After the second World War, while theoretically independent, Poland became part of the Soviet bloc, controlled politically and economically by the Soviet Union. There was also huge Soviet military presence in Poland, and the Russian Army was practically above Polish law. The Soviet soldiers took advantage of this, often engaging in drunken antics which were guaranteed to go unpunished. The consequences of such impunity were often disastrous.
One such tragic story happened in 1947, exactly 70 years ago, in the western Poland's town of Leszno.
During a drinking session with some Soviet soldiers in Poznan (west Poland), a Polish man apparently sold his wife to them for a bottle of vodka. The latter proceeded to take the woman with them and headed by train to their headquarters in Legnica (south-west Poland).
After the woman managed to inform a fellow passenger about her fate and ask for help, police and railway security officers tried to rescue her several times, but to no avail, as the Soviet soldiers threatened to open fire. Eventually the Polish Army garrison in Leszno was alerted and duly dispatched a battalion to rescue the woman, led by the 22-year old second world war hero Jerzy Przerwa, who had been part of the forces that took Berlin in 1945.
In the night from May 27 to 28, the Polish battalion surrounded the Leszno railway station, whereupon Przerwa boldly approached the Russian commander. During the negotiations, the drunken Russians attempted to leave the station, and when the Polish soldiers wouldn’t let them, the former opened fire. As a result, three of the Soviet soldiers were killed.
Following a rigged investigation led by a Soviet prosecutor, out to whitewash his compatriots, Przerwa and two of his soldiers, despite having acted in line with the law, were sentenced to death and executed on June 15th 1947, in what is certain to have been a case of judicial murder. The woman, meanwhile, was sent to Siberia.
Although the verdict was declared unjustified as early as 1956, the soldiers were only exonerated in 1990. In 2014, a commemorative plaque was installed in the Leszno railway station.
The woman in question died in 2000, her husband was tracked down but apparently doesn’t remember anything, while the search for the relatives of second lieutenant Przerwa has so far been unsuccessful.
In a book 'Scisle tajne – nieznane fakty z historii Wielkopolski 1945–1989' local journalist Krzysztof Kazmierczak gives a detailed recount on the case and continues to preserve the memory of Polish soldiers who died for having tried to rescue a woman from drunken Soviet soldats. (PAP)