Stefan Korboński
born 2 March, 1901 in Praszka
died 23 April 1989 in Washington

patriot, social activist, soldier and politician
of the Polish Underground State

Biography

 

1901–25

Stefan Korboński was born in Praszka, Wieluń County, on 2 March 1901. He was the second of five children of a court clerk, Stefan Korboński Senior, and his wife Władysława née von Körner. The Korboński family came from Kalisz Region. Their family estate was located in Koszuty Poduchowne.
After his father’s death in 1910 (Stefan Korboński Senior died after he had fallen into ice-cold water while hunting), his widowed mother moved with the children to Częstochowa where she began running a boarding house to support her family. Stefan started attending a Russian secondary school, where he remained until the outbreak of Great War. The next two years of his life he spent with his brother Stanisław at Koszuty Poduchowne, in their uncle Kazimierz’ estate. In 1917 he moved back to Częstochowa to continue his education, which had been disrupted by the war, but this time in a Polish secondary school named after Henryk Sienkiewicz. On the wall of the school there is now a plaque in memory of Korboński. The upbringing which he received in Częstochowa had a lasting effect on him: Stefan Korboński was a devout Christian believer until the end of his life. He held the Virgin Mary in great veneration, which manifested itself, among others ways, in his article about the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, published in “Catholic Digest” during his exile, or in the pilgrimage made with his wife to Częstochowa in September 1947 to thank God for sparing his life in 1943.

Powstańcy śląscy, stoją od lewej: Stefan Korboński, Kazimierz Galiński, Jan Wajzner, klęczy J. Chmielewski, 1921 r.

In 1917, as a Boy Scout, Korboński got involved in the Polish Military Organization (Polska Organizacja Wojskowa), underground movement. On 10 November 1918 he participated in the disarming of German soldiers from the Landsturm Bataillion (Mosbach Baon) stationed in Częstochowa. In that same year, at only 17 years of age, he took part in the defence of Lvov and volunteered for service in the 10th Infantry Regiment, fighting back Ukrainians at Gródek Jagielloński and Sambor.His desire to fight for independence was so great that in the years 1918–1921 he escaped from school three times to join the army. During the war with Bolsheviks of 1920, Korboński was declared unfit for frontline duty, so he volunteered for service as a Staff Sergeant in the 229th Reserve Infantry Regiment, formed in Kalisz and associated with the parent 29th Regiment of Kaniów Riflemen. At the beginning of May, 1921, he also fought in the Third Silesian Rising at Pawonkowo and Olesno. Released from active duty towards the end of May 1921, he came back to Częstochowa to take the examinations for his secondary school diploma. That very same year, he was accepted into the Faculty of Law and Economics of the then-newly founded University of Poznań. Being badly off, Stefan had to follow in his father’s footsteps and choose a course of study leading to a degree in law, despite his keen interest in primeval history and archaeology.He tried to look for ancient sites in the neighboring localities and research for documents in the local archives.

In order to pay the tuition fees, he gave private lessons and taught at a secondary school in Pyzdry like his elder brother Stanisław, and worked for the Poznań recruitment office for job seekers in France. Early in his academic career, Korboński showed great community spirit: Early in his academic career, Korboński showed great community spirit: he would set up discussion groups, as well as edit school and community bulletins. As a university student, he got involved in numerous academic initiatives and was elected to sit on the student government. He also participated in sports: he not only played football and set up football teams. Later on, he developed a keen interest in skiing, becoming a member of the Polish Skiing Association. His other passion was the mountains.
On one of his trips to Zakopane, he brought back a portrait painted by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, known as “Witkacy”. One year before earning a university diploma, Korboński started his three-year-long supervised legal training at a First Instance Court in Poznań. He then continued on to a Regional Court, a Public Prosecutor’s office, and a Court of Appeal. Then, already a judge, he returned to the First Instance Court. He specialized in German law.



{PODZIEL}

 

1925–39

Korboński graduated on 4 September 1925. Instead of training to become a barrister, in 1927 he decided on a two year supervised internship program at the Office of Attorney General (first in Poznań, and then in Warsaw) which exempted him from the obligation to take the bar examination. In that same year, in compliance with the regulation on higher officer ranks to war veterans issued by the minister of military affairs, he reported to the Cadet Officer School in Śrem. Upon the completion of a six week training course (in which he ranked eighth in his class), he was promoted to the rank of a Second Lieutenant, and assigned to the 57th Infantry Regiment (former 1st Regiment of Wielkopolska Riflemen) in Poznań. Later on, during the war, he was promoted to the rank of a Lieutenant (under Order No. 79 of the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Army [Armia Krajowa, AK], Brigadier General Stefan Rowecki, known by his pseudonym “Grot”, of the 20 April 1943), and then, after a year, to the rank of a Reserve Captain of the Polish Army (under Order No. 487, issued by the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Army, Division General Tadeusz Komorowski). Moreover, he held the rank of Major, awarded to him by Peasants’ Battalions (Bataliony Chłopskie, BCh). The death of his mother, who passed away on 25 September 1927, at the age of 49 as a result of an unsuccessful gall bladder operation, came as a shock to Korboński. His mother was buried in the family grave in Słupca. Her coffin was placed next to that with the mortal remains of her daughter Stefania, who died young at the age of 17. The other two sisters of Korboński, Jadwiga and Maria, died around the same time: the first in Radziejów Kujawski, Poland, in 1990 and the other one in California, a year later. As for his brother, he was killed by a V2 rocket in London during World War Two. Stefan Korboński financially supported his sister Jadwiga and kept in touch with his relatives until the end of his life. In 1929, Korboński refused a partnership offer by Jan and Stanisław Sławski, the owners of a renowned law office in Poznań. Acting on the advice of his cousin, Zygmunt Graliński, he moved to Warsaw. They founded a law partnership mutual in nature, with equal rights for both partners.

The underlying reason for such a decision was his interest in politics (Graliński was a Deputy acting on behalf of the Polish Pasant Party “Wyzwolenie” [Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe “Wyzwolenie”, PSL-Wyzwolenie]), which he showed as early as his school days. Korboński thought that it was the peasantry who were the social group with the biggest political potential, causing him to join PSL-Wyzwolenie upon graduation from university.
 In 1926, during the May Coup d’État, he supported Józef Piłsudski, just like the aforementioned Party. After moving to Warsaw, Korboński stayed at the Hotel Sejmowy on Wiejska St. There, in 1930, after being entered on the Warsaw list of attorneys at law, he opened (at that time informally) his law office, which was then moved to No. 23 building on Wilcza St. Soon Korboński was appointed to represent the Poznań Bar at the Supreme Court in Warsaw, which, undoubtedly, strengthened his position in the capital. At the beginning of the 1930s, the Graliński & Korboński Law Office, thanks to Szymon Landau, with whom both partners had been acquainted, was appointed to act as legal counsel to the Warsaw Regional Power Plant in Pruszków. Moreover, the firm was appointed to provide legal services to the Overseas Bank from London and to Prudential Insurance Company, a global insurance business affiliated with the bank, as well as to the Polish affiliate of the latter, the “Przezorność” Insurance Society. It was Stefan Korboński who made arrangements for the building contracts respecting the first “skyscraper” in Warsaw (currently: the Hotel Warszawa building) when the “Przezorność” Insurance Society embarked upon its investment project connected with the construction of its new headquarters in Napoleon Square.
In the period 1934–1939 the range of Graliński & Korboński Law Office customers expanded as other insurance companies (Poznańsko-Warszawskie Towarzystwo Ubezpieczeń and Vesta) joined in, followed by Wspólnota Interesów, a great mining and industrial business group from Upper Silesia andDąbrowa Coalfield, and its affiliated company Robur. The above businesses were managed by one of the wealthiest Polish industrialists, Alfred Falter, whom Korboński met after the end of World War Two in New York. It was Falter to whom the Graliński & Korboński Law Office was indebted to for the most important transaction they had ever handled: the sale of the Rybnik Coal Mining Company (Rybnickie Gwarectwo Węglowe) by Baroness Rothschild from Paris, at 10% of its value, to benefit the Polish Treasury. The execution of that transaction was prevented by the outbreak of World War Two. As a result the advance payment in the amount of 50,000 zlotys made by the Baroness in attorney’s fees was lost as well. Two years before the outbreak of the war Korboński was appointed legal advisor to Bank Handlowy. Its Supervisory Board was chaired by a former minister for foreign affairs of the Republic of Poland, August Zaleski (in the years 1947–1972 he was to become the President of the Republic of Poland in Exile). American Great War veteran and multimillionaire Charles MacDaniel, conducting, together with Prince Eustachy Sapieha, the logging operations in Różański Forest, empowered Korboński to act on his behalf within the scope of his business done in Poland.
The Graliński & Korboński Law Office became a popular meeting place at the turn of 1929 for the most outstanding representatives of the Warsaw Bar, including Leon Berenson, Eugeniusz Śmiarowski, Wacław Szumański.
Thanks to Graliński, Korboński met quite a number of renowned Polish politicians, including former Deputy Prime Minister Stanisław Thugutt and his son Mieczysław with whom he became friends and later on, during the war, closely cooperated. Henryk Kołodziejski, Stanisław Stempowski, Mieczysław Niedziałkowski, Norbert Barlicki, Stanisław Dubois, Stanisław Garlicki, Ludwik Cohn, Adam Obarski, Andrzej Czajkowski, Jan M. Borski, as well as Wincenty Witos, a three time Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, and Maciej Rataj, the Speaker of the Polish parliament at the time of the May Coup d’État, were also among Korboński’s friends. On 29 June1930, Korboński, acting in his capacity as assist
ant to Kazimierz Bagiński, took part in the congress of Centrolew (a coalition of several Polish leftist and centrally-oriented political parties) held in Cracow at which representatives of a number of Polish workers’ and peasants’ political formations opposing the government under Marshal Piłsudski met, including the Polish Socialist Party (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, PPS), the National Workers Party (Narodowa Partia Robotnicza), the Christian Democratic Movement (Chrześcijańska Demokracja), PSL-Wyzwolenie and PSL-Piast, and Peasants Party (Stronnictwo Chłopskie). Bagiński and Korboński called upon 2,000 peasants from Miechów area to participate in the meeting.
Since the congress resulted in the arrest of 19 opposition deputies on the night of 9 September 1930, the Graliński & Korboński Law Office made arrangements to represent them in court. Afew months later Korboński’s name appeared in newspapers for the first time. He had his letter protesting the removal of Kazimierz Bagiński’s name from the list of election candidates published in “Robotnik” on 7 November 1930. On 27 November 1930, after Bagiński’s release from prison (in Grójec, where he was finally sent from Brześć), the Graliński & Korboński Law Office started preparing to act before the court as the defence counsel of the accused in the Brześć Trials. At the turn of September 1933, Korboński accompanied Bagiński during his journey to Zakopane when the latter, in order to avoid the imprisonment to which he had been sentenced, voluntarily went into exile to Czechoslovakia. Beginning in March 1931, Bagiński persuaded Korboński to intensify his involvement in Peasant Party (Stronnictwo Ludowe, SL) activities, for example participating in folk celebrations in Biała Podlaska and Lublin. Maciej Rataj, the SL leader after the emigration of Witos and Bagiński, made him accept the responsibilities of the chairman of a local SL unit in Łomża in 1934.
Then, in the 1936 election to the governing bodies of SL on the level of a voivodeship (a province), Korboński was unanimously elected chairman of the Białystok Provincial unit of SL.
He was in office until the outbreak of World War Two. In the middle of September 1937, Stefan Korboński and Stanisław Dubois, together with Kazimierz Bagiński, then in exile, participated in the funeral ceremony of Tomasz Masaryk, the first President of Czechoslovakia. At a mass meeting during the folk celebrations held at a former Camaldolese monastery on Wigry Lake near Suwałki in 1937, Korboński proclaimed a farmer strike lasting from August 15 to 25, one of the many then sweeping the country. As a result of the strike wave, 42 members of the peasant movement lost their lives. They were posthumously honoured at the SL congress held in Cracow on 27–28 February 1938. In Warsaw on 10 July 1938, Korboński married Zofia Ristau, the daughter of a chemical engineer, Wacław Ristau.
The newly wedded couple went to Paris on their honeymoon, a mention of which was made in Wincenty Witos’ memoirs. Korboński met Witos in person at an SL meeting in Białystok after he returned from exile in Czechoslovakia in the middle of March 1939. The next opportunity for their meeting presented itself at the place of the Graliński family, soon before the outbreak of World War Two.

