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Jan Kwapiński (1885-1964), born Piotr Chałupka[1] was a Polish independence activist, politician and statesman. Member of Combat Organization of the Polish Socialist Party, imprisoned by Russian Empire authorities in Warsaw Citadel. After Poland regained independence following the First World War, member of Polish parliament (Sejm) after being elected in Polish legislative election, 1922 and mayor of Łódź (1939). After Soviet invasion of Poland arrested by NKVD, freed after Sikorski-Mayski Agreement, he joined the London-based Polish government-in-exile as Vice-Premier and Minister of Industry, Trade and Shipping, later Minister of Treasury.

Jan Kwapinski, Polish Politician of Polish Socialist Party (PPS) , Mayor of Lodz in 1939


Kwapiński's early political career

An official publication of the Polish government-in-exile, March 1944, provides the following information, likely from the subject himself (brackets added showing his ages in the narrative): [2]

"Jan Kwapinski (correct pronunciation: Kv-a-pin-ski), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Commerce and Shipping, son of a worker and a metal worker himself, has long been one of the most prominent figures in Poland's labor and political movement.

Born in Warsaw in 1885, his life reflects the turbulent history of the Polish patriotic revolutionary movement. From his early youth he took an active part in the underground organization. He joined the Polish Socialist Party in 1902 [17] and played an active role in the anti-Czarist uprising of 1905 [20]. When the revolt failed, Kwapinski made his escape to Cracow (then in Austrian Poland), where he continued his political activities. After his return to Russian Poland in 1906 [21] he took part in underground revolutionary organization. The following year he was arrested by the Czarist police and sentenced to 15 years hard labor. Having organized the prisoners' rebellion in the Lomza Prison, he managed to escape, but was caught and removed to Orel Prison, where he remained until 1917 [32], when the Russian Revolution set him free.

Back in Poland in 1918 [33], he was elected to the Central Committee of the Polish Socialist Party, of which he later became Vice-Chairman. His concern for the fate of the Polish workers and peasants led to his appointment, during the twenty years of Polish independence, as President of the Farm Workers Union and Polish Trade Union Congress.

When the Soviets entered Poland, Kwapinski, who remained in Poland during both invasions, was deported to Siberia. Released after the signing of the Polish-Russian treaty in July, 1941 [56], he proceeded to London where he was appointed to the Polish Cabinet and was made chairman of the Committee of the Polish Socialist Party. Since General Sikorski's death (in July, 1943), Mr. Kwapinski holds the post of Vice-Premier."

Kwapiński and the Polish government-in-exile

Following Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski's death in an airplane crash on July 4th, 1943 a new government-in-exile was formed under Prime Minister Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, who had been appointed by President Władysław Raczkiewicz.[a] On July 14, 1943 Prime Minister Mikolajczyk formed a coalition cabinet from the four main Polish political groups, and including, besides Jews, some without party affiliation. He named Jan Kwapiński of the Polish Socialist Party as Vice Prime Minister as well as Minister of Industry, Commerce and Shipping.

On October 29, 1943, Kwapiński flew, with other diplomats aboard the Pan American Airways Boeing 314A 'Capetown Clipper', from Foynes, Éire to New York City, as "Deputy Premier" of Poland, arriving November 5, 1943, to attend the Atlantic City, New Jersey UNRRA conference. He was Polish signatory to the agreement at the White House on November 9, 1943.[b] In London, in January 1944, Mikolajczyk and Kwapiński were the chief Polish moderates with whom British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden sought to resolve a crisis with the Soviets concerning the long contentious issue of the Polish-Russian frontier.[3] On November 23, 1944, three days before Prime Minister Mikolajczyk resigned, Kwapiński left his own posts. However he was for seven months Treasury Minister under the succeeding Prime Minister, Tomasz Arciszewski, from November 29, 1944 until June 28, 1945--eight days before the United Kingdom and the United States, following the February, 1945 Yalta Conference agreement with Stalin, withdrew recognition of the Polish government in exile. Remaining an émigré, Jan Kwapiński died in London in 1964.

Timeline for Jan Kwapiński's political activities

joins Polish Socialist Party, age seventeen.

