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Pilsudski statue unveiled for WWI centenary

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 13.08.2014 09:44
A statue of Jozef Pilsudski, the so-called 'father of Polish independence', was unveiled on Tuesday in Kielce, southern Poland, as part of the centenary commemorations of WWI.

The unveiling ceremony in Kielce. Photo: PAP/Michal Walczak

Troops under Pilsudski's command briefly occupied the city in August 1914, when Kielce was part of the Russian Tsarist Empire.

Pilsudski, himself technically a Russian citizen, had formed the so-called First Cadre Company in Austrian-ruled Krakow just days after the declaration of war, marching over the border on 6 August.

Photo: PAP/Michal Walczak

Tuesday's unveiling ceremony in Kielce was led by city mayor Wojciech Lubawsk and Karolina Kaczorowska, widow of the last president of the Polish government-in-exile (the government was based in London from 1940-1990).

“The entry of the First Cadre Company into Kielce is one of the most beautiful episodes in Polish history,” the mayor said.

“We are proud of the attitude of the people of Kielce that day, who greeted the soldiers with flowers, songs and enthusiasm.”

Pilsudski was compelled to withdraw from the region shortly afterwards, but Austrian authorities permitted him to then form two Polish legions that went on to fight in their own uniforms and colours.

Every year, a commemorative march in the footsteps of the First Cadre Company takes place from Krakow to Kielce, and Tuesday's unveiling ceremony chimed in with the completion of the 49th edition.

About 400,000 Poles died in the First World War, fighting as soldiers in the Austrian, German and Russian armies. After the war, the triple alliance of the US, Britain and France supported the re-establishment of the Polish state at the close of the war, as the Austo-Hungarian, German and Russian empires collapsed. (nh)

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