All posts by Marcin Marszalek

The protest suicide of Szmul Zygielbojm

Wladyslaw Broniewski published his poem titled To the Polish Jews, on June 16, 1943 to commemorate both the memory of the Holocaust, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the protest-suicide of Szmul Zygielbojm, a Bund politician and a member of the National Council of the Polish government-in-exile in London.
Appeals to the Allied government about the fate of Jews fell on deaf ears. By April 1943, numerous reports of the realities of Nazi rule circulated among the Allied leadership, including information gathered and delivered by Jan Karski which led to the publication of The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland in December 1942. The enormity of the tragedy seemed to paralyze the western powers who seemed to believe ignoring the issue was a sound strategy.
On April 19, 1943, the eve of Passover and the same day that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising started, representatives of the US and the UK met in Bermuda to discuss the question of Jewish refugees. As Jews died by their thousands in Poland and Eastern Europe, the US decided not to raise immigration quotas for Jews and the UK did not lift the prohibition on Jewish refugees settling in the British Mandate of Palestine.
By early May 1943, this inaction proved too much for Zygielbojm and he wrote a suicide protest-letter addressed to the Polish president and prime minister in which he rightly put the blame for the Holocaust on its perpetrators yet also added that: “indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenseless millions – tortured children, women and men – they have become partners to the responsibility.”

Szmul Zygielbojm

Zygielbojm was smuggled out of Poland in 1940 but felt his destiny was tied to the Jews of Warsaw: “I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. … I belong to them, to their mass graves.” He hoped that he could accomplish in death what he could not accomplish in life: “perhaps I shall be able by my death to contribute to the arousing from lethargy of those who could and must act in order that even now, perhaps at the last moment, the handful of Polish Jews who are still alive can be saved from certain destruction.”
The death of one politician in London did not do any more to wake up the Allies than the deaths of millions of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe. Zygielbojm’s death did not do much more than inspire a “wandering poet” to pen a poem in his memory. Yet do we really deserve to claim that “the blood shed unites us?” We, who unlike Zygielbojm look at political issues and logistics instead of human suffering? We, who over seventy years later raise up walls and think up similar political excuses to make ourselves feel good and claim that we do what we can while thousands die because we have reached our immigration quotas? What lesson have we learned from the Holocaust if not that our fear and indifference are inexcusable?

To the Polish Jews
To the memory of Szmul Zygielbojm

No cries of despair are heard from the Polish town or city
As the dying defenders of Warsaw’s Ghetto pay the soldiers’ dues.
My words are washed in blood, my heart is wrung with pity
As I, the wandering Polish poet, grieve the Polish Jews.

Not soldiers but craven brutes, not men but blood-thirsty hounds,
They came to wreak vengeful death on you, your children and wives,
To kill in gas chambers, to destroy in quicklime mounds,
To mock those who were afraid and helpless and those who laid down their lives.
But you raised the stone and hurled it at the cannoneer
Who took aim to crush your homes to dust.
Sons of Maccabee, you know how to die without fear!
You carry on the hopeless fight begun in September to the last!

In every Polish heart these words must be engraved as in stone:
The blood shed unites us, the execution wall,
Dachau and Auschwitz and our ravaged home
Every nameless grave and every prison cell unite us all.
One sky will shed its light on Warsaw’s charred debris
When the years of anguished struggle end in victory.
Each man will enjoy the rights of law and liberty
And one highest race will rise of men noble and free.

Wladyslaw Broniewski

Memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

How do you organize an armed uprising among the starved, cold, dehumanized? How do you organize an uprising without weapons, strategies, intelligence, and experienced command structure? How do you organize an uprising with less than a 1000 young men and women, most about 20 years old? How do you organize an uprising against a well-fed and trained military force with tanks, artillery support, and flame throwers? Then, how do you commemorate and pay homage to the struggle? Where do you find a ray of hope and find the strength to move on?

Paper daffodil. Photo credit: Adrian Grycuk. Wikimedia Commons

The Grossaktion Warsaw saw over 250,000 Jews transported to and killed at Treblinka in the summer of 1942. By April 1943, out of some 400,000 Warsaw Jews, there were about 60,000 left in the Ghetto. With another round of deportations scheduled for the eve of Passover, the Jewish Combat Organization and the Jewish Military Union decided to resist. Yet the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had no chance to succeed, not militarily; it was outnumbered, it had very few weapons and little ammunition. However, the uprising should not be judged in those terms. Here was a group of people who decided they did not want to die in the gas chambers of Treblinka but at the receiving end of a bullet. Symcha “Kazik” Ratajzer-Rotem, one of the fighters, said that “the only thing we could do in the situation was to stand up against the Germans, knowing that death waits at the end of the road. It was the only sure thing. There were no illusions, there was absolutely no thought, that we could survive. No one dreamed of it. Not at the start of the uprising, not later. To the Germans, a Jew was defenseless – you could do whatever you wanted with them.” Death was the only sure thing, and by taking the decision to die in this way, the dehumanized fighters asserted their humanity in a way that could no longer be denied.

