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Józef Haller

The body of high-ranking officers involved in the formation, from November 1918, of the command of the Polish Army was mostly made up of figures well-known to the public on account of their achievements. One such figure was certainly Józef Haller, without whom the volunteer Polish army in France, called the Blue Army and, with time, also Haller’s Army, would not have come to life. In 1918, the Army was recognized by the Entente countries as allied forces.

Józef Haller came from a family of landed gentry from Lesser Poland, boasting strong patriotic and religious traditions. The vicissitudes of his life show Poles’ tortuous paths to independence.

Haller trained to be a soldier in the Austro- Hungarian army. After the outbreak of World War I, he became a co-founder of the Polish military formations fighting alongside the Austro- -Hungarian forces. As commander of the 3rd Regiment of the Legions he waged bloody battles with the Russian army in the Carpathians.

Following changes on the international arena in 1918 a further alliance with the Central Powers was becoming pointless, and thus in February Haller renounced allegiance to Austria-Hungary and together with his soldiers advanced to Ukraine, taking charge of the 2nd Polish Corps stationed there. In May 1918, the Corps was defeated by the Germans near Kaniów; however, Haller managed to escape to France, where he became commander of the Blue Army, formed a year earlier.

In April 1919 the army of approx. 70,000 well- -armed soldiers reached Poland, where they successfully fought against the Ukrainians in Eastern Galicia and against the Bolsheviks during the war of 1920.

On 10 February 1920, Józef Haller, as commander of the Pomeranian Front, performed a symbolic “marriage” of Poland to the Baltic Sea in the seaside town of Puck. The ceremony was a fitting culmination of the General’s contribution to Poland’s successful struggle for independence.

Andrzej Chojnowski