The year 1914 is undoubtedly a watershed date in the history of Europe and Poland, ­for it ­marked the beginning of the Great War, which was to shake ­foundations of the white civilisation, set the history of the Old Continent and of the world on a new course, and give the Poles a chance to rebuild their independent state after 123 years of subjugation. However, we should remember that when the cannons spoke in Europe that summer and when the Kaiser [Emperor] Wilhelm II promised ­German soldiers: “You will return home victorious before the leaves fall from the trees”, the “Polish question” had been buried in oblivion for two generations­. At that time, we would have looked in vain in the West for “lobbyists” for Polish independence in the classic sense of the term, or even for politicians publicly hinting at the need to rebuild the Polish state.

Napoleon III, the French Emperor, used to say that Poland was a country for which everyone (except, of course, the partitioners) wanted to do something, but no one was doing anything. This state of affairs changed when Prussia’s victory in the war with France (1870–71) led to German unification and changed the balance of power in Europe. France, the only superpower showing any sympathy and ­understanding for the Poles­‘ independence aspirations, eager for a revenge for the defeat and humiliation suffered, and at the same time fearing the growing military and economic power of the German Empire, sought a rapprochement with St Petersburg. This necessarily entailed abandoning the “Polish question”, which the Tsar regarded as an internal Russian affair.

Among the French, however, a good deal of sympathy pour la pauvre PologneFrench.: for poor Poland. survived as it was a former ally from the Napoleonic era. Stephen Bonsal, an American diplomat, writer and war correspondent, described his meeting with Georges Clemenceau in 1920. In the course of their conversation, this eminent French politician, known for his iron consistency in pursuing political plans and his ruthlessness towards his opponents, which earned him the nickname of “The Tiger”, an admirer of Impressionism and a staunch enemy of Kaiser’s Germany, explained to the American the reasons for his friendliness towards the Poles. ­He said that Polish insurgents living in exile in France had a great influence on his choice of life path. As a child, he listened to their stories “with devotion”­. “They opened up to me the world of romanticism – the only real thing in life,” – Clemenceau said. He admired the Poles for their unflagging love of ­freedom and independence”. He could do this in private, as many Frenchmen did, counting the Poles among their personal friends. By ­contrast, in the public sphere, for the four decades preceding ­the outbreak of the Great War, the question of the resurrection of the Polish state was not allowed to be written about or discussed on the Seine.

Britain, since the fall of Napoleon, looked down to Europe from the heights of its insular policy of “splendid isolation” and the interests of a global power. The Polish question was a minor element of its imperial policy; if London touched it in the 19th century, it did so only instrumentally. The signing of diplomatic notes with France in defence of the Poles during the January Uprising of 1863–64 did not stem from any interest in the fate of a nation torn apart by partitions. It was dictated by purely political considerations: the ­intention to thwart the Franco-Russian rapprochement that was already ­looming and could have upset the delicate balance on the Continent. This imbalance opened the way for Europe to be dominated by a single power or an alliance of powers. And this was something the British – after the lessons of the Napoleonic wars – wanted to avoid. It was only Germany’s rapidly growing power, especially its naval armament and economic competitiveness, at first disregarded, then a matter of concern, that allowed Downing Street ­decision-makers to take a sympathetic view to the rapprochement and then a Franco-Russian alliance. For the reasons mentioned above, after 1871 there was a silence on the Polish question on the international scene for more than 40 years.

Faced with the power of the partitioners at the time, with millions of soldiers at their disposal, the vast majority of Poles ­abandoned hopes of regaining independence by force of arms after the defeat of the January Uprising.­ The concepts of organic work and the idea of uniting all the Polish lands under the rule of one of the partitioner’s monarchs were gaining popularity. Many pointed ­to Austria, where Poles enjoyed the greatest freedoms under Franz Joseph, while others – mainly supporters of the National Democracy ­– favoured Russia, seeing the Germans as the greatest threat to Polishness.

In the summer of 1914, Poland’s partitioners were pitted against each other in two hostile camps. Thus, logically, whether powers or the Central Powers would have prevailed, Poland’s fate would still have rested in the hands of one or two of the partitioners. A poor ­prospect for ­the cause of independence! On 14 August 1914­,­ Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich­, then Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army, issued a proclamation to the Poles announcing the rebirth of a Poland free in faith, language and self-government under the Tsar’s sceptre. The proclamation was not signed by Tsar Nicholas II and therefore had no legal significance. It could be retracted or read in such a way that it fully corresponded only to the Russian raison d’état. On a Russian propaganda poster from 1914, we see a cheerful, strong tsarist soldier smilingly shaking hands with a Polish nobleman ­in a traditional costume. A nice gesture that was not followed by anything concrete. Even more vague were the proclamations of the German and Austrian commands appealing to Poles to support their troops and trust in the magnanimity of Wilhelm II and Franz Joseph.

This was all that the Polish nation could hope for at the dawn of the Great War. It took great faith and determination to take up arms, believing that military action could bring us closer to independence. Students, writers, journalists, lawyers, labourers, highlanders, representatives of various social classes, professions and political groups, who joined the Polish Legions in Galicia to fight against Russia, and – on the call of the writer Wacław Gąsiorowski and the Committee of Polish Volunteers – volunteered in distant France to join the ­units that were to fight alongside the French army against the Germans. They all put their lives on the line, making a sacrifice of their own blood and suffering in the name of a very uncertain vision of an independent homeland.