Original German caption for this photo read: “These bandits defended themselves with weapons.”

Throughout the uprising, there was a sense of being forgotten, not just by the people outside the Ghetto, but by the whole world. Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the uprising, remarked that:
“The [ghetto] wall only reached the second floor. And already from the third floor, one could see the other street. We could see a merry-go-round, people, we could hear music, and we were terribly afraid that this music would drown us out and that those people would never notice a thing, that nobody in the world would notice a thing: us, the struggle, the dead…. That this wall was so huge, that nothing, no message about us, would ever make it out.”

Marek Edelman by the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes Monument. Photo credit: Jerzy Gumowski. Agencja Gazeta

Perhaps in some metaphysical sense, the Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz heard that cry as he noticed the same merry-go-round and people’s passivity about what was happening to the dying fighters in the Ghetto. In Miłosz’s poem Campo di Fiori, he recalls the burning of Giordano Bruno, the 16th century Dominican friar and the return to “normal” life following his death. The poet feared that the same oblivion might await the Ghetto: “I thought of the Campo di Fiori / In Warsaw by the sky-carousel, / One clear spring evening / to the strains of a carnival tune. / The bright melody drowned / The salvos from the ghetto wall, / and couples were flying / high in the cloudless sky.” Mi?osz accuses people (and he includes himself) of complicity by inaction. Yet the poem is about memory, it immortalizes the struggle of the fighters and warns against forgetting.

After the end of the war, Edelman never left Poland. He thought of himself as a guardian of the memory of those that perished and he recalled their human stories, struggles, and finally, death. Each year, on April 19, the anniversary of the uprising, he received a bouquet of daffodils which he always brought to the Ghetto Heroes Monument. A Hebrew, Polish, and Yiddish inscription on the monument reads: “”For those who fell in an unprecedented heroic struggle for the dignity and freedom of the Jewish nation, for a free Poland, for the liberation of man – Polish Jews.”

Monument of the Evacuation of the Warsaw Ghetto Fighers. Photo credit: Adrian Grycuk. Wikimedia Commons.

Edelman passed away in 2009. Starting on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 2013, volunteers hand out paper daffodils to the citizens of Warsaw as a way to commemorate the uprising. Thus, arising from the darkest period of history, out of the ruins of a burned city, a little flower, which blooms around the time of the Passover, became a symbol of memory and hope, of human relations, brotherhood, and sacrifices. Finally, a symbol of humanity and life with dignity against oppression. In Judaism there is a process understood as the obligation of repairing the world called tikkun olam. It implies that each person is responsible not just for their own spirituality and morality, but is also responsible for the society. The Holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews for the crime of existence, robbed the world of 6 million chances to better the world. Let us not forget the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the struggle against tyranny, and honor their memories by upholding human rights and advocate justice for each oppressed individual in the world today. For the liberation of mankind.

Winter 2017 newsletter is out!

Our new newsletter is available for your viewing pleasure on our website. For those of you who receive the printed edition, it was sent out and you may already have received it. However, all of you can enjoy the digital edition by clicking on the images below. We have been busy and the newsletter was so big that we had to split it into two parts. You can also view all our previous newsletters in the NEWS & EVENTS / NEWSLETTER & MAILING LIST tab on our website. We hope you enjoy catching up on Polish Center’s news!

Part 1:

Part 2:

2017 Trip to Poland with the Polish Center

4/12/17 Update: Registration is still open! There are a few spots left…

In July 2017, we will once again head to Poland on a heritage tour led by Sta? Radosz, our Executive Director. We will visit western and southern Poland, sleep in a castle, eat dinner in a cottage in Zakopane, visit a world-famous brewery, and a lot more. Please click the attached flyer for full information and detailed itinerary.

