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100th Anniversary of Polish Scouting

The scouting movement originated in Great Britain, where in 1907, Lt. General Robert Baden-Powell compiled the first principles of the scouting movement - peer upbringing of young people in small groups, taking place outdoor, close to nature and under the supervision of an older instructor. Polish guiding and scouting movement was pioneered by Andrzej and Olga Małkowski who are regarded as its founding figures. Andrzej Malkowski (b. 31 October 1888) came into contact with the idea of scouting in 1909, while translating a book by Robert Baden-Powell "Scouting for Boys" into Polish. Its contents inspired him to become involved in the organization of the Polish scouting adapted to the national culture and traditions, i.a., introducing the ethos of chivalry. It was on his initiative that the first teams of scouts were established in Lviv in 1910, and from 1912 the Polish name of "harcerstwo" for boy scouts went into use. A year later, Andrzej Malkowski led the Polish team in the world scouts rally in Birmingham. During World War I Małkowski joined the Polish Legions and fought in France, established the underground Republic of Podhale (Rzeczpospolita Podhalańska), founded scouting organisations for Poles residing in the United Kingdom and the USA. He died on 16 January 1919 at sea, sailing on a mission from General Haller to Polish troops in Odessa.

His spouse, Olga Drahonowska-Małkowska (b. 15 September 1888) pursued the idea of scouting throughout all her life. She would found the girl scout teams, actively participate in the work of Girl Scout Organisation of the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego - ZHP) and in the worldwide scouting and guiding movement. She died in Zakopane on 15 January 1979.

From the very beginning, the scouting movement in Poland has not only advanced scouting ideas but has also taught the national values. These principles were soon to be tested in action. Irrespective of their previous organisational affiliation, scouts were united in the work and struggle for the independence of Poland. The year 1918 brought about a merger of the majority of scouting organisations into ZHP.

Following World War I, Polish scouting had to face numerous challenges. The period of 1930s was marked, though, with an intense state-building activity. Beginning from that period, the scouting movement started to grow intensely in Poland, increasing its numbers and modernizing its educational tools. The ethical role of the Polish scouting movement in raising young Poles was best shown by the boy and girl scouts involvement in resistance to the Nazi occupation during World War II.

In September 1939, Polish scouts again took a wartime service. Already at that time a decision was taken that ZHP would go underground. The scouting organisation took up the name of "Grey Ranks", which became a synonym of the wartime scouting resistance movement. Warsaw Uprising was a particularly significant moment of this fight.

Beginning from 1944, the scouting movement spontaneously revived on the Polish territories, following the westward movement of the Soviet-Nazi front. In December 1944, the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) "re-established" ZHP, imposing scouting authorities loyal to the PKWN. In the late 1940s, even this form of ZHP operation was put to an end. Instead, a government-sponsored organisation was created, known under the name of the Scouting Organisation of the Association of Polish Youth (ZMP).

Numerous scouting activists could not reconcile with the post-war reality and continued their activities by forming the so-called second scouting resistance movement.

In 1956, following Stalin's death, the ZMP activists entered into a tactical alliance with scouting instructors, which enabled yet another "reactivation" of ZHP. Unfortunately, the thaw lasted less than three years. A forced comeback to the rules of operation of the People's Republic of Poland entailed, among others, attempts at eradicating religious beliefs among ZHP scouts, which was carried out under the banner of religious tolerance. From that time, two trends interweaved in the structures of ZHP - officially manifested servility towards the Polish Communist Party alongside continued use of traditional educational methods. As a result of popularisation of ZHP, the scouting methods of upbringing young people spread to the village as well as disabled children. Unfortunately, popularization of ZHP brought about moral corruption among the paid instructors and superficiality of educational message, which to many started to be tantamount with offering leisure time activities.

Political turmoil following August 1980 gave a boost also to the scouting movement. Some activists, subsequently called "nonconforming scouts", established Andrzej Małkowski Squads of Scout Instructors which triggered grass-roots changes within the structure of ZHP. Although the proposed reforms were opposed by the communist authorities, the first alternative to ZHP - Independent Scout Movement emerged openly in 1981.

During the martial law - introduced in December 1981 - a number of scouts engaged in clandestine activities. On the occasion of Pope John Paul II's pilgrimage to Poland in 1983 they could manifest fidelity to the scouting idea. Whereby scouts launched a church-ordered support service with a view to assisting the pilgrims. As the People's Republic of Poland decayed, more and more scouting initiatives were operating outside the official structure of ZHP, which sunk into crisis, despite the efforts pursued by senior activists and young reformers.

The year 1989 sent a vibrant reformative impulse to Polish scouting. ZHP broke ties with the communist party, restored the Scout Law and Oath based on the pre-war patterns and returned to the world scouting family. Other organizations, including the Scouting Association of the Republic of Poland, have been made legal.

The Polish scouting movement, albeit decreased in size, has remained a valuable educative proposal at the present juncture. It is present in the community, with scouts standing ready and prepared to serve if need be.

During those hundred years Polish scouts have served the Homeland well.

Jan Pastwa