Vilnius 1939

When on September 17, 1939, the Soviets attacked Poland, Vilnius (now – the capital of Lithuania) defended itself for one day. The Joachim Lelewel Foundation is making a film on this subject.

During the staging of fights

The key reason for making this film is the need to refute the Russian and Belarusian narrative, according to which there was no aggression by the USSR in 1939 and only “brotherly help” for Belarusians and Ukrainians. The propaganda of Moscow and Minsk proves that on September 17, Poland no longer existed, and the Polish Army was in disarray – and did not fight. Meanwhile, the defence of Vilnius (Wilno in Polish), although short-lived, proves that these claims are false.

Fighting in the city took place on September 18-19. On the Polish side, there were forces equal to three infantry regiments with a dozen cannons and an armoured train; on the Soviet side – three armoured brigades and two cavalry divisions. The defence could have lasted much longer, but General Józef Olszyna-Wilczyński, commanding in this area, ordered to stop fighting and withdraw to Lithuania. Some Polish soldiers did it; others reached the city of Grodno, where the defence lasted from 20 to September 22.

An interview with a historian, Agnieszka Jędrzejewska PhD

Of course, defending against two enemies had no chance. But the Polish commanders wanted to demonstrate that there was no consent to aggression and that the army resisted. As a result of chaotic fighting, the Soviets lost several tanks and armoured cars and many dead. How many are unknown because the official Soviet data is contradictory.

The film is also supposed to show the behaviour of the Lithuanians in September 1939. Despite Berlin’s pressure, the country remained neutral, and all accounts speak of an excellent reception of Polish soldiers and good internment conditions.

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