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What Andrzej Wajda’s War Films Tell us About Nationality

Andrzej Wajda has been called the national director; his movies concerned not only Poland, its history and people, but also the idea of Poland. He explored history and human interaction. His cinema was one of search, a search for identity and meaning. He was strongly influenced by the 19th century Romantic movement and did not lose that influence no matter what themes he was exploring. Yet his patriotism could turn to sharp critique and he was not afraid to explore painful issues and dissected the question of national identity with a surgeon’s precision. In terms of explorations of human interaction, he was perhaps only second to Kieślowski in Polish cinema, if only because the latter had little interest exploring these topics through national questions. Those explorations led to accusations of nationalism as well as anti-Polish nihilism. These contradictions make sense however for a director who, while found the idea of Poland important, did not mythologize it to wash away past errors.

Wajda’s first cinematic success was the war trilogy Generation (1954), Kanał (1956) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958), each set during, or right at the end of the Second World War. Wajda filmed Generation while still a student at the Łódz film school. The resulting work was a compromise between an exploration of wartime heroism and Soviet-imposed censorship. Kanał, a positively claustrophobic movie follows a group of Home Army soldiers through the Warsaw sewers. The question the characters face is not about how they can win the fight; their fates are sealed and they have no possible way to come out victorious. The humanization of the characters transcends national questions and instead deals with the responses to extreme situations, depression, sense of defeat and loss of hope.

Wajda on the set of Katyn
Wajda on the set of Katyn
Transcending the national questions, Katyń (2007), a film Wajda made towards the end of his life, deals with the army officers, members of the intelligentsia, priests, lawyers, etc. Wajda not only deals with the situation of the prisoners and their stoic and rather heroic approach to their situation, yet also explores the avenues and responses to the massacre of civilians and family members of the victims. Soviet authorities and the Polish puppet government blamed the Nazis for the crime and any mention of Soviet guilt was met with swift reprisal. Thus, the population faced decisions of how to react to the Katyń massacre and Wajda explored each of those responses and their consequences. Some could not accept the official lie and paid for holding on to the truth with their careers and even lives. Yet others went along with the official story because there was still a country to be fought for, if only not on the battlefield. The cities had to be rebuilt, economy restructured and lives to be lived, if only for the next generations. Thus, Wajda sees each of these as a response, yet makes little judgement as to whether any of them are preferable or “right.” After all, do not each of them seek to preserve the idea of Polishness?

Prisoners recreating Matejko's Battle of Grunwald
Prisoners recreating Matejko’s Battle of Grunwald
Wajda explored the question of how to move on in other films as well. Landscape after Battle (1970), set in a just-liberated concentration camp and sometimes critiqued for portraying a camp devoid of Jews (later a convoy joins the Gentile Poles), the film explores the value of living after the Holocaust. Based on an autobiographical story by Tadeusz Borowski who survived Auschwitz and Dachau only to commit suicide in 1951, the film shows the intellectual Tadeusz traumatized by his experience of the war. He turns cynical, asocial and unfriendly towards everyone. He prefers to be locked up in isolation and read books. When he interacts with others, he is confrontational. Nina, a Jewess attempts to persuade Tadeusz to run away with her but he is unable to raise himself from the stupor the war put him in. He is passive, incapable of leaving Poland, and erasing his Polishness; as he states: “a country is not just a landscape; it is a people, traditions, language.”

Landscape After Battle tells a story of trauma and of the complex relations between Poles and Jews as represented by the two main characters. The trauma shows that the two had to relearn basic activities and feelings like compassion and love which the war stifled in them. Borowski asserted that “the living are always right against the dead,” a statement which can be interpreted to mean that humanity must survive and a person cannot be alive without empathy.

Jakub Gold with his mother in the Warsaw Ghetto
Jakub Gold with his mother in the Warsaw Ghetto
The question of Polish-Jewish relations was one that Wajda brought up in other films, such as Samson (1960) and Korczak (1990). Each set during the war, Samson tells the story of Jakub Gold, a young Polish Jew who spends his life in multiple prisons, both physical and emotional. The fact that no Polish actor could be found to portray the titular role attests to the reality of the tragedy that was the Holocaust. Serge Merlin, the French actor who eventually portrayed Jakub, is the physical opposite of the biblical character; short and diminutive, he could only portray Samson by contradiction, and performed masterfully. Torn by guilt and tormented by the souls of Jews who suffered and died while he survived, Jakub was paralyzed and unable to take action since he would be shot as soon as he was discovered. He asserts he is prepared to die but not because of the face he has; he is prepared to die for a cause but not because of how he is perceived. He is not similar to the Romantic heroes and instead embodies the Jewish people living in complete alienation and abandonment by the world yet finds strength to survive and sacrifice his life for a just cause.

Korczak leading "his" children to the trains.
Korczak leading “his” children to the trains.
Korczak, a film about the well-celebrated pedagogue Janusz Korczak, transcends the national division of a Polish and/or Jewish hero to become a universal paragon. Completely devoted to the care of orphans, the real life Korczak surprised his friends when in prewar Palestine he accepted Arab children in his orphanage. The Korczak of the movie did much the same; when asked what he will do when the war is over, he answered that, naturally, he will become a director of an orphanage for German children.

Much like the characters in his films, Wajda, despite a strong Romantic tie and love of the country of his birth, did not succumb to a simple definition of his identity and saw it as a complex interworking of many, sometimes conflicting histories. This can be seen in the closing scene of Landscape after Battle, when the soldiers in the camp perform a live recreation of Jan Matejko’s Battle of Grunwald. Prisoners, dressed in Polish and Teutonic clothes, stand still in poses, then change them as if participating in a photoshoot, all of it playing out as we hear the music of Chopin’s Polonaise op. 53, perhaps the most majestic of polonaises but which only makes the scene even more ridiculous. Wajda points to the absurdity of obsession with national mythology and instead views people for their humanity. “His” Poland was one that was home of good and bad people who lived together and interacted for centuries whether they were heroes or cowards, good or evil. He was a national director who never forgot nationality, only preferred to see it through the prism of human interaction.

Golf Scramble to benefit the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning

The Orchards Country Club—18 Silverwood Terrace–South Hadley, MA 01075

Monday, June 15, 2015
10:30AM – 6:00PM

Registration fee $125 per person/$500 per foursome

Dinner only $35.

Featuring a Donald Ross course.
Networking on the course (on a Monday!).

10:00-10:30 a.m. registration.
Lunch 10:30-11 a.m. Orchards Golf Pro, Jon Banas, will give a golf lesson and demonstration on chipping and putting.
11:00 -11:45 am lunch with grilled kielbasa, hot dogs and hamburgers, salad, chips, beverage.
12: 15 noon shotgun start.

Dinner following golf: Polish Dinner with home-made pierogi, golumbki, cabbage rolls, sliced pork, dilled cucumbers, rye bread, dessert and coffee.

Team Format (A) Men and (B) Women and (C) Mixed Gender.
Make your own foursome or let us assign you to a groups. Singles are welcome.

Grand Prizes for Hole-in-one.
Silent auction and raffle.

Available sponsorship Categories

Platinum –Two foursomes, golf carts, lunch and buffet $1,500
Gold—One foursome, golf cart, lunch and buffet $1,000
Silver—Two golfers, golf cart lunch and buffet $750
Tee/Green/Practice $100

For more information call Joan Marsh at (413) 734-7052 or Ed Dzielenski at (413) 567-3132 (nyd11@aol.com).

Make checks payable to the POLISH CENTER and mail to:

Pieciak & Co CPA
Attn: Linda Polish Center
488 Newton Street
South Hadley, MA 01075

Enigma and Kosciuszko in the news

After seeing the superbly acted and directed Imitation Game, I decided to write a bit about the history of Enigma since Poles don’t necessarily get the credit they deserve in the film. Whereas the film wonderfully highlighted an important contribution to the war effort, as well as the personal tragedy of Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and the fight for women to have equal opportunities in men-dominated fields, the film’s overall treatment of the Polish mathematicians and cryptologists leaves something to be desired.

However, as I was working on this article, I found a superbly written letter by the Ambassador of the Polish Republic to the UK which highlights precisely these issues. Thus, I will limit myself to general comments and you can read his article for more details here.

