Polish exiles during World War II - Poland in Tanzania - Gov.pl website (2022)

Expulsion from Poland - beginning of wandering

In 1940-41, several hundred thousand citizens of the Second Polish Republic were deported deep into Soviet Russia, which, as a result of aggression with Nazi Germany, occupied the eastern part of Poland after September 17, 1939.

After aggression of Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the conclusion of Sikorski–Maisky agreement in July 1941, when Poland and the Soviet Union became allies, authorities in Moscow allowed the Polish population to leave the place of exile. The Poles went to the regions in the Soviet Union where the Polish Army was founded under command of General Władysław Anders, counting on the protection and the possibility of leaving the Soviet Union together with the soldiers.

Evacuation to Iran

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The Polish population, both civilian and military, was evacuated to Iran from the Soviet Union in two stages from March to September 1942. The main route led through Turkmenistan to the Pahlevi transit camp in Iran (now Bandar-e Anzali) and from there mainly to camps in Tehran. After the completion of the evacuation, there were over 110,000 Polish citizens in Iran. Unfortunately, due to bad health conditions caused by the poor living standard in the Soviet Union and the hardships of traveling, more than 2,100 people (5.7% of the total) died in Iran due to dysentery, typhoid, malaria and diseases caused by malnutrition.

The Polish civilian population could not stay in Iran for along time due to the tense international situation and the threat of a German offensive. Polish territory was occupied, so the government could only count on the Britons’ help in finding shelter for the population. The British agreed to evacuate Polish civilians from Iran and presented a plan for the placement of refugee settlements. Sea transports were sent to the transit camps in British India (the port of Karachi in today’s Pakistan) and from there to the settlements in India, Africa, Mexico and New Zealand. This operation was complicated, time-consuming and cost-intensive, especially in the conditions of the ongoing war.

Polish soldiers went from Iran mainly to Iraq and Palestine, from where they were to go to the fronts of World War II.

Polish refugees in Africa

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The main wave of Polish refugees sailed away from Iran to Africa. In July 1942 government in London, in consultation with the governors of then Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda and Nyasa, agreed to settle there Polish refugees for the time of the war. The possibility of relegating Polish civilians to northern and southern Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa was also taken into account.

Earlier, already in September 1941, the Polish government decided to set up consulates in Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda as well as in both Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa. Consuls together with delegates of the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare dealt with Polish refugees. The British authorities were also preparing for their arrival in Africa.

The first transport of Polish refugees from the Soviet Union arrived at the Tanga port in Tanganyika on August 27, 1942. 1,400 people arrived on board ship, then they were transported to Dar es Salaam. Another transport arrived at the Mombasa port in Kenya on September 19. By the end of September 1942, 1,044 people were located in the Ugandan settlement in Masindi, and 510 and 401 respectively in Morogoro and Kondoa in Tanganyika. The next groups arriving in October were directed to Tengeru, Kondoa, Ifunda and Kidugala.

The pace of evacuation of Polish refugees from Iran to Africa was high. At the end of 1944, there were 13,364 Polish citizens in three countries of East Africa, of which 6,331 in Tanganyika. The expected end of the war limited further evacuations. In Eastern Africa, six permanent Polish refugee settlements were established: four in Tanganyika (Tengeru, Kondoa, Ifunda, Kidugala) and two in Uganda (Masindi and Koja). In addition to the permanent settlements, several temporary camps were created, including in Morogoro, Kigoma, Dar es Salaam, Iringa and Tosamaganga in Tanganyika.

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At that time, the Poles were the largest minority of European origin in East Africa.

Life in settlements

The largest Polish settlement in Tengeru had 947 houses. At the peak period, 4,018 people lived in it. The Kondoa settlement had 430 people, who lived in twenty barracks built of clay. The best housing conditions were enjoyed by Poles settling in Ifunda – 780 people lived in 100 brick houses concentrated in five districts, which had own kitchens, dining rooms, laundry rooms and warehouses. In the Kidugala settlement, 798 Poles lived near the deserted post-German Protestant mission.

Residents of Tanganyika, on their own initiative, helped newcomers from Poland to settle in the new country. The local tribes provided the Poles with building materials and food and worked on the construction of Polish settlements.

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The clusters of Polish refugees also arose in both Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa.

