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100th Anniversary of the Polish National Committee

On 4 June 1917 the President of the Republic of France, Raymond Poincaré, issued a decree announcing the creation of the Polish Army in France. In accordance with democratic standards requiring civilian control over the armed forces, the French government allowed for Polish national representation. Such an institution was created in mid- August 1917, with the establishment of the Polish National Committee led by Roman Dmowski. Not wanting to contribute to fuelling the already sharp antagonisms within Polish society, the Polish National Committee consciously limited itself to two areas: the army and foreign policy. Therefore, it fulfilled the dual role of the Polish ministry of foreign affairs and ministry of defence.

In autumn 1917, the Polish National Committee was recognised by France, the United Kingdom, Italy and the USA as the official Polish representation. Its appearance in the West paved the way for the recognition of the rights of Poland to independence: on 3 June 1918 the allied states announced in a declaration issued at Versailles that the creation of a unified, sovereign Polish state with access to the sea is one of the military aims of the coalition of states. This was a great political success of the Polish National Committee.

Although the political backbone of the Polish National Committee was exclusively rightwing – national democrats and conservatives – it was a national institution which served well the country. It was able to distance itself from party manoeuvring, ensured Poland a place among the victors of World War I, and created a territorial programme of a sovereign state – in the borders within which the Polish nation could regain the conditions of all-round development. Then, as a Polish delegation to the peace conference (1919), with skilful diplomacy the Committee supported the Polish military effort.

Prof. Krzysztof Kawalec