An Exhibition of Belarusians in the Polish Army in 1935-1945 Sheds New Light on History

National History Museum of Belarus. Photo credit: Hanna Zelenko
National History Museum of Belarus. Photo credit: Hanna Zelenko

On July 7th, an exhibition titled Belarusians in the Polish Army 1939-1945 from Igor Melnikov’s Private Collection was opened at the National History Museum of Belarus. It is expected to provide new historical information, according to the director of the museum, Oleg Ryzhkov.

Ryzhkov spoke with the media and said:

“Today, thanks to cooperation between the Polish embassy and Belarusian scientists, we are learning something new from the history of the Second World War, which seems to have been studied all over. The Exposition provides an opportunity for two nations, Poles and Belarusians, to become closer to each other, since our grandfathers fought against the Nazis together.”

Historical exhibitions like this are run by an organization that focuses on studying lesser known aspects of popular history. Oleg Ryzhkov also feels projects of this nature help to facilitate and cultivate patriotism and self-awareness. The Candidate of Historical Sciences and Researcher Igor Melnikov is responsible for this creation.

They shared their findings, stating:

“Our compatriots fought against the Nazism from the very first day of the Second World War. Everyone knows it. For example, Belarusians made part of the 20th infantry division of the Polish Army. It is also known that Belarusians stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Poles in the battle for Great Britain.”

This exhibition will provide far more facts about that time period. It is estimated that 70,000 Belarusians were members of the Polish Army back in September of 1939. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Poland spoke to Belarus Konrad Pawlik. He explained that soldiers from Western Belarus worked alongside the Polish as they fought off the aggressors.

This exhibition covers deeds of Belarusians, as well as the activity of the special operative grouping Polesye and the Pinsk Riverine Flotilla of the Polish Navy. Visitors can expect to see many unique photos and items from that time period. The embassy of Poland in Belarus will be in charge of organizing the exhibition.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE