It happened in the 20th century

It happened in the 20th century (20)

’It happened in the 20th century’ by Rafał LEŚKIEWICZ is an overview of the most important historical events to remember in the coming week (25 February – 2 March 2024).

On 26 February 1927, 'Dabrowski’s Mazurka’ officially became the Polish national anthem. On that day, the Ministry of the Interior, headed by Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski, issued a circular establishing this song as the anthem of Poland. Prior to this, there were proposals for other songs which, according to their authors, deserved to become the national anthem. These included 'Rota’, 'Boże, coś Polskę’, the song 'Marsz Pierwszej Brygady’, 'Warszawianka’ or 'Chorał’. As early as 1921, General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, as Minister of Military Affairs, recommended that soldiers be honoured by playing the 'Mazurka’, which was unofficially treated as the Polish national anthem. It is worth noting, however, that information about the anthem was not included in the March Constitution.

In the autumn of 1926, the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment instructed school principals to have the 'Dabrowski’s Mazurka’ sung as the anthem. A few months later it was officially adopted.

’Dabrowski’s Mazurka’ was slightly altered from the original version. As the national anthem of Poland, it consisted of four stanzas instead of six, and minor corrections were made to the lyrics. The song has not been changed since and is still in use today. It is worth noting that 'Dabrowski’s Mazurka’, as the national anthem, was not included in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Poland until 1976, when the Basic Law of 1952 was amended.

The history of this song, now known to all Poles, dates back to 1797 when Poles were sent to Italy to serve alongside Napoleon. At that time, the song 'Pieśń Legionów Polskich we Włoszech’ (Song of the Polish Legions in Italy) was written by Józef Wybicki to the tune of a folk mazurka. It was later named 'Dabrowski’s Mazurka’ in honour of General Henryk Dąbrowski. In the 19th century, the song was banned, for example, in the lands of the Kingdom of Poland.

The Western Institute in Poznan was founded on 27 February 1945. Professor Zygmunt Wojciechowski, a legal historian from the pre-war University of Poznan, soon became its first director. He held the post until his death in 1955.

The first meeting of a group of intellectuals who wished to establish an institution dealing with Polish-German relations and German issues in the broadest sense took place in December 1944. It was postulated that the authorities of Poland, which was rebuilding itself from the ruins of war, should establish this institution in Poznan. By a decision of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland, headed by Edward Osóbka-Morawski, the Institute was formally established at the end of February 1945 in a tenement house at 1 Chełmońskiego Street.

Initially, the activities of the Western Institute focused on the study of the German occupation, war losses in the Western countries and post-war Polish-German relations. A library was established at the Institute, containing valuable archival material on the history of Polish-German relations. The Institute’s staff also participated in the work of the Polish-German textbook commission.

Since 1945, the Institute has published a scientific journal called 'Przegląd Zachodni’. On 17 December 2015, the Act on the Zygmunt Wojciechowski Western Institute was passed, defining its tasks in terms of analytical and research activities, as well as publishing.

On 28 February 1944, in the village of Huta Pieniacka, Brodzki District (Ternopil Province), Ukrainian nationalists committed one of the greatest crimes against Poles in the Borderlands. The genocidal actions were carried out by soldiers of the SS Galizien, a German formation composed of Ukrainians, and members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. During the German occupation, Ukrainians from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists tried to use the situation of armed conflict to create an independent Ukrainian state free of Poles.

The village of Huta Pieniacka was inhabited during the Second World War by almost a thousand Polish inhabitants, both those who lived there before the war and those who found shelter there while fleeing the murders committed by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

Faced with the increasingly brutal actions of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in the lands of eastern Lesser Poland, which had been gaining strength since December 1943, the inhabitants of Huta Pieniacka decided to organize self-defense. In January and February 1944, a detachment of Soviet partisans was stationed in the village. After their departure, a skirmish took place between a self-defense unit, supported by a Home Army platoon from Huta Wierchobuska, and a unit of the 14th SS Grenadier Division. The self-defense unit was able to cope with the German detachment, but not with the Ukrainian forces who attacked the village from four sides on Monday 28 February 1944. The organized Ukrainian units attacking the village were joined by the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, neighbours of the Poles under attack.

The attack on the village was carried out by Ukrainian volunteers from the 4th SS Police Regiment under the command of SS-Sturmbannführer Siegfried Binz and the US Army under the command of Włodzimierz Czerniawski. The attack resulted in the deaths of between 600 and more than 1,000 Poles living in the village. Jews hiding in the buildings of Polish peasants were also killed.

The Ukrainians were extremely brutal, murdering Poles in a bestial manner. The self-defense commander, Kazimierz Wojciechowski, was set on fire with petrol and burnt alive after his relatives had been murdered. Houses and outbuildings were looted and everything of value was taken. The pacification of the village lasted several hours and ended around 5 p.m. The drunken bandits left the village, leaving behind only the ruins and the bodies of the murdered.

On 1 March 1951, in a notorious prison on Rakowiecka Street in Warsaw, seven Polish army officers, members of the armed underground from the Fourth Executive Committee of the Wolność i Niezawisłość (Freedom and Independence) Association, were murdered as a result of a communist court crime. Wolność i Niezawisłość was the last significant organisation of the Polish underground. Other anti-communist organisations were active, but smaller and without wider contacts. As a result of the verdict of the Military District Court in Warsaw, under the leadership of Aleksander Warecki, Łukasz Ciepliński, Adam Lazarowicz, Mieczysław Kawalec, Józef Rzepka, Franciszek Błażej, Józef Batory and Karol Chmiel were sentenced to death.

Łukasz Ciepliński fought in the September campaign of 1939, for which he was awarded the Order of Military Virtues, 5th class. He later became involved in underground activities. He was, among other things, commander of the Rzeszów district of the Union for Armed Struggle. Later he continued his activities in the Podkarpacie region of the Home Army. Very effective in diversionary activities, he organized excellent intelligence and counter-intelligence structures. At the beginning of 1945, he co-organized the structures of the underground organization NIE. From January 1947, he was President of the Fourth Committee of the Wolność i Niezawisłość underground organization, a well-organized underground organization with offices abroad. He was arrested in Zabrze on 28 November 1947. The investigation lasted three years, followed by a trial at the Military District Court in Warsaw. On 14 October 1950, he was sentenced to five terms of death, and on 1 March 1951, he was brutally murdered with a shot in the back of the head in the basement of Mokotow prison.

The anniversary of the death of Ciepliński and his comrades is celebrated in Poland as the National Day of Remembrance of the Cursed Soldiers, a public holiday established by a law of 3 February 2011 with the support of the two largest parliamentary factions, Civic Platform and Law and Justice. The date of the holiday was proposed by Professor Janusz Kurtyka, President of the Institute of National Remembrance. The law refers to a 2001 Sejm resolution commemorating members of the anti-communist underground, including Wolność i Niezawisłość.

Dr Rafał Leśkiewicz