Józef Piłsudski : biography
Józef Klemens Piłsudski ( 5 December 1867 – 12 May 1935) was a Polish statesman—Chief of State (1918–22), "First Marshal" (from 1920), and leader (1926–35) of the Second Polish Republic. From mid-World War I he had a major influence in Poland's politics, and was an important figure on the European political scene. He was the person most responsible for the creation of the Second Republic of Poland in 1918, 123 years after it had been taken over by Russia, Austria and Germany.Lieven 1994, .Held 1992, . Under Piłsudski, Poland annexed Vilnius from Lithuania following Żeligowski's Mutiny but was unable to incorporate most of his Lithuanian homeland into the newly resurrected Polish State.. Retrieved on 5 April 2009 He believed in a multicultural Poland with recognition of numerous ethnic and religious nationalities. His arch-rival Roman Dmowski by contrast called for a purified Poland based on Polish-speaking Catholics with little role for minorities.
Early in his political career, Piłsudski became a leader of the Polish Socialist Party. Concluding that Poland's independence would have to be won by force of arms, he created the Polish Legions. In 1914 he anticipated the outbreak of a European war, the Russian Empire's defeat by the Central Powers, and the Central Powers' defeat by the western powers.Roos 1966, p. 14; Rothschild 1990, p. 45. When World War I broke out, he and his Legions fought under Austrian army control against Russia. In 1917, with Russia faring badly in the war, he withdrew his support from the Central Powers and was arrested by the Germans.
From November 1918, when Poland regained independence, until 1922 Piłsudski was Poland's Chief of State. In 1919–21 he commanded Poland's forces in six border wars that literally shaped the nation of Poland. His forces seemed almost defeated in the Polish-Soviet War when they fought the battle for Warsaw in August 1920. In the "miracle on the Vistula," they routed five Russian armies and saved Poland. In 1923, with the government dominated by his opponents, particularly the National Democrats, he withdrew from active politics. Three years later, he returned to power with the May 1926 coup d'état, and became the strong man (in practice a dictator) of Poland. From then until his death in 1935, he concerned himself primarily with military and foreign affairs.
Piłsudski pursued, with varying degrees of intensity, two complementary strategies, intended to enhance Poland's security: "Prometheism", which aimed at breaking up, successively, Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union into their constituent nations; and the creation of an Intermarum federation, comprising Poland and several of her neighbors. His record was ignored during the Communist years (1945–89). Wandycz characterizes him as "an ardent Polish patriot who on occasion would castigate the Poles for their stupidity, cowardice, or servility. He called himself a Lithuanian, and was stubborn and reserved, loath to show his emotions."Wandycz (1990) p 452 Today, although some of his acts remain controversial, Piłsudski's memory is held in high esteem in Poland.
Both daughters of Marshal Piłsudski returned to Poland in 1990, after the fall of the Communist system. Jadwiga Piłsudska's daughter Joanna Jaraczewska returned to Poland in 1979. She married a Polish "Solidarity" activist Janusz Onyszkiewicz in a political prison in 1983. Both were very involved in the Polish struggle against communism between 1979–89.
Józef Piłsudski was born on 5 December 1867 to a Polish noble family at their family's Zulow manor in the village of Zalavas (), in Lithuania,Hetherington 2012, p. 92 which then was a part of the Russian Empire. The estate was part of the dowry brought by his mother, a member of the wealthy Billewicz family.Peter Hetherington 2012, p. 95 Currently it is part of the Švenčionys district municipality of Lithuania.Jędrzejewicz (1990) p 3 The Piłsudski family, of noble origins but now poor szlachta, cherished Polish patriotic traditions and has been characterized either as Polish or as Polonized-Lithuanian.Bideleux 1998, . Józef was the second son born to the family.
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