A commandant – usually a British official – stood at the head of the administration of each of the settlements. He was assisted by the camp manager appointed by the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. The settlements were divided into sections and groups, and the heads of departments of education, pastoral care, health care, culture and work were appointed. There were also councils representing residents. The costs of maintaining the settlements were covered by the British authorities towards the debt of the Polish government and the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare reporting to the government in exile in London.

The Poles living in the settlements in the then Tanganyika formed well-organized communities with an efficiently functioning educational system, cultural and sporting activities. Own farms were run. Children and adolescents were provided with pre-school and school care at various levels of education. Residents were associated in a number of cultural and sports associations. Scouting was popular. The Polish press developed (the biggest titles: "Pole in Africa" and "Voice of Poland", and a number of newspapers published in settlements), and even Polish-language radio programmes broadcast from Nairobi.

Closing of settlements

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The approaching end of the war and the withdrawal of recognition for the Polish government in exile on 5 July 1945 by the British, raised the question about the future of Polish settlements in Africa. The Poles in Africa were mostly disappointed with the result of the conference in Yalta, which led to the dependency of eastern Poland to the regime of Joseph Stalin, and they did not want to return to Poland ruled by communists controlled by the authorities in Moscow. Only about 3,800 Polish refugees from Africa decided to repatriate to the country, which accounted for about 20% of the total. The majority refused to return to the country.

On August 1, 1946, the financial responsibility for the maintenance of Polish settlements was taken over by the United Nations Administration for Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and from July 1947 by the International Refugees Organization (IRO). Due to financial reasons, it was decided to limit the number of Polish settlements, leaving only two – in Tengeru (Tanganyika) and Koja (Uganda).

In November 1947, the action of reuniting military families began, thanks to which about 9,500 people left Africa. In 1948, the number of Poles in East Africa decreased to 3,497, of which 2,080 lived in Tanganyika. Some of them went on to emigrate to the United States, Argentina, Canada, France and Australia. The settlements in Koja and Tengeru ended their activities only in the second half of 1952. A few hundred people remained in Tanganyika. The last Pole, Mr. Edward Wójtowicz, was buried in Tengeru in 2015.


Where did Polish refugees go during ww2? ›

In 1940-41, several hundred thousand citizens of the Second Polish Republic were deported deep into Soviet Russia, which, as a result of aggression with Nazi Germany, occupied the eastern part of Poland after September 17, 1939.

What role did the Polish play in ww2? ›

In World War Two, the Polish armed forces were the fourth largest Allied forces in Europe, after those of the Soviet Union, United States, and Britain. Poles made substantial contributions to the Allied effort throughout the war, fighting on land, sea, and in the air.

What happened to the Polish during ww2? ›

Six million Poles, half of them Jewish, died during World War II at the hands of the Nazis and the Soviets. Even after the Red Army defeated Nazi forces in 1945, the brutality continued as Poland remained under the yoke of a totalitarian communist government until 1989.

How many Polish refugees were there after ww2? ›

By October 1946, some 120,000 Polish troops has been quartered in 265 camps throughout the UK. Over the years, wives and dependants were also brought to Britain to join them, bringing the estimated total to over 249,000.

What happened to Polish troops after ww2? ›

The Polish Armed Forces in the West were disbanded after the war, in 1947, with many former servicemen forced to remain in exile.

Why did people flee from Poland? ›

Immigrants believed that America offered jobs and hopes that problem-ridden Poland did not offer. With nation-wide economic troubles, famines, and religious persecution back at home, immigrants fled to America with hopes of finding prosperity and acceptance.

How do I find Polish war records? ›

Pre-WWII military records. 1918-1939 can be obtained from the Polish Military Records Centre in Warsaw, Poland: Centralne Archiwum Wojska, Blok 126, Warsaw-Rembertow 00-910, Poland. Some archives are online.

How long did the Polish army last in ww2? ›

Invasion of Poland
Date1 September 1939 – 6 October 1939 (35 days)
LocationPoland, eastern Germany, and the Free City of Danzig (modern-day Gdańsk)
ResultGerman–Soviet victory
1 more row

What weapons did the Polish used in ww2? ›

Rifles, pistols, machine guns, and infantry weapons
  • Bayonet Bagnet 28" – For use with Poln M29, Poln 98, Karabinek 1898 rifles and carbines.
  • Infantry Rifle "Poln M29"- Calibre 7.9 mm Kbk wz. ...
  • Infantry Rifle "Poln 98"- Calibre 7.9 mm Kb wz. ...
  • Infantry Semi Automatic Self—repeating Rifle Kbsp wz.

