thumb MoscickiNowyTarg800President Mościcki in Nowy Targ, Poland in 1929

I really like black and white photographs, and those from the time period of the Second Polish Republic have special charm. It was undoubtedly a very interesting, though not easy, period in the history of Poland. The process of merging the multinational and multireligious parts of the Republic, which until recently were part of three different states, was extremely challenging. Economically, the country was backward after many years of Partitions, three different currencies were used, and the existence of the state at the beginning of the 1920s was very fragile. It was a period of dramatic struggle for the shape of Poland's borders: the heroic defense of Lviv and the fights for Eastern Galicia, conflict with the Czechs over Zaolzie, the time of the Silesian uprisings, the Greater Poland Uprising, and the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1919-1921.

Rebuilding the state was a long and difficult process. Undoubtedly, despite the enormous difficulties that Poland was facing at that time, a lot was achieved. The extraordinary enthusiasm of both: intellectual elites and ordinary people, helped in the transformation process. In the 1920s, the Polish government introduced a monetary reform. The reform saved Poland from hyperinflation and a new currency - the Polish zloty was introduced. A number of new universities were opened; including, University of Science and Technology in Krakow, University of Poznań, and Stefan Batory's University in Vilnius was re-opened.

A few months ago, the Institute received an e-mail from a historical reconstruction group from Poland, in connection with the 80th anniversary of the defense of Tobruk (located in Libya, near the border with Egypt). The group wanted to see the photos of the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade's soldiers. We keep many photos of the Independent Brigade in our archives, thus the email was an impulse for us to digitize another part of our collection. This time, we managed to prepare an unique collection, a great source of the information about the WWII battles in North Africa. thumb SBSK1553Anthony Eden, British Foreign Secretary with the soldiers of the Brigade, October 1941

Preparing the photos for an online presentation is a tedious process, first, we have to research the collection diligently, then make a selection of photos, next the photos have to be scanned, annotated and finally posted online. After a few weeks of work, the project was successfully completed. We have posted photos showing the soldiers' training, the construction of the Latrun camp, fortifications near Tobruk, exercises and combat operations of the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade's soldiers. In the black-and-white photos we see soldiers' difficult life in the desert, all the sacrifices; fight in unfavorable weather conditions, under the constant threat from the enemy.

Marshal J. Piłsudski was an independence fighter, a statesman, the "father" of reborn Poland in 1918. The charismatic leader, an experienced, sometimes even ruthless politician, in private life was a warm and affectionate person, appreciating family life. When he retired from political life in 1923, the manor house in Sulejówek at the outskirts of Warsaw, became his favourite place. The Marshal loved this house, called "Milusin". In Sulejowek, he enjoyed the family life, the company of his wife Aleksandra and daughters: Wanda and Jadwiga. He liked taking strolls in the garden and watching his favorite pasque-flowers grow.

Z corkami sepiaJ. Pilsudski with his daughters: Wanda i Jadwiga.

In "Milusin", the Marshal was working on his book "The reminiscence of Gabriel Narutowicz" and "The Year 1920". Although Piłsudski officially withdrew from political life, the most important state decisions were still made in Sulejówek. In 1926, after the May Coup, the Piłsudski family had moved to Warsaw and settled in Belweder Palace. However, "Milusin" remained their family residence.

A large painting by Wojciech Kossak (1856-1942) - Pilsudski on Horseback, is one of the most recognized artpieces of the Institute's collection. Kossak is a leading representative of the historical style in art. One of the most famous portraits of Józef Piłsudski was painted in 1928. It depicts Marshal on his famous horse - Chestnut. Piłsudski is located centrally, in the foreground, there are three officers of the cavalry corps in caps, with symbolic colors of the rims: magenta, white and yellow. The scene takes place at the edge of a pine forest. The artist painted several very similar portraits of Piłsudski on horseback. One of them from 1928 can be seen at the National Museum in Warsaw, while another from 1933, is kept at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in the Vatican. thumb 800Pilsudski on Horseback, Wojciech Kossak

Kossak wanted to pay tribute to Marshal Pilsudski, one of the most influential persons in the history of Poland, the one who changed the future of the nation in 1918.  At that time, Piłsudski was already 61 and was already seriously ill. It was a time when Pilsudski could be proud of himself - after a long battle, Poland regained its independence.

