As I arrived in Krakow, the news from Ukraine was buzzing – leaving some Polish citizens concerned.
The NATO command in Europe had accused Russian leader Vladimir Putin of lying.
You see, Putin claims that Russia isn’t involved with the Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.
But NATO says Russia just sent more supplies and troops across the border. What we’re witnessing is a silent invasion of Ukraine. Day by day, Russia’s involvement in the disputed territory grows – mirroring a Nazi takeover.
Now Poland is looking to protect its borders, too…
The NATO official, General Philip Breedlove, said specifically that the alliance was “concerned about convoys of trucks taking artillery and supplies into East Ukraine from Russia.”
And with Putin’s defiant actions, who’s to say he won’t do the same with Poland during his conquest of rebuilding the original Russian Empire?
Remember the Nazi Camps
I spent much of Friday touring the Auschwitz concentration camp. The Nazi forces have committed unspeakable numbers of atrocities in this camp… and with industrial precision, everything has been well documented.
Tears welled in my eyes as I visited the ruins of the gas chambers and walked forward to touch the shooting wall. Mothers, fathers, and children were slaughtered in this place.
But I also learned some details unknown to most Americans. When the Soviet Army liberated the camps, they turned around and put them to use. From the end of the war until 1946, they were used by the Russians to imprison Polish Freedom Fighters and Polish political leaders who refused to bend a knee to the Communists.
One surprise I also received was the presence of U.S. troops in Poland. At our hotel, Americans in uniform with their flags, patches, and names removed were spotted. They wouldn’t tell us the reason for their assignment to Krakow, but it’s likely the result of Pentagon anxiety about Russian actions nearby in Ukraine.
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There’s a reason that Krakow is called the soul of Poland. It was founded in 966. It was from this city that Polish kings ruled. In fact, the first Polish king was crowned here in 1025.
Krakow and all of Poland are surrounded by great empires, so as a result, they have been repeatedly invaded. In 1791, the country was partitioned with Russia, Austria, and Prussia (Germany) – each taking a piece.
It took over a century for Poland to even exist as a country on the European map again, and that wasn’t until the end of World War I and the dissolution of these empires. But by 1939, Poland was once again invaded… this time by Hitler and the Nazi German regime.
When World War II ended and Germany was defeated, the Soviet Russians took the place of the retreating Germans.
The Russian Communist regime ended when elections were held in 1989. It wasn’t until this time that the foreign occupation of Poland was finally coming to a close.
Ten years later, in 1999, Poland joined the NATO alliance. Finally in 2004, Poland was given formal entry into the European Union.
Memories of past Russian invasions run strong here. For much of their history, Poland and Ukraine were linked. The Polish king ruled Ukraine in the 13th and 14th centuries. And they formed a Commonwealth in the 16th and 17th centuries.
From Ukraine to Poland
Today, the Polish leaders see an independent and sovereign Ukraine as an important bulwark against Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe.
I asked our guide if she was afraid of a Russian invasion. She responded candidly, “Not so much me, I was born after the Soviets left. But my grandmother is very afraid. She went into hiding for two years as a young woman because her father feared she’d be raped by the soldiers of the then-occupying Soviet Army.”
NATO and Poland would be foolish to not consider Putin a threat after his invasion of Ukraine. I suspect the U.S. troops are here in Krakow to prepare for a Russian invasion.
Your eyes on the Hill,