The valiant efforts of Lech Walesa and Solidarity will go down in history as another struggle for freedom that the Poles have waged over the millennium of its existence.
The other figures in Polish history have showed a similar bravado — one was involved in the January Uprising in 1863, his name….JAROSLAW DABROWSKI; the other led a workers’ movement in the October Revolution in 1917, his name ….KAROL SWIERCZEWSKI. Here are their stories . . . .
JAROSLAW DABROWSKI, born in 1836, came from a family of petty gentry and grew up in an atmosphere of love for his country which remained in bondage. He attended the Cadet School in Brzesc where he belonged to a secret organization which opposed serfdom and the Tsar’s oppression of a subjugated people. Dabrowski completed his military schooling at the Officers’ School in Petersburg. From where he was sent to the Caucasus, where the native mountaineers were defending their independence in battle against the Tsarist forces. This was a difficult period in Dabrowski’s life. The son of a conquered nation, he had to fight against the people who were defending their liberty. His revolutionary world outlook was shaped in this period.
In 1859, Dabrowski enrolled at the General Staff Academy in Petersburg where he belonged to a revolutionary circle composed of Polish and Russian officers.
In 1862, he moved to Warsaw where he became active in the party of the “Reds,” a revolutionary faction of conspirators who were preparing an insurrection against the Tsar. Dabrowski was a member of the National Committee which elected him revolutionary commandant of the city. By virtue of his military knowledge, Dabrowski developed a bold and excellent plan for the capture of the Modlin and Warsaw forts. But the plan was aborted when Dabrowski was arrested by the Tsarist authorities and deported to Siberia. He succeeded to escape before the deportation train reach its destination. Dabrowski then organized the escape of his wife, who had also been arrested, and met her in Petersburg. They both set out for Dresden and at the close of 1865 settled in Paris. Here, faithful to his democratic ideals, Dabrowski joined the progressive groups of Polish emigrants. There were many Poles who came to Paris after the failure of the 1863 Insurrection.
When the war broke out between Prussia and Austria in 1866, Dabrowski wanted to organize a Polish Legion. He hoped that the war would offer an opportunity to fight for the liberty of Poland. But before the Legion was formed the war had come to an end.
When the Franco-Prussian war broke out in 1870, Dabrowski proposed that Polish divisions he created in the rear of the Prussian armies. But the French government fearful of aggravating relations with the Tsar did not agree to this proposition.
When the Paris Commune, the first government of workers in Europe, was organized in 1871, Dabrowski joined its ranks. He was at first entrusted with a sector of battle near the Neuilly bridge held by the enemy. He was then made commander of the First Army on the right bank of the Seine and finally the committee of Public Safety appointed him chief commander of the Commune. Dabrowski sustained a mortal wound on the barricades and died on May 23, 1871. His last words were . . . . “My life is not important. Give all your thoughts to saving the Republic.”
KAROL SWIERCZEWSKI was born on January 22, 1897, in Warsaw. His father worked in a factory as a smelter. He did not earn enough to support his family; in order to keep the children from starving, his mother had to go out to work for rich households. Owing to the poverty of his family, Karol Swierczewski began to work as a metal worker when still a young boy. There he met workers who quickly introduced him to the illegal revolutionary organization.
After the outbreak of the First World War, Swierczewski’s family, as was the case with many others, was evacuated far into Russia. In 1917, when the Tsar was overthrown, Karol Swierczewski joined the Red Guards in order to defend the revolution from domestic and foreign reactionary forces. This was his initiation in the army. Swierczewski was promoted to an officer’s rank during the fighting and then attended the Military Academy. Swierczewski realized that the overthrow of the Tsar and of the rule of Russian landowners and capitalists carried promise of better times for Poland. He was not wrong. Poland regained her independence after the First World War owing to the victory of the Russian Revolution.
Many times in Poland’s history her soldiers fought far from the country for the liberation of other oppressed peoples under the banner bearing the motto: “For Our Freedom and Yours.”
Under this motto, the Jaroslaw Dabrowski brigade fought in Spain from 1936 to 1938. Many Poles volunteered then and fought for the republic against the fascists under General Franco who were supported by Hitler and Mussolini. One of the first to volunteer was Karol Swierczewski. He became known in Spain as a man of great courage and noble virtue. Called “General Walter,” Swierczewski commanded the international brigades. He was worshiped not only by the soldiers but also by the population which called him el general Polaco.
The war in Spain ended with a victory for fascism. Emboldened by this victory, fascism reached for a higher stake and unleashed the Second World War. “Walter,” of course, was on the front fighting against the fascists. As commander of the Second Polish Army, Swierczewski conducted many battles and, at the same time, gave to the young army the whole of his rich experience. Fighting on the southern front in the Spring of 1945, the army under Swierczewski crossed the Nysa and approached Dresden helping valiantly in routing the Nazi power. Swierczewski as a commander realized that an officer at the front must also be a teacher to his men. He trusted his men and knew how to inspire the enthusiasm and faith in the cause for which they fought. Self-controlled and composed, he always knew how to evaluate a situation and make a correct decision. He was on the first line of battle in the most critical moments and led his men to the attack.
On March 28, 1946, General Karol Swierczewski, as Deputy Minister of National Defense, was on an inspection tour of the garrisons in the Rzeszow region. The automobile in which he was traveling was fired at by a fascist band — the Ukrainian UPA. The General died of wounds sustained in fighting.
. . . . SEE YOU SOON, GOD BE WILLING . . .