Stanisław Mikołajczyk

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Stanisław Mikołajczyk
Mikolajczyk.jpg
Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland
2nd Prime Minister in Exile
In office
July 14, 1943 – November 24, 1944
President Władysław Raczkiewicz
Vice PM Jan Kwapiński
Jan Stanisław Jankowski
Preceded by Władysław Sikorski
Succeeded by Tomasz Arciszewski
Personal details
Born July 18, 1901
Dorsten, Germany
Died December 13, 1966 (aged 65)
Washington, D.C., United States
Political party People's Party, Polish People's Party

Stanisław Mikołajczyk (July 18, 1901 – December 13, 1966; [staˈɲiswav mikɔˈwajt͡ʂɨk] ( )), Polish politician, was Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile during World War II, and later Deputy Prime Minister in postwar Poland, before the USSR took political control of Poland.

Biography[edit]

Mikołajczyk's family came from Poznań in western Poland, which in the 19th century was part of the German Empire and known as the Province of Posen. He was born in Westphalia in western Germany, where his parents had gone to look for work in the wealthy mining regions, as many Poles—known as Ruhr Poles—did in the 19th century. He returned to Poznań as a boy of ten. As a teenager he worked in a sugar beet refinery and was active in Polish patriotic organisations. He was 18 when Poland recovered its independence, and in 1920 he joined the Polish Army and took part in the Polish-Soviet War. He was discharged after being wounded near Warsaw and returned to inherit his father's farm near Poznań.

In the 1920s Mikołajczyk became active in the Polish People's Party "Piast" (PSL), and after holding a number of offices in the government of Poznań province, he was elected to the Sejm (the Polish Parliament) in 1929. In 1935 he became Vice-Chairman of the executive committee of the PSL, and in 1937 he became party President. He was an active opponent of the authoritarian regime established in Poland after the death of Józef Piłsudski in 1935.

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939, Mikołajczyk was a private in the Polish army,[1] and served in the defence of Warsaw. After the fall of Warsaw he escaped to Hungary, where he was interned.[2] He soon escaped and made his way to Paris via Yugoslavia and Italy.[2] By the end of November, Mikołajczyk had reached France where he was immediately asked to join the Polish government in exile as deputy Chairman of the Polish National Council.[3] In 1941 he was appointed Minister of the Interior and became Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski's Deputy Prime Minister.

In April 1943 the Germans had announced that they had discovered the graves of almost 22,000 Polish officers who had been murdered by the Soviets at Katyń Wood. The Soviet government said that the Germans had fabricated the discovery. The Allied governments, for diplomatic reasons, formally accepted this, but Mikołajczyk's government refused to do so, and Stalin then severed relations with the government in exile.

When Sikorski was killed in a plane crash in July 1943, Mikołajczyk was appointed as his successor.[4] "We do not wish to see only a formal democracy in Poland," he said in his broadcast to Poland on taking office, "but a social democracy which will put into practice not only political, religious and personal freedom but also social and economic freedom, the four freedoms of which Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke so finely. In any case there is and will be no place in Poland for any kind of totalitarian government in any shape or form."

But Mikołajczyk faced daunting challenges. It was obvious by this time that the Soviet armed forces, not those of the western Allies, would seize Poland from German occupation, and the Poles feared that Stalin intended both imposing Communism on Poland and annexing Poland's eastern territories, which were populated by Poles, Ukrainians and Belarusians.

During 1944 the Allied leaders, particularly Winston Churchill, tried to bring about a resumption talks between Mikołajczyk and Stalin, but these efforts broke down over several issues. One was the Katyń massacre. Another was Poland's postwar borders. Stalin insisted that the eastern territories should remain in Soviet hands. Mikołajczyk also opposed Stalin's plan to set up a Communist government in postwar Poland.

As a result, Stalin agreed that there would be a coalition government in the Soviet seized territories of Poland. A Socialist, Edward Osóbka-Morawski, became Prime Minister of the new Provisional Government of National Unity (Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej - TRJN), and the Communist leader Władysław Gomułka became one of two Deputy Prime Ministers. Mikołajczyk resigned as Prime Minister of the government in exile to return to Poland and become the other Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture.

