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Authority on Katyn Massacre to speak at KU

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies will host U.S. researcher Krystyna Piorkowska as this year’s fall 2014 Oswald P. Backus Memorial Lecturer. Piorkowska’s lecture, “English-Speaking Witnesses to a Soviet War Crime: The Katyn Massacre in the Words of the POWs,” will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27, in the Pine Room of the Kansas Union.

In January 2014, Piorkowska made international headlines for her discovery of a hidden document, lost in the archives of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, which reveals the sworn testimony of a U.S. officer who in 1943 was forced by the Nazis to watch as they exhumed thousands of Polish officers killed on Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's orders. The document provides evidence of Soviet responsibility for the 1940 murder of some 22,000 Polish officers now known as the Katyn Massacre. The discovery also gives credence to the claim that the U.S. government helped cover up Soviet responsibility in order to keep the Soviets fighting against the Germans. At least one relative of the U.S. soldiers who witnessed Katyn is expected to attend the lecture.

Known for her independent research into the Katyn Massacre, Piorkowska worked on English language material for the Muzeum Wojska Polskiego (The Museum of the Polish Army) in Warsaw, Poland, which is Warsaw’s second-largest museum. It houses the largest collection of military objects in Poland. She is the author of "English-Speaking Witnesses to Katyn." 

The Katyn Massacre has long been a topic of interest at KU. One of the world’s leading historians on the subject, Professor Emerita Anna Cienciala, taught at KU from 1965-2002 and published various works on the subject, including as co-editor and author of the well-received selection of documents "Katyn: A Crime Without Punishment."

The CREES Backus Lecture is dedicated to the memory of Professor Oswald P. Backus III (1921-72) and is made possible by the Oswald P. Backus Memorial Fund. Backus was the major early driving force behind the development of KU as a nationally known center for the study of Russia and Eastern Europe. In the 1960s, these efforts led to the formation of the Slavic and Soviet Area Studies program, now known as CREES. He also taught history, law, and Slavic and Soviet area studies during his 22 years at KU and is credited for having helped make KU’s Slavic library collection one of the finest in the nation.

Piorkowska will also speak on “Soviet Disinformation on Katyn and the Role of the Orthodox Church” in the CREES Brownbag Lecture Series at noon Tuesday, Oct. 28, in 318 Bailey Hall.

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