Volunteers marching in the streets of Paris singing the Dąbrowski’s Mazurka, greeted by passers-by with shouts of “Vive la Pologne!”, they did not expect ­that, at the demand of Tsarist Russia, the French authorities would forbid the formation of Polish troops. They were conscripted into the 1st Foreign Regiment of the Foreign Legion and went down in history under the name of the “Bayonne Company”, paying for their love of freedom with blood, shed in abundance, especially during the Battle of Arras in May 1915. The decimated Bayonne unit was disbanded after the battle and its soldiers, in recognition of their extraordinary bravery, were given the right to choose to serve in any unit of the French army.

The legions formed in Galicia endured various vicissitudes of fate and their excellent attitude distinguished them against the background of the multinational Austrian army. The last stanza of the poem Ta, co nie zginęła [The one who is not lost], the most beautiful Polish work of the Great War period, by a legionnaire, poet and writer Edward Słoński, succinctly ­captures the glue that unites the ranks of legionaries who put “their lives on the stake”:

Because I still see it in the open
and I dream about it every night,
that the One who is not lost
will grow out of our blood.

In the realities of the time, an armed act could not restore our ­independence, but it did become a trigger for decisions that pulled the Polish question out of political oblivion. ­In 1916, the Central Powers were already buckling under the weight of the continental blockade, and were beginning to run out of recruits to ­make up for the ­heavy losses suffered on the fronts. The attitude of the Legionnaires ­gave some German politicians and military men the idea of creating a Polish army which, by taking over part of the front in the east, would make it possible to move large German forces westwards and defeat France before the United States decided to join the war on the side of . ­Among those advocating such a solution was General Erich Ludendorff, the General Quartermaster of the German Army. After much wrangling, and despite the opposition of many politicians, it was decided, under pressure of military needs, to reach for the Polish card. The result was the Act of 5 November, which promised little to the Poles, but elevated the Polish question to the international arena. In the West­, where the 19th-century uprisings had given us a not entirely true ­reputation as ­“organically anti-Russian” radicals, romantics always ready to fight the Tsarist Empire, the prospect of a million-strong Polish army fighting alongside Germany was seen as a real threat. powers suggested to Nicholas II that Russia should offer something to the Poles.

What came as a surprise to most observers of the ­political scene at the time ­was the overwhelming support for the Polish cause by US President Woodrow Wilson, who, in an address to Congress on 22 January 1917, declared that one of the aims of the war was the creation of a united­, independent, self-governing Poland.­ Why did the president of the world’s leading economic power, which had for many years maintained good relations with Russia, make such a favourable statement to the Poles? Although the USA was home to a Polish ­community ­of several million people, it ­lacked a Polish elite as influential as in France. There was no tradition in American politics of supporting our national uprisings or speaking out on the Polish question.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Polish elite in the ­United States­, admittedly small in number but dedicated and able to take advantage of the broad rights of American democracy, did a tremendous job of activating local communities of Polish diaspora, awakening the national spirit. Tremendous credit for this work went to the “Sokół” [“Falcon”] Gymnastic Society, which was preparing Polish youth to fight for an independent homeland, and in November 1912 ­publicly declared its support, by all means, for the insurrectionary movement ­against Russia. Two years earlier, at the National Polish Congress – convened in Washington on the 500th anniversary of the victory at the Battle of Grunwald – a resolution was passed proclaiming: “We, Poles, have the right to an independent, national existence and consider it our duty to strive for the ­political ­independence of ­our homeland”Czyn zbrojny Wychodźstwa Polskiego w Ameryce – zbiór dokumentów i materiałów historycznych, compiled by Jerzy Walter, New York-Chicago 1957, p. 58.. This is how the American Polish community built its strength, this is how the idea of the “Kosciuszko Army” was born, which, it was hoped, would be able to arrive at the Old Continent after the outbreak of the European war and help its compatriots to deliver their homeland from the slavery of partitions.

However, the Polish community was unable to influence the attitudes of American politicians and society to any discernible degree. In the early ­years of the ­Great War, pacifist sentiment prevailed among Americans with a predominance of sympathy for Germany – thanks in part to the influence of a thriving, numerically and economically strong German emigration, ­as well as the ­perception of Britain and France – colonial powers – as countries blocking free trade and investment in the areas they controlled.

The Polish cause, on the other hand, received powerful support on American soil from a man who owed his extraordinary career to his extraordinary abilities and personal qualities. His name was Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The most outstanding pianist of his era, a virtuoso and composer endowed with immense talent and extraordinary looks, ­he was a stunning success wherever he gave concerts. He ­quickly became perhaps the most popular, most recognisable figure in the ­United­ States­, while remaining a fervent Polish patriot. For Americans, he was simply “Paddy” with a huge mane of blond hair on his head, the hero of the front pages of the most widely read newspapers, the object of friendly jokes, jokes and, ­above all, undying admiration and adoration. Entire families could travel hundreds of kilometres to hear the Maestro perform. Journalists wrote about the “” that swept the country already after Paderewski’s first tour in 1891–92. He became the richest artist at ­the turn of the 19th/20th century, the first celebrity of the coming era.