At the Institute's online collection, one can research documents about the life, military and political activity of Marshal Pilsudski. Additionally, documents about the fight for Polish borders 1919-1921, are also availiable. From the completely digitized collection of the Adjutantura General of the Commander-in-Chief (1918-1922), as well as from the files of the Chief of General Staff of the Polish Army, Gen. Tadeusz Rozwadowski, the researchers can learn more about the of Battle of Warsaw of 1920.




thumb Gen Anders w szpitalu Iran 1942Gen. Anders in hospital in Teheran 1942


The Polish Armed Forces in the USSR, known as the Anders Army, was established in Soviet Russia in 1941. The Army struggled from the very beginning with many organizational difficulties: insufficient supplies, lack of uniforms and hostility of the Soviet authorities. Gen. Anders made every effort to save as many Polish citizens as possible, not only the soldiers from the NKVD's investigative prisons and Gulag camps in Soviet Russia, but also Polish civilians, including orphans. The Army took care of the children, who lost their parents in that troubled time in Soviet Russia.  In March 1942, the General obtained permission from Stalin to evacuate the Army from the USSR - 77,000 soldiers and 43,000 civilians left the country.

The collection of the Pilsudski Institute in America contains many interesting materials about General Władysław Anders himself (collection no.113) and the Army. The collection includes recordings of people deported to the USSR in 1940/41, saved thanks to joining the Army (collection no.29). The archives of Jan Erdman, an employee of the Polish embassy in Kujbyshev, contain letters and poetry from Siberians. On the Institute's YouTube channel you can see 12 recorded memories of Siberians who settled in the USA after World War II.


thumb Gawronski800Capital William Gawronski In 1928, William Gawroński, a 17-year-old boy from New York’s East Side, swam the Hudson river to stowaway on a ship departing for the South Pole. That was a period of fascinating geographic expeditions, and the whole of America was watching Richard Byrd’s first American expedition to Antarctica.

Bill Gawroński and his parents were Polish-Americans, the parishioners of the oldest Polish Parish in New York - Saint Stanislaus the Martyr. Bill was a fabulous swimmer, part of the group called the Polish Falcons. His dream was to become an explorer and when it was announced Byrd was going to be leading the first American expedition to Antarctica, he became obsessed with the idea to join. Due to his extranoriday swimming abilities he was able to swim through the Hudson to board The City of New York docked in New Jersey. Bill always wore a golden medallion of the Immaculate Conception, given by his grandmother. He had the medallion during his famous swim of the Hudson River and the Antarctic expedition.

What was the fate of our hero after the expedition? Billy wanted to be an explorer, but due to the economic crisis in America and then the outbreak of World War II, he had to look for permanent employment. During the war he was the captain of the so-called Liberty Ships, American cargo transporters, crossing the Atlantic under the constant threat of German submarines. After the war, he worked for the American navy.When he retired, he settled in Maine, where he ran an antiques shop with his wife, Gizela. After Bill's death, Gizela donated his documents, including a telegram from the Antarctic expedition, photos and the Immaculate Conception medallion to the Institute: Collection No. 76.

We also recommend a book by an American journalist: Laurie Gwen Shapiro: The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica (Simon & Schuster), 2018.

BlogMiasta2Collegium Novum - Jagiellonian University 

 Old black and white photographs are one of the most favourite elements of the Institute's collection. We have been working restlessly to preserve the photograps and to publish them online. This time the Institute presents an unique collection of Pre-war architectural photography collection.

The collection, is an accumulation of black and white photographs from the interwar period, including Warsaw, Kraków, Łódź, Poznań, Toruń, Lublin, Lviv and Vilnius.

In the photos, we can admire the cavalry marching along the streets of old Krakow, the street scenes from Lviv, and the spring awakening in Vilnius. The black and white photos perfectly reflect the Polish landscape's beauty.  The complete collection can be viewed on the Institute's website: - Collections archival online - Photo Collection 151.