LIVING CONDITIONS OF THE POLISH PRISONERS-OF-WAR IN THE NKVD CAMP NO 270 AT BOROVICHI IN 1944-1949
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The NKVD Camp No 270 at Borovichi, c. 200 km to the east of Novgorod in Russia, was one of the biggest detention centres for Polish POWs. Most of them were members of the non-communist underground, arrested by the Soviet secret services and police in the latter half of 1944 and early 1945. The history of the camp can be divided into two phases, each marked by a different regime of forced labour and living conditions. In the first phase, 1944-1946, the camp was filled with the first 'wave' of detainees. They had to do back-breaking quotas of work in the local coal mines without getting enough food. The sanitary conditions were atrocious and the medical care totally inadequate. As a result 12.6% of the detainees died by the middle of 1946. The second phase covered the period 1947-1949, when the camp housed the second and the third 'wave' of the detainees. It was then that the work regime was reorganized and made less cruel. Meanwhile the food, the living conditions and medical services were getting better as well. The changes resulted in a drop of the mortality rate (from 0.6 to 0.2% in 1947-1948) and a general improvement of the conditions and the wellbeing of the inmates. One characteristic feature which persisted throughout the camp's history was the cultural and educational activity of the detainees. They produced poster newssheets, theatricals and musical performances. This reconstruction of the conditions of life in the Borovichi camp in 1944-1949 is based on source material collected by Kazimierz Polaczek, former prisoner of the Soviet camps (now in the MS Department of the Jagiellonian Library), documents made available to the author by the Chairman of the Association of the Borovichi Men and other documents kept in private hands (ie. former prisoners of Camp 270).
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