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Polish Cemeteries in Iran: 1942-1945

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Europe: Poland
 
Polish Cemetery, Dulab, Tehran
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Tehran was the heart of Polish evacuation activity and the center of all the movements of assure appropriate conditions of stay and evacuation of thousands of refugees under the management of the Representation Office of the Ministry of Labor and Social Care of the Republic of Poland.

Dulab Polish Cemetery in the eastern suburbs of Tehran covers three fourths of the area of catholic cemetery in this city. The remaining part is a catholic “international” cemetery, embracing the graves of English, Czechs, French, Germans, Armenians and Italians. As a property of the Government of France, it is managed by the embassies of France and Italy and by the Archbishopric of Roman-Catholic Church in Iran. The Polish part itself is managed by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Tehran on the basis of a notary act of property issued by Iranian Ministry of Justice to the Polish authorities of those days in 1943.

Polish cemetery in Tehran is the main and the largest place of burial of Polish refugees in Iran, in the period of World War II. There are tombs of 1937 poles, including 409 soldiers and 528 civilians. Apart from 45 persons buried past 1945, the deceased are refugees from the territory of Soviet Union in the period from 1942 to 1944. They passed away in hospitals and evacuation camps in Tehran. The reasons of most of the demises were epidemic disease and general exhaustion, caused by distressing experience in Soviet lagers. Major parts of the departed were newborn children.

Polish part of the cemetery is remarkable for two stone stands, one of them being engraved with the images representing the Jagellionian eagle and the Virtuti Military War. A lane lined with pine trees leads to this part of cemetery; it extends farther inside arriving to a monumental statue topped with an iron cross. On front of the statue, a commemorative stone plate with engraved emblem of the Republic of Poland bears on inscription reading: ”In remembrance of Polish expatriates having stayed here in God forever on their way to Fatherland. 1942-1944.” There are plates with identical inscriptions in French and Persian on the backside of the statue.

Around the statue, being the central element of the cemetery, burial grounds spread over with rows of graves. Every row includes a dozen of graves in pale cement plate, engraved with durable marking with a symbol of cross, name and first name, date of birth and death, and additionally with military grade in the case of soldiers. The cemetery is well maintained and it has subject to major repair works.

Furthermore, the cemetery is a place of burial of General Antoni Radziwill de Borowski (deceased January 21, 1898) and architect Professor Leszek Horodecki (deceased 3, 1930).
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Polish Tombs in British Military Cemetery, Gholhak, Tehran

The mortal remains of Polish soldiers, dead in 1942 in Hamadan, and buried in local cemeteries were transported to the Cemetery of British Commonwealth Gholhak in Tehran in 1962.

Ten graves of Polish soldiers spread in row B and C and in Ground No. 6, among the graves of British and Commonwealth soldiers, dead in Iran during World War I and II. They are standard tombstones similarly as in other British cemeteries, and are engraved with a symbol of national emblem of the Republic of Poland.

The cemetery is located at the rear of summer residence of the Ambassador of Great Britain in Iran. It is maintained very well, being in regular custody of British diplomatic agency and specialized institutions responsible for war shrines. The cemetery has a central monument and a chapel.
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Polish Plot in Jewish Cemetery, Tehran

There was a considerable group of Jews among the refugees coming to Iran from Soviet Union. Essentially they stopped in Tehran, from where they were evacuated progressively to other centers of refugees. A part of them, both soldiers and civilians, terminated their homeless itinerary on Iranian land. They were buried in 1942-1944, not only in Polish cemetery, but also in a separate cemetery plot of Jewish community in Tehran. This cemetery still belongs to the Jewish Community. As a result of unwritten agreement between the Polish authorities of those days and the management of the cemetery, the territory separated as a burial ground enjoys the statues of a kind of “perpetual usufruct”.

