Karol NAWROCKI: The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds

Photo of Karol NAWROCKI


President of the National Remembrance Institute.

Ryc. Fabien Clairefond

other articles by this author

At the beginning of its independence regained in 1918, Poland did not have regulated borders.It had to fight for those borders at all fronts: in the west, in the south, and in the east.In the east, it also had to fight for the western civilization.

Poland was not separated from the Soviet Russia by any officially recognised border, with both parties attempting to occupy as much as possible of the land vacated by the German troops. In many cases, German troops were much more favourable to the Soviets, which made them gain more land. The fights taking place in the months that followed in the eastern borderland of Poland had varied outcomes, and neither party could boast a decisive victory. Nevertheless, the war going on there was to decide about the future of Poland and, as it turned out later, also about the future of Europe.

“Over the corpse of White Poland, the road leads us to a world ablaze,” wrote Mikhail Tukhachevsky in his order of 2 July 1920. The Red Army was to use their bayonets and sabres to deal with the imperialist world and carry the revolution further on, to Germany, and even to England. The only thing to do was to erase Poland, the “French leash-dog and the last dog of the Entente.”  Marshal Józef Piłsudski was aware that the forces ready for a decisive attack on Poland were gathering in the east. There was only one solution: to attack and to defeat the enemy on its own ground. The attack on Kyiv ended with conquering the city, and this was the peak capacity of the revived Polish Army. The Soviet counter-offensive, in particular the attack of the infamous Budyonny’s Cavalry Army, forced the Poles to retreat.

In the occupied cities, villages and settlements, the Soviets introduced outposts of their power, with Provisional Polish Revolutionary Committee (Polrewkom) established in Smolensk. The collaborates were to take over the administrative powers and lead to complete subjugation of the conquered Polish lands to Kremlin.

In August 1920, the Soviets approached Warsaw and appealed to the residents: “Take power into your hands (…).” They vastly outnumbered Poles with respect to the people, equipment, and fire power. It seemed Polish capital would soon surrender, and the Red Army would spread across Europe. In their self-complacency, Soviet commanders failed to notice the revival of the Polish Army. Crowds of volunteers joined the army, including men and women, the old and the young. Nobody tried to avoid the duty to defend their Homeland. Polish allies offered a powerful stream of military aid, including aircraft that the Red Army did not have. This aid was not stopped by communist active in some European countries. The weapons, often of the latest type, were handed over to the newly formed troops and those in need for supplemented equipment.

On August 15, Bolshevik dreams of carrying the flame of the revolution to the West fell apart. Polish counterattack, referred to as the “Miracle over the Vistula”, surprised the enemy. The reinforced Polish Army, strictly following the campaign plan, showed its supremacy over the Red Army. In a series of battles, the Poles regained the lost territories, and the parties signed the ceasefire on October 12.

In August 1920, two different worlds, two different civilizational values, stood against each other on both banks of the Vistula. The anarchy, the extinction, and despise for everything other than Bolshevik were opposed by the will to fight for freedom of the state revived after 123 years of enslavement. Polish freedom had to stand against Bolshevik destruction and enslavement.

The Poles managed to do what the world had not expected. They withstood the frontal attack of the Red Army, turning a certain defeat into victory. On those days in August, they managed to gain two decades of freedom and independence for their Homeland. They warded off the danger, and the banner of the Provisional Polish Revolutionary Committee is an exhibit currently kept at the Museum of Independence in Warsaw.

The history has run a full circle nowadays, showing the world that Russia has not changed its imperialist ambitions. Let us hope that this anti-civilizational march will end as it did in 1920. I thus wish the Ukrainians to be as effective in their fight as were the Poles over one hundred years ago.

Karol Nawrocki

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