Independence Day

Celebratory procession, Warsaw, 17 November 1918 (IPL)
At the start of 17th century the Kingdom of Poland was an Empire and at the top of her power spanning an area of nearly 1 million square kilometres, with territories reaching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

A century later, Poland’s strength diminished, and her political system was in disarray. The consequences were the third partitioning carried out by Austria, Russia and Prussia and in 1795, Poland disappeared for the next 4 generations (one hundred and twenty three years) from the European map.

After several unsuccessful attempts in trying to regain sovereignty both diplomatically and through armed uprisings as in the Kosciuszko Insurrection, (1794) the November (1830) and January (1863) uprisings, the Poles realised that only a pan-European conflict would give them the opportunity to regain their independence.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne, in 1914, which sparked the outbreak of the First World War, was the type of event that generations of Poles had been waiting for. The countries occupying Poland were at war for the first time in over a century.

Unfortunately, Poles, did not have much influence or choice with whom they fought, and during the course of the four-year conflict nearly three million Poles were conscripted and fought in the occupying countries armies, where one in six, perished or returned home injured.

Towards the end of the war, due to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and social unrest in Germany, provided Poland with a realistic opportunity for political and military independence. The 1st World War was coming to an end and finally on November 11th 1918 the armistice that ended the war was signed.
The day before, on the 10th of November 1918, Jozef Pilsudski - one of the most influential politicians and fighters for Poland’s independence arrived in Warsaw and was enthusiastically welcomed as a liberator, national hero and became known as the father figure of the reborn country of Poland. On the 16th November 1918 Jozef Pilsudski sent the official letter to governments of the United States of America, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Germany in which he stated: "I wish to notify all states and nations, both those at war and those that remain neutral, of the existence of an independent Polish State, encompassing all of the reunited Polish territories".