Siberian brigade

 By the beginning of the revolutionary upheavals in the Eastern part of European Russia, in Siberia and in the Urals, there were quite a significant number of poles. Many refugees from the West of the country, as well as Austrian and German prisoners of war of Polish nationality, joined the voluntary settlers and descendants of exiled rebels who lived there before the war. After the revolution, poles began active political activities to support the independence of their new state. In the East of Russia, Polish self-defense units began to form. In December 1918, the famous French military mission of General Maurice Janin arrived in the East of Russia. He became commander of the allied forces in the region. The Polish detachments began to obey him. In January 1919, it was decided to form a Polish division out of all the Polish formations (numbering at that time about 8 thousand people).

Organizationally, it was to be part of The Polish Army in France – the so-called "Blue army" of General Jozef Haller. Three divisions of this army were in France, and the fourth division of General Zheligovsky (the future hero of the Polish "hybrid war" for Wilno) - in the Kuban. Thus, the new Siberian division of the Polish Army received the number "five" and the official name – the 5th Polish rifle division.

The formation of the division began on January 25, 1919. More than 70% of the division's soldiers were former soldiers of the Austrian army and its Polish legions. But there were also local Siberian poles, many of whom no longer even dreamed of an independent Poland – but simply wanted to continue living in Siberia – but in a Bolshevik-free Russia. Sometimes, when the command "Weapons – on the shoulder!" was given, half of the soldiers performed it in the Russian manner, half-in German. At the command – "Circle!" half of the soldiers turned over their right shoulder, half over their left.The division commander was a veteran of The Russian Imperial Army – Lieutenant Colonel (soon – Colonel) Kazimir Rumsha, chief of staff-a veteran of the Polish legions of Austria-Hungary and a former prisoner of war, a native of the Austro-Hungarian lands, Colonel Valerian Chuma. If Chuma wanted to return to the young Polish state, the Russian officer Rumsha wanted first of all to take part in the fight against the Bolsheviks and establish peace and order in Russia.

The division was eventually consolidated from the 1st Polish rifle regiment named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko (which in July 1919 formed a separate Lithuanian battalion named after Vytautas the Great under the command of captain Linkevicius, legally subordinate to the Lithuanian Army), the 2nd Polish rifle regiment in Siberia, the 3rd Polish rifle regiment named after Henryk Dombrowski, the 1st Uhlan regiment, the 5th field artillery regiment and a number of auxiliary units.

The final formation of the division was completed by may, but in the winter of 1918-1919, the regiments that were destined to become part of the division participated in battles with the Bolsheviks. The 1st regiment named after Kosciusko fought bravely in the Bugulminsky direction, at Bayraki, Konstantinovka and Znamensky. The Bolsheviks called legionaries "horned devils"for their bravery. General Kappel wrote: "The arrival of your gallant young regiment, led by an energetic and talented commander, Lieutenant Colonel Rumsha, gave us the opportunity to go on the offensive and deliver a powerful blow to our enemy."

The Kosciuszko regiment fought on the front line until the summer of 1919. The rest of the division's forces were mainly engaged in protecting the TRANS-Siberian railway from red partisans. For example, at the beginning of July 1919, a strong Bolshevik detachment was organized in the area of the Northern railway section of Kainsk — Tatarskaya, which was aimed at establishing Soviet power, conducting local mobilization and breaking the railway connection. The uprising threatened a section of the highway where Polish troops were guarding it. On July 26, the Polish command sent two infantry regiments, a division of lancers, and a platoon of an assault battalion with reinforced machine-gun teams and artillery to suppress the uprising. The Polish troops carried out their combat mission " ... to a high degree successfully, passing through swampy and taiga places more than 200 versts to the North of the railway and meeting strong resistance on their way up to the trenches and wire barriers. It should be noted the able leadership of commanders and the excellent fighting qualities of the Polish soldier who loves his country and well understands what is going on fighting for a common Slavic thing" (words of chief of section print Svedberg).

