Stanisław Mikołajczyk


Stanisław Mikołajczyk

Stanisław Mikołajczyk (1901 - 1966; IPAudio|Mikolajczyk.ogg| [sta,ɲiswaf mikɔ'wajt͡ʂɨk] ), Polish politician, was Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile during World War II, and later Deputy Prime Minister in postwar Poland.

Biography

Mikołajczyk's family came from Poznań in western Poland, which in the 19th century was part of the German Empire and known as "Posen". He was born in Westphalia in western Germany, where his parents had gone to look for work, as many 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 (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 joined the Army as a private, and served in the defence of Warsaw. After the fall of Warsaw he escaped to Hungary, where he was interned. He soon escaped and made his way to Paris via Yugoslavia and Italy. He was immediately asked to join the Polish government in exile as deputy Chairman of the Polish National Council. In 1941 he was appointed Minister of the Interior and became Prime Minister's Władysław Sikorski's Deputy Prime Minister.

In April 1943 the Germans had announced that they had discovered the graves of 4,300 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. "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 had population made of 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 refused to compromise on this issue. Mikołajczyk also insisted that Stalin not 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.

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 have resulted from massive electoral fraud. Mikołajczyk immediately resigned from the government, and in April, facing arrest, he left the country. 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.

See also

* Western betrayal

Literature

*Stanislaw Mikolajczyk: "The Pattern of Soviet Domination". Sampson Low, Martson & Co.,LTD., London 1948http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=77426438
*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


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