By the beginning of the revolutionary upheavals in the eastern part of European Russia, Siberia and the Urals, a fairly large number of Poles lived. Numerous refugees from the west of the country, as well as Austrian and German POWs of Polish nationality joined the voluntary migrants and descendants of exiled rebels who lived there before the war. After the revolution, the Poles began active political activity in order to support the independence of their new state. In the East of Russia began to form Polish self-defense units. In December 1918, the famous French military mission of General Maurice Jeanin arrived to the East of Russia. He became commander of allied forces in the region. Polish troops began to obey him. In January 1919, a decision was made - of all Polish formations (numbering about 8 thousand at that time) to form a Polish division.
Organizationally, it was to be part of the Polish Army in France - the so-called "Blue Army" General Jozef Galler. Three divisions of this army were in France, and the fourth division of General Zheligovsky (the future hero of the Polish "hybrid war" for Vilna) was in the Kuban. Thus, the new Siberian division of the Polish Army received the number "five" and the official name - 5-I Polish Rifle Division.
The formation of the division began on 25 January 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 did not even dream of an independent Poland - they just wanted to continue living in Siberia - but in Russia free from the Bolsheviks. Sometimes, when the command "Arms - on the shoulder!" Was being given, half of the soldiers performed it in the Russian manner, half - in German. On command - "Round!" Half of the soldiers turned through the right shoulder, half through the 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 the Plague sought first of all to return to the young Polish state, the Russian officer Rumsha wanted first of all to take part in the struggle against the Bolsheviks and establish peace and order in Russia.
The division was eventually reduced from the 1 Polish Infantry Regiment named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko (which in July 1919 formed a separate Lithuanian battalion named after Vitaut the Great under the command of Captain Linkevičius, legally subordinated to the Lithuanian Army), the 2 Polish Polar Regiment in Siberia , 3 Polish Polar Regiment named after Henryk Dombrowski, 1-th Lancers, 5-th regiment of field artillery 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, which were destined to join the division, participated in battles with the Bolsheviks. The 1 regiment named after Kosciuszko bravely fought on the Bugulma direction, under Bayrak, Konstantinovka and Znamensky. Legionnaires called the Bolsheviks for bravery "horned devils." General Kappel wrote: "The arrival of your young valiant regiment, led by a vigorous and talented commander, Lieutenant Colonel Rumsha, gave us the opportunity to go on the offensive and inflict a powerful blow on our enemy."
The regiment named after Kosciuszko fought on the front line until the summer of 1919. The rest of the division's forces were engaged mainly in guarding the Transsib from the Red Partisans. For example, in 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, mobilizing on the ground and breaking the railway communication. The insurrection threatened the section of the highway, where Polish troops were guarding. The Polish command 26 July sent two infantry regiments, an Ulyanovsk battalion, a platoon of an assault battalion with reinforced machine-gun teams and artillery to suppress the insurrection. The Polish troops assigned to them the combat mission fulfilled "... to a high degree successfully, having passed through marshy and taiga places more than 200 versts to the north of the railway and encountering strong resistance in their path right up to the trenches and wire fences. It is necessary to note the skilful leadership of the command staff and the excellent combat qualities of the Polish soldier who loves his homeland and understands perfectly well that the struggle for a common Slavic cause is taking place "(the words of the head of the Oswerwerk press department).
In addition to conducting armed struggle, the division also engaged in ... cultural activities among the Polish population of Siberia. Lessons were given on the history of the Polish people and Polish culture. Polish theaters and libraries were organized, the Polish press was published. Even the hartzer squads (hartzers - Polish scouts) from Siberian children and teenagers of Polish nationality were organized.
When the Kolchak troops retreated randomly across Siberia, in October 1919, reports were received from General Haller and Marshal Pilsudski - the Polish government officially patronized the divisions and ensured its exit through the Far East to Poland. Command evacuation was Colonel Plague, Colonel Rumcha organized rearguard cover. He managed to get 60 trains for the division, and also to form three armored trains for self-defense - Warsaw, Krakow and Poznan.
The evacuation was very difficult. Polish soldiers were traveling with their families. Before them, Czechs and Latvians were evacuated, the Poles carried out the order of General Jenin - to guard the rear of both the departing Entente troops and the Russian whites, to ensure the safety of the Novonikolaevsk-Taiga tram. Before the semaphores there were huge corks. The locomotives froze at forty degrees below zero. There was not enough water (which was replaced with snow) and coal (from the firebox the locomotives quickly broke down). Also often broken switchgears, what was reasonably suspected Bolshevik saboteurs.
The Lithuanian battalion interrupted the officers and went over to the side of the Reds.
20 December there was a hard fight of the rearguard division with the advancing reds. The fire of the red artillery destroyed the armored train "Poznan", all the trains that followed him fell into the hands of the Reds. Soldiers in these trains made their way to the East under the fire of the Bolsheviks and on forty-degree frost. When 23 December they broke through finally to the Taiga station, it turned out that the advanced units of the division were already fighting for the station. Polish machine guns swept away the waves of the advancing Bolsheviks, but they continued the onslaught and the Poles suffered heavy losses. The situation seemed hopeless, but then suddenly came from the west armored train "Poznan II". It turned out that the crew of the old "Poznan" captured the armored train "Zabiyaka" thrown by the deserted Russian White Guards and set off to help his comrades. The Bolsheviks suffered a heavy defeat, but the Poles also lost four thousand men - half of the division.
24 December Poles arrived in Krasnoyarsk. The local Socialist-Revolutionary government guaranteed security for the Poles, but they were already doomed. In Krasnoyarsk, the garrison rebelled and several Polish echelons were stopped at the Minino and Bulgach stations. The others have already left for the Cranvenna station, at 100 kilometers east of Krasnoyarsk. Under Minino and Bulgach, part of the Poles surrendered in red, and part - heroically broke through to Cranberry. To Cranberry Poles came 7 January 1920 year. The roads were clogged with abandoned trains with frozen locomotives. It was already impossible to run away. Tief and hunger mowed the ranks of the division's soldiers and their relatives. Most of the Poles surrendered, and Colonel Plague remained with them, but a unit led by Colonel Rumsha bravely broke into Mongolia and then Manchuria. Later they were taken to Gdansk.
The fate of those Poles who believed the Bolsheviks, was very tragic. Many of them were killed by the Bolsheviks, many died of hunger and cold. Those of them who survived the captivity returned to Poland after the conclusion of the Riga Peace in 1921 together with Valerian Chuma, who was destined to be defeated by the defense of Warsaw in 1939 and to survive the German captivity, then to emigrate to Britain and die there in 1962 year.
As for those who nevertheless made their way to Poland headed by Colonel Rumsha, they even managed to take part in the Polish-Soviet war under the name of the Siberian Brigade. For difference in the Soviet-Polish war, Rumsha received the Order of Virtuti Militari. After the Battle of Warsaw in the fall of 1920, the Siberian Brigade was reorganized into the 30 Polissya Infantry Division of the Polish Army. Its three regiments became the direct heirs of the three regiments of the 5 division, and the 82 Infantry Regiment (continuer of the 1 regiment tradition of Kosciusko) received the honorary name "Siberian". The division had to take part in the war 1939 year, fighting with the Germans in the Лоódском direction. The division was revived in 1944 within the framework of the Krajowa Army. Finally ended their story 15 August 1944, when the heirs of the traditions of the "Siberians" were disarmed by the Red Army.