It was the second front that Stalin had wanted for several years. But in an operation that dwarfed D-Day in scale, the Red Army launched its own offensive on June 22. Nearly two and a half million Soviet soldiers confronted the mass of German Army Group Center and, within a month, the Red Army had pushed forward about two hundred miles.
The Red Army soon approached Lwów , the heart of the area in eastern Poland that the Soviets had first occupied in 1939. Special Lwów NKVD units were the first to enter the city. The Soviets quickly moved on the Gestapo headquarters, where the Germans were packing their intelligence files for a hurried exit. The NKVD planned to convert the Gestapo headquarters into their own base from which they could target those who had collaborated with the Germans, as well as anyone else who had so much as uttered one bad word about the Soviet regime. Despite Soviet propaganda that indicated otherwise, the USSR would never again let this land be part of Poland.
“If they were against the Soviet power we decided at the time we would arrest them. I understand that it was cruel because I am more experienced now. Now we have democracy and one can say anything. At the time there was censorship and nobody could say anything bad about the Soviet system.”– Vyacheslav Yablonsky, Soviet Secret Police
While the Soviets suppressed resistance in Lwów, Polish soldiers were fighting and dying in Italy so that their homeland could be free. In May 1944, at the monastery of Monte Cassino south of Rome, the Poles fought their most famous battle as part of the British Army. They captured the monastery on May 18, renewing an Allied advance that had been stalled there for months. Around four thousand Poles were killed or wounded in this one battle alone.