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Władysław Sikorski

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Wladyslaw Sikorski (1881-1943) played a major political and military role in the history of Poland. He founded a secret nationalist organization, guided the modernization of the army, and led a government in exile when Poland was invaded by Germany at the beginning of the Second World War.

He was born in Tuszow Naradowy on May 20, 1881. He was educated in an Austrian controlled system and served in the Austrian army. He was recognized as a rising military leader. During the First World War, Sikorski was war commissioner of the Polish Legion, which served with the Austrian Army against Russia.From an early age, Sikorski had made stronger his passion for Polish independence. In 1908 he founded a secret military organization of Polish nationalists, in which Józef Pilsudski was also prominent. It was connected with a second nationalist group in 1914 to form the Supreme National Committee (NKN). This group, led by Sikorski, became the heart for a future Polish national government. The end of the First World War resulted in a defeat for Austria. Poland was proclaimed to be an independent republic in 1918. He later distinguished himself in the Polish–Soviet War (1920–21), and in 1921 he was named chief of the Polish general staff.
In 1922–23 Sikorski served briefly as prime minister of Poland. In 1924–25, as minister of military affairs, he guided the modernization of the army. Sikorski remained neutral during Pilsudski's 1926 take over of the government; but he joined the anti Pilsudski opposition in 1928, after being relieved of his command.
When German and Soviet troops invaded Poland in 1939, pushing the beginning of the Second World War, Sikorski became prime minister of the government in exile, establishing good relations with Allied leaders. But in the later course of World War II the Soviet dictator Stalin broke off Soviet–Polish diplomatic contact in April 1943, using as pretext Sikorski's request that the International Red Cross investigate the murder at Katyn of thousands of Polish officers previously in Russian hands. On May 25, he left England, travelling through the British colony of Gibraltar, on their way to Cairo. After a satisfying trip, Sikorski boarded a plane for the return flight to England on July 3, 1943. His plane crashed within seconds of its take off from Gibraltar, killing all of the passengers. Many theories arose, particularly among suspicious Poles, that the plane had been sabotaged. They suspected Germans, Soviets, even Winston Churchill himself. A witness concluded in later years that it was likely an act of mechanical failure, since there was never any concrete proof of conspiracy.


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