­He used his extraordinary popularity, his special gift of words, his ­ability to make contacts and – one should add – his natural self-promotion skills, flowing from all his extraordinary character, for the ­national­ cause.­ From the huge fortune he had amassed, he abundantly drew funds to support Polish initiatives in the oppressed country and abroad. He was the initiator of the largest patriotic celebrations in the Polish lands during the partition period – the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald, and the founder of the monument to King Jagiełło in Cracow. Proud of his Polishness, he always emphasised it. To the Tsar, who congratulated him on his fame, expressing his satisfaction that the world’s greatest virtuoso was a Russian, he ­replied: “Your Majesty, I am a Pole”, infuriating the entourage of Russia’s absolute monarch.

After the outbreak of the World War, the fight for the rebirth of the homeland became for him an absolute priority, the whole meaning of life. Thus, if one can speak of visible, vociferous lobbying for the Polish cause in the West in 1914, it was lobbying conducted by Paderewski. Over the next three years, he gave more than 340 speeches about his homeland, its fight for freedom, and its right to independence. Paderewski’s ­words, uttered in 1915 during a ­meeting with the American Polish community, spread widely and ­were quoted many times:­ “I am your brother. To all of you who are here, I have the same fraternal feeling, a warm, cordial love. I am a Pole, a faithful son of my Homeland. The thought of a great and strong, free and independent Poland has always been the essence of my existence; the realisation of it has always been the sole aim of my life. Although I spent most of my years among strangers, I did not betray it even for a moment, and never will” “Kurjer Poznański” No. 140 of 23 June 1915, p. 1. Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s patriotic activities and his actions in the Polish cause are richly illustrated in Mariusz Olczak’s album, Ignacy Jan Paderewski 1860-1941, Warsaw 2018..

Every great idea, a thought that breaks through powerlessness and stereotypes needs its leaders. People who can focus the efforts of millions to make it a reality. Ignacy Jan Paderewski undoubtedly became such an unquestionable leader for the Polish cause in the West in the years 1914–18, supported in his work by Polish communities. Thanks to his friendships and acquaintanceships ­with eminent figures from the world of politics (including Edward Mandell House, President Woodrow Wilson’s most trusted advisor, President Wilson himself and Herbert Hoover), ­finance and the media, Paderewski was able to build – especially in the United States – an intellectual, political and financial base for popularising the cause ­of Poland’s ­independence, –making it a prerequisite in the minds of Western politicians for a lasting and just peace.

He was Poland’s most effective “lobbyist” at a time when knowledge of our nation and its fate was particularly needed in the political circles of the world’s greatest powers. With his words, talent and personality, ­he not only spread this knowledge, but also won friends to Poland among the most influential persons.

At the beginning of the 20th century, most Europeans and Americans who knew anything about Poland associated our country with the Congress Kingdom of Poland. The Polish cause, without constant publicity and growing clout­, might have lost its chance during the superpowers’ bargaining over the post-war shape of the Old Continent. The victorious could have offered the Poles a small state, absolutely unsuited to the nation’s ambitions and needs. Although independent, with an existence guaranteed by ­international­ treaties, it would have been ­incapable of surviving in the Central and Eastern Europe engulfed in chaos, divided and threatened by the expansion of Bolshevism.

In the person of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Poles in the ­ states had ­a figure as popular and influential as no other oppressed nation in Europe. A man who had done more in the West for the rebirth of the Polish state during the years of the Great War than any other Polish politician. Paderewski’s name repeatedly appears in the testimonies of Western “lobbyists”, always in an extremely positive light, with words of admiration for the Maestro’s talent, his whole personality and his ardent patriotism.

The United States entered the war as an ally of the on 6 April 1917. As early as 28 June of that year, the first American troops arrived in Europe. General John Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Force, descending from his ship on French soil, uttered ­the words:

“La Fayette, we are here”. In doing so, he paid tribute to the hero of the Great French Revolution and the American War for Independence.

The army was followed in increasing numbers by ­politicians, President Wilson’s envoys, civil servants, economists, industrialists and representatives of charitable organisations. ­Information was ­collected that would be ­useful in improving the system of material aid to the ­population affected by the war effort. Data was collected that could be useful to the US authorities in preparing proposals for plans for the post-war reconstruction of Europe, as well as for the political reconstruction of the continent, including in the ­context of offering the right to freedom to oppressed peoples and a new delimitation of national borders.

Having briefly outlined the state of the “Polish question” in the West on the eve of World War I and the mechanisms which made the issue of the Republic’s rebirth an important topic on the international arena, we now come to the question of the role played by the lobbyists for Polish independence from the Anglo-Saxon powers at a ­crucial time in the ­shaping of the new Europe. Their views, discussions, disputes, actions taken, the extent of their knowledge of Poland and the problems of Central and Eastern­ Europe ­are illustrated by extensive excerpts from diaries, journals, correspondence, documents, and texts of speeches ­they left behind, published for the first time in Polish in the pages of Lobbyists.

