Roman Dmowski – one of the fathers of independent Poland
Presenting the most important ideological assumptions of Polish nationalism in “Thoughts of a Modern Pole" published in 1903, Roman Dmowski wrote: "I am Polish ... not only because I speak Polish, and because others who speak the same language are spiritually closer to me and more understandable to me, because some of my personal matters connect me more closely with them than with strangers, but also because that apart from the sphere of personal and individual life, I know the collective life of the nation, of which I am a part, and because apart from my personal interests and interests I know national issues, the interests of Poland as a whole, the highest interests for which we must sacrifice what we cannot sacrifice for personal matters. I am Polish – this means that I belong to the Polish nation throughout its entire territory and throughout its entire existence. [...] Everything that is Polish is mine: I cannot give up anything, I am allowed to be proud of what is great in Poland but I must accept also the humiliation that falls on the nation for the negative elements in it."
Dmowski was born on August 9, 1864 in Kamionek (now within the borders of Warsaw). He attended the III Junior High School in Warsaw, where he was a co-founder of the secret self-study circle.
In 1886 he obtained his high school diploma and entered the Faculty of Mathematics & Physics (section of natural sciences) at the University of Warsaw. In 1889 he became a member of "Zet" - the Polish Youth Union and the Polish League.
Around 1890, he began working with the weekly “Głos.” He played an active part in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Constitution of May 3, organising a great patriotic demonstration in Warsaw. In May 1891, he graduated and obtained a "Candidate of natural sciences” diploma corresponding to a doctorate. Thanks to assistance from the Józef Mianowski Fund, he was able to continue his studies in Paris. He reached the French capital in the autumn of 1891, stopping earlier, among other places, in Switzerland, where he met Zygmunt Balicki, whom he persuaded to make changes within the Polish League.
On August 12, 1892, upon returning from Paris, he was arrested by the Russian police while crossing the border. He was accused of participating in the aforementioned manifestation in 1891. He spent the next five months in an investigative prison in the Warsaw Citadel. On January 3, 1893, he left the prison after paying bail for several months.
Despite police supervision in April of that year, together with Jan Ludwik Popławski, at a specially convened meeting in Warsaw, he led to the transformation of the Polish League, which he accused of not taking action to rebuild the Polish state into a new organization - the National League. For the next seven months he stood at the head of its Central Committee.
In the brochure Nasz patriotyzm (‘Our Patriotism’) written at that time, he presented the programme of the new organisation, in which he stressed the supremacy of national interest in class and district divisions.
In November 1893, a ruling was passed on his case. After completing his punitive imprisonment in the Citadel, he received a five-year ban on staying in the Russian partition and he was to spend the first three years under police supervision. He would reside in Mitawa, located south of Riga.
At the beginning of 1895, he illegally crossed the Russian border and settled in Lvov. From March of that year, his texts appeared in "Przegląd Wszechpolski". In July 1895 he became the editor-in-chief of this magazine.
At a congress of the National League in Budapest in the summer of 1896, he became part of its new leadership, alongside Jan Ludwik Popławski, Zygmunt Balicki, Teofil Waligórski and Karol Raczkowski.
In the years 1898-1900 he visited France and England on three occasions and also travelled to Brazil. In 1901, he moved to Krakow, also running "Przegląd Wszechpolski".
After the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, he took steps to prevent the implementation of the PPS's plans regarding the creation of an insurrection in the Kingdom of Poland with the assistance of, among others, the army’s top brass and the Japanese government. To this end, in May 1904 he travelled to Tokyo (nearly two months before Józef Piłsudski and Tytus Filipowicz representing the PPS) providing information the most important political figures of Japan, in which he argued that supporting the anti-Russian uprising in the Polish lands would not bring any benefits to Japan, and it would have tragic consequences for the Poles themselves. He protested against the revolutionary movement, which he considered to be detrimental to national unity and the Polish cause.
In the autumn of 1905, after the constitution was announced in Russia, he moved permanently to Warsaw, where he now lived under his own name. Moving to the capital also meant the liquidation of "Przegląd Wszechpolski".
In November 1905, he took part in the deputation of the representatives of the Kingdom of Poland to the Russian Prime Minister, Sergej Witte, in which he demanded, among others, restoration of the office of the governor, the Polish judiciary and the education system covering all stages of education in the Kingdom, and also proposed considering establishing Polish Sejm in Warsaw.
From December 1905 to February 1907 he was editor in chief of "Gazeta Polska". In the years 1907-1909 he was a deputy to the II and III State Duma, serving as the president of the Polish Circle.
In the book Niemcy, Rosja i kwestia polska (‘Germany, Russia & the Polish Question’), published in 1908, he argued that Germany is a much greater threat to the Polish nation than Russia, because in addition to military power and great potential, it has a civilizational advantage, which in a situation where it controls all Polish lands would threaten Polish identity.