{PODZIEL}
 

 

1939–45

Despite his being a reserve officer, Korboński was not called up on 1 September 1939. He, with his partner and his wife (who then stayed with her grandmother Cecylia Hulewiczowa in Kovel), left Warsaw heading eastward, until he was taken prisoner with soldiers from a Polish detachment smashed by Soviets. He escaped with his wife and returned to Warsaw, to the former headquarters of his law office at 10, Aleja Róż, as their apartment on Aleja Przyjaciół had been destroyed. Soon after his return, Maciej Rataj got Stefan involved in the activities of the Service for Poland’s Victory (Służba Zwycięstwu Polski, SZP), an underground movement started on 27 September 1939. Rataj got Korboński in contact with its activists: Mieczysław Niedziałkowski from PPS, an editor, Leon Nowodworski from the National Party (Stronnictwo Narodowe, SN), and Brigadier General Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski.

General Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski, at Rataj’s request, personally met Korboński at his own place on Fałat St. and acquainted him with the resistance principles. It was from that very group that the main structure of the Polish underground movement was formed later on: the Main Political Council (Rada Główna Polityczna, RGP) active at the SZP, transformed into the Political Consultative Committee (Polityczny Komitet Porozumiewawczy, PKP) being a political arm of the Union for Armed Struggle (Związek Walki Zbrojnej, ZWZ), recognized by Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski in March 1940 to be the country’s political representation, operating until the middle of 1941. Early in October 1939, Rataj appointed Korboński to serve on RGP as his substitute, thus formally recognizing him to be one of the several founders of the Polish UndergroundState.
As Rataj’s representative, Korboński took part in the meetings– convened regularly before Gen. Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski left for Lvov – with the SZP Chief of Staff,
Colonel Stefan Rowecki (Korboński soon became one of Colonel Rowecki’s advisers and he remained in that capacity until the detention of “Grot” on 30 June 1943), the Head of the Department of Political Propaganda, Major Tadeusz Kruk-Strzelecki, and politicians: Kazimierz Pużak from PPS and Aleksander Dębski from SN. The first meeting of representatives of three political parties: SL – “Trójkąt” (“Triangle”), PPS – “Koło” (“Circle”), and SN – “Kwadrat” (“Square”) with Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski and Rowecki was held on 7 February 1940. In March 1940, the Central Directorate of the Peasant Movement (Centralne Kierownictwo Ruchu Ludowego) was called into existence, which sanctioned the role of Korboński in the “Trójkąt”, thought not without certain reservations about his excessive uncontrollability and his susceptibility to ideological influences from PPS, and even from the Sanacja (“Sanation”) coalition whose presence in the ZWZ structures was strong.
On 9 November 1939, Korboński was detained by the Gestapo for the first time as part of their operation intended to ensure that the atmosphere in the capital city on Independence Day was peaceful. Together with the other detainees
from intellectual circles, he was kept hostage for two days in the Assembly Hall of the Warsaw University.
The next time that he was detained was around 20 February1940 in his own apartment at 10, Aleja Róż. Like several dozen other detainees from the neighboring streets, he was kept prisoner in the Pawiak prison for two weeks in connection with Governor Hans Frank’s arrival at Warsaw and his stay on Chopin St. at a former Czechoslovakian Legation building. A short note added to the minutes of the PKP meeting on 26 February 1940, said: “‘Nowak’s’ absence justified.” (“Nowak” was the then-pseudonym of Korboński, and the other ones used by him during the war included: “Zieliński”, “Bubnicki” and “Rózia”). On 4 March 1940, at the next meeting of PKP in a flat on Skorupka St., Korboński was given a special welcome as the first “Pawiak prisoner” in their group. Although the Korboński family returned to their apartment upon Frank’s departure, they made an instantaneous decision to move out. Several days later, without having their registered address details changed, they settled down in Kolonia Staszica. This, however, did not prevent Stefan Korboński from being detained again during a massive raid in Kolonia Staszica. Together with a thousand or so other people, he was kept in the former light cavalry barracks next to Łazienki Park for two days before he was finally released after his employers’ intervention. The others were transported to Auschwitz the following night.
When Maciej Rataj was first arrested by the Gestapo on 28 November 1939, Korboński replaced him at the meetings of the Political Consultative Committee on which he reported to the Speaker afterwards upon the latter’s release on 14 February 1940. Before the release, he accompanied Rataj’s daughter, Hanna Stankiewicz, to the Gestapo headquarters to request a permit to have a parcel of food passed along to the Speaker. In spite of the permit, a parcel was not allowed in Pawiak. After Rataj’s release from prison, Korboński made him take a short rest in Otwock, which was interrupted by the arrival of Władysław Kiernik from Cracow. On 30 March 1940 Rataj was arrested again. Korboński, who went again to Pawiak with his daughter as well as his son-in-law, was able to see the Speaker only from a distance, the last time before Rataj was murdered in Palmiry on 21 June 1940.
At the same time PKP, after numerous debates and consultations, nominated Korboński for the Government Delegate, with SN voting against. Unfortunately, Jan Karski (Kozielewski),
the emissary, who was to propose the candidature for approval to the Polish Government in Paris, fell into the hands of the Gestapo in Slovakia and failed to reach his destination. Cyryl Ratajski at last was chosen to be the first delegate. Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski appointed him in December. It was announced by the government’s temporary delegate, Colonel Jan Skorobohaty-Jakubowski (known by the pseudonym of “Vogel”). Korboński, who together with Pużak made efforts to have the Main Political Committee form a so-called Collective Body of Delegates, lodged a formal protest on behalf of SL and PPS at the PKP meeting on 22 December 1940, after his proposal was rejected by the government, protesting against having three Delegations called into being, and against Ratajski’s nomination. Despite that, it was he who duly swore the so-appointed Delegate in as it was his turn to chair the PKP debates within the rotational system adopted by the Committee.
Ratajski was in office until 5 August 1942, when he was recalled by Gen. Sikorski and replaced, on that same day, by Prof. Jan Piekałkiewicz from SL, known by his pseudonym “Wernic”. Stefan Korboński took part in PKP meetings for 15 consecutive months. He withdrew in April 1941, changing role  with his substitute, Józef Grudziński. Delegated by “Trójkąt” to the ZWZ Headquarters (Komendy Głównej ZWZ), he was appointed Representative of the ZWZ Headquarters for the Civilian Resistance, the organization for which he had been making arrangements from the beginning of the German invasion, but had not been formally sanctioned before. Korboński headed the Civilian Resistance Section, whose status was then raised to that a self-regulated Department for Civilian Resistance in the Bureau of Information and Propaganda in the ZWZ-AK Headquarters. Out of this, over time, a new structure was formed, known as the Directorate of Civilian Resistance (Kierownictwo Walki Cywilnej, KWC). Korboński was in charge of it from its beginning until the end, with Marian Gieysztor (pseudonym “Krajewski”), a professor of the University of Warsaw, as its deputy head.
When KWC got organizationally subordinated to the Government Delegation for Poland (Delegatura Rządu RP na Kraj) a year later, in April 1942, it was also Cyryl Ratajski who appointed Korboński his representative. The next Delegate of the Government, Prof. Jan Piekałkiewicz, confirmed those arrangements and had a proclamation published in the No. 47 issue of “Biuletyn Informacyjny” on 3 December 1942, saying: “I do appeal to all the Polish society for full subordination to the orders, declarations, and calls by KWC.” The commotion provoked by a message published in the “Biuletyn Informacyjny”, signed by the “Directorate of Clandestine Resistance” (Kierownictwo Walki Konspiracyjnej), easily mistaken for the Directorate of Civilian Resistance, resulted in the two above structures (the Directorate of Civilian Resistance, and the Directorate of Clandestine Resistance, being the military section of the organization) united under “Grot” to form the Directorate of Underground Resistance (Kierownictwo Walki Podziemnej). Korboński became Head of the Civilian Resistance – the only civilian within the organizational structure of the Directorate, staffed with top military men, each in the rank of a General or a Colonel. eginning with January 1941, endeavors were made to ensure a civilian wireless network connection with the Government in Exile in London modeled on that at the disposal of the military authorities. A civilian emissary, Franciszek Moskal (known by his pseudonym “Teodor Martyniuk”), arrived in Warsaw and passed the codes required for connection with the civilian authorities in London to Korboński. It enabled him to fix the date for making the first connection for 1 April 1941. The radio station was built for Korboński by an unusually talented short-wave radio enthusiast, sixteen-year-old Józef Stankiewicz (pseudonym “Ziutek”), and the organizational aspects of securing connection with London were covered by his wife Zofia, Celina Broniewska-Holm, Helena Guc and Aniela Jachnik. After the first attempts to make contact in April turned out to be a failure, Korboński turned to Major Konrad Bogacki (pseudonym “Zaremba”), who was responsible for military communication, for help.
