'Trail of Hope' follows the odyssey of the deportees, including women and children, who were typically transported in cargo trains to destinations such as Siberia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, after the Red Army occupied eastern Poland in September 1939, while the Nazis grabbed the west and central Poland.
“Most of the existing literature concentrates on two episodes – either on the martyrology of Poles deported to the USSR in 1940-1941, or on the culminating Battle of Monte Cassino in May 1944,” Davies reflects in the introduction.
“Yet I was determined to show more.”
Stalin was forced to introduce what was officially referred to in Moscow as 'an amnesty' after Hitler turned on his Russian ally, invading Soviet-occupied territory in 1941. Polish historians have since pointed out that the term 'amnesty' was misplaced because the Poles deported into the USSR, and held in gulags, had committed no crime.
Under pressure from London and the Polish government-in-exile there, an army was created on Russian soil from the Polish deportees, under the command of General Władysław Anders.
Anders oversaw the evacuation of about 110,000 Poles from Russia, including over 40,000 combatants and 70,000 civilians, to Iran.
The soldiers would fight with the British 8th Army, as the so-called Polish Second Corps, crossing the Mediterranean to Italy.
Meanwhile, most of the women and children were given asylum in places as far-flung as India, New Zealand, Kenya and Mexico, all covered by Davies in 'Trail of Hope'.
After the war the majority of the deportees refused to return to Poland as a Soviet-backed communist regime was installed there. Anders veterans settled in large numbers in the UK, Canada, the US, New Zealand and Australia among others.
“I wished to show something of the grandeur of the 'Trail', which led from Russia and Central Asia through half a dozen Middle Eastern countries to Italy, England and eventually to more distant continents,” Davies notes.
The book, which is written in an accessible, often anecdotal style, takes the form of an album, replete with photographs from many public and private collections. (nh)