After the defeat of Kaiser’s Germany, the post-war shape of Europe was to be decided by : the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Italy. Generations of Polish patriots at the time of the partitions of Poland pinned their ­hopes for the rebirth of the Polish statehood on the support from France. This hope shines through in the works of the national bards, in the pages of the abundant Romantic literature, in ­painting, in ­memoirs and even in folk art. When, in 1837, on Długa Street in Warsaw, the Russian invaders converted the church dedicated to Our Lady of Victory, which had been taken away from the Piarists, into an Orthodox cathedral, the Warsaw street responded with a poem:

Wait a while, domes,
More regiments will come from France,
We do not want your faith. Ours
Shall return with the Piarists.

France, a superpower that was viewed through the prism of the Napoleonic era­, the joint fighting with the French under the banners of the “god of war” and the ­hopes of the ­time ­for the resurrection of the fatherland – it was to be an ally in the battle against the three partitioners. The idea of rebuilding the Polish statehood could count on the goodwill of France. The French were linked to Poland by the memory of their common fighting in the Napoleonic era, and by echoes of old political contacts. A large group of Polish émigrés lived on the Seine, fed by refugees from the country after ­successive unsuccessful uprisings. Some of them made careers in the world of politics, the arts, many belonged to the elite of Polish society, had a ­good education, and were fluent in French. Jules Verne, one of the most popular writers of the 19th century, put the words into the mouth of one of the characters in his novels: “every Pole is almost a Frenchman”. It would be hard to find a greater praise of our nation coming from a Frenchman!

Although in the early years of the Great War Paris regarded the Polish question as an internal affair of its Russian ally, the French government gave palpable proof of its friendliness towards the Poles. In 1915, it acceded to the request of the French Polish community to separate Poles from among the German prisoners of war and establish a separate camp for them at Le Puy, near Saint-Étienne. In 1916, a second camp for Poles was established at Montluçon. Polish prisoners of war were granted a wide range of freedoms, and extensive educational work was carried out with the help of the Polish community. The time of captivity unexpectedly became an opportunity to strengthen the national consciousness, as well as to win the sympathy of the local ­population while the captives worked in agriculture and French industry. The ­knowledge of Polish affairs was ­much higher ­among both the general population and the elites of France than in Anglo-Saxon countries.

However, during the years of the World War I, France, although among the great powers, no longer played a central role among them. In the autumn of 1918, victorious but hugely bloodied and indebted, it was not a state that could, like Napoleon’s France, dictate the terms of a peace treaty. This made it all the more important to have influential lobbyists for the Polish cause in the United States and the United Kingdom.

In the aftermath of the victory over Germany, differences in the views of powers on the arrangement of post-war Europe soon became apparent. There was a revival of ­the echoes of historical legacies, of mutual mistrust, of prejudices, removed into the shadows during the war, when Britain, France and Italy were united in fighting a common enemy. Now the enemy was defeated. Political haggling over conquests was beginning. A subtle yet ­visible trace of the old rivalry between Britain and France ­was returning.­ Paris sought to build French influence in Central and Eastern Europe, which would strengthen France’s position on the Continent. London, in accordance with the principle of maintaining a balance of power, looked upon these activities with a reluctant eye and did not wish to strengthen countries which, like Poland, could become ­potential allies of France. Britain did not intend to allow Germany to be unduly weakened as a counterbalancing force to France’s power on the continent, nor to allow the creation of a large Polish state which would have to seek rapprochement with France on account of its political interests, strengthening Paris’s influence in Central and Eastern Europe. The Italians saw France as a future competitor in the Mediterranean, so Rome was not keen on a settlement that strengthened France’s position in Europe, either.

Somewhere in the shadows remained Russia torn with a civil war. Bloodied by ­war and revolution, and not allowed to come to the bargaining table – because it had made a separatist ­peace with the Central Powers on ­3 March 1918 after the Bolsheviks took power – ­it was for the time being a great unknown. powers unanimously supported the “whites” and counted on their victory. They were ready to support the new democratic Russia, its political interests and territorial claims. The ­question of not only Poland’s eastern border, but also the sovereignty of the reborn Republic, would then be on the agenda­. The White generals saw Poland closely linked to Russia, or at least left in the Russian sphere of influence. The Bolshevik authorities were not recognised in the West, but nevertheless represented a real force to be reckoned with.

The rebirth of the Polish state proved to be one of the most difficult, and according to some Western politicians, the most difficult problem facing powers. Conducting it in a spirit consistent with President Wilson’s address, which spoke of an independent Poland to be formed from all lands undoubtedly inhabited by Poles and with access to the sea, raised a whole spectrum of questions, including those concerning the ethnic, military and economic principles to be followed in the demarcation of the Republic’s borders, the extent to which historical rationales were to be taken into account, and how ­they could be ­reconciled with the reality of the early 20th century. The fulfilment of the dreams of Polish independence activists about a great homeland, reminiscent of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, was impossible in the realities of 1918. Satisfying the territorial claims of Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Ukraine ­would have left in the hands of Poles an area not much larger than the Congress Kingdom. Fulfilling the expectations of ‘white’ Russia, which was being supported in its fight against the Bolsheviks, would have to entail abandoning plans for an independent Poland.

