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The chilling discovery was made in the town of Orneta, northern Poland, more than 70 years after the end of World War 2. Archaeologists led by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) have been tasked with finding the remains of women killed by Soviet soldiers in 1945. The women belonged to the order of St Catherine of Alexandria, a martyr venerated by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches alike.
The effort has led archaeologists to the town of Orneta in northern Poland where they excavated the local parish’s cemetery.
Between December 7 and 11, the team exhumed the remains of three women believed to be Sister Rolanda, Sister Gunhilda and Sister Bona.
Although the bodies are yet to be properly identified, the remains were surrounded by religious pendants, crucifixes and other elements of monastic clothing.
A similar effort carried out in the Polish town of Olsztyn last year, revealed the bodies of three nuns killed by the Soviets in January and May 1945.
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IPN said of the latest discovery: “Based on historical research, documentation (including a hand-drawn plan of the burials) and reconnaissance, two spots were designated for future works.
“The selected area (a total of about 20 square metres) was the former quarters of the Catherine Sisters, which was partially dedicated to secondary burials (secular and priestly).
“Finding the remains of the wanted sisters required a temporary exhumation of the secondary burials.”
The remains were exhumed in two digs measuring 27 by 6.5ft and 6.5 by 5.5ft respectively.
Pathologists at the Department of Forensic Medicine in Gdansk, northern Poland, will now analyse the remains.
Soviet troops have been accused of carrying out war crimes on Poland’s population during the course of World War 2.
After Nazi Germany invaded the country from the west on September 1, 1939, the Red Army marched on Poland from the east on September 17.
The Soviet invasion of Poland was carried out under the terms of the secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed between Germany and the USSR in August 1939.
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The deal saw both powers agree to split Poland in half and was officially known as the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
One of the biggest crimes carried out by the Stalinist regime in Poland was the Katyn massacre of 1940.
Under orders from Moscow, Stalin’s secret police systematically murdered nearly 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia in Katyn forest, western Russia.
It was not until 1990 that the Soviet Union shouldered the responsibility for the massacre, having blamed it on Nazi Germany for decades.
Nazi Germany eventually turned on its Soviet allies in 1941, when Germans troops marched into the USSR to crush the Soviet superpower.
War on the eastern front failed, however, marking a turning point in the global conflict.
After the end of World War 2 in Europe, Poland became a Soviet satellite and it took another 44 years before the fall of communism in Poland.
IPN said: “If we do not want a repeat of the cataclysm of World War 2, the truth about the crimes of totalitarianism – Soviet and German – as well as their condemnation have to be a foundation upon which historical education and international relations rely.”
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