Forgotten KOP posts near Minsk

One of the most interesting fragments of the former cordon, separating the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Polish Republic from 1921 to 1939, is located in the settlement area of ​​Nowe Pole–Raków. Several posts of the KOP, the Polish Border Protection Corps, were located here (KOP protected the USSR border and the rest of Poland was protected by the Border Guard – Kresy 1939). One of the border posts was called “Minska”. Like the others, it was a part of the 6th KOP Battalion, the headquarters of which was located in Iwieniec.

   Polish border post

The 6th Battalion consisted of the headquarters, four border companies and one training company, a machine gun company and a platoon of communications personnel. In 1936 there were 643 soldiers and officers. At this time there were 15 border posts and 4 command posts. As a result of the reorganization, at the beginning of the Second World War, the Iwieniec KOP soldiers guarded the border section from border mark 628 to 698 (33.6 km).

The construction of wooden KOP watchtowers on the Polish–Soviet border began in the mid-nineteen twenties. Often, KOP occupied the barracks of the former border police. It was only in the mid-1930s that the KOP began to build modern brick buildings. At that time, architects tried to take into account that in the case of the war with the USSR these buildings would have to serve as fortifications. As a result, the cellars of the buildings were equipped not only as shelters, but also as machine gun stations.

Today not much of the former “Riga border” (named after the Poland–USSR Riga peace treaty of 1921 – Kresy 1939) looks as it did in the interwar period. Not far from Nowe Pole, in the 1930s, the KOP Minsk watchtower was located. Unfortunately, today nothing is left of the wooden building of this post, although the line of the former border is clearly visible. Along the line there are still places where Polish border signs .

   Former state border, now – border between districts

To the north was the “Kuczkuny” border post. In the late nineteen thirties a brick building resembling a bunker was built. The building had concrete foundations and large basements. In September 1939, Sergeant Rudolf Trzos was in charge of “Kuczkuny”. According to his memoirs of September 17, 1939, KOP soldiers managed to organize a defense in the building and put up a strong resistance against Red Army troops crossing the border. KOP soldiers managed to fend off several attacks, with losses on both sides, but the Poles did not retreat. The outcome of the battle, however, was determined when a Soviet armored unit arrived from the East. Tanks fired on the building, which was soon destroyed. The surviving Polish soldiers were taken prisoner.

This is how, according to the words of the Red Army soldiers, the beginning of the “liberation march” on September 17, 1939, was described by the Soviet newspaper Pionier: “Just before dawn, darkness was cut by the red flashes of rockets. And immediately the empty roads of the border belt came to life. Tracks on tanks shook, the engines of armored cars growled, cavalry and infantry columns moved west. Somewhere in the front one could hear the first shots. By executing the decision of the Soviet government, the mighty Red Army crossed the border to free its Ukrainian and Belarusian brothers from longstanding oppression. On one of the sections of the border a group of Red Army units came forward. They had a combat mission—to approach the Polish border post unnoticed and eliminate its guards. The guards did not have time to move, as commander of the unit, Illinski, and a soldier of the Red Army, Probka, captured and bound them. In the neighboring border post the guard raised the alarm. On the tanks flames appeared; machine guns spoke. The first three gunshots turned the watchman into a heap of rubble. ”

The Belarusian newspaper Zvyazda also devoted much attention to the cross-border struggles of September 1939. Here is a excerpt from one of the stories: “My unit received a combat mission—to break the border line, to destroy the border post and border company. We moved forward, crossed the border. Quietly, without any noise, we broke off. Soon the Polish watchtower appeared. A Polish soldier noticed us, but did not manage to raise the alarm—he was killed.

Silence was broken by a dog barking. In the building people began to move. The shooting started. We quickly moved forward. From the watchtower two Polish officers started firing at us. We responded with fire. The unit commander gave the order to throw grenades. The officers firing the machine gun were killed. We did not manage to get the prisoners out because a Polish unit consisting of seven came out of the woods. A fight began in which I was slightly injured. The captain ordered me to return to our post, but I refused and led a detachment towards the Polish headdquarters … “.

Today, the place where the KOP post “Kuczkuny” existed, there are remnants of walls overgrown with grass and moss and two remaining  entrances to the cellar , strewn with trash.

   Kuczkuny village

Another KOP post in the area was in the village of Pelikszty. It was a part of the 1st Company “Dubrawa”. Probably disbanded, it doesn’t appear in the 1938 Polish documents. However, it is worth noting that on these hills of the former border, in good weather, there is a beautiful view of Zaslav and Minsk. It was here that Polish officers were able to observe through binoculars the capital of Soviet Belarus and the Belarus border railway station. To this day you can see the remnants of the Soviet-controlled border belt.

   Pelikszty village

On September 17, 1939 the Iwieniec Battalion attached to the  KOP watchtowers opposed the Dzerzhinsky Horse-Mechanized Red Army Group under the command of Ivan Boldin. But soldiers from the 15th Border Infantry Division of the Belorussian SSR NKVD from Zaslav were the first to cross the border. After breaking the hard fought resistance of the KOP soldiers, the Red Army men entered deep into western Belarus (at that time eastern Poland – Kresy 1939). After retreating to the Naliboki Forest, on September 19, 1939, part  of the Iwieniec Battalion was surrounded and surrendered to the Red Army. Several KOP officers, including the Battalion Commander, Captain Edward Nowrat, were executed.

 

Ihor Melniku, PhD

The author is an independent Belarusian historian

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