Almost exactly one hundred years earlier, after the fall of Napoleon, the ­Congress of Vienna faced similar challenges. This gathering of representatives of ­the superpowers, to which the representatives of defeated France had been invited, ­also had lofty ­aims: to conclude a just peace, to secure the continent from another great paroxysm of wars…. As in 1918, the final deliberations were preceded by the setting up of a series of committees to study the issues entrusted to them and make proposals for their solution. One of the most controversial problems proved to be the Polish question.

Two principles clashed at the Congress of Vienna: the self-determination of ­nations and legitimism. The principle of legitimism dictated that everything that had belonged to the monarchs before the Napoleonic wars should now revert to them. The influence of his tutor, the Swiss republican Frédéric-César de la Harpe, his close friendship with Polish Prince Adam Czartoryski­, his youthful interest in the West and the events of the Great Revolution made Tsar Alexander I dubbed the only ‘democratic tsar’ in Russian history and a defender of the principle of the self-determination of nations. And his greatest opponent, alongside the cunning diplomat Prince Klemens von Metternich of Austria, turned out to be Talleyrand, the French representative and long-time policy-maker of Napoleonic France.

The Tsar referred to the right of self-determination of peoples first and foremost in the context of Poland, wishing to unite under his rule most of the lands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth­. It was thus the principle of self-determination seen through the prism of Russia’s imperial interests. Alexander’s plans failed in the face of fierce Austrian opposition and British concern about the ­Tsar’s ­growing power. Nevertheless, it was to the Russian Tsar that we owed the creation of the Congress Kingdom and 15 years of relative freedom. Historians have spilled a sea of ink in discussing the motives of the Tsar’s behaviour and his unfulfilled promises to the Poles. The ­decisions of the Congress of Vienna regarding the Polish question were put succinctly and probably accurately by Prince Adam Czartoryski ­in a letter to his father: “Mixture of bad and good news, but we will be better off than we were” Quoted from: Władysław Zajewski, Sprawa polska na Kongresie Wiedeńskim, “Czasy Nowożytne”, vol. 21, 2008, p. 41..

In the autumn of 1918, the victorious powers were unanimous that ­an independent Polish Republic should be ­reborn. They appealed to the governments of the countries of Central ­and ­Eastern Europe, emerging from the ruins of the Habsburg monarchy ­and on the outskirts of Tsarist Russia, to cease their disputes and fights, and recognise the decisions of the peace conference that was to define their borders, guided primarily by ethnic considerations. Materials were prepared, information was gathered, seemingly without fully realising the scale of the threat posed to the entire region by Bolshevik Russia. How great and real was it for Poland at the end of 1918?

Let us recall some facts:

In December 1918, when the first ­delegations to the were just arriving in Paris ­and, together with the numerous ­specialists who accompanied the politicians, were deploying in the flats assigned to them, Lenin approved the plan for Operation Vistula. It called for the Western Army to reach the western border of the former tsarist empire of 1914. The assumptions of Operation Vistula proved that there was no place for a free Poland in the Europe arranged by the Bolsheviks. The ­leader of the Bolshevik revolution ­explained that the right to self-determination of peoples, which the Red rulers of the Kremlin had put on their banners to present Bolshevik Russia to the world as a country which is peaceful and friendly to its neighbours, ceased to be valid where it conflicted with the interests of the world revolution. An independent Poland obstructed the merging of the Bolshevik revolution ­with the German revolution. It therefore had to disappear from the map of Europe.

We collate the above facts not to criticise tardiness. The powers could not convene a peace conference overnight, without preparation. We only wish to recall the truth which, in those days, kept many Polish politicians and military officers awake at night. A deadly danger hung over the country, which the general public, preoccupied with the ­war with the Ukrainians and fascinated by reports of the defence of Lwów, underestimated. Marching of the Red Army with revolutionary slogans into the territory of the Kingdom, and the appointment by the Bolsheviks of a puppet government made up of Polish communists, threatened chaos and incalculable consequences.

Poland fought to win the time necessary to receive the first supplies of arms and ammunition from the West, without which it would be impossible in the long run to defend the country against the Bolshevik invasion (we had no ­arms industry in the country at that time­). The ­time necessary for food shipments to arrive for the starving country, devastated by war and looting by the occupying forces. The ­time necessary for medical aid to arrive for the society pl­agued by ­epidemics. Above ­all, it ­was hoped that a rapid decision by would make it possible to reunite the lands of the Prussian partition with the motherland. The impatience and bitterness of the people of Greater Poland [Wielkopolska] and the Polish population of Pomerania, caused by the incomprehensible delay in handing over to the Republic the lands that were, after all, the cradle of the Polish state, is reflected in the words of one of the soldiers’ songs:

With lead and blood we write paragraphs,
That we want to unite with Poland.

Greater Poland and Pomerania were the only lands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ­that were not affected by the destructive flames of the World War. Life here became harder, poorer, as in the whole of Germany crushed by the ­burdens of war and the continental blockade, but industry, agriculture and the ­organisation of life remained intact. The people of Greater Poland, with their economic potential, patriotism, high national awareness­, organisational ­skills­, and multitudes of soldiers excellently trained in the former German army, would have been an extremely valuable reinforcement of the Republic’s defensive capabilities. The rapid annexation of the Prussian partition to Poland was in the best interest of our country.

