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Labor Action, 16 June 1947


Arthur Stein

“Freedom from Fear” in Europe

Stalin Reaches Out for Expatriates


From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 24, 16 June 1947, pp. 3 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Reports continue to pile up concerning Russian citizens in Central and Western Europe who refuse to be repatriated to Russia. Their refusal has been so determined that many, when confronted with forced repatriation, have committed suicide.

The motive of these people in refusing repatriation is obvious: the Russian government has taken the position that anyone who had “permitted” himself to be captured by the Germans, either as a prisoner of war or as a slave laborer, has thereby committed a criminal act. Since the Russian economy is operated on the basis of using a constantly increasing supply of forced labor, former prisoners of the Axis powers are a valuable source of slave laborers for the Kremlin empire.

Recently, a group of Russian “displaced persons” in camps in Italy issued an urgent appeal to the outside world for aid in preventing their forced shipment to slave labor camps in Russia. Another group in France has been confined to barbed wire repatriation camps which are run, under an agreement with the French government, by Russian police forces.

Allied “Slave-Catchers”

Under terms of an agreement signed at Yalta, British and American military forces have consistently served the Russians as “slavecatchers.” By the beginning of this year, more than two million Russian nationals had been forced back to Russia. Today, 13,800 of them are left in camps throughout Europe, while a much larger number, estimated at around 400,000, has avoided, the camps by concealing their nationality.

According to the Yalta agreement, only former members of the Russian armed forces were to be forced to return, while the former labor slaves of the Nazis were to be given the alternative of staying in the West if they so desired. However, since the propaganda campaign of the Russian, embassies failed to get these people to agree to voluntary repatriation, a good deal more than “moral persuasion” has been used by the British, Russians and Americans.

The following are excerpts from a report on forced repatriation of Russian refugees from Italy, released here by the Refugee Defense Committee:

On August 14, 1946, all those who were in the Russian section of the camp at Bagnole were transported to the prisoners of war camp in Rimini. Here all “former Soviet citizens” were segregated on the basis of previously prepared lists and placed behind barbed wire.

This action created so much indignation and suspicion that the British command felt constrained to reassure the refugees. Among other things they were told that it had all been done in order to protect them from Soviet persecution: that in a prisoners of war camp they were under the protection of the British Army and the Soviets therefore could not possibly interfere with their fate.

Shortly before the events of May 8, Major Hills promised the entire camp that they would be emigrating to the Argentine and that they had precedence over all other categories. Lt. Col. Martin, the officer commanding, made a public declaration in the same sense to the entire camp.

On May 7, Capt. Smith called out a list of 185 names, all of whom were told to prepare for evacuation from Rimini. Apparently wishing to reassure them, he suggested that they take their bedding and belongings with them. The refugees complied quietly. That evening they were surrounded by a heavy guard. All of them were searched and deprived of every article which might conceivably be lethal, including bottles, phials and tin cans. Then they were made to take off their British battle dress and to don German garb.

On the morning of May 8, a number of strong British units arrived at the camp and, while these units stood guard, the refugees were placed aboard trucks. Each truck seated 15 people and each one departed only after the previous one had returned. Each truck was escorted by a radio car, tommy-gunners on motorcycles and two jeeps, one in front and one behind, both mounted with machineguns. At the time, no one knew the destination of the trucks and no one could guess why they were so heavily guarded.

British Deception

British troops and battalions of carabinieri had already been deployed around the nearby hamlet and the railroad station. At the station, each group of 15 dismounted between solid rows of British guards, their tommy-guns at the alert. They were herded between this gauntlet onto special railroad cars that were awaiting them. Only then did the refugees realize that they had been deceived and that they were beihg handed over to the Soviets.

The following scenes took place during this operation:

  1. While boarding the prison car, Alexander Kristalevsky, 25 years old, tore himself loose, picked up a large boulder and struck himself on the temple with it, thus killing himself.
  2. Paul Rodin, 33 years old, wrenched a gun from a British Tommy and tried to shoot himself. When the rifle failed to fire, he tried to club his way to freedom with it. He broke through the first line of British soldiers, but then was shot dead.
  3. The Bikodoroffs, father and son (Vladimir, 52 years old; Nicholas, 22 years old) tried to make a simultaneous break. The father, to save his son, threw himself from the truck and bowled several of the guards off their feet. The son tried to leap through the opening thus created, but was instantly shot. The father, unconscious, was thrown aboard the railroad car.
  4. Anatole Imanov, 27, snatched a gun from a guard and tried to shoot his way out. He was killed in the melee.
  5. Koursahin, a medical doctor, committed suicide by swallowing poison.
  6. Among those delivered to the Soviets were 12 married men. At the station, women and children were forcibly separated from their husbands, sons and brothers. An old woman, mother of one Ivan Korobko, who by accident had discovered her son in Italy after the war, begged to be allowed to share his fate. She was torn away from him – forever.

