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100th Anniversary of the formation of the Polish Association of Volunteer Fire Brigade

On 8–9 September 1921, a nationwide convention of fire brigades, attended by 3,690 delegates and the Polish Prime Minister Wincenty Witos together with ministers, was held in Warsaw. The convention delegation was received by the Chief of State Józef Piłsudski. The meeting ended with the establishment of the Main Association of Fire Brigades of the Republic of Poland.

On the territory of the reborn Republic of Poland there were nearly 3,000 volunteer fire brigades (OSP) at that time. The Association united the fire brigades previously existing in the territories of the Austrian partition (including the corporation established in Lviv in 1875), the Russian partition (also those forming part of the Florian Association established in 1916), and the Prussian partition.

At the convention, the Main Board was elected as follows: Bolesław Chomicz – president, Karol Rzepecki – vice-president, Zygmunt Choromański – treasurer, Jan Kuc – secretary, Stanisław Olkuski – custodian, Bolesław Pachelski – acting head, and the members: Bolesław Kozłowski, Klemens Matusiak, Adam Mrozowski, Józef Tuliszkowski and Bolesław Wójcikiewicz. Since that event, the idea of unity, in accordance with the maxim “Unity is strength”, brings firefighters together in their fire protection activities and rescue actions. Thousands of firefighters have given their lives and health in noble service to the homeland, saving people and their property. The dedication of volunteer firefighters is a school of civic duty to the state, patriotism, democracy and self-governance. They perform their tasks with dignity, in line with the firefighters’ motto “for the glory of God, for the benefit of people”. In 1984, Pope John Paul II put it fittingly in his apostolic letter on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of St Florian’s parish in Kleparz, Kraków: “(...) faithful to the commandment of love and to Christian tradition, they bring aid to their neighbour in the face of the threat of natural disasters”.

Today all firefighters are represented by the Polish Association of Volunteer Fire Brigades, which became fully self-governing and independent after the political transformation in 1989. It numbers 16,000 Volunteer Fire Brigades and 700,000 firefighters.

Their devotion is symbolised on the coin by firefighters in a firefighting operation.

Marian Zalewski, PhD