Topics of coins

Stanisław Wojciechowski

Stanisław Wojciechowski was born in 1869 in Kalisz into an impoverished gentry family. In 1888, he started studying at the Imperial Warsaw University, where he joined the clandestine Association of the Polish Youth “Zet” established by the émigré Polish League. From 1890, he was a member of “Centralizacja” (the governing body) of “Zet”. Almost at the same time, he joined the Workers Union. At the time, he was strongly influenced by Edward Abramowski and his philosophy. Forced to emigrate in 1892, he went on to co-found the Association of Polish Socialists Abroad and the Polish Socialist Party (“PPS”), and in the capacity of an emissary to partitioned Poland, he formed the underground PPS and co-edited 25 issues of the newspaper “Robotnik” (“The Worker”). During the Russian revolution of 1905, Wojciechowski relinquished his membership in the party, then led by the “youth”, who had deleted the fight for an independent Poland from its manifesto, and withdrew from the underground activity.

In 1899, Stanisław Wojciechowski married Maria Kiersnowska, with whom he had two children, Edmund and Zofia (who later married Władysław Jan Grabski, the son of Władysław Grabski). In 1906, he settled in Warsaw, where he co-created the cooperative movement.

He was instrumental in the establishment of the Warsaw Union of Consumer Associations, of which he was the director in 1911–1915. He was also an editor in the periodical “Społem” (“Together”). After the war broke out in 1914, Wojciechowski became a member of the Central Civic Committee of the City of Warsaw and the Polish National Committee, and then, following his travel to the East in 1915 – he sat on the Central Civic Committee of the Kingdom of Poland in Russia. There, he closely collaborated with Władysław Grabski of the secret National League, the future Prime Minister of Poland and a friend of Wojciechowski’s, providing aid to refugees. When the February Revolution broke out in Russia, Wojciechowski took the lead of the Council of the Polish Parties’ Union, dominated by national democrats.

Following his return to Poland, in January 1919 Wojciechowski became minister of the interior in the cabinet formed by Ignacy Jan Paderewski and then in the cabinet of Leopold Skulski. He was involved in the drafting of the constitution and organised the ministry, the state administration and the local government administration, as well as the national police force.

In 1921, Wojciechowski joined PSL “Piast” and as a representative of that party, he was elected president of Poland after the death of Gabriel Narutowicz. Holding the office of president in the years 1922–1926, he had to resolve numerous political conflicts and rivalries between the parties. He proved himself as a firm statesman when on 12 May 1926 he faced Józef Piłsudski and the officers accompanying him on the Poniatowski Bridge in Warsaw. “I guard the honour of the Polish military and represent Poland here,” he is believed to have said to Piłsudski, barring his way to the buildings housing the constitutional state offices. As the fighting in the capital city protracted, he handed in his resignation. During Sanation rule, Wojciechowski again became active in the cooperative movement and gave lectures at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences and the Warsaw School of Economics. He also published a series of papers on the cooperative movement and wrote his memoirs.

During World War II, Wojciechowski remained in Warsaw. In 1941, his son was killed in KL Auschwitz. He had been sent there with other on demand of the occupiers. After arresting his son, the Germans asked Wojciechowski to sign a declaration of loyalty to the Third Reich, which he refused to do. He and his wife nearly died during the Warsaw Uprising when the Germans set fire to their family house. When Warsaw fell, he was relocated to a camp in Pruszków and after the war he moved in with the Grabski family to Gołąbki near Warsaw, where he died on 9 April 1953. He was buried in the Powązki Cemetery.

The reverse of the coin shows an image of Stanisław Wojciechowski and a facsimile of his signature, as well as the dates of his birth and death, the Order of the White Eagle, with which he was decorated, and a quotation of his words as president on 12 May 1926. The obverse of the coin shows the historic Belvedere Palace.

Jan Żaryn