Independence Day

On November 11, 1918, representatives of the German government signed an agreement marking the end of the First World War in Compiĕgne, northeast of Paris. The Habsburg empire had already fallen, and Russia was in the throes of revolution. For Poles, this was a chance to regain the political state that had been lost. Seeing the defeat of the partitioning powers, Poles began to create the framework of their future state.

The Polish Liquidation Commission, established in Kraków on October 28, 1918, began to take power from the hands of the Austrians in Galicia and Silesia. Several days later the Austrian garrisons were disarmed by members of the Polish Military Organization, members of the legions, and youth. The Temporary People’s Government of the Republic of Poland was established in Lublin on the night of November 6th, with Ignacy Daszyński at its head. At this same moment, Józef Piłsudski, imprisoned by the Germans since July 1917, returned to the country. On November 10th, he arrived in Warsaw. He was greeted enthusiastically by the people of the capitol, and his arrival led to the disarming of the occupying forces throughout Congress Poland.

On November 11th, the Regency Council handed over power of the High Command of the Polish Military to Józef Piłsudski; three days later, he was given civil authority as well. A day earlier he took control of the Temporaray People’s Government of the Polish Republic in Lublin. Piłsudski appointed a new central government.

The day of November 11th, when Józef Piłsudski came to power in a reborn Poland, became an official national holiday in 1937. However, this day was celebrated as Independence Day already in 1919. Since then it has been one of the most important holidays celebrated by Poles at home and abroad.

Translated  by Sean Martin

Forum, 11/2009