Tehran photo exhibit explores WWII Polish refugees’ odyssey from Soviet Union to Iran

May 11, 2022 - 18:9

TEHRAN – A photo exhibition opened at the Iranian Academy of Arts (IAA) on Tuesday depicting those Polish WWII refugees in their odyssey from the former Soviet Union to Iran.

The academy is organizing the exhibition with contributions from Poland to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the historical event.

Entitled “Toward Hope”, the exhibition opened with a special ceremony attended by Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Rau, Polish Ambassador Maciej Fatkowski, IAA director Bahman Namvar-Motlaq, and groups of foreign diplomats and cultural figures.

Several hundred thousand Polish people fled to the Soviet Union during World War II, but wound up being victimized in labor camps within that country.

A total of 116,000 the Polish people, 3,000 of whom were orphans, escaped from the Soviet Union to Iran, starting a new life in the central Iranian city of Isfahan.

In a short speech, Rau said that the historical event is familiar to both in Iran and Poland, and praised Iranians for their help that saved the lives of thousands of Polish people who were exhausted from the Soviet forced-labor camps.

He said that the fact that World War II began with the Soviet-Nazi joint invasion of Poland has been ignored in the historical records of the war.

He noted that it was the Soviet invaders that sent millions of Polish people to the forced-labor camps in Siberia and Central Asia where tens of thousands of them died of hunger and inhuman working conditions.  

Rau said that it is significant to record the memories of past experiences, and added that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is clear evidence that history’s lessons are still trustworthy as the world has united against violence and hatred.

The Iranian Academy of Arts presented Rau with a copy of “Masterpieces of Persian Art from Polish Collections”.

The two-volume bilingual English-Persian edition of the book published by the academy in 2013 was edited by Professor Tadeusz Majda, a university teacher and curator of the Department of Oriental Art at the National Museum in Warsaw. 

The exhibition will be running through May 16. An edition of the exhibition is also underway at the Art Bureau branch office in Isfahan. 

The 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Polish refugees in Iran was also commemorated by two photo exhibitions organized at the White Gallery at Tehran’s Sadabad Palace and the Isfahan Museum of Contemporary Art in 2017.

The photos were printed from the negatives discovered in the studio of Abolqasem Jala in Isfahan half a century after WWII by Parisa Damandan, a photographer and art historian who curated the exhibitions.

Photo: A visitor photographs a work on view in the exhibition “Toward Hope” at the Iranian Academy of Arts in Tehran on May 10, 2022. (IRNA/Meisam Alaqemandan)

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