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Chapter 2: Under the soviet regime
On September 1, 1939, World War II broke out. The German army, with an estimated 1.7 million troops, mechanized and mobilized, with an abundance of tanks and aerial superiority, invaded Poland. Advancing with swift ease, the Germans overwhelmed the Polish army, which was inferior in numbers and equipment.
Many of the people in Pruzany fled eastwards. But the east provided its own menace. On September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union, having concluded a non-aggression pact with Germany on August 23, invaded eastern Poland - in part due to the Kremlin’s concern over the deployment of German forces along its western borders. The Red Army met up with German troops at Brest-Litovsk on September 19. That same day, a Soviet advance unit reached our town.
The victors promptly set about dividing Poland between them. The German and Soviet foreign ministers, von Ribbentrop and Molotov, convened on September 28 to amend the prewar Moscow accord.
During the night between June 21 and 22, the Russians held a practice alert in Pruzany, with schoolchildren taking part alongside the grownups. It was a mild spring night, and many of the youngsters enjoyed the nocturnal drill, as though it were a night game in the youth movement. While we were dispersed in the fields outside the town, planes appeared overhead to launch a bombing raid.
“It’s part of the alert,” we were reassured by the Soviet soldiers who supervised the exercise, “They want to make it appear realistic.”
We returned home in the early morning to hear on the radio that war had broken out between Germany and the Soviet Union. It was later claimed that German spies in the region had instigated the exercise alert as a smoke screen for the invasion.