The Armia Krajowa officially disbanded on 19 January 1945 to prevent a slide into armed conflict with the Red Army and the increasing threat of civil war over Poland's sovereignty. However, many resistance units decided to continue with their struggle for Polish independence, regarding Soviet forces as new occupiers. Soviet partisans in Poland had already been ordered by Moscow on 22 June 1943 to engage Polish Leśni partisans in combat.
According to Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's review of Bogdan Musial's Sowjetische Partisanen book "Musial’s study suggests that the Soviets seldom attacked German military and police targets. They preferred to assault the poorly armed and trained Belarusan and Polish self-defense forces. The guerrillas torched and leveled Polish landed estates much more frequently than they blew up military transports and assaulted other hard targets." The main forces of the Red Army (Northern Group of Forces) and the NKVD began conducting operations against the Armia Krajowa during and directly after the launch of Operation Tempest, the aim of which was for the Polish resistance to seize control of cities and areas occupied by the Germans while they were preparing their defenses against the advancing Soviets. The Soviet leader Joseph Stalin aimed to ensure that an independent Poland would never reemerge in the postwar period.
The first AK structure designed primarily to deal with the Soviet threat was NIE (short for niepodległość "independence", and also meaning "no"), formed in mid-1943. NIE's goal was not to engage Soviet forces in combat, but rather to observe and conduct espionage while the Polish government-in-exile decided how to deal with the Soviets. At that time, the exiled government still believed that a solution leading to Poland's post-war independence could be found through negotiations.
On 7 May 1945, NIE was disbanded and transformed into the Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych na Kraj ("Armed Forces Delegation for Homeland"). However, this organization lasted only until August 8, 1945, when the decision was made to disband it and to stop partisan resistance on Polish territory.
The Polish Committee of National Liberation declined jurisdiction over former AK soldiers. Consequently, for more than a year, it was Soviet agencies like the NKVD that dealt with the AK. By the end of the war, approximately 60,000 soldiers of the AK had been arrested, and 50,000 of them were deported to the Soviet Union's prisons and prison camps. Most of those soldiers had been captured by the Soviets during or in the aftermath of Operation Tempest, when many AK units tried to cooperate with the Red Army during their nationwide uprising against the Germans.
Other veterans were arrested when they decided to approach the communist authorities after being promised amnesty. In 1947, the regime of the People's Republic of Poland proclaimed an amnesty for most of the wartime resistance fighters. The authorities expected around 12,000 people to give up their arms, but the actual number of partisans to come out of the forests eventually reached 53,000. Many of them were arrested despite promises of freedom; and after repeated broken promises during the first few years of communist rule, former AK members refused to trust the government.
After the Delegatura Sił Zbrojnych na Kraj ("Armed Forces Delegation for Homeland") was disbanded, another post-AK resistance organisation was formed, called Wolność i Niezawisłość ("Freedom and Sovereignty"). Its primary goal was not combat - Wolność i Niezawisłość (WiN) was more concerned with helping former AK soldiers make the transition from a life as partisans to that of civilians. Continued secrecy and conspiracy were necessary in light of the increasing persecution of AK veterans by the communist regime. WiN was, however, much in need of funds to pay for false documents and to provide resources for the partisans, many of whom had lost their homes and entire life-savings in the war. Viewed as enemies of the state, starved of resources, and with a vocal faction advocating armed resistance against the Soviets and their Polish proxies, WiN was far from efficient. A significant victory for the NKVD and the newly created Polish secret police, Urząd Bezpieczeństwa (UB), came in the second half of 1945, when they managed to convince several leaders of WiN that they truly wanted to offer amnesty to AK members. Within a few months, intelligence gathered by the authorities led to thousands more arrests. The primary period of WiN activity lasted until 1947. The organisation finally disbanded in 1952.
The NKVD and UB used brute force and deception to eliminate the underground opposition. In the autumn of 1946, a group of 100–200 accursed soldiers of Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (National Armed Forces, NSZ) were lured into a trap and massacred. In 1947, Colonel Julia ("Bloody Luna") Brystiger of the Polish Ministry of Public Security proclaimed at a security briefing that: "[t]he terrorist and political underground" had ceased to be a threatening force for the UB, although the "class enemy" at universities, offices and factories still had to be "found out and neutralised."
The persecution of AK members was only one aspect of the reign of Stalinist terror in postwar Poland. In the period from 1944 to 1956, at least 300,000 Polish civilians were arrested, although some sources claim numbers up to two million. Approximately 6,000 death sentences were issued, and the majority of them were carried out. It is probable that over 20,000 people died in communist prisons including those executed "in the majesty of the law" such as Witold Pilecki, a hero of Auschwitz.
