Wanda Wasilewska (21 January 1905 — 29 July 1964) was a Polish and Soviet novelist and communist political activist who played an important role in the creation of a Polish division of the Soviet Red Army during World War II and the formation of the People’s Republic of Poland.
She had fled the German attack on Warsaw in September 1939 and taken up residence in Soviet-occupied Lviv and eventually the Soviet Union.
Wasilewska was born on 25 January 1905 in Kraków, Austria-Hungary. Her father was Leon Wasilewski, a Polish Socialist Party politician. She studied philosophy at the Warsaw University and Polish language and Polish literature at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. After she graduated she remained at her alma mater and passed her doctorate exams in 1927. While studying she started cooperation with the Union of Socialist Youth and Society of Workers’ Universities.
Soon after she finished her studies she started working as a school teacher and a journalist for various left-wing newspapers, among them “Naprzód”, “Robotnik”, “Dziennik Popularny” and “Oblicze Dnia”. She also became the chairperson of the “Płomyk” and “Płomyczek” monthlies for children, where she introduced Soviet propaganda. Although she was often criticised for her radical left-wing opinions, she joined the PPS instead of the communist party, where she was soon promoted to a member of the main party council. In her early political career she supported an alliance of all the left-wing parties with the communists against the ruling Sanacja. She was also an active supporter of many strikes in Poland. During one of the demonstrations in Kraków she met Marian Bogatko, whom she later married.
After the Polish defeat in the Polish Defensive War of 1939 and the partition of Poland into Soviet and German occupied zones, she moved to Lviv where she automatically became a Soviet citizen. The Gestapo — acting at the request of the NKVD — helped to transfer her daughter and her furniture from Warsaw to Lviv. She became a member of various communist organisations uniting local Polish and Ukrainian communists. She was also a journalist for the Czerwony Sztandar (Red Banner), a Soviet propaganda newspaper printed in Polish language. In early 1940, Joseph Stalin awarded her a seat in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. She also became the chair of the Dramatic Theatre in Lviv. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union Wasilewska fled advancing Nazi army and joined the Red Army as a war correspondent and a functionary of the Political Commandment (Politupravleniye) of the Red Army. She held the military rank of a colonel. She was also one of the founders (together with Jerzy Putrament) of the “Nowe Widnokręgi” monthly.
After consultations with Stalin (and most probably by his direct order) she became the head of the newly formed Związek Patriotów Polskich (Society of Polish Patriots), a Soviet-created provisional government that was to control Poland. In 1944 she also became the deputy chief of the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN), another provisional government which was also sponsored by the Soviet Union and opposing the Polish government in exile as the legal government of Poland. She favoured the incorporation of Poland as a republic of the Soviet Union.
After most of Poland was occupied by the Red Army she decided to stay in the Soviet Union. She also became involved in a relationship with Ukrainian playwright Oleksandr Korniychuk, with whom she moved to Kiev.
Although both her Russian and Ukrainian language abilities were very limited, she remained a member of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union for several decades. She did not return to public life, however. She died on July 29, 1964 in Kiev. She is buried in the Baikove Cemetery.
She was triple recipient of the Stalin prize for literature (1943, 1946, 1952). During the life of Joseph Stalin she was considered a classic writer of Soviet literature and her works were included into the school curriculum throughout the Soviet Union, but she was almost completely forgotten after his death.
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