“I bow my head before the heroes of all Silesian Uprisings,” President Andrzej Duda said on Sunday in the southwestern city of Katowice during the ceremony falling on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of the pro-Polish independence struggle.
“I bow my head low today before the heroes of all of the Silesian Uprisings,” President Duda said, adding that he paid tribute “not only before men, who fought with arms” but also “before all those who were supporting them from behind the frontlines… before the women, who awaited them and supported them… sometimes entering the fray themselves… before children and youths… before all those who stood up for Poland so much back then.”
The President thanked Silesian families for “keeping all of those great acts of patriotism and courage in their family remembrance,” and added: “Thank you for all of that in the name of the free, sovereign and independent Poland… Thank you with all my heart that you have always been for Poland, with Poland, and that you continue to stand by her.”
The head of state went on to thank local and urban authorities for nurturing the memory of the Silesian Uprisings “in such a beautiful way”. “It is crucial, as it fosters patriotic attitudes, the sense of unity, the feeling of responsibility for these lands,” he said.
President Duda felt that Silesia “developed in such a beautiful manner”, adding that “great tasks await us here. I believe that we will manage… to carry this task out for the benefit of Silesia and the people living here.”
Speaking about Silesians, the President said that they were worthy of respect “due to the sense of responsibility and decades of hard work for the Republic of Poland… Silesians were ready to take up arms, however, each day they are also ready to grab a shovel, a pickaxe, a drill and a fountain pen to work for the Republic of Poland. That is why it is good to sacrifice a lot for Silesia as the Republic of Poland owes that to Silesia and Silesians.”
Honouring a Silesian Uprising commander
As part of the ceremony, the head of state posthumously awarded Alfons Zgrzebniok, one of the commanders and participants of the Silesian Uprisings, with the Order of the White Eagle, handing the distinction over to the insurgent’s family.
The president said that 100 years ago many of the Silesian insurgents had been able to call their victory a full one because their local homeland became part of the Republic of Poland.
“Many of them could call their victory full as their homes found themselves [as a result of their struggle] on the territory of the Republic of Poland. Alas, many were not as fortunate, just like those in Opolian Silesia, whose local homeland remained beyond the borders of the Republic of Poland,” President Duda said in Katowice.
“The hero of this meeting that we hold today, Alfons Zgrzebnio was one of them. Although his home of Opolia remained outside of the Republic of Poland’s borders, he was able to behold with satisfaction how the toil of his engagement in all three of the Silesian Uprisings, including the military accountability for two of them [in which he partook], translated into the free, independent and sovereign Republic of Poland with economically and socially strong Upper Silesia,” he said.
The head of state went on to stress the fundamental economic and human importance Upper Silesia had for the Republic of Poland. “It is precisely because the people who lived here, Silesians, wanted to be part of Poland so earnestly, feeling like Poles so strongly, that they were ready to take up arms so that their land could become part of Poland,” he said.
The 3rd Silesian Uprising
The 3rd Silesian Uprising was the last of the three armed uprisings of the Polish population in Silesia. The beginning of the uprising was preceded by a plebiscite that took place on March 20, 1921. A minority voted for Silesia to be a part of Poland – 40.3 percent, thus the Plebiscite Committee decided to allocate almost the entire area to Germany.
Following this news, isolated strikes of people dissatisfied with the difficult material conditions and unemployment of the region’s inhabitants which broke out earlier turned into a general strike on May 2, which saw 97 percent of the workplaces paralysed.
The uprising broke out on the night of May 2-3, 1921, and the fights lasted two months. The insurgents managed to take over almost the entire plebiscite area, later defending it against the German forces. About 60,000 Poles took part in the uprising, it was estimated that 1,218 of them died and 794 were wounded.
The three Silesian Uprisings allowed the part of Upper Silesia region to be incorporated into independent Poland. Although Germany kept most of the territory, Poland received areas with heavy industry and abundant natural resources, including several cities whose inhabitants voted in favour of Germany.