarity movement which toppled Communism. He later became the President of Poland.
The 1980 Gdańsk Shipyard Strike and subsequent Summer 1981 Hunger Demonstrations were instrumental in strengthening the Solidarity movement's influence.
Logo of the Polish United Workers' Party
Władysław Gomułka and Leonid Brezhnev in East Berlin, 1967
An abandoned State Agricultural Farm in south-eastern Poland. State farms were a form of collective farming created in 1949.
Łódź was Poland's largest city after the destruction of Warsaw during World War II. It was also a major industrial centre in Europe and served as the temporary capital due to its economic significance in the 1940s.
Female textile workers in a state-run factory, Łódź, 1950s
Supersam Warsaw, the first self-serve shopping centre in Poland, 1969
Pewex, a chain of hard currency stores which sold unobtainable Western goods and items
Ration cards for sugar, 1977
Bar mleczny, a former milk bar in Gdynia. These canteens offered value meals to citizens throughout Communist Poland.
Trybuna Ludu (People's Tribune) was a government-sponsored newspaper and propaganda outlet
Andrzej Wajda was a key figure in Polish cinematography during and after the fall of communism
Allegory of communist censorship, Poland, 1989. Newspapers visible are from all Eastern Bloc countries including East Germany, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia
The 237-meter Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, constructed in 1955. At the time of its completion it was one of the tallest buildings in Europe
Smyk Department Store, 1960s
Polish university students during lecture, 1964
One of many schools constructed in central Warsaw in the 1960s
Jerzy Popiełuszko was a Roman Catholic priest who supported the anti-communist opposition. He was murdered by the Security Services "SB" of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
A demographics graph illustrating population growth between 1900 and 2010. The highest birth rate was during the Second Polish Republic and consequently under the Polish People's Republic.
A typical socialist apartment building in Warsaw representing the style of functionalism, built due to the ever-growing population and high birth rate at the time
Konstantin Rokossovsky, pictured in a Polish uniform, was Marshal of the Soviet Union and Marshal of Poland until being deposed during the Polish October in 1956.
Poland's old and new borders, 1945

Ukrainian and Belarusian minorities found themselves now mostly within the borders of the Soviet Union; those who opposed this new policy (like the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the Bieszczady Mountains region) were suppressed by the end of 1947 in the Operation Vistula.

Beginning of Lebensraum, the Nazi German expulsion of Poles from central Poland, 1939

Population transfer

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Movement of a large group of people from one region to another, often imposed by state policy or international authority and most frequently on the basis of ethnicity or religion but also due to economic development.

Movement of a large group of people from one region to another, often imposed by state policy or international authority and most frequently on the basis of ethnicity or religion but also due to economic development.

Beginning of Lebensraum, the Nazi German expulsion of Poles from central Poland, 1939
Forced removal under apartheid, Mogopa, Western Transvaal, South Africa, February 1984.
Map of land west of the River Shannon allocated to the native Irish after expulsion from their lands by the Act for the Settlement of Ireland 1652. Note that all offshore islands were "cleared of Irish" and a belt one mile wide around the coastline was reserved for English settlers.
Germans being deported from the Sudetenland in the aftermath of World War II
Greek refugees from Smyrna, 1922
The Jews were one of the many peoples forcibly mass deported by the Assyrians.

The second event occurred in 1947 under Operation Vistula.

Citroën Traction Avant, a car commonly used by the UB

Ministry of Public Security (Poland)

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The secret police, intelligence and counter-espionage agency operating in the Polish People's Republic.

The secret police, intelligence and counter-espionage agency operating in the Polish People's Republic.

Citroën Traction Avant, a car commonly used by the UB
The PKWN Manifesto, issued on 22 July 1944
Jakub Berman
Józef Światło, born Izaak Fleischfarb, defected to the West and spoke publicly of UB's brutal actions
Ministry office in Warsaw (current Ministry of Justice)
Office of Public Security regional location in Szczecin, Poland
Ministry of Public Security organization for 1953, (Organizacja Ministerstwa Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego na rok 1953, M Malinowski)
Ministry of Public Security field organization, 1953
Stamp of the Committee for Public Security, 1954–1956

Throughout its existence, the UB was responsible for imprisoning, torturing and murdering at least tens of thousands of political opponents and suspects as well as taking part in actions such as Operation Vistula in 1947.

Location of the Province of Pomerania (orange)

Former eastern territories of Germany

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The former eastern territories of Germany (Ehemalige deutsche Ostgebiete) refer in present-day Germany to those territories (provinces or regions) east of the current eastern border of Germany (the Oder–Neisse line) which historically had been considered German and which were annexed by Poland and the Soviet Union after World War II.

The former eastern territories of Germany (Ehemalige deutsche Ostgebiete) refer in present-day Germany to those territories (provinces or regions) east of the current eastern border of Germany (the Oder–Neisse line) which historically had been considered German and which were annexed by Poland and the Soviet Union after World War II.

