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Stanisław Kopański : biography

May 19, 1895 - March 23, 1976

Gen.dyw. Stanisław Kopański (1895–1976) was a Polish military commander. One of the best-educated Polish officers of the time, he served with distinction in World War II. He is best known as the creator and commander of the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade and Polish 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division. In 1943–46 he was Chief of Staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces in the West.


Early life

Stanisław Kopański was born May 19, 1895, in Saint Petersburg, capital of Imperial Russia. In 1905, he enrolled in a local Polish gymnasium (high school), where he graduated upon passing his matura examinations. Afterwards, he matriculated in a local Institute of Civil Engineering, but his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I.

World War I and the wars establishing the second Polish Republic

In 1914, he was drafted into the Russian Army. He graduated from the Mikhail's School of Artillery and served on the war's eastern front in the 3rd battery of the Russian 2nd Cavalry Division. After the February Revolution, he left the Russian army and joined the Polish 1st Corps, being formed in Russia as part of the Entente forces. Demobilized after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, he left for Warsaw (then still occupied by the Central Powers), where he planned to enter the reopened Warsaw University to complete his education.

He was unable to realize his plans, however, as Poland regained her independence in November 1918 and immediately became engaged in the Polish-Ukrainian War. The Polish Army badly needed experienced officers, and Kopański joined the 1st Uhlans Regiment, with which he fought in the battles of Przemyśl, Gródek Jagielloński and Lwów.

At the end of hostilities, Kopański remained in the army and fought in the opening stages of the Polish-Bolshevik War in the Lida and Wilno areas, in the forces of Col. Władysław Belina-Prażmowski. On April 20, 1919, during the fighting in Wilno, he was badly wounded and lost his left eye. Following a brief hospitalization, he returned to active service, this time as commander of the Artillery NCO School in Warsaw.

However, Kopański requested to be sent back to the front and in September 1919, became commander of the 1st Mounted Artillery Detachment. In 1920, he joined the 8th Uhlans Regiment, with which he took part in the famous battles of Komarów and Tyszowce. In October 1920, he was awarded the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, Poland's highest military decoration.

Inter-war peacetime years

After the Peace of Riga, he was demobilized and allowed to finally finish his engineering studies, this time at the Warsaw University of Technology. However, in 1923, he returned to army service and became the deputy commander of the Artillery Officers School in Toruń. Promoted to the rank of major in 1924, he held that post until 1927. In October of that year, he was dispatched to Paris, where he commenced his studies at the famous Ecole Superieure de Guerre, one of the most notable military academies of the time. After a brief service in the French School for Artillery Officers, he returned to Poland, where he became the commander of the 3rd Detachment of the General Staff (Operational). In May 1930, he became the commanding officer of one of the battalions within the 6th Heavy Artillery Regiment, stationed in Lwów, but resumed his post in the General Staff a year later. In early 1935, he became the deputy commander of armoured troops and, after additional two years of service there, he was made the commanding officer of the Stryj-based Polish 1st Regiment of Self-propelled Artillery, the most technologically advanced Polish artillery unit of the time. On March 13, 1939, in the course of the Polish secret mobilization, Kopański became the head of the 3rd Detachment of the General Staff and six days later, he was promoted to colonel.

World War II

Polish Defensive War

After the outbreak of the Polish Defensive War, Kopański remained on the staff of Marshal of Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły. The staff was evacuated from Warsaw on September 6, 1939, to Polish temporary headquarters in Brześć nad Bugiem. However, due to fast pace of German advance, the headquarters had to be evacuated further southwards, through Młynów, Kołomyja and Kosów, to the town of Kuty, where it was to organize the defence of the so-called Romanian Bridgehead. However, the Soviet invasion of Poland of September 17, 1939 made that plan obsolete and Kopański was evacuated to Romania, a country which at that time was allied with Poland. There, at both German and French insistence, the Polish highest authorities were interned by the Romanians. However, most of the soldiers interned in prisoner of war camps were able to escape with the secret consent of the Romanian authorities; Kopański himself fled the Călimăneşti internment camp, traveling through Bucharest and Constanţa to reach France in late October 1939.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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