STOP OF INDEPENDENCE
In Autumn 1918 Poles regained their country. On the lands which were being liberated from the hands of invaders at that time, crowds were cheering in the streets with white-red flags. Joy of liberation mixed with everyday difficulties, poverty, lack of food
Józef Piłsudski arrived in Warsaw on 10 November 1918 by a special train. His liberation was applied for to the German government by Józef Świeżyński, to whom the Regency Council, holding the authority in the Polish Kingdom and related to Germany then, gave the function of the prime minister on 22 October 1918. Piłsudski was to take over the post of the military minister. When he was still in the prison in Magdeburg as a German prisoner of state, and many of his legionaries were interned, on 7 October 1918 in Warsaw the Regency Council gave a message to the Polish nation, announcing regaining independence by Poland. The gates to freedom were opened widely by the defeat of Germany and Austria and Hungary in the First World War. After the captivity for many centuries, on ruins of invaders’ empires, our country started being independent.
A new card in history was opened by the outbreak of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917. A fertile ground for it was a defeat of the tsar’s army on the eastern frontier. Spreading of revolutionary ideas turned out to be not less dangerous than the epidemics of flu. A hard economic crisis which touched countries of Europe, not only the defeated ones but also the winners – France and Great Britain, also had an influence on the growth of radical attitude in the society (on Polish lands terrible destroyed by the war – mainly in the Congress Kingdom). The last government of Kaiser decided to free Piłsudski hoping that he would prevent bolshevism from spreading in the eastern part of empire. Although a revolution broke out in Berlin on 9 November 1918, PIłsudski left the country. He used to be a socialist who ‘got off at the stop of independence’, and was going towards his desired purpose.
Finally at home
Piłsudski arrived in Warsaw in the accompany of the colonel Kazimierz Sosnkowski – with hopes and also with much anxiety that it was too late to save Poland from bolshevism. For a few days his arrival had been expected by thousands of Warsaw inhabitants, but on 10 November in the morning delegation was not very big. From 7.30 he had been greeted at the railway station by, among the others, the chief commander of a secret Polish Military Organization subordinated to Piłsudski – a lieutenant Adam Koc and the representative of the Regency Council – a regent prince Zdzisław Lubomirski.
Adam Koc reminisced those moments in this way: ‘A car with Piłsudski came to the house in Moniuszki 2 street: a guesthouse of Romanów ladies. (…) I noticed that the Commander, leaving the railway station with the prince Lubomirski, did not have anything with him: neither a suitcase, nor a luggage. (…) One of the Romanów ladies ran up to me saying that the bath had already been prepared but she did not have any clothes to change. After a while a ‘Tatar’ entered [a lieutenant Konstanty Abłamowicz . (…). One must go to a shop with haberdashery (…) and bring six items of underwear of various kinds, and shirts of sizes from 37 to 43, then one will surely reach a suitable size (…) The ‘Tatar’ did shopping very quickly. (…). The commander could change his clothes now. (…) Romanów ladies started cleaning the uniform immediately, crying quietly over its state: it was old and very destroyed’.
Still on the same day, to the order of PIłsudski soldiers of the Polish Military Organization and volunteers started an action of disarming occupiers. In the German garrison a revolution broke out. The Central Soldiers’ Council, being persuaded by Piłsudski, agreed to evacuate the garrison to Germany in return for the guarantee of safety.
On 11 November 1918, an armistice ending the First World War was signed in Compiegne. On that day, in the evening, not only Warsaw had already been in the Polish hands but also other cities of the Congress Lands: Białystok, Częstochowa, Kalisz, Łomża, Łódź, Ostrołęka, Ostrów Mazowiecka, Płóck, Pułtusk and Siedlce. The Regency Council waived the whole authority for Piłsudski. The same was done by the Contemporary People’s Government of the Polish Republic, with the prime minister Ignacy Daszyński, in Lublin on 7 November. On 16 November PIłsudski notified governments of allies, neutral countries about the existence of the independent Polish country via radio.
The authority of PIłsudski was not approved of by Galicia. In Cracow on 28 October 1918 the Polish Liquidation Commission with Wincenty Witos at the helm was established, and with which the Austrians were defeated. And when the government of Igancy Jan Paderewski, established on 16 January 1919, was acknowledged by all districts of the country and also in the international arena. The symbol of Poles’ common success was signing a peace Versailles treaty (28 June 1919). The superior purpose of Poland was creating a strong army which was to pursue wars for borders and defend the country which had just gained its independence.