In addition to conducting armed struggle, the division was also engaged in ... cultural activities among the Polish population of Siberia. Lessons were held on the history of the Polish people and Polish culture. Polish theaters and libraries were organized, and the Polish press was published. Even Harzer squads (Harzer – Polish scouts) were organized from Siberian children and teenagers of Polish nationality.

When Kolchak's troops were retreating randomly across Siberia, in October 1919, reports were received from General Haller and Marshal Pilsudski – the Polish government officially patronized the division and ensured its departure through the far East to Poland. Colonel Chuma became the commander of the evacuation, and Colonel Rumsha organized the rearguard cover. He managed to get 60 trains for the division, and also formed three armored trains for self-defense - "Warsaw", "Krakow"and " poznań".The evacuation was very difficult. Polish soldiers were traveling with their families. Before them, Czechs and Latvians were evacuated, while poles were following General Zhanen's orders to protect the rear of both the outgoing Entente troops and the Russian whites, and to ensure the safety of the Novonikolaevsk-Taiga stage. There were huge traffic jams in front of the semaphores. In the forty-degree cold, the locomotives froze. There was not enough water (which was replaced by snow) and coal (from the firebox with firewood, the locomotives quickly broke down). Also, switches were often broken, which was not unfairly suspected by the Bolshevik saboteurs.

The Lithuanian battalion killed the officers and went over to the red side.

On December 20, there was a heavy battle of the division's rearguard with the advancing Reds. Red artillery fire destroyed the poznań armored train, and all trains following it fell into the hands of the Reds. Soldiers in these trains fought their way to the East under fire from the Bolsheviks and in the forty-degree cold. When they finally broke through to Taiga station on December 23, it turned out that the division's advanced units were already fighting for the station. Polish machine guns swept away waves of advancing Bolsheviks, but they continued the onslaught and the poles suffered heavy losses. The situation seemed hopeless, but then suddenly from the West came the armored train "poznań II". It turned out that the crew of the old "poznań" captured the abandoned Russian white guards armored train "bully" and went to help his comrades. The Bolsheviks suffered a heavy defeat, but the poles also lost four thousand men-half the division's strength.On December 24, the poles arrived in Krasnoyarsk. The local socialist-revolutionary government guaranteed the safety of the poles, but they were already doomed. In Krasnoyarsk, the garrison mutinied and several Polish trains were stopped near the minino and Bulgach stations. The rest went to the station Klyukvennaya, 100 kilometers East of Krasnoyarsk. At minino and Bulgach, part of the poles surrendered to the Reds, and part of them heroically broke through to Cranberry. The poles approached Cranberry on January 7, 1920. The tracks were jammed with abandoned trains with frozen locomotives. There was no escape now. Typhus and famine mowed down the ranks of the division's soldiers and their relatives. Most of the poles surrendered, and Colonel Chuma remained with them, but a part led by Colonel Rumsha bravely broke into Mongolia and then Manchuria. They were later taken to Gdansk.Poland after the conclusion of the peace of Riga in 1921, together with Valerian Chuma, who was destined to command the defense of Warsaw in 1939 and survive the German captivity, then emigrate to Britain and die there in 1962.

As for those who still reached Poland led by Colonel Rumsha – they even managed to take part in the Polish-Soviet war under the name of the Siberian brigade. For distinction in the Soviet-Polish war, Rumsha received the order of "Virtuti Militari". After the battle of Warsaw in the autumn of 1920, the Siberian brigade was re-formed into the 30th Polesie infantry division of the Polish Army. Its three regiments became the direct heirs of the three regiments of the 5th division, and the 82nd infantry regiment (continuing the tradition of the 1st regiment). Kosciusko) received the honorary name "Siberian". The division had to take part in the war of 1939, fighting the Germans in the Lodz direction. The division was revived in 1944 as part of the home Army. Their history finally ended on August 15, 1944, when the heirs of the traditions of the "Siberians"were disarmed by the red Army.