Polish tombs are located on the border of Jewish Cemetery. The two rows of graves are marked with bricks; each of 56 graves, being decorated with a standard plate with David Star and inscription in Polish language, indicating the name, first name, military grade and date of birth and dead. Some of the graves are topped with plates engraved with inscriptions in Polish and Hebrew; they were founded by friends and relatives. No central plate or statue has been placed on the cemetery so far. In 2002, the Council of Protection of War and Martyrdom Remembrance plans to fix a monument in remembrance of Polish Jews buried there, upon agreement with the management of the cemetery.
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Polish Plot in Armenian Cemetery, Anzali (former Pahlavi)

While making their way to freedom from various parts of Soviet Union, Polish refugees crossed Krasnovodsk and Caspian Sea to reach Anzali Port. In 1942, that port became a gate of liberty for thousands of Poles. Furthermore, it was the first city on the wandering route, where Poles themselves and British took care of starving exiles. As a result of agreement with Soviet authorities, Anzali became the most wanted place for thousands of Polish refugees in that period. Upon a short quarantine, the refugees were transported from Anzali to camps of evacuation in Tehran, Ahwaz and other Iranian cities.

Thanks to the personal intervention of Colonel Alexander Ross, the representative of MERRA (Middle East Relief and Refugee Administration), Polish and British bases of evacuation were established in Anzali, capable of receiving some 2500 refugees a day from Soviet Union. Thanks to the cooperation with Polish and American Red Cross organizations, the bases could receive two large evacuation lots including the soldiers and civilians in March, April and August 1942. The Command of Camp of Evacuation No. 1 in Anzali and the Personnel performing superhuman work made it possible to save many human beings, above all children, who were coming in utter exhaustion on ships full of refugees.

In spite of this aid and care of Polish and British people, many refugees, however, remained forever in Anzali. They were buried in Polish plot of the Local cemetery of Armenian Community in Anzali.

The staff and Colonel Stanislaw, Chief Commander of Liquidation Committee of Camp of Evacuation No. 1 took personal care of the arrangement of the cemetery. In November 1942, Mr. Karol Bader, the contemporary legate of the Republic of Poland acknowledged those efforts in writing: ”Your attitude full of reverence towards the last resting place of those of our compatriots, who did not live to see the return to their Fatherland will be a visible evidence of the efforts Polish Government keeps making unremittingly in order to protect all Polish citizens, whom the war expatriated from their domiciles and threw in very hard conditions.”

Polish authorities acquired the territory to arrange Polish Plot from the management of Armenian Community in Anzali, by concluding appropriate agreement with Armenian Community in 1942. The plot was a larger part of Armenian cemetery. In 1942, 639 Poles were buried there (163 soldiers and 476 civilians). They died upon arrival to Anzali. The cemetery was surrounded by a high wall, with an iron gate, with brick portal engraved with an inscription reading: “Polish Cemetery”. Moreover, a stone cross was placed on the portal flanked by two stone Jagellonian Eagles.

The graved with wooden crosses are placed on four grounds of burial of identical area. Long ago, there was a modest plate in the center with an inscription reading:
Polish Wanderers!
Exiled from their Homeland by shear force
returning homesick to their nests
gnawed by penury and disease
had to sleep here in foreign soil.
1942


According to other sources, the inscription was different:
Pray God for souls of Polish soldiers, women, men and children removed from their Fatherland, making their way home consequent to exile, prisons and camps, deceased on foreign land and buried here”.

In 1955, the diplomatic agency of the Polish People’s Republic reconstructed the cemetery and modified simultaneously the decoration of the graves. Tombstones in pink cement, with names of the buried, were made then similarly as in the cemetery in Tehran. Furthermore, rows and alleys between the graves were traced out and the territory was planted with hedges.

In 1964, on the initiative of Polish diplomatic agency, the deteriorated memorial plate was replaced and on that occasion, the inscription was changed. It reads now: “In remembrance of Polish soldiers, women, men and children coming back home, dead on foreign land and buried here in 1942”.

The cemetery in Anzali is the second largest Polish cemetery in Iran. Today, on the initiative of the Council of Protection of War and Martyrdom Remembrance and the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Tehran, the cemetery has been subject to throughout repair works.
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Polish Plot in Catholic-Chaldean Cemetery, Ahwaz

Ahwaz, one of the oldest Persian cities was a temporary halting place for Polish refugees in their war-time peregrination. In 1942-1945, a transition camp was operated there to receive thousands of Polish soldiers, civil population and children, since that place opened to the routes to Polish military troops in Iraq and Palestine and mostly to civil refugee camps operated in Lebanon, India and Africa and other overseas.