Thanks to the arrival of a new government courier (Czesław Raczkiewicz, pseudonym “Włodek”) with codes on 9 June 1941, communication with the Government in London was established on 2 August 1941.
The successful radio operator was Jan Kępiński, known as “Janek”. From then on, KWC kept developing its radio network through which it got connected with the Government in London several times a day, transmitting and receiving hundreds of telegrams, using transmitters installed in the building at 46, Górnośląska St., and 10, Orla St. in Podkowa Leśna. Korboński’s self-reliance in carrying out radio transmissions (Ratajski authorized him, among others, to establish a direct radio connection with the government in emergency situations), even if given for security reasons, was received unfavorably by some other activists, including the Head of the Central Directorate of the Peasant Movement, Józef Niećko. In fact, Korboński, in terms of radio communication, substantially assisted not only the Directorate itself, but also the underground army.
On 10 January 1942, he was thanked by Deputy Prime Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk for “the first signal to reach England from Poland”, i.e. for the first message transmitted by radio to London in December 1941. In order to maintain the radio communication, Korboński and his wife would regularly travel to Podkowa Leśna, visiting Janusz and Halina Regulski in their palace at Zarybie. Some time later they settled down in the neighborhood of Podk
owa Leśna, changing their address for safety reasons. In 1942, KWC got an opportunity to have its material published in a supplement to “Biuletyn Informacyjny”:
“Z Frontu Walki Cywilnej”, a two-page publication at first. Over time, the supplement got enlarged, and as the first KWC periodical it was continuously published until the outbreak of the Warsaw Rising, thus coming out before the best known KWC periodical, “Kronika Walki Cywilnej”, which was first issued in June 1943. The supplement was edited by an editorial staff appointed by KWC who were independent from the “Biuletyn Informacyjny” board of editors. The texts were most often written by Stefan Korboński. In the issue No. 16 on 23 April 1942, a Call for Boycott was published, signed by KWC, calling citizens to boycott the Nazi-controlled newspapers on every Friday, and in the issue No. 18 on 7 May 1942, 10 przykazań walki cywilnej (Ten Commandments for Civilian Resistance) were published, ending with an appeal: “Poles! The degree to which we shall obey the above rules and orders shall be a true test of our civic virtues and ideals to the future generations.
Do keep it in mind that on the Independence Day we shall all have to account for today’s choices and deeds.” In the autumn of 1942 Korboński received a cable advising him of a clandestine radio station broadcasting on a 31-meter band at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. It was the “Świt” (“Dawn”) radio station in the vicinity of Bletchley, a town in Great Britain, broadcasting from 10 September 1942, which was to pass for a Polish radio station.
As Korboński himself had been considering a similar solution, he estimated its functionality at its proper value, and, in accordance with wishes of the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces, was ready to provide information on a daily basis, which made it possible for “Świt” to simulate broadcasting from Poland.
KWC had a number of radio stations destined for the purposes of communication with “Świt” and with the civilian authorities in London, which enabled continuity of transmission.
The truth behind “Świt”, which was codenamed “Anusia” in Poland, was first known only to the Korbońskis and their radio operators. The radio station, which was also used by the new Commander- in-Chief of the Home Army, Brigadier General Leopold Okulicki (known by his pseudonym as “Niedźwiadek”), was active throughout the Warsaw Rising and was the only one to make a radio contact with London after its fall. It was possible only on 15 October 1944, after a radio antenna hidden under the debris in the destroyed Warsaw was brought to Podkowa Leśna by a special envoy.
A response to the transmission was: “You are the only Warsaw station saved from destruction!!!” The operation of “Świt” was appreciated in Great Britain and in the USA as well. Korboński and his wife were highly respected in both the countries for it.
The information radioed to the West included that transmitted on 17 May 1942, about the celebrations of the anniversary of the Polish Constitution of May 3rd in Warsaw, and the telegram transmitted to Deputy Prime Minister Mikołajczyk in the autumn of 1942, respecting the massive displacement of civilians from the rural areas of Zamojszczyzna. In his telegram on 23 December 1942, when the situation turned dramatic, Korboński appealed: “Over the nearest days and nights the soil may redden with blood, and the sky may glow red from fires. Ring the alarm bells, threaten them with bombing unprotected German towns! We are short of weapons and ammunition” (signed by KWC). On 15 January 1943, London was informed about intensified street raids in Warsaw. That was when Germans encircled all the districts and began arresting people both in the street and in their houses.
The alarming tidings from the country, mainly from “Świt” and KWC, contributed to the decision made by the President of the Republic of Poland, Władysław Raczkiewicz, to address Pope Pius XI by a letter sent on 2 January 1943 with a request to condemn the extermination of Jewish and Polish people.
Korboński was also the first to report to the Polish Government in London on the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. That information was at first met with disbelief which changed only after it was confirmed by independent English sources. The first telegram message said: “As we have been notified by our Polish sources, Germans have started mass killings in the Warsaw Ghetto.
They have issued an order on forced displacement of 6,000 people eastward. Luggage up to 15 kilos per person and valuables is allowed. Two trains have been dispatched so far; of course, they were death trains. Despair, suicide cases. The Polish police forces have been replaced by Latvian and Ukrainian formations, and by members of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union. There is a lot of shooting in the streets and within the buildings.
A Professor of the University of Poznań, [Franciszek] Raszeja, was killed during a medical consultation, together with another doctor and with his Jewish patient.” The next telegram said: “As we have been notified by our Polish sources, death transports from the Warsaw Ghetto are dispatched every day 7,000 [persons] daily. The Head of the Jewish Community, [Adam] Czerniaków, has committed suicide.”
After a German radio broadcast on 13 April 1943, about the mass graves of Polish officers discovered at Katyń, Korboński met with Kazimierz Skarżyński, the Secretary General of the Polish Red Cross, and had numerous telegrams transmitted to London, recapitulating all the content broadcast by Germans.
The Katyń massacre was what Korboński had on his mind for a number of years to come, when already in exile. On 18 September 1951, a group of American Congressmen, including an influential journalist Julius Epstein, inspired the American Congress with an idea to have a Special Committee set up for investigation into the Katyń massacre. The Committee published seven volumes containing the evidence given by witnesses of the crime in 1952. In order to manifest his gratitude for having the Katyń massacre issue brought to light, Korboński initiated a banquet given in the Waldorff Astoria Hotel in New York (the same in which US Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane announced the setting up of the American Congress Committee) on 28 March 1955, for about one thousand representatives of Polish communities from all over America.
In a similar way Korboński kept London updated on the situation in the Warsaw Ghetto, which itself was able to receive some of the broadcast news. On 23 April Mordechaj Anielewicz wrote to his Second- in-Command on the so-called “Aryan” side, Icchak Cukierman: “It gave us a lot of satisfaction to hear that […] the ‘Świt’ Radio Station had transmitted a beautiful radio broadcast about our struggle, which we were able to pick up using our receiver. It infused us with courage to hear that they remembered about us on the other side of the Wall.” Undoubtedly one of many Korboński’s successes was getting connected to the system of outdoor megaphones to have patriotic content and the national anthem broadcast. A similar operation took place next to Nowy Świat St. in Warsaw on 31 July during a meeting of KWC Regional Directors.
Another great achievement of Korboński was working out the German system of detecting radio transmitters. It also deserves a mention that, after the Soviet army crossed the eastern
border of the pre-war Republic of Poland, on 8 January 1944, Korboński had a special appeal to the nations of the world broadcast and a week later a declaration O co walczy naród polski (What is the Polish nation’s struggle about?) was aired, with a vision of the future from of the government of Poland presented – which was technically possible due to the equipment supplied by Allied airdrops.
On 10 May 1943 Korboński and his wife suffered a great loss: Józef Stankiewicz (“Ziutek”), the self-educated child prodigy, constructor of radio apparatuses and main author of KWC radio communication successes, was killed. The Gestapo took over all equipment found in “Ziutek’s” workshop on Marszałkowska St. That was not the only heavy blow, however: on 10 November 1943, the KWC radio station operated by “Władek” from Okopowa St. fell into German hands as well, and a day later still another radio operator, “Mirek”, was killed when the radio station at 13 Dolna St. was confiscated. On this occasion, the Korbońskis themselves had a narrow escape. Stefan Korboński was also shocked by and grieved over the arresting of General “Grot” (30 June 1943) and the death of General Sikorski (4 July 1943). KWC was strict about observing a day of national mourning, it organized the display of obituary notices, and made arrangements for renaming Aleje Jerozolimskie in Warsaw to General Sikorski Avenue. Similar operations were carried out in Cracow and Lublin. On 26 October 1943 a Social Anti-Communist Committee “Antyk” was established, with Franciszek Białas from PPS-WRN (Polish Socialist Party – Freedom, Equality, Independence) as its chairman, and with Stefan Korboński as its deputy chairman and KWC representative.
