Józef Piłsudski

In Brief: The former home of a defender of the Polish nation

Who’s that? Józef Piłsudski – he lived in the house at ul Topolowa 16, just behind the railway station, with his wife Maria, from 1906 to 1910.

Piłsudski… I’ve seen that name somewhere:  It’s hard to miss, in Kraków as in most other Polish cities. Here, you have probably climbed the Piłsudski Mound (Kopiec Piłsudskiego), crossed the Piłsudski Bridge (Most Piłsudskiego), walked along Piłsudski Street (Ulica Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego), and passed Czesław Dźwigaj’s monument to the Piłsudski’s fighting force the Polish Legions, which stands at the intersection of Wenecja, Garncarska and Piłsudskiego.

What, he owned the city? He pretty much owned the whole of Poland. Piłsudski was Chief of State from independence in 1918 to 1922, became President-Elect in 1926, was Prime Minister from 1926-1928 and for almost four months in 1930, and Minister for Military Affairs from 1926 until his death in 1935.

My CV isn’t nearly that impressive! Well, you probably didn’t raise an army (the aforementioned Polish Legions), annex Vilnius, stage a Coup d’etat, or lead a miracle that saved the nation.

You mean the Miracle on the Vistula? That’s the one – what Poles refer to as Cud nad Wisłą. It was during the Polish-Soviet war, from 1919-1921. The Battle of Warsaw was the turning point of the war, as Piłsudski’s army beat off the Soviet troops, against all odds, during a ferocious fortnight of fighting in August 1920. The following year, the Treaty of Riga brought the war to an end.

You keep mentioning this army… It’s very much a source of local pride in Kraków.  Way back in 1914, when Austria ruled this part of the world, Piłsudski raised the Polish legions right here in Małopolska. He didn’t even ask the Austrians for permission.

Bookend biography: Józef Klemens Piłsudski. Born December 5, 1867, Zułów (now Zalavas, in Lithuania). Died May 12, 1935, Warsaw.

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