One by one, the railroad cars with their cargoes of condemned men were assembled in the station at Bologna, where they were joined by another hundred or so Russians who were being repatriated from the American camp at Pisa. We have not as yet received a full account of what happened at Pisa. The following facts, however, have been ascertained:

Among those slated for delivery was one Pavel Ivanov, former camp leader of the Russian group. Until the very last he trusted the word of the British officers, who had assured him that all of the inhabitants of the camp would be safeguarded. Shortly before the transfer from Rimini, some friends from a nearby camp had suggested escape to him. He refused their suggestion, saying that he trusted the British command and could not violate his pledge to them.

One-Sided Battle

It is said that only in Bologna did he understand that they had all been deceived. He reacted with firmness and courage. He waited for an opportune moment: then he called out to all men to revolt rather than permit themselves to be returned to their death. The unarmed Russians, knowing well what awaited them if they were returned, threw themselves to a man against the British guards who surrounded them and fought what was for many of them the last battle for their lives. Some of them succeeded in seizing rifles from their guards, but the battle was too one-sided to last very long. A precise estimate of the casualties is difficult. According to our information, almost 100 Russians were killed or wounded and there were also a number of British casualties. Ivanov himself, seeing the hopelessness of the situation, picked up an empty can and committed suicide by cutting his arteries and then his throat with its jagged edge.

Major Hills again guaranteed the safety of those who remained in the camp upon his word of honor as a British officer. In every DP camp attempts were made to reassure the inmates by telling them that what had happened had merely been a surrender to the Soviets of known “war criminals.” But the Russians living in Italy knew the people who were surrendered; and they have thus been able to convince themselves that the term “war criminal” – just as is the case with the designation “enemy of the people” in the Soviet Union – is a classification sufficiently elastic to meet all the desires of the Soviet regime. It is clear from everything that has happened that the Soviets consider all their pre-war citizens now in exile to be “war criminals.”

The population of the camps is in a state of great anxiety. General despair, hopelessness, a complete distrust of the camp administration, have together made life unbearable. The people here would be ready to make any sacrifices – they would be ready to die if necessary – if they could only escape from the camps and the endless deception of their “protectors.” But the general situation in Italy is such that even this final avenue is closed to them.

Simultaneously with events described above, the Allied and Italian police have launched a full-scale manhunt against all those refugees who lack identification papers, and especially against those who have been designated by the Soviets. This manhunt is obviously being conducted with a three-fold purpose: (1) to catch those who succeeded in escaping from the camps; (2) to discourage any attempts at escape by those remaining in the camps; and (3) to prepare a second contingent for shipment to the Soviet executioners.


A few remarks should be added here regarding the Stalinist explanation for the refusal of Russian, Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish DPs to be repatriated to Russian-occupied territories.

All these people are branded by the Stalinists with, blanket accusations of being “collaborators of the Germans” or “fascists.” While we have little reason to doubt that a limited number of DPs actually are former collaborators, we have various facts at our disposal indicating that the overwhelming majority were bitterly persecuted by the Germans.

In the case of the Jews, at least the great majority of them, the Stalinist accusations are too ludicrous to discuss.

In the case of the Russians, Poles and Ukrainians, we have reason to believe that the majority of them are opposed to any kind of totalitarianism or monarchy. When the Russian DPs in Italian camps sought help from countrymen abroad in their fight against the program of forced repatriations, they did not turn to Czarist émigrés or other conservatives who would have been only too glad to use them. They turned, rather, to the Russian Mensheviks in various parts of the world. While we have many serious disagreements with the Mensheviks, we know how to distinguish them, nevertheless, from fascists and monarchists.

Actually, however, no defense of these DPs is necessary. We know that Russia’s need for slave laborers dictates a policy of considering every one of them a criminal. All of them know that to return to Russia means a lifetime at slave labor. Under these conditions, the political background of the DPs, even granted the collaborationist activity of Ukrainian peasants to whom the Germans appeared little unlike the Russians in their methods, becomes totally irrelevant when weighed against the crimes of the Stalinist slave machine and its British and American collaborators.

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