Surviving Katyn by Jane Rogoyska

Surviving Katyn by Jane Rogoyska – Stalin’s Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth – is a fantastic book, so well researched into the deaths of 21,857 Polish officers killed by NKVD under the orders of Stalin. Reading about the author I was surprised to find out that during her research she discovered that a relative, her great-uncle, Ludwik Rynkowski, was among those murdered at Katyn. Nevertheless, her personal connection is not visible in the book as the narrative is as unbiased as possible.

This book is relevant today too because of what is happening in Ukraine now. Russians killed these people, even though they were technically Soviets, but I will refer to them as Russians as everything was coordinated from Moscow, regardless of the specific nationalities of other people involved. It was done by NKVD, the precursor of KGB (of which Putin was a proud member of) executed all these soldiers without a trial or pretty much a reason. Notably, they were killed in a similar way as the execution we all heard about in the recent war, in Bucha and other places like that.

Surviving Katyn by Jane Rogoyska

The book covers what happened after the start of WWII and goes to the present day, as it was in 2021, which includes the latest developments regarding the Russian acceptation (or lack of) what happened then and their involvement. Even now some in Russia think they can still shift the blame for the Russian killings on the Nazis. It is also notable how much the propaganda they employed in the 1940s and during the Soviet era is the same today, including by using words such as “provocation” and, of course, using journalists. One of the ones from 1940s was working with the BBC and the Guardian.

The book ends with the Smolensk air disaster, when the Polish President was killed, alongside other 95 people, including many of whom were involved in the Katyn commemorations, in 2010. Not only what happened then affects the people in Poland, as it is an important part of their history, it affects the whole west, who deliberately ignored the killings because Russia was an ally. Propaganda was made with the help of journalists who either believed the Russians or didn’t want to appear to agree with the Nazis. While it is understandable why they didn’t want to agree with the Nazis, who were using this for their propaganda machine, just as they used Holodomor, this cannot justify the lack of moral values of those who knew and decided to shut up not to offend the Russians.

The book covers topics hard to read, including descriptions of killings, but, well, it’s history. I fully recommend this book, it’s great.

Surviving Katyn by Jane Rogoyska

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: YES!
Published by: Oneworld Publications
Year it was published: 2021
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): History – WWII
Pages: 370

About the author: Jane Rogoyska is a writer and historian whose work explores themes of conflict, exile, identity, memory and politics in 20th-century Europe. She has a particular interest in the turbulent period between the 1930s and the beginning of the Cold War, with a recent focus on Poland’s wartime and post-war experience.
She studied Modern Languages at Cambridge University and film direction at the NSFTV in Leeds and the Polish National Film School in Łódź, working extensively as a filmmaker before deciding to focus on her own research. Her books include the first English-language biography of the photojournalist Gerda Taro and the prize-winning ‘Surviving Katyń’ (Mark Lynton History Prize, 2022). She has also collaborated on projects in radio, film, theatre and photography.
Website & Social Media Links: janerogoyska

4 thoughts on “Surviving Katyn by Jane Rogoyska”

  • I have read a couple of WWII books recently, by authors who have blended fiction, with the facts surrounding their families experiences in Poland. It is interesting that both families came to the conclusion that, in one case the entire family and in the other just the children, would be better off taking their chances by heading west into Nazi Germany, rather than face the horrors of the Russians advancing from the east, such was their reputation for want of a better expression ‘raping and pillaging’

    • Yes, unfortunately that sounds right, the Russians always had a reputation for cruelty. My grandfather and other survivors said that the Germans in WWII gave chocolate to children, most likely in return for things like meat, while the Russians were stealing and raping women. He was a young boy at that time, but he remembered that the Nazi were polite and considerate and that the Russians were a menace.

  • I don’t know what history is taught in American schools anymore, but I wonder if young people today understood what a butcher Stalin really was. Russia might have been part of the Allied forces in both world wars, but I’m not sure I would ever have considered it a “friend”.
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    • I don’ think the west as a whole truly understands Stalin and communism in general, is not like the rest were any better that Stalin, just look at Putin, Lukashenko, and Xi Jinping. Even the last one, who is the more “capitalist” is “doing a Stalin” with Uyghur and Honk Kong.

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