1905 active role in "June days" anti-Czarist uprising, flees to Warsaw.

returns to Russian Poland, takes part in underground revolutionary organization.

arrested by Czarist police, sentenced to 15 years hard labor. Organizes prisoners' rebellion in Łomża Prison, escapes, captured, moved to Orel Prison.

freed by Russian Revolution, returns to Poland.

elected to the Central Committee of Polish Socialist Party, later Vice-Chairman; President of Farm Workers Union and Polish Trade Union Congress.

1918-1939 Second Polish Republic

March 3-September 3 mayor of Łódź until invaded by Germany; September 1 German invasion of Poland; September 17 Soviet invasion, deported to Siberia; September 27 fall of Warsaw.

April through November Soviet Katyń massacre of Polish citizens; July through November Polish airmen defend UK in Battle of Britain.

July freed (in advance of Aug. 17?), appointed in London to Polish Cabinet, chair of the Committee of the Polish Socialist Party; July 30 Polish-Soviet pact; August 17 signing of Sikorski-Mayski Agreement, freeing many Poles; December 4 Stalin-Sikorski agreement.

"Introduction" (12 pp.). Kwapiński, Jan and A. Greenwood. Towards a New Poland: A Programme of the Polish Underground Movement. London: Liberty Publications, 1942. Transl. of Program Polski Ludowej (Towards a New Poland) 1941 samidzat.

April 13 German announcement of Katyn massacre; April 25 Stalin suspends relations between USSR and Poland; July 4 General Sikorski killed; July 14 Vice-Premier in new Polish Mikolajczyk government-in-exile; November 9 signs UNRRA document for Poland, in Washington.

January, with Mikolajczyk and Anthony Eden, seeks to resolve crisis with Soviets; May Polish units distinguished in capture of Monte Cassino, breaking of Hitler Line, opening way to Rome; June Government-in-exile issues Monte Cassino Commemorative Cross; July 21 "Lublin" Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) formed by Soviets; Government-in-exile, together with UK and USA protest; November 23 resigns his posts in Government-in-exile; November 26 Mikolajczyk resigns as Prime Minister; November 29 appointed Treasury Minister in Arciszewski government.

January 1 Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland replaces PKWN, Mikolajczyk accepts Deputy Premiership; February 4-11 Yalta Conference, Poland not invited; June 28 resigns post of Treasury Minister; July 6 UK and USA withdraw recognition of Polish Government-in-exile, loss of embassy in London; July 17-August 7 at Potsdam Conference Provisional Government accepted as official Polish government by Big Three, Polish borders redrawn.

June 8 Poland excluded from London Victory Parade.

Publication: Kwapiński, Jan - 1939-1945. Kartki z pamietnika (Swiatowy Zwiazek Polakow z Zagranicy, London 1947)

Copy of NYC landing paper for Kwapiński

June Poznań protests; October 19 Władysław Gomułka installed as First Secretary, Soviets later comply.


a ^  Poland, which never surrendered, was the first invaded nation to form a recognized exiled government with full cabinet. Its legitimacy had been arranged through Article 24 of the Polish Constitution, which empowered the President to appoint a successor without approval of the Sejm. Thus, on September 30, 1939, President Ignacy Mościcki, interned in Romania as a refugee, had appointed by letter Władysław Raczkiewicz (safe in Paris) as his successor. The new President had, in turn, appointed as Premier General Sikorski, then serving as commander-in-chief of the Polish army in France. Britain and France recognized the new government, extending it financial credit.[4] For details and context, see Wikipedia entry "Polish government-in-exile".

b ^  Particulars of the trip and of the diplomat's person may be seen in his New York landing paper, shown left. (November 9th is German Schicksalstag.) For graphic suggestion of Poland's benefit from UNRRA relief see [1]


  1. ^ (Polish) Jan Kwapiński 2003-04-29
  2. ^ "The Polish Government and the Polish Underground State" (March 10, 1944)
  3. ^ "Pretty Kettle" Time magazine report, 24 January 1944.
  4. ^ Daniel Bell and Leon Dennen, "The System of Governments in Exile", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 232, "A Challenge to Peacemakers" (March 1944): 134-147, p. 134.

See also



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