As long as Greater Poland was not a treaty-recognised part of the Republic­, it was not possible to unite the Polish Army with the Greater Poland Army. ­Nevertheless, taking advantage of the Truce in Trier, signed by the Germans on 16 February 1919 under pressure from , which, among other things, obliged ­Berlin to cease hostilities with Poles and set the demarcation line, ending military operations on the fronts of the Greater Poland Uprising, the Greater Poland unit ­under General Daniel Konarzewski arrived near Lwów as early as March 1919 and made a major contribution to breaking the ring of encirclement of the city by Ukrainian troops.

The newcomers from overseas, proud of the virtues of American democracy, trusted that, drawing on their experience, they would be able to settle European disputes quickly and fairly, and bring about changes on the Old Continent that would minimise the danger of another great war. This trace of pride and faith shines through in the words of President Wilson, expressing his conviction that, for the first time in history, the great powers would formulate the ­terms of peace treaties not for their own benefit, but for the common good, taking into account the interests and expectations of smaller nations.

Surprise, sometimes disappointment or discouragement quickly set in, when it was discovered that, using the democratic models of their own homeland ­and the American way of thinking, no effective antidote could be found to resolve the intricate European feuds ­burdened by historical legacies, prejudices and stereotypes. That the victorious European powers remain resolute, pragmatic and stubborn in defending what they consider to be their own raison d’etre.

Janusz Odziemkowski

Poland’s independence in 1918 was both won by the Poles and was offered to them. In other words – it was a unique coincidence of both internal and external circumstances. The former certainly included the activity of socio-political leaders or the armed efforts of a section of society. The latter included, above all, the deep crisis in which the partitioning states were plunged, as well as the programmes and political goals of the leaders of the victorious  states attempting, after the end of the WWI, to shape a new order on the ruins of La belle époque. The attempt to answer the question of which of these factors played a decisive role, and which a secondary one, is inevitably charged both on the political and emotional level to a considerable extent. This is because it raises the question to what extent Poles owe the restoration of their independence to their own efforts, and to what extent to a favourable international situation. In fact, this is not a question that concerns only the period of the establishment of the Second Polish Republic. Similar considerations can also be made with regard to the breakthrough events of 1989.

The source materials on the “lobbyists” obviously do not provide an exhaustive answer to this difficult question. However, they do allow one to look at the issue of Poland’s regaining independence from a hitherto less frequently cited perspective – that of the Western participants in the Paris peace negotiations who, to varying degrees, took part in the complicated process of “arranging” post-war Poland and those involved in ensuring the stability of the newly formed state.

This material can be interpreted as a counterweight to the independence mythology associated, for example, with the role of individuals in the course of international processes. Others may find it confirming the exceptional importance of the prominent figure of Ignacy Jan Paderewski for winning the favour of the Allies towards the Polish cause. He enjoyed the respect and admiration of the mighty and powerful of his day, as is well illustrated in a text by the then US Secretary of State, Robert Lansing. One thing is certain: these materials introduce a new perspective to the understanding of Polish history in the 20th century. Moreover, by learning about the beliefs and motivations of the “lobbyists”, we gain a unique insight into the attitude of the Western elites of the time. This is also of considerable importance from the perspective of contemporary Poland, still “getting to know” its Western partners.

The “lobbyists” referred to are politicians, journalists, businessmen and military men who contributed to the establishment of the Second Polish Republic – both by presenting a position favourable to the Polish cause during the negotiations at the , and by participating in the management of the post-war chaos in the Polish lands.

Their actions were motivated by personal reasons – they were influenced by the Poles they had met – and by their principles, which conditioned their sense of justice. The vast majority of them were Americans. When we look at their social background, their elitism comes to the fore. A reading of the records of the “lobbyists” shows a great deal of unheard-of idealism. This was the hallmark of a section of the American establishment at the dawn of US global hegemony. The most momentous expression of this idealism was President Woodrow Wilson’s famous – the vision of the post-war order he set out in his address to the US Congress, which included a promise to restore the Polish state on the map of Europe. The Polish cause thus found itself closely dependent on the bold – and, in retrospect, cheeky – aspirations of the Americans to build a better world according to their own ideals. Not for the last time in history.

Among the “lobbyists” we will find people coming from different fields of social activity. The war effort and, subsequently, the need to make difficult settlements during the peace negotiations meant that not only professional military officers and diplomats, but also journalists and university researchers were mobilised to serve the state. Quite a number of the latter became part of the , a group of advisors appointed by Woodrow Wilson in 1917. The US president gave them the task of preparing expert reports on the issues to be negotiated and settled at the .  included, among others, the pioneers of American studies of Eastern Europe – Archibald Cary Coolidge and Robert Howard Lord, as well as the eminent geographer and specialist in territorial issues – Isaiah Bowman, the lawyer – David Hunter Miller, and the historian and international peace activist (which earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize) – James Thomson Shotwell.

The importance of the experts to the Polish cause, and – in broader terms – to the shape of the peace settlement, was based on their provision of data and analysis allowing for the concretisation of the general principles guiding the US diplomacy, headed by the principle of self-determination of nations within ethnic boundaries. Secondly, some of them, such as the aforementioned Bowman, gained direct access “to the ear” of President Wilson during the Conference. It is worth mentioning here that the American leader was basically surrounded by lobbyists for the Polish cause. It was not only Bowman who showed favour in this regard, but also Wilson’s right-hand man, Edward Mandell House, who was strongly influenced by Ignacy Paderewski. House himself chose Stephen Bonsal as his personal assistant while Bonsal’s views on Polish affairs were shaped, among other things, by his experience as a press correspondent in Berlin. This allowed him to observe at close quarters the anti-Polish actions of the German authorities in the area of the German partition of Poland. Having drawn up a note on the subject for Edward House, Bonsal – usually not shying away from irony and humour – noted in his diary: “I was really glad to be able to testify that what I was sure of on the basis of my personal observations was the real and true situation”.

Lobbying during the clash of interests and visions of the post-war order was, for obvious reasons, extremely important. However, it was not the only area of the “lobbyist” activity. Just as the vital needs of the resurgent state could not be provided for solely by cabinet discussions in Paris.

For it must be remembered that the Second Polish Republic was established in a situation of post-war chaos associated with the collapse of the great empires in Central and Eastern Europe. On the one hand, the resulting geopolitical void favoured the Polish cause – creating a political vacuum that could be filled by a Polish state. On the other hand, the enormous destruction caused by warfare and the plundering behaviour of the partitioning armies posed a serious threat to the newly emerging statehood. A mortal threat was posed by the plans put into effect by the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution, in which the establishment of a new order in Europe meant the liquidation of the young Polish state and its replacement by the Polish Soviet Socialist Republic.

The resurgent state needed legitimacy and acceptance on the part of its inhabitants, and this acceptance, in addition to patriotic feelings associated with national identity – which, by the way, at this historical stage outside the upper strata were incomparably weaker than in our timesSee, for example, Michał Łuczewski, Odwieczny naród. Polak I katolik w Żmiącej, Toruń 2012, p. 644. – is also a function of the ability of the state apparatus to meet the basic living needs of its citizens. This was pointed out by one of the “lobbyists”, William John Rose, who in his memoirs, commenting on the plight of the returning Poles, wrote: “yet it might have seemed to them that their newly-liberated homeland did not want them”.

The process of (re)establishing the state thus brought challenges at the organisational and food provisioning level. These included the reorganisation and construction of the administrative apparatus, the creation of a uniform legal and communication system, a financial system, the organisation of education and the provision of food for citizens. Andrzej Chwalba, who described the enormity of these challenges, summarised them as follows: “at first glance, it might have seemed that Poland and its inhabitants would not be able to cope with all this because of the unpleasant and painful consequences for them of the war and post-war destabilisation, disorganisation of social life and pauperisation. It turned out otherwise”Andrzej Chwalba, Rok 1919: Pierwszy rok wolności, Wołowiec 2019, p. 365..

Also contributing to the aforementioned success – particularly in the first post-war years – were the “lobbyists” who were directly involved in assisting the people and authorities of the newly formed Polish state – as initiators and executors of the policy of the Allies, above all, of the United States.

The extent of this aid was not trivial. According to Chwalba’s book, during the several years of the  activities – the most important aid effort – around four million tons of goods worth over five billion dollars (converted into today’s currency) were sent to Europe, of which around one fifth went to Poland. This was by no means the only aid channel – the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the American Red Cross and Polish diaspora organisations were also involved in various relief efforts. To this must be added assistance in non-material form – among other things, in the form of management know-how or the involvement of one’s own authority, position and international contacts for the successful resolution of numerous bureaucratic challenges.

However, before the Allies decided to provide assistance to the eastern part of the European continent, including Poland, it was necessary to obtain objective information on the situation on the banks of the Vistula river. To this end, successive missions, which included the “lobbyists”, arrived in Poland. The testimonies of a Canadian, William John Rose, and two Britons, Harry Wade and Esme Howard, show how huge the information deficit was among Western policymakers in the post-war chaos, and, at the same time, how necessary it was to channel information about the dramatic situation in the country to the right people among the  leaders.

One of the first representatives of the Allied powers in Poland was the aforementioned Harry Wade – sent by the British authorities in December 1918 to analyse the political situation and establish unofficial relations with the emerging centres of political powerSee Dariusz Jeziorny, Misja pułkownika Harry’ego Wade’a do Polski a wybuch Powstania Wielkopolskiego, „Przegląd Zachodni” No. 2/2016, pp. 43-56.. As a companion of Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s triumphant return to Poland, he witnessed the upsurge for independence in the capital of Greater Poland region [Wielkopolska]. Another of the “lobbyists”, Esme Howard, found his way to the Vistula river vicinity a little later – he was among the members of the  (acting under Joseph Noulens), which arrived in February 1919 with the task of obtaining information on border conflicts, including the Polish-Ukrainian one. In their accounts we find poignant descriptions of the critical state the country was in, appeals for help in the face of numerous crises, and a positive assessment of the political and social forces heroically striving to bring the situation under control.

Attempts to obtain and pass on information were also made by Polish leaders. The first of the “lobbyists” mentioned – William John Rose, a researcher on nationality issues who was stranded in the Polish-Czech borderland during the war – was sent by independence activists on a mission to reach Allied representatives in order to present them with a Polish interpretation of the tensions in that part of Europe. Although he became a diplomat by chance, the information he possessed and his ability to communicate it efficiently put him at the heart of the world politics.

When the Allies, and above all the United States, finally took up the relief effort – Herbert Hoover, the future 31st President of the United States, played a central role in organising it. This gifted entrepreneur became spontaneously involved in humanitarian aid while the war was still in progress, organising the return of American tourists home from Europe and then setting up the Commission for Relief in Belgium at the request of the American ambassador. In December 1918, he secured President Wilson’s approval to create and send a food mission to Poland, which was part of a wider plan to rebuild war-ravaged Europe (similar missions were sent to Istanbul and Copenhagen, among others).

The mission to Poland was headed by Hoover’s former lecturer Vernon Kellogg, who arrived in Warsaw in January 1919 with the task of analysing the needs of Polish society. He could not do it without consulting leading figures of the domestic political scene. Hoover’s “team” also included William Remsburg Grove – a gifted military logistician who was to assist Kellogg in examining the food situation, and Anson Conger Goodyear – a skilful businessman entrusted by Hoover with the task of “setting coal in motion throughout Central Europe”. It is worth noting that the American mission had not only a humanitarian dimension, but also an advisory one. In addition to the last two figures mentioned, such services were also rendered to the Polish government by Colonel Alvin Barton Barber as an advisor to the Ministry of Railways and Dr Edward Dana Durand as an advisor to the Ministry of Provisions, or William I. Shuman – as personal economic advisor to Prime Minister PaderewskiSee Mieczysław Biskupski, The United States and the Recreation of the Interwar Polish Economy, 1919-20, “The Slavonic and East European Review”, vol. 94, no. 1, 2016, pp. 93-125..

The situation of national minorities, especially the Jewish population, also appeared in the accounts of the official representatives of Western countries who were in Poland. Controlling ethnic and religious tensions was another challenge the Polish leaders had to deal with. The situation was not made any easier by the fact that some of them, led by Roman Dmowski, had written confrontation into their political programme rather than attempts to alleviate the situation. Supporters of confrontation were not lacking on the part of the leaders of the Jewish community, either.

The case was all the more serious because ethnic tensions were not without influence on US politics – the local American press at the time was full of articles about real and often alleged systemic persecution of the Jewish population. In order to verify this information, President Wilson, at the request of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, appointed a special commission () to investigate reports of pogroms against the Jewish population on the spot. Its members included: Henry Morgenthau, an American Jew and opponent of the Zionist movement and supporter of assimilation, who served as chairman of the Commission, and its legal advisor, Arthur Lehman Goodhart, a noted lawyer.

The mission was in Poland from 13 July to 13 September 1919, and resulted in a final report (the so-called Morgenthau Report)See Marcin Urynowicz, Raport Henry’ego Morgenthau. Przemoc antyżydowska podczas wojny z Rosją bolszewicką, „Biuletyn IPN” no. 11/2010.. It did not fit into the aforementioned narratives, provoking fierce opposition from some Jewish circles, expecting an unequivocal condemnation of the Polish authorities. The document, in turn, was appreciated by the New York Times, writing: “Mr. Morgenthau’s investigative report on anti-Jewish excesses in Poland is a document of great value, both for its content and for the spirit in which it was written”Mr. Morgenthau’s Report, New York Times, 21 January 1920 (translated by A.T. to Polish).. The perspicacity and drive to rise above vested interests and conflicted identities comes through strongly in Morgenthau’s memories of his time in Poland.

The texts of the “lobbyists” show not only successive dimensions of their activities, but also present interesting descriptions and observations of Polish reality: the socio-political and economic situation, the main players on the political scene or individual social strata from the aristocracy to the workers. These are observations made from a specific point of view – of people from the outside, who had no previous contact with Polish reality. Thus, one can find in them a freshness of perspective, as well as a lack of entanglement in local rivalries, which so often determine the view of situations and people.

The value of these insights, however, is not only in the chronicle dimension, and reading texts from a century ago can inspire reflection on more contemporary issues. Thus, in the events at the turn of 1918/19, one can see an analogy with the arrival, 70 years later, of the famous “Marriott Brigades” – American economists tasked with assisting the Polish elites in the country’s economic transformationThe relationship between the “Mariott Brigades” and the elites of Central and Eastern Europe was perceptively written about by the American anthropologist Janine Wedel in her book Collision and Collusion: the Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe, New York 2001.. This term, referring to the famous Warsaw hotel (then a symbol of luxury and modernity), somewhat ironically underlined their detachment from local realities. It could not have been any different for the “lobbyists” either, the vast majority of whom were visiting Poland and even Eastern Europe for the first time in their lives. This detachment is mixed with a great deal of idealism and sympathy for the Poles whose situation was very difficult. At the same time, one must not forget the hard political interests – which lay behind the decision to involve the Allies in helping the nascent state. In 1918-20, it was primarily a matter of halting the progress of the Bolshevik Revolution. However, such a mix seems to have been a constant in the attitude of the United States towards our country, or, in broader terms, the whole region – even today.

Andrzej Turkowski