On 4 April 1944 Korboński met with a London collaborator of “Świt” and civilian emissary, Tadeusz Chciuk (known by his pseudonym “Marek Celt”), who was airdropped into Poland four days before, together with Dr. Józef Retinger (pseudonym “Salamandra”), a special envoy of Prime Minister Mikołajczyk. This is how “Celt” remembered that meeting: “… so I could tell the most important ‘provider’ of news from Poland what it is like when it starts ‘dawning’ in England and how much we appreciate the operation of the underground component of our radio station*.” According to the entries made in “Celt’s” diary, he met Korboński several times a week, sometimes daily.
As early as his first meeting with “Celt”, Korboński asked to be in contact with Retinger who, as a result of their frequent contacts throughout the period from April to July, confided in Korboński so much that he entrusted to him an envelope with his report for the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland for safe-keeping in the event of his death. Korboński never opened that envelope.
Although Korboński participated in the meeting of the Central Committee of the Council of National Unity (Rada Jedności Narodowej, RJN) in Łowicka St. on 31 July 1944, at which the status of readiness for the rising in Warsaw was discussed, he was not notified of the exact time and date of its outbreak. All that he knew was that the time was near. He continued transmitting his radio telegrams to London as late as 30–31 July 1944, saying that the German civilian authorities had left Warsaw and that the Soviet cannonade could be heard, although the suburbs of Warsaw had not been bombed by then. On 1 August, when, in the KWC headquarters, Prof. Marian Gieysztor advised Korboński that the Rising was to start at 5 p.m. on that day, the Korboń ski couple gave the relevant orders to all the radio units and went to 56 Marszałkowska St. where there was a flat in the attic deemed to be perfectly safe. During the Rising, Korboński and his wife operated mostly within the block surrounded by the streets: Marszałkowska, Mokotowska, Koszykowa and Aleje Jerozolimskie, and sometimes they got through to southern parts of Śródmieście, in the vicinity of the main headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, Colonel Antoni Chruściel (pseudonym “Monter”). Throughout the Rising the “Świt” and KWC radio stations kept updating London on the events in Warsaw, even after the restrictions and the censorship imposed by the British, much to the disgust of Korboński, in consideration of their Soviet ally. Stefan wrote on 23 August: “We are surprised by and disgusted with ‘Anusia’s’ doing only occasional odd jobs now that her work during the Rising should be her crowning achievement.” The first radio telegram advising London of the outbreak and of the progress of the Warsaw Rising was transmitted on 2 August 1944. Its receipt was confirmed by London.
The KWC radio stations working under Korboński took over the responsibilities of the Government Delegate’s radio station as well when that latter went wrong (as early as the first days of the Rising). Adam Bień, who substituted for the Delegate of the Government staying in Starówka (the Old Town), remembered that it was Korboński to whom they had been indebted for the communication with London and that the system was viable throughout the whole Rising. Similar support was given to the Trójkąt” radio stations. When the power plant in Warsaw stopped working, Korboński built an electric generator all by himself, which enabled him to maintain communication. In the period from 5 to 7 August 1944 Korboński had an English pilot, John Ward, involved in the work of the “Świt” radio station, and he entrusted the pilot with the task of reporting to London on the fighting in Warsaw. He wanted to avoid the repetition effect, with regards to his reports on the liquidation of the ghetto being met with disbelief. On 7 August 1944, Ward transmitted his first telegram to London, telling about Polish women used by Germans as live targets for the tanks advancing along Pius XI St. (currently: Piękna St.). By the end of the Rising, “Świt” had transmitted over 70 radio telegrams to London, out of which nine were publis hed by “The Times”, which appointed the pilot its war correspondent. During the Rising, Korboński was appointed (the appointment date is unknown, but it might have been 16 August 1944) Head of the Internal Affairs Department, which was de facto appointment to the office of a minister of internal affairs.
By taking this office, he replaced Kazimierz Bagiński. His department was responsible for all the administrative affairs of the Underground and, in wartime conditions, had to cooperate with the Commander-in-Chief of the Rising and with the Capital City Delegation headed by President Marceli Porowski (pseudonym “Sowa”).
Every three to four days all the parties held a council, and it was Korboński’s duty to keep Delegate of the Government Jan Stanisław Jankowski (pseudonym “Soból”) and Chairman of the Council of National Unity Kazimierz Pużak updated on all the issues. In his three consecutive radio telegrams on 22, 23, and 26 September he also reported to the Government in London on the situation in Warsaw, which were his final reports. Korboński was also the author of important executive orders concerning the functioning of the insurgent network, which regulated issues such as the establishment of an effective system of communication covering all the important leaders of the Polish Underground in view of possible confusion and segmentation in the underground structures.
Later on, Jankowski entrusted Korboński with the task to notify the inhabitants of Warsaw of their surrender and of the order to abandon the city. Under Art. 9 of the Capitulation of 2 October 1944, the top civilian and local authorities of the Polish Underground State did not have to come forward. The new Commander-in-Chief of the Home Army got through to Częstochowa, and the civilian authorities were deployed along the railway line Warsaw–Koluszki–Cracow–Częstochowa, only to later focus within a small area along the EKD (Electric Access Railroad) railway track, inside the triangle formed by the towns of Pruszków, Grodzisk Mazowiecki and Milanówek, the reason that area came to be called “Little London”. On 5 October 1944 Korboński bade farewell, on Śniadeccy St. to the Home Army detachments going to German prison camps, headed by General “Bór” and by Brigadier General Tadeusz Pełczyński (pseudonym “Grzegorz”), the Chief of Staff of the Main Headquarters of the Home Army. He, as it had been ag reed with “Soból”, did not come forward to continue struggle. As the Head of KWC and of the Internal Affairs Department, he had to leave Warsaw and meet the challenge of re-establishing the structures and the governing bodies of the Polish Underground State, as well as the wireless connection with the Government in Exile which was interrupted for a short time because of the capitulation. He notified London of his decisions: “We shall try to slip away from Warsaw and go on with our work. Listen to us in five days, every day at eleven o’clock, under the existing terms and conditions. Take care!” Korboński’s group, helped by the Central Welfare Council (Rada Główna Opiekuńcza), escaped from Warsaw without any serious problems and managed to reach Podkowa Leśna after 10 October 1944.
Korboński went on ensuring communication among the dispersed underground structures and among the representatives of the governing bodies until December 1944. As early as 18 October Delegate of Government Jankowski, whom Korboński went to see by train from Skierniewice to Cracow, issued with his help a manifesto in which he informed Polish citizens that the Council of Ministers at Home (Krajowa Rada Ministrów, KRM) and the Council of National Unity had left Warsaw. At the same time, he ensured that both the bodies went on performing all their duties on a continuous basis.
On that very day the civilian authorities appealed for help for Warsaw inhabitants. On 6 November 1944 Korboński, under an emergency procedure, appealed to the Government in London: “Have the BBC broadcast for a number of days that, as of the end of October 1944, the government structures of the Underground Polish State prohibit participation in the Polish national committees set up by Germans.
Warn Poles against voluntary conscription into armed groups of the German auxiliary services, intended by Germans.” After the November crisis in the Government in London, Korboński undermined the decisions reached by the all-Poland council of SL “Roch” activists who were inclined, by inspiration of Józef Niećko, to recognize the Polish Committee of National Liberation (Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, PKWN).
The main divisions of the Internal Affairs Department were located in Milanówek, where Korboński would ride by bike along the EKD railway track. There, in the house on Grudowska St., above the cafeteria “U Aktorek”, the meetings of the Central Committee of the Council of National Unity were held (of which we know only a few dates: 7 November, 4, 15 and 16 December 1944). On 8 December, at a meeting of the Polish Underground State authorities held in the monastery in Piotrków Trybunalski, with the participation of the Delegate of the Government, Jankowski, and General Okulicki, Korboński reported
on the overall activity of the Internal Affairs Department.

