Ch. 4
WAR : 1919-1920
  • In the Austrian partition of the Kingdom of Poland, which was the most liberal of the three occupants, Józef Pilsudski organized an underground private army of about 10,000 Poles to fight eventually for the freedom of Poland.
  • When First World War broke out in 1914, he offered his army to Austria (a Central Power) to fight the Russians only (not the Allies)
  • Late in 1916, the Central Powers proclaimed an independent Polish Kingdom and formed a council of state, with Pilsudski as a member.
  • However, when he later refused to order his troops to support the Central Powers against the Allies, Pilsudski was imprisoned by the Germans.
  • Released in November 1918, Pilsudski returned to Warsaw and proclaimed an independent Polish republic. He was immediately accepted as head of state and commander in chief of the Polish army.

  • As such, when the Central Powers were disintegrating, he supervised the disarming of all the remaining occupation armies in Poland.

The map shows the dotted boundaries of Poland's final partition among the three empires in the 18th century.

Superimposed is a white outline area of the independent Poland resurrected after the First World War.

outline of Poland

Pilsudski's aim was the restoration of the territories belonging to Poland at the time of the first partition in 1772. He came into conflict with the Bolshevik regime in the newly established Soviet Union.

The small inset map below shows the shape of newborn Poland, superimposed on the outline of the 18th century Poland.

Jozef Pilsudski
  • In 1919 the Bolshevik Red Army, having crushed all counterrevolutionary forces inside Russia, in their quest to spread international communism, turned its attention on Poland.
  • By August 1920 they were at the gates of Warsaw.

The map shows just resurrected independent Poland being attacked by the Bolshevik Russia.

The war front line reached the main Polish river Wisla (Vistula), spreading north of Warsaw.

On 15th of August 1920 the Polish Army under Pilsudski fought the Battle of Warsaw, described as the "Miracle on the Vistula".

The Poles routed the Bolshevik Red Army and saved a weakened, democratic Europe from Communist conquest.

Polish soldiers displaying Red Army flags with Hammer and Sickle abandoned by the river Vistula after the Battle of Warsaw in 1920

  • An Armistice was signed at Riga in October 1920, followed by a Peace Treaty in March 1921. The treaty determined and secured Poland's eastern frontiers, which included large proportion of the native lands of the Rymaszewski clan.
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