The camp in Ahwaz was organized in early 1942, by British authorities, planning to admit the refugees from the Soviet Union and the transports of troops. Implicitly, it was a military camp (called Polish Camp) at the beginning, divided into Camps No. 1, 2 and 3.

The liquidation of the Military Camp of Evacuation followed the transport of Polish soldiers to the Middle East. Ahwaz became a new refugee center managed by the Officer of Hardstand and by the Agency of Representation Office of the Legate of Labor and Social Care of the Republic of Poland. Polish infant school, primary school and general education grammar school were established there, not to mention other organizations such as the Association of Polish Teachers, Scouting Organizations, the Branch of Culture and Education, English-Polish Organization, and Polish Library. Furthermore, the distribution of Polish press was organized. Polish camps closed in 1945. Not until January 30th, 1946, however, got the last Polish school in Ahwaz liquidated, thus closing the chapter of Polish exile in that city.

The toms of Poles, deceased during their stay in Ahwaz, started to appear in 1942 on the plot within the boundaries of the Catholic-Chaldean Cemetery. 102 Poles are buried there (80 civilians and 22 soldiers). The graves were marked with standard tombstones similarly as those in Tehran cemetery. In front of the burial grounds, there are two graves with crosses and without inscriptions.

A plate with an epitaph reading ”In remembrance of the Poles dead far from their Fatherland in 1942-1945” was places only in 1965. The cemetery is poorly maintained and unattended-to.
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Polish Plot in Armenian Cemetery, Isfahan

The city lies at the life-giving Zayandeh-roud river, at the foot of rocky Zagros mountain range, with local summit Sofeh mountain, surrounded by enormous hilly and wild desert. It lies more than 1500 meters over the sea level and enjoys continental climate. Quiet and somnolent wartime, Isfahan had already its high days over.

In 1942 however, it came back to life as an asylum for Polish refugees, arriving from the “ruthless land”. The preparation works to admit first groups of refugees were started just in March 1942, with the assistance of the British Council. On April 10th, the first group of 250 orphans and half-orphans of different ages came to Isfahan. The group included a number of teachers and tutors, two Ursuline sisters and Reverend Franciszek Tomasik. As time went by, this small center grew up to include 2600 children. In 1942-1945, some 2000 children passed through Isfahan, called then “the city of Polish children”. Some of the children lived there from the beginning until the moment of closure, other stayed there shortly until the time of departure to Africa or to New Zealand.

The fact that such a big group of children was installed in Isfahan was due to intention of locating as many as possible orphans in better climate and living conditions. They had to recover their health and forces as soon as possible, having gone through strenuous experience in Soviet Union.

The children lived in orphanages, called “institutions”, to avoid painful connotations with recent loss of their parents. The Institution No. 1, called commonly “Number One”, was established in a mansion, leased from Persian Prince Soremidoule, and it was located at the western border of the city. The Institution No. 2 (Number Two) was located in the convent of French Sisters of Charity. The Institution No. 3 (Number Three) was in the house of Swiss St. Lazar Fathers. These first three boarding schools were the origins of “Polish Isfahan”, which grew up progressively to include 21 institutions.

In catholic institutions, the children were maintained by the Apostolic See; in other centers, the sponsor was the Government of the Republic of Poland, on whose behalf the representatives of the Ministry of Labor and Social care were working there.

Still growing a number of children coming to Isfahan was the reason why the houses on the other bank of Julfa River, in Armenian district, were leased thanks to the kindness of Armenian Bishop Akhbar.

The city was vibrant with Polish life. Upon arrival of Polish children, the nursery schools, primary and grammar schools, as well as classical colleges started to operate; for the purposes of education, necessary manuals were copied and scouting was organized. The Association of Polish Teachers was active, presided by John Krzewinski. Apart from schools in Isfahan, a convalescent house was opened, and more important, Polish Health Service was organized. Furthermore, Polish bakery and workshops such as carpenter, shoemaker and metalworker was opened, and even Polish baths on Julfa zone. The Security Service, employing six men, was responsible for law and order. Everyday press communications were edited and Polish press such as “Orzel Bialy” (White Eagle), “Parada” (Parades) and “Polak w Iranie” (Pole in Iran) was distributed.