A further six million Polish citizens (i.e., one out of every three adult Poles) were classified as suspected members of a 'reactionary or criminal element' and subjected to investigation by state agencies. During the Polish October of 1956, a political amnesty freed 35,000 former AK soldiers from prisons. Nevertheless, some partisans remained in service, unwilling or simply unable to rejoin the civilian community. The cursed soldier Stanisław Marchewka "Ryba" ("The Fish") was killed in 1957, and the last AK partisan, Józef Franczak "Lalek" ("Doller"), was killed in 1963 — almost two decades after the Second World War ended. Four years later, long after the abolition of Stalinist terror, the last member of the elite British-trained Cichociemny ("The Silent and Hidden") intelligence and support group, Adam Boryczka was finally released from prison (1967). Until the end of the People's Republic of Poland, former AK soldiers were under constant investigation by the secret police. It was only in 1989, after the fall of communism, that the convictions of AK soldiers were finally declared invalid and annulled by Polish law.
The biggest battle in the history of the National Military Union (Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe, NZW) took place on 6–7 May 1945, in the village of Kuryłówka in southeastern Poland. The Battle of Kuryłówka fought against the Soviet 2nd Border Regiment of the NKVD, ended in a victory for the underground forces commanded by Major Franciszek Przysiężniak ("Marek"). The anti-communist fighters killed up to 70 Soviet agents. The NKVD troops retreated in haste, only to reappear in the village later on and burn it to the ground in retaliation, destroying over 730 buildings.
One of the biggest anti-partisan operations by the communist authorities took place from 10–25 June 1945, in and around the Suwałki and Augustów regions of Poland. The "Augustów roundup" (Polish: Obława augustowska) was a joint operation of the Red Army, the Soviet NKVD, and SMERSH battalions with assistance from Polish UB and LWP units, against Armia Krajowa resistance fighters. The operation extended into the territory of occupied Lithuania. More than 2,000 suspected anti-communist Polish fighters were captured and detained in Soviet internment camps. About 600 of the "Augustow Missing" are presumed to have died in Soviet custody, their bodies buried in unknown mass graves on the present territory of Russia. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance has declared the 1945 Augustów roundup to be "the largest crime committed by the Soviets on Polish lands after World War II."
Anti-communist resistance organizations
Among the best-known Polish underground organizations, engaged in guerrilla warfare were:
The "cursed soldiers" served as an inspiration for numerous films, documentaries, books, stage plays, and songs and, in Poland, they have become the ultimate symbol of patriotism and heroic fight for fatherland against all odds. Notable examples include:
The "cursed soldiers" graphic design on patriotic apparel
In 1995, Alina Czerniakowska directed a documentary in collaboration with historian Leszek Żebrowski on the Polish anti-communist underground after the end of World War II entitled Zwycięstwo ("Victory").
In 1996, Tadeusz Pawlicki, directed the film My, ogniowe dzieci, telling the story of Józef Kuraś alias Ogień ("Fire").
In 2000, Mariusz Pietrowski, directed Łupaszko, a documentary film on the life of major Zygmunt Szendzielarz (known as Łupaszko).
In 2002, Grzegorz Królikiewicz directed a documentary film devoted to the life of Józef Kuraś entitled A potem nazwali go bandytą ("And Then They Called Him a Bandit...").
In 2004, a documentary Against the Odds: Resistance in Nazi Concentration Camps was produced. It features the story of Witold Pilecki.
In 2008, Discovery Historia channel broadcast a two-part documentary entitled In the Name of the Polish People's Republic.
In 2009, a documentary series Cursed Soldiers was produced by Discovery Historia.
In 2013, Dariusz Walusiak's film Escape from Hell. Tracing the Steps of Witold Pilecki is dedicated to the escape of Witold Pilecki, Jan Redzeja and Edward Ciesielski from the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp.
2013 saw the release of an album Panny wyklęte, a music project by Dariusz Malejonek in collaboration with Polish singers including Marika, Natalia Przybysz and Halina Mlynkova devoted to the contribution of female members of the anti-communist movement.
On 15 May 2006, a stage production Śmierć rotmistrza Pileckiego ("The Death of Captain Pilecki") directed by Ryszard Bugajski and starring Marek Probosz had its premiere.
On 22 January 2007, a play Inka. 1946 producted by Teatr Telewizji and diredcted by Natalia Koryncka-Gruz had its premiere in Poland.
In 2016, Polish historian Lech Kowalski published a monumental 1,100 page book Korpus Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego a Żołnierze Wyklęci (English: "Internal Security Corps and the Cursed Soldiers"), which focuses on the fight undertaken by the communist state authorities against Poland's anti-Communist underground in the years 1944-1956.
^Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947, McFarland & Company, 1998, ISBN0-7864-0371-3, p.131 (Google Print)