How many Polish were killed in WWII? ›

Estimates vary, but more than five million Polish citizens were killed during the war, perhaps as much as 17% of the population, including up to three million Polish Jews murdered by the Germans in the Holocaust.

How much of Poland was destroyed in ww2? ›

Due to the international pressure of the world powers, Poland was forced to hand-over 48% of its territory to the Soviet Union, equating to 178 000 km² of land.

Who invaded Poland in ww2? ›

Germany invades Poland, initiating World War II in Europe. German forces broke through Polish defenses along the border and quickly advanced on Warsaw, the Polish capital. Hundreds of thousands of refugees, both Jewish and non-Jewish, fled the German advance hoping the Polish army could halt the German advance.

What happened to the Polish after the war? ›

The Polish government was forced into exile. First in France, and following its surrender, further in the UK. The Soviet Union was the world's first communist state. Its political elites were driven by communist ideology when it came to both foreign and internal affairs or establishing economic and social policies.

Where did Polish refugees go? ›

General Anders evacuated 74,000 Polish troops, including approximately 41,000 civilians, many of them children, to Iran. In total, over 116,000 refugees were relocated to Iran. Approximately 5,000–6,000 of the Polish refugees were Jewish.

Why were Polish people taken to Siberia? ›

Stalin wanted to destroy eastern Poland and absorb it into the Soviet Union, so he confiscated land, property and businesses, and deported over 1.5 million Polish people to slave labour camps in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Arctic Circle. Many died because of appalling conditions during the journeys and at the camps.

What side was Poland on in ww2? ›

On 1 September 1939, Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany. Britain and France, bound by military alliances with Poland, declared war on Germany two days later.

What was Poland before Poland? ›

The constitution adopted by the communists introduces a new name for the Polish state, the Polish People's Republic (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa, PRL), which replaces the previously used Republic of Poland (Rzeczpospolita Polska).

Why did Poland fall to the Germans so quickly? ›

Germany had twice as many airplanes as Poland did — and its planes were more advanced. So Poland found itself overmatched. And because the German army in 1939 was a lot more mechanized than it had been in previous wars, the Germans were able to make progress extremely quickly.

What is a Polish last name? ›

The Most Common Surnames in Poland
surnamenumber of citizens
6 more rows
7 Feb 2020

Why did Polish immigrants change their names? ›

About the Changed Surname List. Often our Polish ancestors changed their surnames or name changes were forced upon them by employers or schoolteachers. Surnames were “americanized,” letters were dropped or names were translated into English.

Are Polish People Russian? ›

Poles, or Polish people, are a West Slavic nation and ethnic group, who share a common history, culture, the Polish language and are identified with the country of Poland in Central Europe.
60 million.
Other countries
Belarus288,000 (2019)
Russia273,000 (2013)
Australia216,056 (2006)
Israel202,300 (2011)
29 more rows

Why didn't the allies help Poland? ›

The main reason for the Western Allies' failure to adequately assist Poland in September 1939 was their complete miscalculation of both Germany's and Poland's strategies and their respective abilities to implement them.

Why did Russia help Germany invade Poland? ›

The “reason” given was that Russia had to come to the aid of its “blood brothers,” the Ukrainians and Byelorussians, who were trapped in territory that had been illegally annexed by Poland. Now Poland was squeezed from West and East—trapped between two behemoths.

How big was Polish Army 1939? ›

Each army consisted of 2–5 infantry divisions, 1–2 cavalry brigades, 3–5 artillery divisions, 2–4 tank companies, 2–5 air squadrons, and others. The armies had a total of ca. 60,000–100,000 soldiers.

What rifle does the Polish army use? ›

The current main rifle used by the Polish military is the Beryl, a version of the Soviet AK rifle adapted to NATO standard ammunition.

What pistol did the Polish use in ww2? ›

The standard pistol of the pre-1939 Polish army was the VIS Pistolet wojskowy wzor 1935, better known as the “Radom.”

What guns did the Polish resistance use? ›

The Błyskawica (Polish: 'lightning') was a submachine gun produced by the Armia Krajowa, or Home Army, a Polish resistance movement fighting the Germans in occupied Poland.
Błyskawica submachine gun.
Produced1943 to 1944
No. builtc. 700
19 more rows

What war crimes has Poland committed? ›

  • 2.1 The invasion of Poland (September 1939) ...
  • 2.2 Extermination of Polish intelligentsia. ...
  • 2.3 German pacification and reprisal massacres.
  • 2.4 Warsaw Uprising massacres.
  • 2.5 Leveling of Warsaw following the fall of the Uprising.
  • 2.6 Extermination of psychiatric patients.
  • 2.7 Cultural genocide.