 


* Translator’s comment: this is a play on words; the radio station codename “Świt”
means “Dawn” in English. Thus, “…jak się w Anglii ‘świta’…” may be freely translated
as “…what it is like when it starts ‘dawning’ in England…” by which a double
effect is achieved: a reference is made to the codename of the radio station, and
hope is expressed about brighter days dawning in England.

{PODZIEL}

 

1945–47
 

On January 1945 Korboński, staying with his wife in the palace of the Regulski family at Zarybie, happened to have a close encounter with the general staff of a Soviet division which was then stationed in the palace for a short time, and watched the Soviet division’s radio station working.
London sent Korboński a message with the results of the Yalta Conference close to 10 February 1945. This was the core issue of two days’ debates of the RJN with the Delegate of the Government and with General Okulicki which were held in the house of Stefan Łokuciewski on Słowacki St. in Podkowa Leśna. Korboński also contributed to the final wording of the resolution adopted by RJN and pertaining to the “understanding and agreement with the representatives both in the country and abroad”, published in No. 1/154 issue of “Rzeczpospolita Polska” in March 1945.
The main body of the resolution was comprised of four concise sections; the first one said: “RJN wishes to express its conviction that the provisions of the Yalta Conference which were resolved upon with no participation in or agreement to on the part of the Polish State, impose on Poland, which was the first country in the world to launch armed resistance against the Nazi fascism – prior even to penalizing Germany – new heavy burdens and wrongful deprivations.”
On February and March 1945, the Soviet intelligence service made attempts to establish contact with the authorities of the Polish Underground State.
On 6 March the Delegate of the Government “Soból” received a letter from a Soviet Guard Colonel, Ruslan Pimenov, with a proposal to hold talks with a representative of the Commander-in-Chief of the First Belarusian Front, General Ivanov (in fact, General Ivanov was nonexistent, and it was an NKVD General Ivan Serov, who was behind that fictitious name). Being advised of it, Korboński, like “Soból” and “Niedźwiadek”, suspected a calculated ruse, and notified London of it. He also explicitly stated that neither of the two should agree to that meeting. “Soból” ordered Korboński to sever, until revocation, any further contacts with him in order not to expose the radio communication system.
On 27 March General Okulicki failed to come to the agreed meeting with Korboński, and a day later no one of the group of 16 delegates returned from the NKVD office in Pruszków. Korboński received a secret message about cars leaving the NKVD building in an unknown direction. Korboński notified London of it on Easter Sunday. He wrote at the end of his radio telegram: “What we presume is that the talks may still be on, or that they might have left for Moscow, or that they may be on their way to your place, or that they might have been arrested. Use your own judgment!”.
At the beginning of April, a message came from circles close to PKWN, confirming detention of the 16 leaders of the Polish Underground State. That was tantamount to having the top level structures of the Polish Underground State: its Council of Ministers at Home, its RJN Presidium, as well as the top authorities of the main political parties smashed. Moreover, the AK lost its Commander-in-Chief. The future of the Polish Underground State was the main topic of discussion at a meeting of authorized representatives of political parties, called by Korboński in Warsaw on 7 April 1945. Their next meetings, held on 16 and 24 April, resulted in reaching a unanimous decision to re-establish the RJN Central Committee and RJN itself, although comprised of fewer members and vested with powers to substitute for the arrested leaders. The idea to reestablish KRM was given up, however.
Authorized to substitute for Jankowski (authorization by telegram dated 10 April, 1945), Korboński happened to be the last one to fulfill the duties of the Government Delegate for Poland appointed by the Polish Government in Exile. At the end of April, while sorting the affairs of the civilian authorities in Podkowa Leśna, Korboński met for two days’ debates with General Okulicki’s successor, Colonel Jan Rzepecki, who formally acknowledged the control of the new substitute Delegate of the Government over himself and over the army.
The first formal act of the new underground authorities, i.e. of the Acting Delegate of the Government and of RJN, was their telegram of condolence addressed to the American nation upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Their next position paper respecting international affairs was the radio telegram of 24 April, addressed to the United Nations Conference in San Francisco. On 17 May they issued another proclamation stating the opinion shared by all the Polish Underground State authorities on the situation in the country and abroad. Referring to that proclamation, on 27 May Rzepecki and Korboński addressed partisan soldiers with a proclamation which “reminded them of the decree on the dissolution of the Home Army, and appealed to them for giving up armed struggle and coming out of the forest to work on rebuilding the country while taking all the precautions required not to run the risk of being betrayed and persecuted.” At a later date, between 18 and 21 June 1945, during the Moscow trial of the 16 Polish leaders, Korboński and RJN, again, issued an undated proclamation protesting against the lawlessness of the arrest and of the trial of the leaders of the Polish Underground State before a foreign court.
On 3 May 1945, at an RJN meeting, the Central Committee of RJN constituted itself. The meeting also approved the wording of the appeal to the United Nations condemning the arrest of the 16 leaders of the Polish Underground State perpetrated with malicious intent, as well as the repression by the Polish communist authorities against members of groups involved in the wartime struggle for the independence of Poland. Four days later Korboński advised RJN of his intention to reorganize the Delegation (which, after all, had already been planned by “Soból”). He said, that he was being entrusted with responsibility for keeping all the day-to-day affairs of the Polish Underground State running smoothly. It was at the same meeting that candidates for Korboński’s substitute were proposed: Franciszek
Białas from PPS and Józef Kwasiborski from the Labour Party (Stronnictwo Pracy, SP), and a motion was put forward for approval of Colonel Jan Rzepecki (pseudonym: “Ożóg”) as a successor to General Okulicki. For prestige reasons, Korboński also moved for having the new Commander-in-Chief promoted to the rank of a Brigadier General, but his proposition was not accepted.
The surrender of Germany did not stir any great emotions as it is evident from the radio telegram transmitted to the Government in Exile on 8 May 1945: “The end of the war has been met with indifference in Warsaw. This does not change anything for us.”
On 27 May, in connection with the decision to withdraw SL members from the Delegation, enforced upon the SL authorities by Niećko and Stanisław Wójcik, Korboński resigned his post, although he was to continue discharging his duties until the next meeting of RJN, scheduled for 27 June in Cracow. Despite the pressure from the governing bodies of his own party, Korboński was ready to devolve control of the Delegation agencies only to his successor appointed by the Government in Exile.
Several envoys of the Polish underground structures arrived at Korboński’s place in Podkowa Leśna in June, 1945, Ludwik Angerer (a courier sent by the Government diplomatic mission in Hungary) among them. For safety reasons, Angerer’s meeting with Korboński took place in Podkowa Leśna forest, in pouring rain. Their talks were about the need to transmit the message brought by the courier to London and about the issue of communication between the country and its diplomatic missions in Hungary and Romania.
At the RJN meeting in Cracow on 27 June 1945, following the sentence given in the Moscow trial of the 16 leaders of the Polish Underground State, and after the Provisional Government of National Unity (Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej, TRJN) was established in Moscow and arrived in Poland (which was on the same date!), Stefan Korboński resigned his office of the Acting Delegate of the Government and – as no successor to his office had been appointed by the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile – he ceded his functions to Jerzy Braun from SP, chairing the meeting.
On the night following 28 June Korboński and his wife, still in Cracow, were arrested by the NKVD. They were at first detained in the prison controlled by the local political police, and then (on 4 July) brought to the prison building in Warsaw, in the district of Praga, belonging to the Ministry of Public Security (Ministerstwo Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego). On 1 July after the detention of the Korbońskis, RJN issued its Odezwa do Narodu Polskiego i Narodów Zjednoczonych (Appeal to the Polish Nation and to the United Nations), with Testament Polski Podziemnej (The Testament of the Polish Underground State) enclosed to the Appeal. Korboński had been involved in the work on both the documents.
The first interrogation of the detainees was caried out while still in Cracow, on 2 and 3 July. Interrogations were carried out in the presence of an NKVD Colonel and the Captain of UB (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa [Security Office]) who arrested them. Korboński, considering it the right way to act, revealed his real name during the interrogation. His Warsaw interrogators included the minister of public security, Stanisław Radkiewicz and his deputy minister, Colonel Roman Romkowski. One of the interrogation sessions was attended by NKVD General Ivan Serov (pseudonym “Malinov”) himself.
Around 20 July Korboński was taken out of the prison building for a short talk with Stanisław Mikołajczyk, the TRJN Deputy Prime Minister. Several days later, after Mikołajczyk’s intervention, Korboński was released from detention to join his wife, who was released a few days earlier.
Attempts were still made (however fruitless they may have been) on the part of Radkiewicz, assisted by Romkowski and Różański, even at the date of his release, to have Korboński issue a proclamation calling for giving up the armed struggle and setting about rebuilding the country.
Korboński met SL members on 27 July in a flat in Nowogrodzka St. and, on the following day, held a meeting with Colonel Jan Rzepecki. A month later, together with Franciszek Kamiński, the Commander-in-Chief of the Peasants’ Battalions, Kazimierz Banach and Józef Niećko, he paid a visit to General Marian Spychalski to discuss the issue of BCh soldiers coming forward (which finally took place during the Meeting of the Participants in the Armed Struggle against the German Invader (Zjazd Uczestników Walki Zbrojnej z Niemieckim Najeźdźcą), and the issue of having the detained BCh soldiers released from prison. On 23 September Korboński met Colonel Jan Mazurkiewicz (pseudonym“Radosław”), who had been released from prison and was serving on the Home Army Liquidation Committee (Komisji Likwidacyjnej AK).
In the period between August and December 1945, Korboński returned to active political life.
