Young Soldiers Cadet School (1942-1948)


Courtesy of Walter Remiarz


The Polish army under the command of General Wladyslaw Anders was formed in the Soviet Union after the signing of the Sikorski-Maisky Pact in July 1941 and was referred to as Anders’ Army.


In the fall of 1941, the gulag camps, a system of Soviet labor camps and accompanying detention, transit camps, and prisons, started releasing Polish citizens who tried to reach the Polish army. Among them were thousands of Polish children and teenagers who survived the Soviet Gulag. Officially, the underage youth could not join the Polish army, but they went to the recruitment centers in Vorkuta, Kolomyia, Karaganda, and Krasnoyarsk to seek protection from the Soviet regime. Some came with their relatives, and some came alone. Many children were orphans desperately searching for their relatives or friends in the army. For them, the Anders Army in the Soviet Union was a piece of Poland. They could not be abandoned. General Anders formed Junak [pl: cadet} schools to formalize the affiliation of underage youth with the army.


Photo from Walter Remiarz archive


Young Soldiers Cadet School


In August 1942, the Junak schools transformed into Young Soldiers Cadet School or JSK (Junacka Szkoła Kadetów). JSK operated between 1942 and 1948 and was part of the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division. After the Polish army moved to central Asia, these schools moved to Uzbekistan, and later the fighting units moved to Iran, Iraq, and Palestine. The headquarters of the JSK in Palestine were military camps of the British army in Bash-Shid, Quastina, and Barbara (1943-1947). Between 1942 and 1948, as many as 1,700 students graduated from the JSK. Many took part in military actions in Italy, including the Battle of Monte Cassino, Ancona, and Bologna.

The concept of the JSK partially followed the tradition of the Knights School and the Cadet Corps of the Second Republic of Poland. It provided general education and military training that included drills with arms, shooting, basics of tactics and organization of platoon, and regulations of internal service. In addition to regular educational duties, the cadets participated in many sports and cultural activities. The students wore British uniforms with Polish patches and insignia on the sleeves. Cadet uniforms were not worn by young soldiers daily. They were worn only during active duty, on Sundays, and on holidays.


In September 1943, the first five-month matriculation course was organized for those who had interrupted their education due to the war. The first class had graduated when the Polish army under General W. Anders landed in Italy. As many as 159 students passed the matriculation exam and became students of the regular officer cadet schools. These schools, by decree of the Polish Ministry of Religion and Public Enlightenment in London, received full rights of state schools.


Leadership


Professor Jerzy Aleksandrowicz (1886-1970) was one of the leaders of the JSK program. Aleksandrowicz was educated in Germany and Switzerland. He became a respected histologist and neurophysiologist at the Stefan Batory University in Vilnius (then Poland). As a man of exceptional organizational skills, he was the president of the Academy of Veterinary Medicine in Lviv. He later served as a military physician in the Polish army during the war with Soviet Russia in 1920. Aleksandrowicz was one of the very few Polish POW officers not killed by NKVD in the spring of 1940. He was able to join the Polish army under the command of General Anders in 1941. At first, he acted as a military physician, but he eventually became the head of the educational department. After the war, Aleksandrowicz did not return to communist Poland. He died in Plymouth, England, in 1970.


There were several reasons for General Anders to organize the cadet and fighting units. First of all, he wanted to protect the youths from the Soviet system and make their exodus from the Soviet Union possible. Secondly, the Anders Army desperately needed officers. After the Red Army invaded Poland in September 1939, thousands of Polish officers were imprisoned by the Soviets. In the spring of 1940, about 8,000 of these officers were murdered by the NKVD in Katyn, in addition to thousands of policemen, scientists, academic teachers, artists, priests, and other representatives of the intellectuals (“Katyń massacre”). The leaders of Anders’ Army hoped to educate in the JSK the candidates for the officers’ schools and the members of the post-war elite.

The school had a direct impact on the lives of Polish youth deported deep into USSR who were able to reach the camps where the soldiers were recruited. In total it provided education to about four thousand students till it finally closed in 1948.


In a classroom, dinnertime, the school store, the library at the JSK. From the archive of Walter Remiarz