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With all of the Poles in the USSR either by choice or deported, the Soviet military decided to take advantage of this free manpower by appealing to their patriotic feelings and giving them an opportunity to free Poland from the Nazis and invade Germany. Polish forces in the east, fighting alongside the Red army and under Soviet command, took part in the Soviet offensives across Belarus and Ukraine into Poland, across the Vistula and towards the Oder and then into Berlin.

Polish soldiers Soviet Red Army swear-in

Many Polish divisions were created in the Red Army. One of them was the Polish Army 1st Tadeusz Kosciuszko Infantry Division. Adam volunteered and was assigned to the Polish Army 1st Armored Brigade Division on June 15th 1944 as a supply officer and artist (singer). Fighting the Germans who were desperate and fought for their lives, they arrived in Warsaw in September 1944 and took Warsaw after very heavy fighting and setbacks in January 1945. Continuing to fight, they crossed Poland witnessing firsthand the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis: the half-dead in the concentration camps, the decimated population and the devastation. They crossed into Germany. One historian said: “The combatants in 1st and 2nd Polish (Peoples) Army meted out a ferocious revenge against the retreating German Army without impunity (Hastings, 2004) as did their brothers-at-arms in the west at battles like the Falaise Gap.”

In April-May 1945 they fought in the Berlin Operation at Hohenzollern Kanal and Havellendisher Grosser Haupt Kanal crossing, reaching the Elbe and linking with the US units. The 1st Tadeusz Kosciuszko Infantry Division and some artillery and engineer units took part in a street-fighting in Berlin [from Wikipedia and other forums].

In conquered Berlin

The retreating Germans were fighting for their lives – literally. Whole battalions fled the Red Army and surrendered to the Allies. My father told me that while fighting through Poland very few prisoners if any ever reached the rear: most were killed on the spot as the hatred of the Nazis was intense.

Germany capitulated. The Battle of Berlin ended on 2 May. On that date, General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling, the commander of the Berlin Defense Area, unconditionally surrendered the city to General Vasily Chuikov of the Soviet Army.

On the 16th of May 1945 Adam Motyl was reassigned as a supply officer at the Military Hospital in Lodz (Łódź pronounced woodj in Polish), 100 miles southwest of Warsaw. He was promoted to Warrant Officer – Chorąży.   

For the Poles, the Lithuanians, and the Russians this was a very emotional victory. They compare it to victory at the Battle of Grunwald when a Polish-led coalition decisively defeated the Teutonic Knights on July 15th, 1410. My father, Warrant Officer Adam Szary got a medal (one of many) stating “From Grunwald to Berlin” for his Berlin campaign participation.

Matejko Battle of Grunwald
A famous painting depicting the battle by Jan Matejko.
Medal for the Grunwald to Berlin operation
My father’s many medals

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