Moreover, he was entered onto the list of attorneys, and even appointed Member of the Disciplinary Court of the Warsaw District Chamber of Legal Advisers, although he did not practice as an attorney at law or derive any income from such activity. He acted in his capacity as a legal counsel to the Pruszków Power Plant. Additionally, he provided legal advice to Zygmunt Augustyński from the “Gazeta Ludowa” Board of Editors during the proceedings in a lawsuit brought by the daily against Roman Werfel, an ideologist of the Polish Workers’ Party (Polska Partia Robotnicza, PPR), for calling the daily “an alien (anti-Polish) agency”. From 3–6 November Korboński participated in the funeral ceremony of Wincenty Witos.
As a result of articles published in SL “Wola Ludu”, the daily behind the split in the SL, the fraction connected with Mikołajczyk returned to the name with historical connotations: the Polish Peasant Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe, PSL), which was made public in a special announcement. From 4–6 November 1945 Korboński was busy providing legal assistance to signatories of the declaration on having PSL associated with Bolesław Ścibiorek’s group. At a still earlier date, on 20 September, the Supreme Executive Committee of PSL (Naczelny Komitet Wykonawczy PSL, NKW PSL) formally authorized Korboński to organize a Warsaw branch of PSL (whose temporary authorities had had the status of a powiat [county] level structure by then), thus vesting him with controlling power over the branch. Korboński was formally elected President of the Executive Board of the Warsaw Regional Branch of PSL on 6 January 1946 (he had been acting in the capacity of its temporary president before). Due to his executive powers, he was also appointed member of the Congress Commission of the PSL Central Secretariat which had been entrusted with the task to make arrangements for the PSL Congress scheduled for 19–21 January 1946.
The job was mostly about providing accommodation for 4,000 delegates to the Congress. Korboński succeeded thanks to a spontaneous response to his appeal by the citizens of Warsaw.
During the Congress, Korboński chaired the Statutory Commission, and was elected Member of the PSL Supreme Council. In the days following the closing of the Congress he drew up a draft electoral law, approved on 15 March 1946, with some amendments.
The Śródmieście unit of the Party soon numbered 4,000 members (it cannot be denied that there was a reason to call them“Peasants from Marszałkowska Street”
[“Chłopi z Marszałkowskiej”] which name was coined by PPR party members), and in the talks which Bolesław Bierut had held with Mikołajczyk, Korboński was mentioned as a candidate for a member of the State National Council (Krajowa Rada Narodowa, KRN) which was a Communist structure. In November 1945 his candidature for the office of a deputy minister in one of the ministries, either public security, justice, or public administration, was discussed by NKW PSL, but, ultimately, he did not perform any of the above functions. Like Bagiński and Stanisław Mierzwa, he did not even serve as a member of the State National Council resulting from a decision made personally by Bierut. Instead, he was appointed member of a special Congress Commission set up in view of a planned congress of PSL, and chairman of the NKW PSL Legal Services Commission which function was entrusted to him between 4 and 6 October.
Acting in that capacity, he represented PSL in its external relations with various institutions and at various meetings, e.g. with the Public Committee for the Planned Development of Public Radio Services (Społeczny Komitet Radiofonizacji Kraju), or with the All-Poland League for Combating Racism (Ogólnopolska Liga do Walki z Rasizmem). As the head of the PSL Legal Services Commission, Korboński often intervened with the Ministry of Public Security defending the cause of PSL members detained by the political police. It was also he who drew up a draft statute of Chłopska Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza (Peasants’ Publishing Cooperative) which was PSL’s official publishing house.
On 2 February 1947 Korboński was appointed Secretary of its Executive Board.
After Józef Niećko, Czesław Wycech and Kazimierz Banach formed leftist and pro-communist PSL-Lewica (PSL Left), Korboński, together with several other representatives of NKW PSL, effected division of the property of the above said cooperative publishing house.
Apart from political activity, Korboński was also involved in journalism: his texts, focused on history or recollection in their nature, were mostly published in peasant periodicals including “Kalendarz Ludowca” and “Gazeta Ludowa”, which was a PSL daily and where his article written in memory of Rataj was published, as well as his other articles including that about the Polish Underground State, or about the assistance rendered by KWC to Polish Jews.
On 16 March 1946 “Gazeta Ludowa” (No. 75) reported that fragments of the evidence given by Korboński in the Ministry of Justice before prosecutors in the Nuremberg Trials, Jerzy Sawicki and Mieczysław Siewierski, had been published by the Moscow “Prawda” daily. They were mostly related to the Nazi atrocities in German-occupied Poland. In spite of the fact that Korboński’s evidence was recommended to the International Tribunal in Nuremberg by the Soviet prosecutor, the head of the Polish Delegation for Nuremberg, Lieutenant-Colonel Stefan Kurowski (formerly Warszawski), would not allow Korboński to leave for Nuremberg. A similar situation took place on 3 March 1947, when he was to be a witness in the Ludwig Fischer trial before a court in Warsaw, but, again, his evidence was denied.
Wishing to get some touring experience of the territory awarded to Poland as a result of the Potsdam Conference, Korboński and his wife went on a short vacation (from 23–27 April 1947) to Lower Silesia. In Jelenia Góra Korboński met his former subordinates from the conspiracy, at that time employed in the Ministry for the Recovered Territories (Ministerstwo Ziem Odzyskanych) (with Władysław Gomułka, then-First Secretary of PPR, in charge): Edward Quirini (pseudonym “Kulesza”), an attorney at law, and Władysław Czajkowski (pseudonym “Polański”), who were in charge of the New Territories Bureau during the war. After his return, on 10 May, Korboński held a clandestine meeting with Charles Mills Drury, a Canadian General, Head of the UNRRA Mission. On the following day he participated in the funeral of exhumed Mieczysław Niedziałkowski, a co-founder of the Polish Underground State, and Jan Pohowski, a former Deputy President of Warsaw. On 23 June he took part in a post-exhumation
funeral of Maciej Rataj.
From October to December 1946 Korboński was involved in the arrangements made by PSL for the parliamentary election. It was not a safe task: in the pre-election period the political police murdered about 120 PSL activists.
On 16 December 1946 the Main Electoral Commission approved the Electoral List including “No. 1 List – Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe.”In No. 1 Constituency of Warszawa-Miasto, Korboński was number two on the list, second only to Stanisław Mikołajczyk. Besides that, his name was on two other lists: the public one, and the Białystok one. It was Jakub Berman who decided in his favor when Gomułka requested that Korboński’s name should be removed from the electoral list, saying that “he was the only one to try and save Jews in that reactionary underground pack of theirs.”
On 19 January 1947 Korboński, as one of 28 representatives of PSL, was elected deputy to the Polish parliament (Sejm Ustawodawczy RP). He was elected by the Warsaw constituency which was to be represented in the parliament by still another deputy, Wincenty Bryja.
At a meeting of 81 members of the Supreme Council of PSL on2 February 1947, Korboński was appointed to the Supreme Executive Committee of PSL for still another term of office.
He also authored the post-election protest pertaining to the election results forged in 52 constituencies. He gained knowledge of such irregularities while performing as an informal election commissioner. In the aftermath of the election he also wrote a paper Zagadnienia powyborcze in which he described the election proceedings, the PSL policy, and the situation within the party.
In the Sejm Korboński served, on behalf of PSL, as a member of three commissions: the Special Commission competent for reviewing the draft amnesty law, the Commission for Labor and Welfare, and the Propaganda Commission. On 21 February 1947 he made his first and last pronouncement at a plenary session of the Sejm, tabling minority motions respecting the ministerial draft of the amnesty law – calling for an amnesty for all members of the Polish underground structures. His speech stirred such emotions that the radio broadcast of the parliamentary debates was interrupted while he was speaking, and restarted only when Roman Zambrowski asked permission to speak. One third of Korboński’s pronouncement was crossed out of the shorthand notes.
On 30 April NKW PSL expelled from the party Józef Niećko and Czesław Wycech who had opted “to give up fighting PPR” (as early as 24 February their group started issuing “Chłopi i Państwo”, a weekly which in November 1947, after Mikołajczyk took flight abroad, became an official periodical of the so-called Reborn NKW PSL [Odrodzony NKW PSL]).
Korboński found out about the detention of Kazimierz Pużak on 8 June, and 10 days later about a decision to have him and his wife arrested. He was to have his immunity waived at a parliamentary session on 29 October. There were plans to sentence Korboński to death under the pretext that KWC had communists liquidated with the use of the shortened trial procedure. There was still another piece of information coming from the same source – General Ivan Serov was to bring from Moscow a detailed plan (including railway timetable data) of the detention and deportation of about 300 thousand people to the USSR in the event of a crisis leading to war. On 13 July 1947 Korboński was warned again of some new aggravating evidence respecting his wartime and post war activities. Two weeks later, on September 11, Stanisław Zarako-Zarakowski, a public prosecutor, vehemently attacked Korboński during a trial of members of the “Freedom and Independence” organization (Zrzeszenie “Wolność i Niezawisłość”).
On 15 July Korboński persuaded Mikołajczyk to call a clandestine meeting in his villa in the district of Mokotów at which he suggested, among other things, that the activity of the supreme bodies of the party should be moved abroad, and that the personal documentation on the party files should be destroyed (for fear of detentions). Mikołajczyk would not accept such solutions saying that he was against leaving the country.
After 1 August 1947 the Korboński couple, wishing to find out about a possibility to flee the country, left for Sopot. There Korboński made the notes which he used later on in his first book W imieniu Rzeczypospolitej (Fighting Warsaw).
Korboński advised Mikołajczyk of his decision to flee the country on 11 October, when he paid him a visit in his Mokotów villa. On 20 October, after the last meeting of NKW PSL chaired by Mikołajczyk and participated in by Korboński, the President of the PSL Supreme Executive Board told Korboński in private about his own intention to flee the country, asking him to leave two days after that. On the following day Korboński let Kazimierz Bagiński know about these plans, as they might have exposed him.



