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Wednesday, 20 February 2019 06:30

Polish Independence Day

The process of restoration of Poland's independence was gradual; the date chosen is the one on which Józef Piłsudski assumed control of Poland. The Independence Day was constituted in 1937 and was celebrated only twice before World War II. In the People's Republic of Poland (PRL) the national holiday was moved to July 22 the day the PKWN Manifesto was issued. In 1989 the Independence Day was moved back to November 11.



In 1918, after 123 years of occupation, the Polish state was reborn and regained its independence. Autumn 1918 marked the end of World War I and the defeat of all three occupiers. Russia was plunged into the confusion of revolution and civil war, the multinational Austro-Hungarian monarchy fell apart and went into decline and the Germans bowed to pressure from the forces of the Entente.

For Poles this was a unique opportunity to reclaim their national way of life. Following defeat of the occupying forces, the Poles began to seize military and civil power, building the foundations of their future nation. On October 28, 1918 the Polish Liquidation Commission was formed in Kraków. The Commission began to seize power from the hands of the Austrians in Galicia and Cieszyn Silesia. A few days later they succeeded in disarming the Austrian forces using members of the secret Polish Military Organisation as well as legionnaires and young people. On November 1, 1918 fighting broke in Lvov out between the Poles and the Ukrainians who were mounting a rebellion of the West Ukrainian People's Republic.

On the nights of 6 and 7 November the Provisional Government of the People's Republic of Poland was formed in Lublin under the supervision of Ignacy Daszyński. The government was made up of representatives from the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), the Polish Social-Democratic Party (PPSD) and the Polish People's Party "Wyzwolenie" (Liberation). At the same time the Government troops disarmed the occupying forces in Lubelszczyzna and Kielecczyzna. It was at this point that Józef Pilsudski returned to Poland. He had been imprisoned since July 1917 by the Germans. On 10 November 1918 he arrived in Warsaw. His arrival was enthusiastically met by the population of the capital and saw the mass disarmament of the occupying forces across the whole of Poland.

On 11 November 1918 the secret departments of the Polish Military Organisation, demobilized soldiers, legionnaires and young people, disarmed the Germans in Warsaw and other Polish towns. The Regency Government appointed Józef Pilsudski Commander-in-Chief over the Polish Forces and three days later Pilsudski was given complete civil control. The day before he was also put in charge of the Provisional Government of the People's Republic of Poland in Lublin. Józef Pilsudski formed a new centralized government which on 21 November issued a manifesto announcing agricultural reforms and the nationalization of several branches of industry. He declared, however, that these measures would depend on the decision of the future legislative government. At the same time Józef Pilsudski brought in highly favourable conditions for the workers and called parliamentary elections.

On 22 November Józef Pilsudski was appointed Chief of State and together with the Prime Minister signed a decree about the provisional authorities of the Polish Republic. The Polish people had to fight bloody battles to preserve their regained independence. In Eastern Galicia there was a hard-fought battle with the Ukrainians and in the Eastern parts of Poland self-armed divisions fought with the Bolsheviks. Moreover, three uprisings were needed in Silesia before the Upper Silesia area was once again within Polish borders.

A turning point in the rebirth of the Republic was thBattle of Warsaw during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920 in which the Polish people fought to maintain independence.

To commemorate the formation of an independent centre of authority in reborn Poland, 11 November, the day when Józef Pilsudski took power, was officially recognized as a national holiday in 1937. However, since 1919 this day has been celebrated as the Day of Polish Independence. Since then it has been one of the most important celebrations for Poles both in Poland and abroad.

After World War II the Polish People's authorities removed Independence Day from the calendar but the reclamation of independence continued to be celebrated commonly on 11 November. In 1989 the 9th term of the Sejm government restored the official holiday.