Rejewski, Rozycki, Zygalski
Rejewski, Rozycki, Zygalski

The film stresses that the world thought Enigma unbreakable but Turing, played by Cumberbatch, confidently asserted that he should be allowed a go and then we’d know for sure. Confident remark considering that Marian Rejewski, with the help of Henryk Zygalski, Jerzy Różycki and French-supplied materials broke the Enigma in 1932 using math and not linguistics. At the same time, the British and French intelligence, despite obtaining cipher keys from a German spy were not able to break the code. Increasing complexity added to Enigma made it more and more difficult to break the codes and required ever increasing manpower. So, in 1938, Rejewski built a machine, called bomba kryptologiczna, to speed up the process. The bomba did the work of a hundred workers. The Polish contribution, as mentioned in the film, was that the Poles smuggled Enigma out of Berlin, and that the Enigma Turing was about to break was infinitely more difficult. It seems strange the writers of the script would opt for that considering the Polish contributions to breaking Enigma are well known and it’s often quoted as one of the Pole’s greatest contributions to the war effort. If that was not enough, the first time Enigma was broken during the war was in 1940. In France. By the aforementioned gentlemen. In the presence of Alan Turing. One wonders if the British would have even employed mathematicians if they haven’t seen the Polish contributions since up to that point, linguists were working on decoding. A 1979 Polish film called Sekret Enigmy highlights the three mathematicians. One scene shows the Poles giving their British and French counterparts all their documentation and two copies of Enigma built by the Poles. The only condition is that the Poles be given credit for what they’ve done.

Tadeusz Kościuszko

This past week or so, a bit of a storm brewed in the Polish-American circles after an article in the Hudson Valley Magazine quoted Paul Ackermann, identified as a museum specialist with the U.S. Military Academy Museum, who opined that Kościuszko’s legend is “extremely overrated,” claimed that he “learned on the job, but was not a highly skilled engineer,” and that “[h]is only wound in seven years of service was a bayonet in the buttocks while leading an unsuccessful siege.”

Kosciuszko
Kosciuszko

This lead to a strong reply from Alex Storozynski (addressed to Lt. General Robert Caslan, Jr., Superintendent of the United States Military Academy) who pointed out not only pointed out that Kościuszko studied with the best engineers in Europe, but that a great number of historians confirmed his incredible role during the fight for “your independence and ours.” Kościuszko’s advice was not followed at Fort Ticonderoga, and the British took the fort. In the battle of Saratoga, Americans followed his advice, won the battle, and turned the war in their favor. As to his war injuries, the doctors that examined Kościuszko at the end of his life were surprised he could still stand due to all his injuries. Actually having an officer school was Kościuszko’s idea, which Jefferson followed.

Some of his non-military ideas included equal rights for Blacks, Jews, serfs, Native Americans and women. During the Kościuszko Uprising he created the first Jewish army since biblical times, and wrote in his will that the money the American government owed him should be used by his good friend Thomas Jefferson to free and educate slaves. Due to his inborn nature, he refused promotion a number of times until George Washington wouldn’t hear of it. He also composed a polonaise for the harpsichord which would become a popular patriotic song during the 1830 Uprising in Poland.

Just as Enigma, this is a strange choice, perhaps Kazimierz Pułaski would have been an easier target? Yes, he is the father of American cavalry but he was cocky. On the other hand he saved Washington’s life and died for liberty.

Dr. Anthony Bajdek, founder and president of the American Association of the Friends of Kosciuszko at West Point and Lt. General Edward Rowny, 1941 Academy graduate also wrote to Lt. General Caslan to express their shock and disbelief at the statements. Lt. General Rowny is responsible for setting up a fund which upkeeps Kościuszko’s Garden at West Point.

A reply from Lt. General Caslen,stressed that there would be no West Point without Kościuszko and that Paul Ackermann’s statements are not represent the official views of the Academy, but asserted that Paul Ackermann has the right to his own, differing opinion.

Greater Poland Uprising 1919

As World War I was drawing to a close and the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, Western Europe erupted in euphoria of victory and Eastern Europe erupted in chaos. The signing and the defeat of Germany did not solve many issues of frontiers in Eastern Europe and with many nationalities hoping for a creation or recreation of an independent national state, there was still a lot of work to be done.

Provinz Posen in the German Empire by shadowfox
Provinz Posen in the German Empire by shadowfox

Poles in Greater Poland seized the opportunity and staged a successful uprising in the Province of Poznań (ger. Provinz Posen) in Greater Poland. The uprising started on December 27, 1918 and ended on February 16, 1919 when the Entente powers renewed the truce which affected the Greater Poland region.

Let’s go back in time a little, Polish politicians had been working on recreation of the Polish state since the end of the 18th century. In fact, they never stopped. Ignacy Paderewski, a world-renowned pianist turned statesman was instrumental in stirring up pro-Polish sentiment in the United States and Western Europe during World War I. The Blue Army is just one example of that sentiment. Another is the support of President Woodrow Wilson.

The thirteenth of Wilson’s fourteen points stated that: “An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.“ As romantic and idealistic the sentiment was, it was also just as ambiguous.

Fighting in the streets.
Fighting in the streets.

