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100th Anniversary of Poland’s Wedding to the Baltic Sea

Republic of Poland by the Baltic Sea
The collapse of the partitioning states after World War I, the actions of Poles in exile and the fights of Polish military units on all fronts were the basis of Polish independence. Its form was influenced by Western politicians. “A free and secure access to the sea”, as we can read in the 13th point of the speech by the President of the United States Thomas Woodrow Wilson of 8 January 1918, was sealed in the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. When, after 11 November 1918, the fighting for the borders of the reborn state dragged on, in the former Royal Prussia and Gdańsk Pomerania the effort was focused on wrestling a corridor to the Baltic Sea from the German grip. Admiral Kazimierz Porębski, the initiator of the “maritime consciousness” awakening in the Polish society, won great merits in this respect, whereas General Józef Haller, commander of the Pomeranian Front, took over from Germans on behalf of the Republic of Poland the part of Pomerania conceded to Poland by the Allies.

Wedding to the Sea – opening to the world
On Tuesday, 10 February 1920, at about 10.00 am, a special Polish train set off from Gdańsk to Puck. The journey took four and a half hours! A correspondent of “Gazeta Gdańska” newspaper reported that in front of their train moved a gorgeous locomotive that could not somehow reach Wrzeszcz (the part of Gdańsk). This German sabotage had no effect on the outcome of the undertaking. Delegations came to Puck from all over Poland. “Masses of people and army” in pouring rain, “amid the firing of cannons” reached the “airfield” where a chapel was improvised. The Polish flag was raised on the flagpole and a Holy Mass was celebrated. “We welcome you, our Polish sea, and we take you into our possession” – these were the final words of the sermon given by the reverend Józef Wrycza. A commemorative post with the Polish flag on it was placed on the seashore.

Józef Haller and the ring
General Joseph Haller rode into the sea on horseback. On behalf of the Republic of Poland he threw into the water a platinum ring received from Polish Danzigers and concluded the ceremony with words: “Here is the day of reverence and glory. The White Eagle has spread its wings not only over the Polish lands but also over the Polish sea. The nation feels that it is no longer being strangled by the hydra, which has so far been wrapped around its neck and breasts. Now free worlds and free nations stand open before us. Now a Polish sailor will be able to reach everywhere under the banner of the White Eagle. The whole world is open to him”.

Wedding to the sea – beginning of a success story
On the initiative of Admiral Porębski, a nationwide “maritime movement” was organised. New organisations were formed: from the Stowarzyszenie Pracowników na Polu Rozwoju Żeglugi “Bandera Polska” (Association of Workers in the Field of Shipping Development) established in 1918 to the Maritime and Colonial League founded in 1930. Polish Pomerania, only 140 km of coastline including the Hel Peninsula, became the area of a great civilizational experiment. In order to make Pomerania independent from the Free City of Gdańsk, which was hostile to Poland, almost everything was built from scratch. This experiment had as its flagship the city of Gdynia and it has contributed to the growth of the entire national economy, including the country’s defence and tourism industries. Nowadays, the shore of the Baltic Sea in Puck is decorated with a commemorative post with the Jagiellonian eagle and the inscription “Roku Pańskiego 1920, 10 lutego Wojsko Polskie z generałem Józefem Hallerem na czele objęło na wieczne posiadanie polskie morze” (In the year of our Lord 1920, on 10 February the Polish Army with General Józef Haller at the head of the troops took the Polish sea into eternal possession).

Explore the coin
The obverse shows the recovered part of Pomerania, delimited by the adjoining German territory, and a Kashubian fisherman with a long oar, characteristic for the region and historical period, and with a coil of nets. The reverse shows General Józef Haller entering the waters of the Puck Bay on horseback in the symbolic act of wedding to the sea. The background depicts a stylised patriotic manifestation on 10 February 1920, with a strong national accent – Polish state flags waving aloft. The amber insert emphasises the maritime character of the coin.

Jan Tarczyński, PhD