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Was Poland 'betrayed'?

LAURENCE REES: Was Poland 'betrayed' by the Western Allies?

: What always strikes me is that writing on Polish issues, in particular relating to the Second World War and the immediate post war period, is approached as a sort of moral test. I see Polish history as something that one has to study for what it was and we should attempt to understand it rather than make it into a sort of theology course. And because of that I don’t think that the word betrayed as such is appropriate, because I think that the Poles saw what was happening, although of course they didn’t have much authority or ability to change what was happening. They were most certainly victims of first German aggression and then Soviet long term plans in which Britain really played a fairly minimal role in the end. So Poland is a victim state but it’s not an unusual situation for a small state to be in, that you don’t have much control over the way decisions are made.

LAURENCE REES: So you don't think that at Tehran first and then at Yalta Poland was betrayed?

ANITA PRAŻMOWSKA: Well, I see things like the Woodrow Wilson 14 points and the Atlantic Charter as PR exercises. And there is a place for such exercises because during both the First and Second World Wars the Home Front is extremely important. You have to actually put some sort of major objectives here, and at that particular time Britain’s dependence on Polish units was quite sizeable, in particular in the Middle East, and you have to play a PR game.

LAURENCE REES: But that’s just cynical?

ANITA PRAŻMOWSKA: It is cynical but that’s nothing new. The interesting thing is did the Poles think that this was going to happen to them? And the interesting thing is that the Polish government in exile, Sikorski, had good relations with Churchill. And then you have constant contacts between the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs here and the Foreign Office, and they knew full well that the British were making no commitments, and they knew full well that they were handing over troops for the British to use without there being any assurances given. So one could say that what the Poles hoped was, against all odds, that they would be able to make an impact there, and that they would be able to carve out some political influence. But it’s not as if it caught them by surprise. People like Anders actually always distrusted the British, it was a very complicated relationship with the British.