Wincenty Witos

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Wincenty Witos
Wincenty Witos.PNG
Prime Minister of Poland
13th Prime Minister of the Second Republic of Poland
In office
10 May 1926 – 14 May 1926
President Stanisław Wojciechowski
Preceded by Aleksander Skrzyński
Succeeded by Kazimierz Bartel
Prime Minister of Poland
10th Prime Minister of the Second Republic of Poland
In office
18 May 1923 – 19 December 1923
President Stanisław Wojciechowski
Preceded by Władysław Sikorski
Succeeded by Władysław Grabski
Prime Minister of Poland
5th Prime Minister of the Second Republic of Poland
In office
24 July 1920 – 19 September 1921
President Józef Piłsudski (Chief of State)
Preceded by Władysław Grabski
Succeeded by Antoni Ponikowski
Personal details
Born 22 January 1874
Wierzchosławice, then Austro-Hungary, now Poland
Died 31 October 1945
Kraków, Poland
Political party Polish People's Party "Piast"
Profession Farmer

Wincenty Witos (Polish pronunciation: [vinˈt͡sɛntɨ ˈvitɔs]; 22 January 1874 - 31 October 1945) was a prominent member of the Polish People's Party (PSL) from 1895, and leader of its "Piast" faction from 1913. He was a member of parliament in the Galician Sejm from 1908–1914, and an envoy to Reichsrat in Vienna from 1911 to 1918. Witos was also a leader of Polish Liquidation Committee (Polish: Polska Komisja Likwidacyjna) in 1918, head of the Piast party, and member of parliament in the Polish Sejm from 1919-1920.

He served thrice as the premier of Poland, in 1920-1921, 1923 (Chjeno-Piast), and 1926.

In 1926 the third Witos government was overthrown by the May coup d'état led by Józef Piłsudski. Witos had been one of the leaders of the opposition to the Sanacja-government as head of Centrolew (1929–1930) and co-founded the People's Party. Having been imprisoned shortly thereafter and for a time living in exile in Czechoslovakia from 1933, he returned to Poland in 1939 only to be imprisoned again by the invading Germans.

In ill health by 1945, he became one of vice-chairmen of the State National Council (Polish: Krajowa Rada Narodowa) after World War II. In 1945-46 the People's Party was reorganized and taken over by Stanisław Mikołajczyk.

Early life[edit]

Wincenty was born in a peasant family in Wierzchosławice in Lesser Poland/Galicia. His parents were Wojciech and Katarzyna née Sroka. The family was poor, owning little land and no livestock and they lived in a single room hut which had been converted from a barn. Wincenty had two brothers, Jan and Andrzej. Andrzej would also become a leader in the Polish agrarian movement.

He began his education in the village school at the age of ten and finished four grades. Subsequently he worked, helping his father, as a lumberjack for Prince Eustachy Stanisław Sanguszko.

Between 1895 and 1897 Wincenty served in the Austrian Army (Galicia was part of the Austrian partition of Poland), first in infantry then in the artillery. He was stationed in Tarnów, Kraków and Krzesławice.

He married Katarzyna Trach on February 9, 1898. His daughter Julia was born March 22, 1899.

Early political activity[edit]

At the age of nineteen he published his first newspaper article in the Przyjaciel Ludu ("Friend of the People") based in Lwów (Lviv, Lemberg), under the name "Maciej Rydz". In 1895 Witos joined the Galician Stronnictwo Ludowe ("People's Party") and in February 1903 he was elected to the Executive Committee of the party. In 1908 he was elected as a delegate to the Diet of Galicia in Lwow and served until 1914.

In April 1909 Witos was elected the wójt (mayor) of his native Wierzchosławice. During his tenure he focused on the economic development of the village, oversaw the construction of a mill and a social center, improved local roads, expanded the school and organized a farmer's cooperative and credit union. He gradually rose in the ranks of the agrarian movement.

Road to Independence[edit]

Wincenty Witos (right) and Ignacy Daszyński.

In December 1913 the People's Party split. As a result in February 1914 Witos was elected as vice president of the newly created political party Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe "Piast" (Polish People's Party "Piast").In 1911 he served as a deputy of the party to Austria's Imperial Council's House of Representatives. Technically he remained the member of the Austrian government until 1918.

After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Witos became even more involved in party activities. The group joined the Supreme National Committee a quasi-government for the Poles in Galicia, for which Witos served as vice president. As the political events associated with the war unfolded and the Committee became more and more irrelevant, Witos resigned.

During the war Witos kept in touch with Polish independence movement activists, including Ignacy Paderewski and Jędrzej Moraczewski. He also supported Józef Piłsudski, whom he saw as the future leader of a reconstituted Polish army. "Piast"'s backing for Piłsudski increased after the Oath Crisis and the internment of Piłsudski by the Germans. Gradually, the agrarians of the Polish People's Party came to believe that the cause of Polish independence was best served by an alliance with the alliance, and as a result began supporting the pro-Entente, anti-German, National Democrats. In 1917 Witos joined Roman Dmowski's National League although he left the organization in 1918.

In 1916 he became the president of "Piast". He coauthored a manifesto which declared the aims of a reconstituted, independent Poland, which was published in May 1917. On September 28, 1918 he was one of the two directors of the Polish Liquidation Committee, a temporary government whose purpose was to preserve law and order in the former Austrian partition, during the transition to an elected Polish government. The Committee declared Western Galicia independent of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Witos was invited to join the government of Ignacy Daszyński but turned the offer down due to political differences. Witos was also unsatisfied with the fact that the new government did not have representatives from the Prussian Partition.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Władysław Grabski
Prime Minister of Poland
1920–1921
Succeeded by
Antoni Ponikowski
Preceded by
Władysław Sikorski
Prime Minister of Poland
1923
Succeeded by
Władysław Grabski
Preceded by
Aleksander Skrzyński
Prime Minister of Poland
1926
Succeeded by
Kazimierz Bartel