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Polish refugees in Iran

Did you know that since 1942 Iran has given a shelter for app. 120 thousands Polish refugees released from Soviet prisons or evacuated from territories annexed by Nazi’s army after its offensive on Soviet Union? Iranians themselves suffered a huge socioeconomic difficulties at those times, yet they openly accepted the Polish refugees, provided them all that was needed to keep a proper quality of life, allowed to open Polish schools, stores, companies, and cultural organizations in order to help Poles to feel (almost) like at home. Up to 2 thousands Polish refugees per day were arriving at the city port of Pahlevi (nowadays Anzali), from where, after a short quarantine, they were transferred to Tehran.

Iranians helped with the recovery and training process of Polish demobilized troops, commanded by general Władysław Anders; most of the ex-captives finally joined the Alias army forces and served in the Italian campaign. There were up to 20 thousand children amongst Polish refugees, most of them orphans whose parents either died or were lost during the deportations. Iranian officials decided to establish a set of orphanages in the cities of Ishafan and Mashad, the first one was even called a “City of Polish Children''.

Polish children were allowed to go to school, sometimes in classes joined with their Iranian peers. When WW2 was over, many Poles returned to their homeland, but some of them decided to permanently settle down in their country of refuge. In 2019 Radosław Fiedler published a reportage book “Iran. Śladami polskich uchodźców” (“Iran. Tracing the Polish Refugees'') including poignant memoirs of Helena Stelmach, translated from Farsi language and first time released in public. Mrs. Stelmach arrived in Iran from USSR in 1942 as a child and ultimately spent his whole life there. Her testimony reveals a great kindness and hospitality of Iranian people which can be presented as an example of how every refugee in this world should be treated alike.

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