Many of the Polish exiles opposed this action, believing that this government was a façade for the establishment of Communist rule in Poland. The government in exile maintained its existence, although it no longer had diplomatic recognition as the legal government of Poland.

Mikołajczyk immediately set about reviving the PSL, which soon became by far the largest party in Poland. He was helped, ironically, by the radical land reform pushed through with the support of the Communists, which created a new class of small farmers who became a firm political base for the PSL. The Communists knew they would never win a free election in Poland, and so they set about preventing one, despite the pledges given by Stalin at the Yalta Conference.

In June 1946 the 3xTAK referendum was held on a number of issues. The PSL decided to oppose the referendum calling for the abolition of the Senate as a test of strength against the Communists: two-thirds of voters supported Mikołajczyk, but the Communist-controlled Interior Ministry issued faked results showing the opposite result. Between then and the January 1947 general elections, the PSL was subjected to ruthless persecultion, and hundreds of its candidates were prevented from campaigning.

From 1946 to 1948, military courts sentenced 32,477 people, most of them members of democratic parties for ‘crimes against the state’. Only then the elections were held. In order to be sure that the elections would produce the ‘correct’ results, the Polish security apparatus recruited 47% of the members of electoral committees as agents.[5][6]

The elections produced a parliament with 394 seats for the Communist-controlled "Democratic Bloc" and 28 for the PSL, a result which everyone knew could only been obtained through massive electoral fraud. Indeed, the opposition claimed that it would have won as much as 80 percent of the vote had the election been conducted in a fair manner.[7] Mikołajczyk, who would have likely become Prime Minister had the election been honest, immediately resigned from the government in protest. Facing arrest, he left the country in April. Winston Churchill, upon seeing him in London, remarked: "I am surprised you made it out alive". In London the Polish government in exile regarded him as a traitor for having co-operated with the Communists. He emigrated to the United States, where he died in 1966. In June 2000 his remains were returned for burial in Poland. His papers are in the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Film The Right to Vote (O Prawo Głosu, 2008, director: Janusz Petelski) tells the story of Mikołajczyk's (played by Adam Ferency) struggle.

See also[edit]

Literature[edit]

  • Stanisław Mikołajczyk: The Rape of Poland: The Pattern of Soviet Aggression. Sampson Low, Martson & Co.,LTD., London 1948. Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1948 [1]
  • Andrzej Paczkowski: Stanislaw Mikołajczyk, czyli kleska realisty. Agencja Omnipress, Warszawa 1991, ISBN 83-85028-82-X
  • Roman Buczek: Stanislaw Mikołajczyk. Century Publ. Co., Toronto 1996
  • Janusz Gmitruk: Stanislaw Mikołajczyk: trudny powrót. Muzeum Historii Polskiego Ruchu Ludowego, Warszawa 2002, ISBN 83-87838-59-4

Further reading[edit]

  • Ferenc Nagy: The Struggle Behind the Iron Curtain. Translated by S. K. Swift. Macmillan, New York, 1948.
  • Jan Karski: Story of a Secret State. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston 1944.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stanislaw Mikolajczyk The Pattern of Soviet Domination Sampson Low, Marston & Co 1948 Page 5
  2. ^ a b Stanislaw Mikolajczyk The Pattern of Soviet Domination Sampson Low, Marston & Co 1948 Page 6
  3. ^ Stanislaw Mikolajczyk The Pattern of Soviet Domination Sampson Low, Marston & Co 1948 Page 7
  4. ^ Editor Peter Stachura Writer Chapter 4 Wojciech Rojek The Poles in Britain 1940-2000 ISBN 0-7146-8444-9 Page 33
  5. ^ Persak, K. and Łukasz Kamínski. (2005). A handbook of the communist security apparatus in East Central Europe 1944-1989. Institute of National Remembrance, Warsaw. ISBN 83-89078-82-1
  6. ^ Laar, M. (2009). "The Power of Freedom. Central and Eastern Europe after 1945." Centre for European Studies, p. 38. http://www.poweroffreedombook.com/preview_PoF.pdf
  7. ^ Dariusz Baliszewski. "Wprost 24 - Demokracja urn". Wprost.pl. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Władysław Sikorski
Prime Minister of the Polish Republic in Exile
1943–1944
Succeeded by
Tomasz Arciszewski