Officially the center was called “Isfahan Civil Camp No. 4”. From October 1942, all the institutions were managed by Polish Agency of the Ministry of Labor and Social Care of the Republic of Poland, responsible also for the care of Polish population. The agency was headed in succession by Tadeusz Dymowski, Eugeniusz Mancewisz from October 1942, and Stanislaw Winiarczyk, Ph. Dr. from autumn 1943.

1945 was the last year in the history of “Polish Isfahan”. Its liquidation began with closure of some institutions and progressive evacuation of inhabitants although people lived a normal life there, until June 1645. In July, the college graduates (girls) left to study in Lebanon (through Tehran and Ahwaz). Further transports followed in September and October 12th, 1945, thus closing the history of “Polish Isfahan” evacuated to Lebanon, nearly all together as solicited by the Polish authorities.

The tombs of Poles, who did not succeed in coming back to their Homeland, were left in Isfahan. Armenian Cemetery, where Polish tombs are spread, among foreign ones is located between Julfa River and the foot of Mount Sofe. Polish graves lies on a separated plot at the eastern border of the cemetery, at main alley dividing the cemetery. The plot is surrounded by a rather low wall. At its right border, there are two rows of individual graves. The plot includes 18 graves (1 military an 17 civilians) altogether.

The principal element of the Polish plot is a central granite monument with Piast Eagle, engraved on it. The eagle is crowned and it has an image of Czestochowa Holy Mother on its chest. Below an inscription reads:
Compatriots in Remembrance of Polish Exiles”.

In front of the monument, a concrete base supports a tombstone of Tadeusz Mironowicz, the legate of the King of Poland, dead on Dec. 26, 1686. The inscription engraved on the stone, reads:
Sinner THEODOR MIRANOWICZ lies here, legate of His Majesty King of Poland, December 26th, 1986”.

The inscription in Polish language is preceded by a blurred inscription in old Arabiab language, reading:
By the intention of God Feodor Miranowicz, Legate of His Majesty King of Poland”.
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Polish Plot in Catholic-Chaldean Cemetery, Qazvin

The city lies in a hilly region on the route from Anzali to Tehran. The region was once a limit of Soviet infiltration into Iran. On March 24, 1943, Soviet authorities agreed to establish British and Polish bases of evacuation in Qazvin, among other locations. Hundreds of Polish civilian refugees arrived there, including children.

Polish plot with tombs of 40 Polish refugees (29 civilians and 11 soldiers) was organized in 1942 in Catholic-Chaldean Cemetery, being the property of religious community in Qazvin. Polish graves are located close to each other in the first segment at the entrance of the cemetery.

When Polish citizens left Qazvin, the Polish Plot remained completely unattended-to. According to the cataloguing of 1993, it was an empty ground with barely visible online of the grave shapes, having no durable tombstones. The reason of this condition was the fact that the graves were never refurbished and in 1955, the employees of the legation of Polis People’s Republic refused to share the costs of fencing and repair works with the owners of the cemetery. Close to the Polish Plot were the British Plot and a monument in remembrance of death of some Soviet soldiers.
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Polish Plot in Catholic-Chaldean Cemetery, Khoram-shahr

Khoram-shahr is a port in southern-western part of Iran, opening at the Persian Gulf, 90 Km away from Ahwaz and less from Basra. The neighboring Iraq frontier was the reason why Khoram-shahr became a point of transit for Polish soldiers, going to Basra and further in the territory of Iraq to the quarters of Polish troops. It was also a part from where the refugees were evacuated to India, East Africa and other overseas.

Polish graves are located on a small plot of Catholic-Chaldean Cemetery belonging to local religious community. Five Polish soldiers and officers were buried there. Their names were found in the book of the Defunct. Yet since the time of establishment of the cemetery, these data were not checked against the number of graves. The cemetery has not been visited so far and its present conditions remain unknown.

