Mariusz Wołos

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Władysław Sikorski’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1941 was one of the most important events in relations between the Polish government-in-exile and the Kremlin. Soviet diplomats prepared for the arrival of this Polish guest with great care. This was demonstrated by a special memorandum prepared on General Sikorski by the Fourth European Department of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs for their superiors, tracking his whole life and emphasising his anti-Piłsudski and anti-German stance. The deputy head of the Soviet diplomatic apparatus, Andrey Vyshinsky, shouldered the burden of contacts with Poles on behalf of the foreign affairs ministry. The Polish side did not manage to use Sikorski’s visit to ensure that the Soviets fulfilled their commitments resulting from bilateral pacts signed in summer 1941: accelerating the process of freeing Polish citizens from jails, gulags and special settlement areas; employing all those fit for military service to form an army; redeployment of the army being formed to areas where it would be easier to obtain British provisioning aid; and evacuation of 15,000–20,000 soldiers to the United Kingdom and Egypt. The Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, was personally involved in hosting General Sikorski as this was a very important visit to him. This was expressed in the granting of loans to Poland to organise an army in the Soviet Union and aid for Polish citizens, as well as a number of minor concessions. A declaration on friendship and mutual support was ceremonially signed. The Soviet side ensured that Sikorski’s visit was publicised in the press and on the radio, even filming the more important events for propaganda purposes. His radio address was translated into many foreign languages. This was important for Stalin, who exploited the visit of this Polish guest to reduce anti-Soviet moods, not only among Poles living in the Soviet Union, but also among Soviet citizens mindful of the scale of repressions in the 1930s. In reality, the alliance with Poland, including the formation of a Polish army in the Soviets, had been a burden on Stalin from the outset. However, Sikorski’s visit at a time of particular danger to the further existence of the Soviet state suited him well. Hence the hypothesis that the Soviet dictator treated his Polish partner as the titular “ally for show”, both for his own citizens and for international opinion.