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Prominent Poles

Kazimierz Sosnkowski (pseudos: Baca, Godziemba, Józef, Józef Godziemba, Ryszard, Szef) , Polish independence fighter, chief of staff of the first Brigade of Polish Legions, one of the leaders of pre-WWI PPS (Polish Socialist Party), Polish Army general, Polish minister of military affairs, vice-president of Poland, commander of the Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej (Union of Armed Struggle) resistance organization, and Inspector General of the Armed Forces (Polish Commander-in-Chief, 1943–44),writer.

Photo of Kazimierz Sosnkowski, military man

Born:  November 19, 1885, Warsaw, Russian partition of Poland (presently Poland)

Died:   October 11, 1969, Arundel, Canada

Early days. Father Jozef Sosnkowski, coat of arms Godziemba, owner of the villages Porazyn and Sielinko; mother Zofia Drabinska. In 1896 he went to the V Gimnazjum (high school) in Warsaw where he participated in a secret organization of progressive youth. To avoid persecution he moved in 1904 to St.Petersburg where he finished in 1905 the XII Gimnazjum. The same year he passed the entrance exam to the Department of Architecture at Warsaw Polytechnic he also joined PPS (Polish Socialist Party) attracted by its program of fighting for independent Poland and for social equality. In 1906 the boycott of the school by the students was declared thus not allowing Sosnkowski to study there. In February 1906 he participated in the VIII Congress of PPS in Lwow. After this he became the commandant of the Fighting Unit of PPS on the right shore of Vistula. As such he led a series of attacks on Russian police posts. In 1907 he enrolled into Lwow Polytechnic and simultaneously he led the military works of PPS-Frakcja Rewolucyjna (Polish Socialist Party) where he was close to Jozef Pilsudski. He was criticized in PPS for his risky tactics and also chased by Ochrana he hid first in Radom and the in Dabrowskie Basin (Zaglebie Dabrowskie) where he led the PPS Fighting Unit. In January 1907 he left for Italy and Switzerland and in October 1907 he enrolled to Lwow Polytechnic. He studied slowly being very busy with his political work. He led the PPS-Frakcja Rewolucyjna in Lwow and in 1908 suggested creation of Zwiazek Walki Czynnej (Active Combat Union). Pilsudski wanted to remove the socially radical elements from the program of the new organization and that was implemented by Sosnkowski.. In 1910 the Association created paramilitary units Zwiazek Strzelecki (Lwow) and Strzelec (Krakow).. Till the outbreak of WWI was Sosnkowski an activist of PPS. In 1914 he finished his studies of architecture but the war prevented him to pass the final exams.

Career. During WWI he was first the chief of staff of the 1st Brigade of the Polish Legions and since 1916 the commander of the First Brigade. He was arrested together with Jozef Pilsudski in 1917 and in 1918 they were incarcerated in the Magdeburg fortress. They were both released in November 1918. During the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-1920 he commanded on the north front (his leadership was criticized by some) and then became responsible for functioning of the rear. He initiated and ran the construction of the port in Gdynia. In 1920 he was actually commanding the defense of Warsaw. He served as minister of military affairs from 1921 to 1924. During this time he was instrumental in organizing and modernizing Polish Army. He also was the principal negotiator of the Polish-French treaty. In 1922 Marshall Pilsudski sent his confidential opinion to the President of Poland in which he declared only Sosnkowski and Rydz-Smigly are capable of being the commander-in-chief during the war. In 1925, as Polish Permanent Representative to the League of Nations, General Sosnkowski, initiated the adoption of the first international instrument addressing Biological Weapons of Mass Destruction – the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of Poisonous Gases and Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. For unknown reasons he was not informed by Pilsudski about the plans of the 1926 coup. At this time Sosnkowski tried to commit suicide. After recuperation he returned to military service in 1927. Despite of the loosening of relations with Pilsudski it was he whom Pilsudski saw undoubtedly as his successor. In 1927 he was appointed to be the Inspector of Army Podole and in 1928 also of Army Polesie. After Pilsudski’s death in 1935 Sosnkowski was sidetracked. In the “Sanacja” camp he was favoring a dialogue with opposition. This was rejected by President Moscicki and Marshall Smigly-Rydz (probably for ambitional reasons). After the German invasion of 1939 he proposed forming a group of armies Warszawa, Poznan, Pomorze, Lodz. This was rejected by Rydz-Smigly, caused lack of coordination in the region of Warszawa and Kutno and resulted in the Polish defeat at the river Bzura. On September 10, 1939 he was appointed commander of the group of the southern armies. As such he conducted several victorious battles (Jaworow: distruction of elite motorized regiment SS-Standarte Germania.) However the Soviet invasion of September 17, 1939 has made it impossible to continue the war effort and Sosnkowski, disguised, crossed the Soviet occupied territory of Poland and through Hungary arrived to France in October 1939. In November 1939 he was selected by President Raczkiewicz as his successor (this was against the opinion of General Sikorski). He was also appointed Commander of the Union of Armed Struggle (ZWZ). In 1941, he resigned from the Polish Government in Exile protesting lack of specifics regarding Polish eastern borders (at the same time also PPS/WRN= Polish Socialist Party left in protest the Polish Government in Exile to return to it a year later). After the tragic death of General Sikorski (July 1943) Sosnkowski became Commander-in-Chief. He was against starting an insurrection in Warsaw but Prime Minister Stanislaw Mikolajczyk prevailed and the insurrection started in August 1944. Sosnkowski then tried to get allied help. When he didn’t get it he officially accused the Allies of breaking the treaties. Under the pressure from Winston Churchill Sosnkowski was demoted from the Commander-in-Chief position on September 30, 1944. In November 1944 he left Great Britain and went to Canada. Because of his unyielding attitude toward the Soviets, he was denied US and British visas till 1949. During 1952-1954 he was active in achieving unification of the emigration groups and signing in London in 1954 the Act of National Unification. He enjoyed considerable respect among the Polish emigrants. After his death in Canada he was buried in France and in 1992 his ashes were brought to Poland where there remain in the St. John’s Cathedral in Warsaw.

Personal. Sosnkowski was married to Jadwiga Sosnkowska. They had five children.

Honors and awards. Order of the White Eagle (posthumously), Commander's Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari (previously awarded the Gold Cross and Silver Cross),Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, Cross of Independence with Swords, Cross of Valor - four times, Gold Cross of Merit, Cross of Liberty, Class II (Estonia), Legion of Honor (France), Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom), Order of the Cross of the Eagle, Class I (Estonia), Academic Golden Laurel of the Polish Academy of Literature for oratory, the stadium of the soccer team Polonia Warszawa is named after him.

Books. He authored: Z Legionów do Magdeburga (Warsaw 1929),Cieniom Wrzesnia (London 1943, Polish edition Warsaw1988),Nakazy chwili (London 1951),W obronie praw Polski (London 1964),Materialy historyczne (London 1966),Przyczynki do sprawy zbrojen polskich w okresie 1935–1939 (London 1973).Wybor Pism (Wroclaw 2009)

Wikipedia (Polish version)
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Biografia Generala Kazimierza Sosnkowskigo (in Polish)

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Prominent Poles