Sikorski, General Wladyslaw, 1881-1943

Sikorski was head of the Polish government-in-exile and Commander in Chief of Free Polish Forces from 1939 until his death in 1943. He was refused a command in the Polish Army when the Germans invaded because RYDZ- SMIGLY distrusted him. Sikorski was in Paris when Poland collapsed and became Premier of the provisional government and Commander of the Polish Armed Forces now in France, an Army which grew to a body of 100,000 by the spring of 1940. When France fell Sikorski went to England with his Army and government.

In England Sikorski opened negotiations with the Allies for recognition and aid for the underground movement. He also established close rapport with CHURCHILL which was to be of much use. In July 1941 when Russia was at its lowest point, following the opening of Barbarossa, Sikorski began negotiations which led to the Sikorski- MAISKY agreement. This was a joint Soviet-Polish declaration of alliance which included a recognition of Poland’s pre-1939 borders and a repudiation of the Soviet-German partition. It also provided an amnesty for Polish prisoners and deportees in Russia and permission for General ANDERS to form a Polish Army in the USSR from the Polish population in Russia. The central issue at this time and throughout the war was the fate of the 14,500 Poles who had been deported in 1939, 8000 of whom disappeared into Russian camps after April 1940. Anders was unable to trace the vast majority of these and tension between the Polish government-in-exile and Russia increased by the year. In 1943 Sikorski presented Churchill with evidence that the 3000 Polish officers buried at Katyn had been murdered by the Russians. CHURCHILL however wanted to keep his relations with STALIN smooth at all costs and therefore smothered the issue. Sikorski died in a plane crash at Gibraltar on 4 July 1943 and the Polish government in London became progressively impotent. Sikorski was the only Polish leader who had sufficient stature and skill to secure the confidence of his people and to achieve the close relations with both Churchill and Stalin, which were necessary to maintain a united and effective Polish government with substantial influence in Allied affairs.

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