{PODZIEL}

 

1947–89

 After two weeks spent in a hiding place in Gdynia, on 5 November 1947, Korboński and his wife met Karl Nilsson,a Swede, who got them on board “The Drotting Victoria”.On the day following their boarding they arrived unhindered in Trelleborg, and a few days later in Stockholm, where they had still another dramatic experience when Polish political police officers under Major Stanisław Nadzin made an attempt to kidnap them from their hotel. Korboński was lucky enough to avoid being captured once again, in April 1953, when a close acquaintance of his (known by his pseudonym “Stawiński”), collaborating with the Polish political police, was – as part of an operation codenamed Apis” – to lure him into coming to Eastern Berlin where Korboński was to be captured by the Soviet counter-espionage service and brought back to Poland. Fortunately, Korboński did not decide to leave Western Berlin.

On 13 November 1947, Korboński and his wife reached London, but they soon left for the United States, and on 26 November they arrived at La Guardia Airport in New York. As they traveled on the same plane with Mikołajczyk, Bagiński and Paweł Zalewski,
they were met by a big group of friends and journalists. Among those greeting them at the airport there was also a former US ambassador in Poland, Arthur Bliss Lane, who had left the US diplomatic mission in Poland after he found it impossible to fulfill his duties there. Ambassador Lane offered Zofia Korbońska a job at Voice of America, a public radio station, when they were on their way from the airport to a hotel. Stefan Korboński also got numerous job offers right upon his arrival in the US, including those from his former employers, Prudential and Palmolive-Colgate, but he would not accept them, wishing to devote all his life and his work to the cause of Poland. At first the Korbońskis stayed at a hotel, with crowds of journalists everywhere, anxious to find out, in detail, about their flight from Poland. From the very beginning of his stay abroad Korboński actively shared in the life of Polish emigrants: he acted as the Chairman of the Polish Political Council Delegation, and of the Polish Council of National Unity, and participated in the activities of the Kościuszko Foundation, and of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America based in New York. In 1979 he was elected member of the Executive Board of the Polish Lawyers Association in the United States.
After the Radio Free Europe (RFE) station was made operational by the National Committee for a Free Europe founded in 1949 in New York, Korboński became its daily commentator. He delivered his first speech on emigration addressed to the Polish nation as part of the Radio’s inaugural broadcast in native tongues, targeted at the countries behind the “Iron Curtain” on 14 July 1950.
Korboński could be heard in the Polish segment of the RFE’s broadcast for quite a number of years. At the turn of 1971, his open letters protesting the plans to close RFE were published in a number of American and English newspapers (including “The New York Times” edition of 6 March, the London “Times” edition of 7 March,“The Washington Post” edition of 20 March, and “The Time”edition of 27 March), and on 3 May 1972, he congratulated the RFE Station on its twentieth anniversary in the name of the Assembly ofCaptive European Nations (ACEN), and on behalf of the Polish Councilof National Unity.
On 15 December 1947 Korboński, together with Mikołajczyk and Bagiński, met in Chicago with the President of the Polish American Congress (PAC), Karol Rozmarek, and with his co-workers, and they signed a two-year memorandum of understanding between PSL and the PAC. On the following day they published their official statement, as agreed bilaterally, comprised of ten paragraphs. This was not an easy thing to do, as Mikołajczyk’s activity met with several objections on the part of Rozmarek, known for being anti-communist. Korboński and Bagiński shared some of his objections (which, in particular, was related to the arrangements made by Mikołajczyk to flee the country), but they wanted to be loyal towards Mikołajczyk speaking to the Congressional authorities.
From the point of view of the peasant movement leaders, the memorandum of understanding with the PAC yielded significant political gains. It enabled them to publish their content in the Polish newspapers in the USA, and to use the existing structures of the Polish communities in America in their work done on behalf of Poland, which made it possible for Mikołajczyk, Korboński, and their party colleagues to make pronouncements and give public speeches on a frequent basis.
One month later, on 14 January 1948, Korboński and Bagiński participated in a banquet given for Polish communities in America by the Chamber of Industry in Buffalo, New York, where PAC was founded in May 1944. On 19 January they both took part in the Washington meeting of the International Peasant Union (mistermed by Korboński as “the Central Committee of the Union of Peasant Parties”), referred to as the “Green International”, which resulted in the Polish peasant activist’ joining that organization. On 25 January a group of PSL members went to Chicago again to meet the representatives of the Polish National Alliance (PNA), of the Polish Women’s Alliance of America, as well as journalists from “Dziennik Związkowy” (owned by the PNA) and from “Dziennik Chicagowski”.
Something that deserves mention in the context of the many meetings held by Korboński in those days is also his meeting with the new Polish military emigrants in the Polish National Home of New York on 27 January 1948, and the meeting in the “Sokół” Headquarters in Pittsburgh on 30 January 1948. There he met Colonel Teofil Starzyński, PhD., the President of that organization and main driving force behind the voluntary conscription into the so-called “Blue Army” in the days of Great War, a man highly respected in the United States.
On 11 April 1948 Korboński arrived in Toronto to an invitation from the Canadian Polish Congress (CPC), to participate in a meeting of several thousand Polish Canadians, attended by a guest of honor: George Drew, the Prime Minister of the Ontario Province. It afforded Korboński a possibility to visit numerous Polish communities living in the neighborhood of Toronto. What he himself considered to be the most interesting experience of that first stage of his life in America was his presence at the PAC Convention held in Philadelphia on 29–31 May 1948, with the participation of Tom Clark, acting in the capacity of President Truman’s deputy, who was responsible in Truman’s administration for the Department of Justice. That was when Korboński met Piotr Yolles, the Editor-in-Chief of “Nowy Świat”, the main Polish daily in New York, and President of the Syndicate of Polish Journalists and Publishers in the USA.
On 22 July 1948 Korboński received a letter from Jerzy Giedroyc with a proposal to have his wartime memoirs published. It was the first letter to arrive at 540 West 113 Street, his New York a
ddress, and the first out of ca. 500 letters exchanged by him with the Editor-in-Chief of “Kultura”. On 31 July Korboński accepted Giedroyc’ proposal, and by letter on 23 August he was informed that his article about the last months of the Polish Underground State Delegation would be published in the September edition of “Kultura”, around the middle of the month.
Ultimately, those plans were changed, as the memoirs had impressed Giedroyc so much that on 3 October he advised their author of his intention to have the full text published in the October edition. That publication was the beginning of Korboński’s 40 years as a journalist and writer. The next piece of Korboński’s writing was his first book, published in the middle of June 1954: W imieniu Rzeczypospolitej. The book was highly appreciated, it got about 150 reviews (one of them by Jan Lechoń, in enthusiastic terms), and was widely discussed in RFE and Voice of America radio broadcasts. W imieniu Rzeczypospolitej brought its author prestigious awards, including those from the Polish Combatants’ Association in America,the Home Army Veterans Clubs in America and in the Great Britain, as well as the Union of Polish Writers Abroad. As a result, Korboński became a member of the Union, and, later on, also of the PEN Club.
Twenty years after the publication of his book, on 1 February 1974, he received the annual prize awarded by the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation in New York for the translation of Polish works into English.
Apart from his voluminous correspondence with Giedroyc, Korboński would also exchange letters with Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, General Tadeusz Komorowski, General
Władysław Anders, General Tadeusz Pełczyński, Edward Raczyński, Jan Lechoń, Kazimierz Wierzyński, Józef Wittlin, Melchior Wańkowicz, Rafał Malczewski, Leopold Tyrmand, Witold Gombrowicz, Jerzy Kosiński, Tomasz Arciszewski, Adam Ciołkosz, Tadeusz Zawadzki-Żenczykowski, and Franciszek Wilk. Occasionally, he also corresponded with contemporary or former American Presidents: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Senior (the Vice President in the days of Ronald Reagan), and with high-ranking American politicians, congressmen and senators, including George Kennan and Zbigniew Brzeziński. Korboński accepted an invitation dated 29 November 1949, from Harold Macmillan of the European Movement (from which the Council of Europe and its Consultative Assembly in Strasburg stemmed) to contribute to the work of the Eastern European Section. He did so on June 27, 1950, together with another Polish politician, Ambassador Edward Raczyński. In the years to follow, Korboński was an active member of the Council of Europe and that was where in July 1951, he met Paul Henri Spaak, a many-time Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Belgium and, in the years 1957–1961, the Secretary General of the NATO, as well as General Colin Gubbins, the Head of the far-famed Special Operations Executive active during World War Two, known for the deep esteem in which he held the Polish resistance movement for the results of its clandestine operations. What was of special importance to Stefan, in particular, was his meeting with Dr. Retinger whom he first happened to meet during the wartime, the then-Secretary General of the Eastern and Central European Committee and one of the main architects of the Council of Europe.
Korboński, together with the Presidium of PSL in America,arrived in Europe for the first time since he left the old continent,with London and Paris as his destinations in August1948.
He undertook that journey because he considered unification of the democratic parties in exile, i.e. of PSL, PPS and SP,to be the most important thing to do. In the so-called Memorandum of Understanding between Democratic Parties dated 15 November 1948,the parties developed the guidelines for their operations in the form of a document comprised of 17 paragraphs. The collapse of that understanding and the coming into being of the Political Council – in London, on 20 December 1949 – was the reason why those ways followed by Korboński and Bagiński finally parted with those followed by Mikołajczyk.
The prior two hoped that Americans who would not have diplomatic relations with the Government in Exile might want to consider the Political Council to be their partner. The conflict with Mikołajczyk finally resulted in the removal of Korboński and Bagiński from the party on 2 January 1950. Supported by peasant movement activists from Polish communities in England and France, they set about As a result, PSL OJN joined the Provisional Council of National Unity (Tymczasow
