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Text Box: The Polish Way

An Excerpt from “The Polish Way”


By Adam Zamoyski

Page 334

             “Dmowski had gone to the West in 1915. His predictions had come true: the real enemy was Germany, and Poland had become the crucial factor in any solution of the conflict in the East. By 1916 the war was as much about Poland as it was about Alsace-Lorraine, something which was coming to be recognised by statesmen who in 1914 hardly knew where Poland was. As President Woodrow Wilson put it in his address to the US Senate on 22 January 1917: Statesmen everywhere are agreed that there should be a united, independent, and autonomous Poland.'


             Dmowski devoted his energies to informing and directing the opinions of these statesmen. A number of his colleagues had been engaged in this activity from the beginning, most notably Henryk Sienkiewicz until his death in 1916, and Ignacy Paderewski. In June 1917 France sanctioned the formation of a Polish army on French soil. In September France recognised Dmowski's National Committee in Paris as a provisional government of the future Poland. Britain, Italy and America followed suit. Thus by the autumn of 1917 there was a Polish government and a Polish army recognised as co-belligerents, if not formal allies, of the Entente.


             The Entente could only do this because their ally Russia had, under Kerensky's government, agreed to the principle of an independent Poland. But October brought the Bolsheviks to power. The entire Eastern front collapsed, and the German army occupied the whole area of the Commonwealth. In March 1918 the Bolsheviks signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, leaving it to the Germans. As a protest against this new peace, General Haller led the Second Brigade of the Legions, the last Polish unit fighting for Austria, across the front to join up with Polish units which had similarly left the disintegrating Russian army.


             Over the next two years units such as these bobbed about on the swell of the Russian Revolution and Civil War in a desperate effort to keep together and maintain their fighting potential for the day it could be used in the Polish cause. They were often defeated or disbanded, and sometimes forced to serve 'White' Russian generals at the behest of the Entente, but they mostly survived to fight for Poland. General Haller managed to make his way to Paris and take command of the Polish army being formed there, known as the Blue Army on account of its French uniforms.”