In many official documents and publications on this topic, the name of locality has been misspelled as Khoram-abad, located in central Iranian mainland.
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Polish Plot in Armenian Cemetery, Meshed

Meshed is a locality at the foot of mountains in northeast Iran. It is famous for pilgrimage of pious Islam confessors. In 1942-1943, it became a peaceful haven and safe harbor for Polish homeless children. In 1942, Meshed became a point on another less known route of Poles from Soviet Union. It was a land road leading from Ashhabad through Kopet Dag Mountains to Meshed and further to Tehran or to India.

1704 children altogether arrived there overland, weak from starvation and diseases, exhausted by extreme trials. 675 of them were sent farther through Zahedan to India. At a later date, the remaining children were sent to three camps, organized near Tehran.

In Meshed, the children were placed in the rooms of Persian orphanage, becoming Polish center for that time. It was administered by Mrs. W. Jasiewiczowa, a perfect manager, and Reverend Zygmunt Sep-Jagielnicki was nominated chaplain. Apart from school activities, Mrs. Janina Ptakowa took care of scouting. She was a teacher. Having lost her own child in Soviet Union, she bestowed all her maternal affection upon the orphans arriving to Meshed.

In 1943, the orphanage was evacuated progressively. On March 6th, a large transport of children started on a journey from Meshed to India, and in September, the last group of children left Meshed, going mostly to Tehran to the Institution No. 7 and 7A among other centers. The children, who didn’t find their parents or were unable to join their brothers and sisters, were sent back to Isfahan.

The works on arrangement of Polish cemetery, being a plot in the cemetery of Armenian community in Meshed, were started still in 1942. Mr. Tadeusz Liciecki, Vice-Council of the Republic of Poland in Bombay, who was on a temporary stay in Meshed (he organized there the transports of Polish children to India), acquired free of charge the place for Polish graves from the management of Armenian Church in August 1942. The first graves were those of Polish children. The costs of arrangement of the cemetery and construction of graves for children were covered from the means of the Consulate of the Republic of Poland in Bombay, while the Military Base of Evacuation in Tehran took care of the costs of Polish soldiers’ tombs.

All the works were executed in compliance with the plans under personal supervision of Mr. T. Lisiecki. The graves were localized at the border of Armenian cemetery on a separated fence plot. The masonry of individual graves were set on a cement mortar and next lined with stone. Every grave had its own cross, first wooden and next stone, with personal data on the defunct. In the center of Polish plot, a group grave was constructed for these young girl scouts, who died in a road accident near Quchan on September 13th, 1942. Ignacy Korman and second lieutenant Tadeusz Izycki from the transport of delegates from Russia lost their lives in the same accident. Mr. Izycki was fatally wounded and died the following day in Meshed.

On the group grave of the girls, a plate was placed with inscription reading: “Polish scout girls dead tragically in a road accident near Quchan on September 13th, 1942” and showing the names of the girls: Dunata Stidnicka 1927-1942, Aldona Trypuc 1922-1942, Waclawa Kaczmarska 1926-1942. According to local Armenian people however, seven girls were buried there instead of three.

In 22 Polish individual graves and one group grave 29 persons were buried altogether: homeless children, civilians and soldiers.

In 1943 in Meshed, a conference was held, attended by the representative of the legation of the Republic of Poland in Tehran and the Agency of the Representative Office of the Ministry of Labor and Social Care, Mr. Franciszek Bala, Reverend Z. Sep-Jagielnicki and Colonel M. Sc. Eng. Edward Perkowicz, Commander of the Garrison and Base of Evacuation and Maintenance in Meshed. During the conference, a corporate discussion took place on the “issue how to set the Polish cemetery in Meshed in order as soon as possible”. In March 1943, the issues relating to the cemetery as well as other issues pertinent to the Polish refugees in Meshed were taken over by the Agency.

After the war, the graves were not repaired for a long time. Not until 1958 did the management of the Armenian Cemetery take care of maintenance. In the spring of 1963, the cemetery was rebuilt thoroughly under the supervision of Polish engineers, employed in the sugar plant in Shirvan.

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Polish Cemeteries in Iran: 1942-45
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