Poland On The Last Day D+24 (2 August, 1987)

It did not take long for word of Wunsdorf’s destruction to reach in Poland. Owing to time and circumstances, the first people to learn of the nuclear event were members of the Polish military stationed in and around Legnica. On the surface these Poles remained loyal to the Soviet Union and thus were trusted, albeit reluctantly, by their Soviet counterparts at Western TVD’s wartime headquarters at Legnica. Whatever their true feelings were towards Communism and their erstwhile Russian comrades remained out of sight. As news of Wunsdorf arrived at Legnica and began to spread around the complex, a handful of Polish officers and enlisted personnel took advantage of the opportunity to abandon their posts. Some of these men made their way to nearby villages to spread the news to the village fathers. Others searched for phonelines or another form of communication to inform their loved ones in other regions of Poland. There were precious few of these available and most of the men came up empty.

Still, the news traveled fast. It was not long until the government and military were aware of Wunsdorf. Like other Warsaw Pact countries, Poland was filled with Soviet military installations. If the nuclear exchange continued, some of them would undoubtedly be targeted by NATO. The damage done to Poland and its citizens would be cataclysmic, even if the exchange was limited. The fact that Soviet weapons would do similar damage to nations like France and Great Britain gave no solace to most Poles.

Poland’s civil defense was in somewhat better shape than its Pact allies. The limited amount of shelter space in major cities was not restricted entirely to high-ranking government and military officials. But the number of people that could be placed in the underground shelters was nowhere near enough. The fact that not every major city was under the control of Polish forces added to the problem. In the countryside towns and villages shelter space was sparse. Especially for towns near concentrations of Soviet troops and military bases which would be targeted if the exchanges continued. As news spread, the first unofficial and uncoordinated evacuations started. At first the stream was light and limited to families who received word of Wunsdorf from loved ones in the military or government. They departed from towns and cities in small numbers in the pre-dawn hours, unsure of what direction might lead them to safety.

The harsh fact of the matter was that their country was surrounded by nations and areas that offered no more sanctuary from atomic weapons and radiation then Poland did. To the east was the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia sat to the south and the GDR covered Poland’s western flank. This did not prevent the first wave of Poles from leaving their hometowns in search of someplace safer, even if that meant not crossing a border. Western Poland saw the largest amount of people leaving their homes between midnight and dawn. The reason for this was the area’s close proximity to the East German border. Since Wunsdorf was hit, there was a high expectation that radiation would blanket the area by mid-morning. Without specific information to calm their frayed nerves, Polish citizens took no chances and began departing from places like Szczecin, Debno and Cybinka in growing numbers as the early morning progressed.

Author’s Note: I’m dividing this entry up into two parts because I’m a bit under the weather today. Going through tissues like you wouldn’t believe. 😊 The rest will be up on Tuesday. I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. 

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