How many German soldiers were killed in the invasion of Poland? ›

Approximately 70,000 Polish soldiers were killed and more than 130,000 wounded during the battle, whereas the Germans sustained about 45,000 total casualties.

Which country lost the most soldiers in World war 2? ›

The Soviet Union is estimated to have suffered the highest number of WWII casualties.

How good are Polish soldiers? ›

For 2022, Poland is ranked 24 of 142 out of the countries considered for the annual GFP review. It holds a PwrIndx* score of 0.4179 (a score of 0.0000 is considered 'perfect').

How much did Germany pay Poland after WW2? ›

In 1992, the Foundation for Polish-German Reconciliation was founded by the Polish and German governments, and as a result, Germany paid Polish sufferers approximately zl 4.7 billion (equivalent to zl 37.8 billion or US$7.97 billion in 2022).

What was the most destroyed city in World war 2? ›

Hiroshima lost more than 60,000 of its 90,000 buildings, all destroyed or severely damaged by one bomb. In comparison, Nagasaki – though blasted by a bigger bomb on 9 August 1945 (21,000 tonnes of TNT to Hiroshima's 15,000) – lost 19,400 of its 52,000 buildings.

Was Poland ever part of Russia? ›

Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. From 1795 to 1918, Poland was split between Prussia, the Habsburg monarchy, and Russia and had no independent existence.

How long was Poland occupied by Russia? ›

In November 1939 the Soviet government annexed the entire Polish territory under its control.
Soviet invasion of Poland.
Date17 September – 6 October 1939
ResultSoviet victory
Territorial changesTerritory of Eastern Poland (Kresy) annexed by the Soviet Union

What part of Poland did Russia take? ›

Seventeen days after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which marked the beginning of the Second World War, the Soviet Union entered the eastern regions of Poland (known as the Kresy) and annexed territories totalling 201,015 square kilometres (77,612 sq mi) with a population of 13,299,000.

Why was German land given to Poland? ›

Why did Germany invade Poland? Germany invaded Poland to regain lost territory and ultimately rule their neighbor to the east. The German invasion of Poland was a primer on how Hitler intended to wage war–what would become the “blitzkrieg” strategy.

What land did Poland gain after ww2? ›

In turn, Poland received the Free City of Danzig and former German territory east of the Oder-Neisse line, consisting of the southern two-thirds of East Prussia and most of Pomerania, Neumark (East Brandenburg), and Silesia.

How much land did Russia take from Poland? ›

The Russian acquisition encompassed the largest share of Poland's population, living on 463,200 km2 (178,800 sq mi) of land constituting the eastern and central territory of the previous commonwealth.

Did Poland help England in ww2? ›

Polish Navy vessels, which had escaped to the UK on the eve of war, also fought alongside the Royal Navy throughout the entirety of the war, supplemented by a number of British ships and submarines crewed by Polish personnel.

What is Poland in Persian? ›

Poland is called "Lahestan," in Persian, Armenian, Ottoman Turkish, and others, meaning "land of Lech". The name is based on an old legend which identified Slavs as being descended from 3 brothers - Lech, Czech, and Rus, now the names of 3 main Slavic countries Poland = Lechia.

When did most Polish immigrants come to America? ›

  • The largest wave of Polish immigration to America occurred in the years after the American Civil War until World War I. ...
  • Poland was largely an agrarian society throughout the Middle Ages and into the 19th century.

Where did Polish refugees go during ww2? ›

In 1940-41, several hundred thousand citizens of the Second Polish Republic were deported deep into Soviet Russia, which, as a result of aggression with Nazi Germany, occupied the eastern part of Poland after September 17, 1939.

How did the Soviets treat the Polish? ›

Soviet soldiers often engaged in plunder, rape and other crimes against the Poles, causing the population to fear and hate the regime. 50,000 members of the Polish Underground State were deported to Siberia and various other Soviet Labour camps.

How many Poles were killed by Soviets? ›

From 1945 to 1948, the Soviets deported to forced labor or concentration camps in the Soviet Union from 3,000,000 to 6,000,000 Poles, of which 585,000 may have died. Hundreds of thousands and possibly near 1,000,000 Poles were killed in Soviet terror and repression.

