Valta Conference
Foreign Relations of the United States: The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, pp. 667-71.

THE POLISH QUESTION

THE PRESIDENT inquired whether the Polish question should be taken up now or postponed until the next meeting.

THE PRIME MINISTER said that he hoped that at least a start could be made today.

THE PRESIDENT said that the United States was farther away from Poland than anyone else here, and that there were times when a long distance point of view was useful. He said that at Tehran he had stated that he believed the American people were in general favorably inclined to the Curzon Line as the eastern frontier of Poland, but he felt that if the Soviet Government would consider a concession in regard to Lwow and the oil deposits in the Province of Lwow that would have a very salutary effect. He said that he was merely putting forth this suggestion for consideration and would not insist on it. He said that in regard to the government he wished to see the creation of a representative government which could have the support of all the great powers and which could be composed of representatives of the principal parties of Poland. He said one possibility which had been suggested was the creation of a Presidential Council composed of Polish leaders which could then create a government composed of the chiefs of the five political parties–Workers Party, Peasant Party, Socialist Party, etc. He said that one thing must be made certain and that was that Poland should maintain the most friendly and co-operative relations with the Soviet Union.

MARSHAL STALIN replied that Poland should maintain friendly relations not only with the Soviet Union but with the other Allies.

THE PRESIDENT said he had merely put forth a suggestion but he thought if we could solve the Polish question it would be a great help to all of us. He added he didn’t know personally any members of the London government or Lublin government, but he had met Mr. Mikolajczyk who had made a deep impression on him as a sincere and an honest man.

THE PRIME MINISTER said that he had consistently declared in Parliament and elsewhere that the British Government would support the Curzon Line, even leaving Lwow to the Soviet Union. He had been criticized for this and so had Mr. Eden, but he felt that after the burdens which Russia had borne in this war the Curzon Line was not a decision of force but one of right. He said he remained in that position. Of course, he added, if the mighty Soviet Union could make some gesture to the much weaker country, such as the relinquishment of Lwow, this act of magnanimity would be acclaimed and admired. He said he was much more interested in sovereignty and independence of Poland than in the frontier line-he wanted to see the Poles have a home where they could organize their lives as they wished. That was an objective that he had often heard Marshal Stalin proclaim most firmly, and he put his trust in those declarations. He said that he therefore had not considered the question of the frontier as a question of vital importance. It must not be forgotten, however, that Great Britain had gone to war to protect Poland against German aggression at a time when that decision was most risky, and it had almost cost them their life in the world. He said Great Britain had no material interest in Poland, but the question was one of honor and that his government would therefore never be content with a solution which did not leave Poland a free and independent state. The freedom of Poland, however, did not cover any hostile designs or intrigue against the U. S. S. R., and none of us should permit this. It is the earnest desire of the British Government that Poland be mistress in her own house and captain of her soul. He said that the British Government recognized the present Polish government in London but did not have intimate contact with it. He said he had known Mr. Mikolajczyk, Mr. Grabski and Mr. Romer and had found them good and honest men. He inquired whether there might be some possibility of forming a government here for Poland which would utilize these men. If this could be done all the great powers could then recognize it as an interim government until such time as the Poland government [Polish people?] by free vote could select and form their own government. He concluded by saying he was interested in the President’s suggestion.

At the suggestion of Marshal Stalin, there was a ten-minute intermission.

MARSHAL STALIN then gave the following summary of his views on the Polish question: Mr. Churchill had said that for Great Britain the Polish question was one of honor and that he understood, but for the Russians it was a question both of honor and security. It was one of honor because Russia had many past grievances against Poland and desired to see them eliminated. It was a question of strategic security not only because Poland was a bordering country but because throughout history Poland had been the corridor for attack on Russia. We have to mention that during the last thirty years Germany twice has passed through this corridor. The reason for this was that Poland was weak. Russia wants a strong, independent and democratic Poland. Since it was impossible by the force of Russian armies alone to close from the outside this corridor, it could be done only by Poland’s own forces. It was very important, therefore, to have Poland independent, strong and democratic. It is not only a question of honor for Russia, but one of life and death. It was for this reason that there had been a great change from the policies of the Czars who had wished to suppress and assimilate Poland. In regard to the questions raised here on which we have different opinions, the following might be said:

In regard to the Curzon Line, concessions in regard to Lwow and the Lwow Province, and Mr. Churchill’s reference to a magnanimous act on our part, it is necessary to remind you that not Russians but Curzon and Clemenceau fixed this line. The Russians had not been invited and the line was established against their will. Lenin had opposed giving Bialystok Province to the Poles but the Curzon Line gives it to Poland. We have already retreated from Lenin’s position in regard to this province. Should we then be less Russian than Curzon and Clemenceau? We could not then return to Moscow and face the people who would say Stalin and Molotov have been less sure defenders of Russian interest than Curzon and Clemenceau. It is, therefore, impossible to agree with the proposed modification of the line. I would prefer to have the war go on although it will cost us blood in order to compensate for Poland from Germany. When he was in Moscow Mr. Mikolajczyk was delighted to hear that Poland’s frontier would extend to the West Neisse River and I favor the Polish frontier on the West Neisse and ask the conference to support this proposal.

As to the question of the Polish government, Mr. Churchill has said it would be good to create a Polish government here. I am afraid that was a slip of the tongue, for without participation of the Poles it is impossible to create a Polish government. I am called a dictator and not a democrat, but I have enough democratic feeling to refuse to create a Polish government without the Poles being consulted the question can only be settled with the consent of the Poles. Last autumn in Moscow there was a good chance for a fusion of the various Polish elements and in the meeting between Mikolajczyk, Grabski and Lublin Poles various points of agreement were reached as Mr. Churchill will remember. Mikolajczyk left for London but did not return since he was expelled from office precisely because he wanted agreement. Artieszewski [Arciszewski] and Raskiewycz [Raczkiewicz] are not only against agreement but are hostile to any idea of an agreement. Artieszewski has characterized the Lublin Poles as bandits and criminals and they naturally pay him back in the same coin. It will be difficult to bring them together. The Warsaw Poles, Bierut and Osubka Morawski, do not even want to talk about any fusion with the London government. I asked them what concessions they might make in this respect and they said they could tolerate Jelikowski [Zeligowski] or Grabski but they do not even want to hear about Mikolajczyk being prime minister. I am prepared to support any attempt to reach a solution that would offer some [chance] of success. Should we ask the Warsaw Poles to come here or perhaps come to Moscow? I must say that the Warsaw government has a democratic base equal at least to that of de Gaulle.

As a military man I demand from a country liberated by the Red Army that there be no civil war in the rear. The men in the Red Army are indifferent to the type of government as long as it will maintain order and they will not be shot in the back. The Warsaw, or Lublin, government has not badly fulfilled this task. There are, however, agents of the London government who claim to be agents of the underground forces of resistance. I must say that no good and much evil comes from these forces. Up to the present time they have killed 212 of our military men. They attack our supply bases to obtain arms. Although it has been proclaimed that all radio stations must be registered and obtain permission to operate, agents of the London government are violating these regulations. We have arrested some of them and if they continue to disturb our rear we will shoot them as military law requires. When I compare what the agents of the Lublin government have done and what the agents of the London government have done I see the first are good and the second bad. We want tranquility in our rear. We will support the government which gives us peace in the rear, and as a military man I could not do otherwise. Without a secure rear there can be no more victories for the Red Army. Any military man and even the non-military man will understand this situation

THE PRIME MINISTER said that he must put on record the fact that the British and Soviet Governments have different sources of information in Poland and therefore they obtain different views of the situation there. He said it is possible that their reports are mistaken as it is not always possible to believe everything that anyone tells you. He believed, he added, that with the best of all their information he could not feel that the Lublin government represents more than one third of the people and would be maintained in power if the people were free to express their opinion. One of the reasons why the British have so earnestly sought a solution had been the fear that the Polish underground army would come into collision with the Lublin government, which would lead to great bloodshed, arrests and deportations which could not fail to have a bad effect on the whole Polish question. The Prime Minister said he agreed that anyone who attacks the Red Army should be punished, but he repeated that the British Government could not agree to recognizing the Lublin government of Poland.

The Conference then adjourned until four o’clock tomorrow.