On December 25, Paderewski returned to Poland and visited a number of towns and cities to tremendous ovation and euphoria. We should not underestimate his stature: being a world citizen and one of the most popular and successful pianists of his time in Western Europe and the United States he had many influential friends (including the aforementioned President Wilson). Being a fervent patriot, he used his international influence to further the Polish cause. His presence in Greater Poland was seen as dangerous by the Germans since the region had a major Polish population. When the pianist arrived in Poznań, he was received at a banquet at Hotel Bazar and was met by children waving banners, people singing patriotic songs, parades and a general state of excitement. On December 27, the Germans organized a parade of their own, and the soldiers of the 6th Prussian Grenadier Regiment were breaking into private houses to rip up and stomp the Polish, French, and American flags the Poles displayed. The soldiers also reportedly defaced the building of the Supreme People’s Council. By 5:00pm, the situation was getting out of control and shots were fired. The uprising began.

Some things require more detail. The partitions of Poland which took place at the end of the 18th century ended the experiment that was the Commonwealth of Both Nations. Poland ceased to exist as an independent state and was absorbed by the three partitioning powers. Political life and hope of independence did not stop in any form however, and its most extreme examples were the suicidally ambitious insurrections in 1794, 1830, 1861 and 1905. (It is interesting to note that the Greater Poland Uprising of 1806 was successful, like its 1919 counterpart, as it helped create the Duchy of Warsaw under the patronage of Napoleon.)

Members of the Supreme People's Council
Members of the Supreme People’s Council

The political life of the nation never faltered and World War I offered new hope as the partitioning powers were, for the first time, on opposing sides of a conflict. In 1916, the Interparty Committee opened as an underground (read, illegal) organization which advocated peaceful takeover of the Poznań region. After the armistice, it was renamed the Supreme People’s Council (the one attacked by the German soldiers). The peaceful approach did not work and the Council took leadership over the nascent uprising that started before the new year.

Paramilitary organizations were a dime a dozen in the partitioned lands and (this is not much of an exaggeration), it was thought that the only pursuit a Pole should concern him or herself with at the time, was preparing for an uprising. Because you just never knew when the chance would present itself. One such organization was the People’s Guard, but there was a whole underground network which also included the Polish Military Organization and the Guard and Security Service among others. The second was actually a German organization which was made up of Poles and Germans in which Poles worked secretly to prepare for an uprising and learned infrastructure. Because, you know, Poles never make anything simple.

Franciszek Jach
Franciszek Jach

An interesting anecdote tells the story of how the uprising got its first plane. When Paul Pohl, German pilot, was ordered to take the Albatros D.III plane to Berlin from Poznań, he was reluctant to do so because of the chaos going on in Berlin. Pohl’s friend and fellow pilot, a Pole by the name of Franciszek Jach told Pohl to take the plane to Jach’s family farm in the country and he would receive…. kiełbasa. Having already tasted the homemade goodness, Pohl and Jach flew the plane north where they landed in the field and local peasant helped push the plane into a large barn (oh, the great early days of flying). The insurgents then proceeded to “inform” Pohl that they will take over the plane. Seeing the hopelessness of the situation, Pohl did not put up a resistance but did receive the promised kiełbasa and was taken to the train station from where he went to Berlin.

Franciszek Jach and his brother spent the night painting the Polish Air Force checkerboard on the plane and spent the next day flying over the region. They were the first Polish pilots in the Greater Poland Uprising. The insurgents later attacked and took control of the Ławica airport in Poznań which allowed them to bomb the city of Frankfurt. And by that we mean they dropped 36 bombs (oh, the great early days of flying).

Statue commemorating the uprising. Photo by Radomil.
Statue commemorating the uprising. Photo by Radomil.

The insurgents took advantage of the demoralized German military that recently lost the war and by mid-January, they took control over most of the Provinz Posen. When the armistice was renewed in February to include the Greater Poland region, Poles were in charge of the province. When the Treaty of Versailles was signed later that year, Poland weas granted the lands won by insurgents as well as some areas of Pomerania, the cities of Bydgoszcz, Leszno, and Rawicz, not all of which had predominantly Polish populations. Many of the insurgents later fought in the Silesian uprisings of 1919-21.

Winter 2014 Newsletter

Our new newsletter is available for your viewing pleasure on our website. For those of you who receive the printed edition, it was sent to the printers and should be mailed out within a couple of weeks. In the meantime, you can enjoy the digital edition in the NEWS & EVENTS / NEWSLETTER & MAILING LIST tab on our website, or simply by clicking on the image below.

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