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70th anniversary of creating the Polish underground state

The Polish Victory Service (in Polish: Służba Zwycięstwu Polski) was formed in the besieged Warsaw on 27 September 1939. The organization was an embryo of the subsequently developed Polish underground state. As spelled out by its founders, one military and civilian underground organization should channel all the effort of the Polish people in pursuit of independence. Brigadier General Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski (pseudonym 'Torwid') was appointed its commander-in-chief, with Stefan Starzyński - remembered for his heroic stance as the City Mayor during the siege - acting as his deputy and Civilian Commissioner. Following Starzyński's arrest (on 27 October 1939), this latter post fell to Mieczysław Niedziałkowski - a representative of the Polish Socialist Party (arrested on 22 December 1939).

Already on 10 October 1939 the Chief Political Council of the Polish Victory Service was established, encompassing the representatives of major political parties operating in conspiracy: the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), the Democratic Party (SD), the Peasants' Party (SL) and the National Party (SN).

The homeland-originaled idea to establish one military-civilian underground organisation failed to be accepted by the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile, formed by General Władysław Sikorski in late September and October 1939 in Paris. On 13 November 1939, Sikorski, the Polish Prime Minister in exile set up a Ministerial Committee for Homeland Affairs and a military organisation - Union of Armed Struggle (in Polish: Związek Walki Zbrojnej), with General Kazimierz Sosnkowski as the commander-in-chief. The structure of this organisation was established principally as a result of the restructuring of the Polish Victory Service, with command centres responsible for particular areas and regions of operation.

Since June 1940, after the capitulation of France, the duties of the commander-in-chief of the Union of Armed Struggle were assumed by General Stefan Grot-Rowecki, formerly the commander of the areas under German occupation. In 1942 the organisation was renamed into the Home Army (in Polish: Armia Krajowa). After Rowecki's arrest on 30 June 1943, General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski replaced him at his post and took the command. The primary task of the Polish Underground State was to prepare and execute a general uprising which would liberate Poland. Respectively, in parallel with the development of territorial structures, special formations, intended to carry out assigned tasks, were created in the Union of Armed Struggle and later the Home Army. It is worthwhile to mention one of them ? the ?Folding Fan? (in Polish: Wachlarz) set up to shield the planned national insurgence from the east.

According to the general uprising plan, upon the mobilization and engagement in open combat the Home Army groups were supposed to assume the names of the prewar Polish Army units stationed in the area. At the turn of 1943 and 1944 the plan for a general uprising changed, in view of the anticipated invasion of the territory of the Second Polish Republic by the Red Army (after the suspension of Polish-Soviet diplomatic relations as a result of the discovery of the Katyń massacre). Intensified campaign of sabotage and subversion was conducted under the codename ?Tempest? (in Polish: Burza). Within the framework of this action Home Army troops initiated open armed struggle against the German units, in order to liberate the main towns of Poland, as was the case in Lviv (in Polish: Lwów) and Vilnus (in Polish: Wilno) during the operation ?The Gate of Dawn? (in Polish: Ostra Brama), as well as in Volhynia (in Polish: Wołyń), a historic region in western Ukraine.

The role of intelligence in the Union of Armed Struggle and Home Army operations cannot be underestimated. In one of its most notable achievements, the intelligence services pinpointed the production centre of the German Wunderwaffe V1 and V2 rockets. Another prominent department of the Home Army was the Bureau of Information and Propaganda, which carried out its mission issuing thousands of copies of underground newspapers and brochures.

The threat to the existence of an independent Poland, following the establishment of Soviet-sponsored communist Polish Committee of National Liberation, contributed to a dramatic decision taken by the supreme authority of the Polish Underground State to start the uprising in Warsaw on 1 August 1944. Despite the heroic two-month armed resistance, the uprising collapsed. Before surrendering, General Bór-Komorowski appointed General Leopold Okulicki, pseudonym ?Bear? (in Polish: Niedźwiadek) as his successor. Okulicki was the last commander of the Home Army. Having been arrested in March 1945, he died in December 1946 in the Butirka prison in Moscow.

The Government Delegation for Poland also operated in the structures of the Polish Underground State. In May 1940 Colonel Jan Skorobohaty- Jakubowski, pseudonym ?Vogel?, was sent from Paris to Warsaw, as a temporary Government Delegate. On 3 December 1940, General Sikorski, the Prime Minister appointed the two Heads of the Delegation: Adolf Bniński ? for territories annexed to the Third Reich - and Cyril Ratajski ? for the area known as the General Government. The Delegation developed field structures, covering specific provinces (Regional Government Delegations) and counties (County Government Delegations).

Following the arrest of Adolf Bniński and resignation of Cyryl Ratajski, Professor Jan Piekałkiewicz took over the post of the Government Delegate for Poland. After Piekałkiewicz's arrest (on 19 February 1943) the successor to the post was Jan Stanisław Jankowski - arrested (already as the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland) by the NKVD in March 1945. He died in March 1953 in a Soviet prison in Vladimir on the Klyazma.

Waldemar Grabowski Ph.D
Institute of National Remembrance