Polish National Independence Day

Today is Polish National Independence Day, which is the most important Polish national holiday. 
Today we commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918, after 123 years of partitions.

In 1918, November 11, general Piłsudski assumed control of Poland. This event was a symbol of the beginning of II Republic of Poland. Borders and political system was shaped in 1921. To commemorate the beginning of independent Poland in 1937, November 11 was proclaimed as a national holiday.

The date corresponds to the date of other countries’ Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, or Veterans Day. All of these holidays and Polish Independence Day are indirectly related because they all emerged from the circumstances at the end of World War I. In other countries, holidays were established in the spirit of grief and horror at the enormous human cost of the war, and they mark the sacrifices of those who fought. 

For Poland, however, the tragedy of the war was tempered by what had been accomplished at its end: the restoration of a sovereign Polish state that had been lost entirely in the partitions of Poland, after 123 years of struggle.The Polish holiday is therefore simultaneously a celebration of the reemergence of a Polish state and a commemoration of those who fought for it.

Crucial to restoring independence was the defeat in the war of all three of the occupying powers. Russia was plunged into the confusion of revolution and civil war, Austria-Hungary disintegrated and went into decline, and the German Reich bowed to pressure from the forces of the Entente. For Poles, this was a unique opportunity to reclaim their independence. Following the defeat of the occupying forces, the Poles seized military and civil power, building the foundations of their future state. On October 28, 1918 the Polish Liquidation Commission was formed in Kraków. The Commission seized power from 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 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 the country’s future head of state, Józef Piłsudski, returned to Poland after incarceration by the Germans. His 10 November arrival in Warsaw was enthusiastically met by the population of the capital and saw the mass disarmament of the occupying forces across the whole of Poland. Piłsudski assumed authority on 11 November, forming a new centralized government and soon calling parliamentary elections.