Where did Polish refugees go? ›

General Anders evacuated 74,000 Polish troops, including approximately 41,000 civilians, many of them children, to Iran. In total, over 116,000 refugees were relocated to Iran. Approximately 5,000–6,000 of the Polish refugees were Jewish.

Why did many Polish refugees come to Britain in 1939? ›

The number of Poles in Britain increased during the Second World War. Most of the Polish people who came to the United Kingdom at that time came as part of military units reconstituted outside Poland after the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, which marked the beginning of World War II.

Why did the Polish children come to NZ? ›

They had been invited by Rt Hon Peter Fraser, Prime Minister of New Zealand, for the remainder of World War II. They had lost their homes and family members following the 1939 German invasion of Poland, the occupation of Eastern Poland by the USSR and subsequent deportations of 1,700,000 Polish people to the USSR.

Did Polish refugees come to India? ›

During World War II, thousands of Poles fled their country and sought refuge around the world. One of the first countries to help was India, starting with the so-called 'Good Maharaja' Jam Saheb, who took in many Polish orphans.

Did Poland help England in ww2? ›

Polish Navy vessels, which had escaped to the UK on the eve of war, also fought alongside the Royal Navy throughout the entirety of the war, supplemented by a number of British ships and submarines crewed by Polish personnel.

What is Poland in Persian? ›

Poland is called "Lahestan," in Persian, Armenian, Ottoman Turkish, and others, meaning "land of Lech". The name is based on an old legend which identified Slavs as being descended from 3 brothers - Lech, Czech, and Rus, now the names of 3 main Slavic countries Poland = Lechia.

What happened to Poland after the war? ›

Communist Poland. After World War II, Poland became a communist satellite state of the Soviet Union known as the Polish People's Republic. The Soviet Union established governments in East Europe by occupying some of these countries before the war had even ended.

Where did Polish people come from? ›

First, they originated near Ukraine and Poland. Then, they expanded outwards towards the Balkans and the Volga River. Along the way, they picked up Christianity and converted to it. Their migration was noted by many different groups.

Where is the largest Polish community in the UK? ›

Southampton is, by some measures, home to the largest Polish population in the UK outside of London. An estimated 10% of residents of this booming coastal city originate from Poland, many of whom have been credited with helping to revive the local economy of this once-ailing port city.

How many people left Poland during ww2? ›

The Polish transfers were among the largest of several post-war expulsions in Central and Eastern Europe, which displaced a total of about 20 million people.

Who were the Polish children of pahiatua? ›

Hundreds of children who came from Poland in 1944 were reportedly the first refugees to be recorded in Aotearoa New Zealand. It has been 75 years since they arrived - namely fleeing the horrors of World War II.

How many Polish people live in New Zealand? ›

New Zealand now has a thriving Polish community of around 5,000-6,000 people.

When did the 800 Polish refugees arrive in New Zealand? ›

1 November 1944

Over 800 Polish refugees seeking safety from war-torn Europe disembarked in Wellington. For the 733 children and 102 adults it was the end of a long and perilous journey. They had survived deportation to the Soviet Union, forced labour in Siberia and evacuation to the Middle East.

Are Indians welcomed in Poland? ›

In general, the majority of Polish people like Indians and are welcoming. Of Course there are all types of people like in any other country and you may face good / bad incidents like anywhere else in the world.

Do Polish people live in India? ›

They lived in India for five years, two of which they spent at the Maharaja's estate in Jamnagar and the rest in Bombay. It is estimated that, nearly 5,000 Polish refugees from Soviet camps lived in India between 1942 and 1948, although researchers have not been able to establish the exact numbers.

How an Indian maharaja helped save the lives of thousands of Polish people during World War II? ›

Maharaja Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja is called the 'Indian Oskar Schindler' for his selfless act of saving 1,000 Polish children during WWII.


1. Hans Frank - Governor of Occupied Poland Documentary
(The People Profiles)
2. The kidnapping campaign of Nazi Germany | DW Documentary
(DW Documentary)
3. Reinhard Heydrich - The Man with the Iron Heart Documentary
(The People Profiles)
4. The Plot to Kill Hitler's Hangman - Operation Anthropoid – WAH 035 – May 1942, Pt. 2
(World War Two)
5. Propaganda and Deception: A case study of Poland’s anti-Communist insurgency, 1944-1963
(The Institute of World Politics)
6. History of Tanzania
(History Media-HD)

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