Memorial Katyn is one of the most tragic places of the World War II. In Katyn Forest and its environs (mainly in the area Goat Hills) thousands of former Soviet political prisoners were executed. And in spring 1940 several thousand of Polish officers were executed there by the decisions of NKVD troikas.
Katyn Forest is at the exit to the west from the belt highway of Smolensk. A hundred meters from the belt highway one can see the gold domes of a Polish Roman Catholic church and an Orthodox church. Also, one can find there the Polish and Russian museums devoted to the Katyn massacre. The Polish museum is devoted to the arrest and execution of the Polish officers in 1940, while the Russian museum is devoted to the repressions and executions of the Soviet citizens in Smolensk prison camps and Goat Hills.
According to the post-war studies, on the territory of Katyn Forest there are over 150 sites where there were buried about 10 thousand Soviet citizens who were executed there at different times. Also, on that territory there were found the remains of 4420 Polish officers who were executed there, although, according to the disclosed archival data, totally there were executed 21857 officers in 1940.
As is known, under the pact of Molotov-Ribbentrop Poland was divided between Germany and the Soviet Union. In 1939 the Soviet Army occupied its part of Poland and captured over half a million soldiers who were almost at once released, excepting 130 thousand officers. The top officers of the Polish army were sent to the prison camps in the western regions of Russia. Later, by the decision of L. P. Beriya, all of them were declared the enemies of the Soviet Union and sentenced to be shot and the verdict was carried into execution in Katyn Forest.
For several post-war decades the Soviet Union denied the execution of the Polish officers. According to the official version of those years, these events took place there in 1941, after Smolensk was occupied by the German troops. The authorities of Russia acknowledged liability for those events only in the 2000th.
There is a big entry portal behind the museums. There begin two alleys leading to the Russian and Polish memorial cemeteries. In the forest one can see 8 «execution pits» where the bodies of the officers were buried. The names of the killed officers are engraved on the iron slabs at the main Polish memorial. The funeral bell is below ground level. So if you swing the bell, it seems that the sound comes from under ground.