This week marked an anniversary of a significant event, widely understood as the beginning of the World War II.
On September 1st 1939 German troops invaded Poland from the West and just two weeks later the Russian army invaded my country from the East.
The Americans call it the double whammy.
This was a complex event that requires some effort to unpack in order to understand.
This is my take on it:
Adolf Hitler didn’t want a war with Poland – there was no gain in it for Germany any way you could imagine. His concern was Russia and the spread of communist ideology in Western Europe, but even that wasn’t the main driver. He needed to secure the supply of natural resources for the German economy, meaning – control the countries who had them.
That was the only way to sell the war concept to the German industrial complex, which really runs the country, and he got the okay to do it.
This is why the war happened.
Hitler wanted Poland to align with him against Stalin, which would be the right thing to do for both countries.
Poland refused, and there are records surfacing that the critical levels of Polish government were infiltrated by the Russians who drove the decision.
You need to understand the complexity of the situation – the eastern border of Poland moved with some (war) frequency. The loyalty of people there was not obvious, in the sense – which is actually my country? The language was floating between Polish and Russian, and the speaking always reflects the thinking and so the feeling of belonging.
Poland would be better off aligning with the Germans, avoiding almost total destruction of the country, genocide and then the following 45 years of Russian occupation, which ruined the economy and cost the lives of many people.
One thing about war is that it causes hatred and the conditions deteriorate quickly. There is no control of what happens anymore.
For me this is the definition of war for any leader – you lose control.
In 1941 the Germans were so close to Moscow, that they could see the Kremlin towers. If they didn’t lose some strength fighting Poland, but would have Polish divisions supporting them instead, Stalin would be out of the picture there and then.
And if you ask me how far out, I say all the way out.
What saves Russia every time is the endless space that makes logistics a nightmare, and also the weather. Brutal winters, wet springs and falls and short summers.
Plus you can’t conquer a country from the air; you need to put boots on the ground and this is when the real life starts, in the mud, mountains and snow.
The Russians are also an emotional nation, they can really get together in the time of need. When the German troops were storming St. Petersburg, in a long and nasty battle, the Russian tanks, the T-34, were leaving the assembly line firing hard just out of the factory gate. At the end they made it all the way to Berlin.
It’s a loaded week in historical sense and what happened then shaped the fate of Eastern and Central Europe for decades. We’re not over it yet, not even close.
Now, I am sitting here by my pool under a big red umbrella on a beautiful summer evening sipping the Montalcino wine and typing.
Music is playing in the rhythm of a slow cooking minestrone soup, so you can tell I live in an Italian neighborhood.
As it got darker, I can hear coyotes, haven’t seen wolfs yet, but they’re quiet hunters. A coyote is like a dog on steroids.
I like the nature around me, wouldn’t like to be chased in panic through the bushes by a wolf, don’t have the speed anymore, but the rest is fine.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler