The Kersten Foundation was established in 2011 with the aim of celebrating and commemorating the life and work of Krystyna and Adam Kersten.
|Translated by Dawid Walendowski||
The question that I would like to pose here is the following: what was the reaction of the Polish people to the situation that Poland found itself in as the war was ending and peace beginning? But the question in this form is too imprecise and requires a few clarifications. First of all, the chronological boundaries of this reflection are delimited by the dynamics of the threat to Polish sovereignty emerging from the power relationships prevailing within the Allied camp in the final phase of the war. The starting point is January 4, 1944, when the Red Army crossed the border established by the Treaty of Riga - the only border authorized by international agreements. The threat to Polish sovereignty, the possibility of which had been lurking since 1943, took form as half of Poland's pre-war territory came under occupation for a second time. The closing point is the ultimate liquidation of a truly independent, or real (as opposed to symbolic), Polish political actor, in the final phase represented by Mikolajczyk and his PSL. In this time frame, between January 1944 and January 1947, the old Polish question "What next? How to act?" became dramatically contemporary. A struggle was being waged for Polish sovereignty - its existence and its extent. It was fought on two levels: the geopolitics of Great Powers, and Polish politics, in Poland and abroad.
A second issue: in my title I use the word "Poles" - not "the society," not "the nation," but "Poles." I do not make this distinction out of a conviction that the actions of Poles should be set apart from those of Jews, Ukrainians, or Byelorussians. The attitude of ethnic minorities to communist rule is a different topic, and this is not the place to discuss it. I write "Poles" in order to encompass both society and authorities - both those in exile and in Poland, the constitutional successors of the chief statesmen of the Republic and those who were illegitimate, not only in a legal sense - the group surrounding the Krajowa Rada Narodowa and the Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego. I accept that, both as a result of unfolding events and because such was the intention of practically all political camps, including the communists, Poland was becoming and would become a one-nation state, the national state of the Polish nation. National, but not necessarily nationalistic.
When considering the reactions of Poles to the situation facing them, I include the following political actors in my reflections:
The term "situation," and especially the enigmatic concept of rzeczywistosc ("circumstances"), both also require development and clarification. The latter term was a favorite of politicians and editorialists of the day; they spoke and wrote of "the new rzeczywistosc," of approaches to "the new rzeczywistosc." This was true of "Glos Ludu" ("The People's Voice") but the concept often appeared on the pages of underground bulletins as well. On the part of the communists this reflected a tendency to obscure the existing situation, which varied from known and established formulas. It was not freedom, but neither was it enslavement. At first, especially in underground circles, terms such as "occupation," "new occupation," and "Soviet occupation" were used, but these were inconsistent both with fact and with public opinion; let us remember that the point of reference was the German occupation.
Source: INTERMARIUM Volume 1, Number 1.
This article originally appeared in Polish in Res Publica (February 1990).