After the outbreak of the Great War, he joined the Polish National Committee formed on November 25, 1914 in Warsaw, which espoused a pro-Russian orientation and focused mainly on the representatives of the National Democracy and the Real Politics Party. In June 1915 he left for Petrograd.
The occupation of Warsaw by the Germans at the beginning of August of that year and the expulsion of Russians from the Kingdom of Poland by the Central Powers created a new political situation, leading him to decide to head West.
In early November 1915, he left Russia and went to London, where, conducting talks with many politicians, as well as scientists and journalists, he made the case for supporting the reconstruction of the independent Polish state.
On August 15, 1917, he became the chairman of the Polish National Committee established in Lausanne, which was formed by the politicians of the National Democracy and the Party of Real Politics.
On September 20, 1917, the Polish National Committee was recognised by the French government as the official representation of Poland. In the following months, the same decision was made by the governments of Great Britain, Italy and the USA.
On June 22, 1918, in Champagne, he handed the banners to the four regiments of the Polish Army emerging in France, headed by General Józef Haller. In August 1918, he left Paris to the United States, where he sought support from the Polish diaspora based there. In September and November of that year he met twice with President TW Wilson.
After assessing the activities of the National Committee, Dmowski wrote: "The most important goals that we set for ourselves in the West during the war have been realized. The unification of Poland and the establishment of the Polish state was announced by the allies as one of the conditions of peace. Poland already had the position of an allied state; officially attributed to the government in external and military matters, it had an official diplomatic representation in the Allied powers, the National Committee had under its command the Polish army, recognized as any ally, and thus our participation in the peace conference as one of the allied states was assured."
Dmowski added that "it should be noted here that it would be impossible to achieve this position without creating a Polish army in the West, without the contribution made by France. Having an army, side by side with the allies, was our only form of legitimacy with regard to participating in the peace conference. These credentials were necessary. It is good that it was considered sufficient, otherwise Poland with its legions, fighting on the side of the Central States, with its November kingdom, with its Regency Council, with the government in Warsaw and with its constantly renewed declarations, would have to be considered by the Western states as an ally of the Central States and would eventually be among the defeated.” (Roman Dmowski, Polityka polska i odbudowanie państwa)
In 1919, together with Ignacy Paderewski, he represented Poland at the Paris Peace Conference. On June 28, 1919, he signed the Versailles Treaty on behalf of him. On September 10, 1919, he signed the coalition treaty with Austria in Saint-Germain, which suspended the matter of Eastern Galicia.
In the years 1919-1922 Dmowski was a member of the Sejm (he was elected in absentia during his stay at the conference in Paris). In November 1919, he became seriously ill with pneumonia and in January 1920, on the advice of doctors, he left for Algeria for several months.
He returned to Warsaw in May 1920. During the Polish-Bolshevik War, he joined the Council of State Defence established on July 1 1920. On July 19 he resigned from the ROP and left for Poznan, where he lived. At the end of 1921, he bought a small estate with a palace in Chludowo near Poznań.
From October 27 to December 14, 1923, he served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government of Wincenty Witos.
After the May coup in December 1926, he founded the Great Poland Camp opposing the government authorities, an extra-parliamentary and cross-party organization. Its ideological declaration, of which he was the author, was based on national solidarity, a close relationship between the state and the Catholic Church and the need to shape social and moral discipline.
At the beginning of the 1930s, the Camp of Great Poland created by him became a mass organization (in 1932 it had about 120,000 members), using radical methods of political struggle and conducting militant activity, some of it anti-Semitic. In 1933, on the decision of the state authorities, the body was dissolved throughout the country.
Roman Dmowski died after a long illness on January 2, 1939 in Drozdowo near Łomża. He was buried in a family grave at Bródno Cemetery in Warsaw. About 100,000 people participated in the funeral.
In addition to the aforementioned Myśli nowoczesnego Polaka (1903) and the work Niemcy, Rosja i kwestia polska (1908), his most important works also include: Polityka polska i odbudowanie państwa (‘Polish Politics & the Rebuilding of the State’, 1925), Kościół, naród, państwo (‘Church, Nation, State’, 1927), Świat powojenny i Polska (‘Post-War World & Poland’, 1931) and Duch Europy (‘A Spirit of Europe’, 1938). He was also the author of two novels published under the pseudonym Kazimierz Wybranowski: W pół drogi (‘Halfway’, 1931) and Dziedzictwo (‘Heritage’, 1931).
Roman Dmowski was awarded the Great Ribbon of the Polonia Restituta Order.
Source: Polish Press Agency (PAP)