Location of the Province of Pomerania (orange)
Location of East Brandenburg (orange)
Location of the Province of Silesia (orange)
Location of southern part of the Province of East Prussia (orange)
Map of Poland under Duke Mieszko I, whose conversion to Christianity and recognition by the papacy, marked the beginning of Polish statehood in 966 AD
German atlas from 1880 showing the spread of languages.
German territorial losses after the Treaty of Versailles
Map of Reichsgaue in 1941
Planning of occupation zone borders in Germany, 1944
Occupied Germany in 1947. Territories east of the Oder-Neisse line were annexed by Poland and the Soviet Union under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement.
Expellee memorial, showing the coat of arms of East Prussia, Danzig, West Prussia, Pomerania, Brandenburg (for East Brandenburg), Silesia, Upper Silesia, and the (originally Austrian) Sudetenland. Posen is not included. Historically, these coat of arms did not all exist at the same time.
Territory lost after World War I
Territory lost after World War II
Present-day Germany

At the same time, Poles from central Poland, expelled Poles from former eastern Poland, Polish returnees from internment and forced labour, Ukrainians forcibly resettled in Operation Vistula, and Jewish Holocaust survivors were settled in German territories gained by Poland, whereas the north of former East Prussia (Kaliningrad Oblast gained by the USSR) was turned into a military zone and subsequently settled with Russians.

Karol Świerczewski in 1946.

Karol Świerczewski

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Polish and Soviet Red Army general and statesman.

Polish and Soviet Red Army general and statesman.

Karol Świerczewski in 1946.
Michał Rola-Żymierski, Marian Spychalski and Karol Świerczewski (from left to right)
Świerczewski's monument near his place of death, in Bieszczady mountains. It has since been demolished.
Popular scientific conference on Karol Wacław Świerczewski in Stężnica in Gmina Baligród

Świerczewski's death was used as direct cause for the forcible expulsion of the Ukrainian civilian population in Operation Vistula from the territories in the South Eastern part of the post-war Poland to the Recovered Territories (Ziemie Odzyskane, areas of western Poland, which before the war had been part of Germany).

The Lemko dialect is sometimes considered a variety of the Ukrainian language, the Rusyn language, or separate from both. On the above map of Ukrainian dialects part of the region where Lemko was spoken is westernmost area in grey dotted with red diamonds, but the actual area extends far to the west and also to the south across the border with Slovakia.

Lemko Region

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Ethnographic area in southern Poland that has traditionally been inhabited by the Lemko people.

Ethnographic area in southern Poland that has traditionally been inhabited by the Lemko people.

The Lemko dialect is sometimes considered a variety of the Ukrainian language, the Rusyn language, or separate from both. On the above map of Ukrainian dialects part of the region where Lemko was spoken is westernmost area in grey dotted with red diamonds, but the actual area extends far to the west and also to the south across the border with Slovakia.
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Sanok area Lemkos in stylised highlander folk-costumes from the village of Mokre near Sanok, Poland
Tablet inscription in Polish (left) and Ukrainian: "In memory of those expelled from the Lemko Region, on the 50th anniversary of Operation Vistula, 1947–1997"

Most Lemkos in Poland were deported from their ancestral region as part of Operation Vistula in 1946, and only a small part of them remains there today, the rest being scattered across the Recovered Territories.

Kyivan Rus Foundation of St. Volodymyr in Kraków with courtyard patio of a fine dining restaurant

Ukrainians in Poland

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Ukrainians in Poland comprise of groups of various legal statuses: ethnic minority, temoporary and permanent residents, and refugees.

Ukrainians in Poland comprise of groups of various legal statuses: ethnic minority, temoporary and permanent residents, and refugees.

Kyivan Rus Foundation of St. Volodymyr in Kraków with courtyard patio of a fine dining restaurant
Speakers of minority languages based on Polish census of 1931
Ukrainian and Ruthenian language in the Second Polish Republic

The Polish People's Army and Ministry of Public Security forcibly relocated them to northern and western Poland during Operation Vistula, settling them in the former Recovered Territories ceded to Poland at the Tehran Conference of 1943.

Sanok

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Town in the Subcarpathian Voivodeship of south-eastern Poland with 38,397 inhabitants, as of June 2016.

Town in the Subcarpathian Voivodeship of south-eastern Poland with 38,397 inhabitants, as of June 2016.

A 12th century earring found in Sanok
Sanok Royal Castle
Main Market Square in Sanok
Neogothic town hall
Mass grave of Poles massacred by the Germans at the Gruszka mountain
Lusatian culture pots on display at the Sanok's archaeology museum
Library and the Grzegorz of Sanok Monument
Ramerówka House
Sanok bus station
Vytautas Landsbergis plays piano in Sanok salon at Cultural Center, 2013
STS Sanok celebrating the Polish championship in 2014

Because of material support and assistance provided by the Ukrainian minority to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which was waging a battle for Ukrainian separatism against the Polish state, new Soviet-installed communist authorities deported the Ukrainian and Lemko population of Sanok and its region to the Recovered Territories attached to Poland after World War II during Operation Vistula (1946–1947).