Tehran photo exhibition explores Polish WWII refugee odyssey from Soviet Union to Iran


TEHRAN — A photo exhibition opened Tuesday at the Iranian Academy of Arts (IAA) depicting these Polish World War II refugees on their odyssey from the former Soviet Union to Iran.

The academy organizes the exhibition with contributions from Poland to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the historic event.

Entitled “Towards Hope”, the exhibition opened with a special ceremony attended by Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, Polish Ambassador Maciej Fatkowski, IAA Director Bahman Namvar-Motlaq and groups of foreign diplomats and cultural personalities.

Several hundred thousand Poles fled to the Soviet Union during World War II, but ended up as victims in labor camps there.

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

In a brief speech, Rau said the historic event was familiar to both Iran and Poland, and praised Iranians for their help which saved the lives of thousands of Poles exhausted by Soviet forced labor camps.

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

He noted that it was the Soviet invaders who sent millions of Poles to forced labor camps in Siberia and Central Asia where tens of thousands of them died of starvation and in inhumane working conditions.

Rau said it is important to record memories of past experiences, and added that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is clear proof that the lessons of history are still to be believed as the world s is united against violence and hatred.

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

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

The exhibition will continue until May 16. An edition of the exhibition is also underway at the Art Bureau branch in Isfahan.

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

The photos were taken from negatives discovered in Abolqasem Jala’s studio in Isfahan half a century after World War II by Parisa Damandan, the photographer and art historian who curated the exhibits.

Photo: A visitor photographs an artwork featured in the ‘Toward Hope’ exhibition at the Iranian Academy of Arts in Tehran on May 10, 2022. (IRNA/Meisam Alaqemandan)

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