a Rada Jedności Narodowej, TRJN). The exile peasant movement became united again as late as 1968, with a considerable contribution from Stefan Korboński.
Korboński was a member of the Provisional Council of National Unity in the USA from the very beginning of its operation. He was also a member of the RJN Presidium in the USA, and in the years 1971–1985 became its President. During the presidency of August Zaleski, Korboński was considered a strong candidate for the Prime Minister’s office in the Government in Exile.
Korboński was also active on the international level: it was on his initiative that the Conference of Central and Eastern European Countries was held at the Villard Hotel in Washington on 21 March 1951. Moreover, he was a considerable driving force behind the creation of the Assembly of Captive European Nations, which came into being on 20 September 1954. This organization consisted of nine Central and Eastern European countries enslaved by the Soviet Union: Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, with 21 groups represented (totaling over 100 activists) altogether. At the beginning the Assembly, organizationally modeled on the UN, had its headquarters at 57 West Street in New York, but then it moved to the Carnegie Endowment at the corner of 1st Avenue and 42nd Street, vis-a-vis the new UN edifice. The countries, so united, had their building decorated with national flags draped in mourning, and their sessions were held concurrently with the sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations. “The New York Herald
Tribune” called the ACEN a “Smart Little UN”.
The organization was co-funded by the National Committee for a Free Europe, which enabled its vigorous political activity, including numerous publicity operations and informative functions. It also covered the operational and maintenance costs of its New York headquarters and its auxiliary offices in Paris, London, and Bonn, as well as those of its numerous agencies all over the world. Korboński was the chairman of the Polish delegation to the ACEN from the very beginning, and in the years 1958–1959, 1966–1967 and 1971–1985, a total of 16 years altogether, he acted in his capacity as the Chairman of the ACEN General Committee. He resigned the office on 12 September 1985. The new Chairman of the Committee, László Varga, was Hungarian, and the Polish Delegation was headed by Zygmunt Gross, with Korboński performing as its Honorary Chairman.
It was, to a significant degree, due to his efforts that the organization avoided liquidation at the beginning of the 1970s, when the Cold War entered its new détente phase and the United States, acting in the name of savings and “sorting their federal budget” ordered the National Committee for a Free Europe in 1971 to stop all financial assistance to the ACEN beginning in January 1972. Thanks to Korboński’s efforts that assistance was secured until April 1972. Since then, all the funding has come from individual sponsors and from membership fees.
The activity pursued by the ACEN sometimes led to internal disputes. Such was the case in May 1963, at its Strasburg session, when Adam Ciołkosz and Korboński appealed to the Federal Republic of Germany to recognize the inviolability of the Oder–Neisse line, i.e. to repudiate the doctrine under which the borders of the Third Reich from before 1937 were still existent and legally enforceable. Moreover, they accused Bonn of tolerating anti-Polish revisionists, and criticized the idea to equip the Bundeswehr with nuclear weapons. They also vetoed the idea to hold one of the future sessions in Bonn. Their position was so strongly objected to by the Hungarian and the Romanian delegations that both Polish delegates left the assembly hall and did not take part in the rest of the proceedings.
Korboński’s role in the ACEN, as well as his other activities, did not escape the notice of the Communist authorities in Poland – surveillance began in 1945.
The political police, the UB, had a secret operation codenamed “Batory” launched against the former activists of the Mikołajczyk faction of PSL, Kazimierz Bagiński and Stefan Korboński and their wartime and post-war contacts. In May 1955 yet another secret operation was launched, this time against a spy ring, codenamed “Kanał” and focused on “PSL-incited spy ring activity” (“sprawa o zabarwieniu PSL-owskim – szpiegowskim”). By targeting Korboński, the UB hoped to find out about his contact network and about his own “involvement in espionage” while still in the country.
The operational plan provided for investigation aimed to find out about the persons involved in the operations of KWC and of Korboński; find out about the persons involved in the operations related to PSL activity within the territory of Poland; find out about the persons within the territory of Poland on friendly terms with Korboński, and about his relatives with whom he was in touch. The operation ended in 1970. The covert surveillance of the targeted group included having their correspondence censored and their phones tapped, as well as the recruitment of secret police agents. The next operation, launched in 1962 and codenamed “Kalif”, was focused on surveillance and on generating new information to be used as a trail of evidence. It targeted Korboński again. The plan was to use a secret police agent to infiltrate the environment of “the target” and find out about his political activity in exile. That operation got the ad acta status from the SB (the legal successor of the UB) in 1965. In May 1972 Korboński became blacklisted in the Polish People’s Republic, and it was as late as January 1980 before his name was removed from the black list.
Korboński and his wife moved to Washington in 1954, following the editorial board of Voice of America, where Zofia Korbońska was employed as a speaker, news reader, and translator of the content intended for radio broadcast and of the government comments about the US policies. She also had her own broadcasts: “Życie Warszawy pod komunizmem” (“Life in Warsaw under Communism”), „Klub myśli niezależnej – dyskusje młodzieżowe” (“Independent Thinkers Club – Teen Discussions”), “Traktorzystki i farmerki” (“Women Tractor Drivers and Farmers”), “Instytucje demokratyczne w Stanach Zjednoczonych” (“Democratic Institutions in the United States”). Her husband, having deliberately refused to accept American citizenship, had to rely on his wife in this respect, who enjoyed full rights of an American citizen. Korboński responded to occurrences both in Poland and in Eastern Europe in an explicit way. Near the end of June 1956, he backed the Poznań Protests. His organizations sent hundreds of telegrams and intervened dozens of times, requesting that the UN Security Council investigate the situation in Poland and that measures should be taken for which it had been provided in the United Nations Charter. Korboński himself had a letter published in the “Evening Star” on 19 July, in which he described the dramatic situation in Poznań and demanded that the Security Council respond to it. On 27 September 1956, when the first trials of the people involved in the Poznań Protests were initiated, the Polish Council of Unity and ACEN held a demonstration in support of the detained workers. Moreover, John Foster Dulles, the US Secretary of State, and Dwight Eisenhower, the US President, had been persuaded by them into making pronouncements in response.
Korboński’s involvement in supporting the cause of the “Polish October” and of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (nota bene suppressed by the same Soviet General, Ivan Serov, who was behind the detention of the 16 leaders of the Polish Underground State) was no weaker. Together with Prelate Béla Varga, a former Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament (after 1945) and member of the ACEN, Korboński exerted himself to secure any available form of support for Hungarians both in the country and in exile.
With Korboński in charge of its affairs, the ACEN issued two booklets: the first one about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (its presentation to Henry Cabot Lodge, the US Ambassador to the UN, provoked an angry response on the part of the Hungarian communist authorities), and the other about the violation of human rights in Eastern Europe (the response which the ACEN got after having it mailed to the widowed Eleanor Roosevelt was rather pessimistic).
On 31 October 1956, as the Head of the Polish Delegation to the ACEN, Korboński was received in Washington by US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Murphy and by future US Ambassador to Poland Jacob D. Beam. In the context of the efforts made by Korboński to defend the Polish cause, the resolution of the Council of National Unity in the United States, headed by Korboński, on the US assistance to Poland deserves mention. It was passed on 12–13 January 1957, and the related telegram was addressed to the US Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. A similar resolution was proposed by Korboński to the Polish American Congress at the meeting of its Executive Board in Washington at the beginning of February 1957, with a final suggestion that it would be advisable to reestablish cultural relations with Poland. On 24 March 1957 “The Washington Post” issued Korboński’s letter arguing against the opinion of the Economic Research Council of the US Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate, which was against financial assistance to Poland. On 21 January 1958 at the Sherman hotel in Chicago, at a convention of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Korboński opened an exhibition organized by the ACEN, related to the Katyń massacre, the 1956 Poznań Protests and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It was also he who personally showed then-US President, Harry Truman, around the exhibition.
The ACEN was not indifferent to the political repression against the Polish intellectuals who signed the “Letter of 34”. Invited by the US Department of State in 1964, the Polish delegation stipulated that the international community should deal with the issue without delay. Similarly, it requested that mass repression against the clergy and lay members of religious denominations in Poland should be dealt with on the UN level. During the anti-Semitic campaign in 1968, Korboński, at a meeting of the Jewish Labor Committee, stated that it was only the Communists who were to be blamed for it. He even sent an open letter to “The New York Times” in which he referred to those occurrences as an internal party struggle between Communist factions.
The functions performed by Korboński made him travel a lot: on 19 September 1956, together with two co-workers: Vilis Masens, a Latvian diplomat who was the head of their delegation, and Constantin Vişoianu, a former Romanian minister responsible for foreign affairs, he travelled on behalf of the ACEN to five South American nations. It was Korboński’s first political journey. As the head of another delegation, whose other members included József Kövágó, a Hungarian politician, and Masens, Korboński travelled around the world, especially the Far East and Australia, for business and leisure, at the turn of 1958.
That mission was about gaining support for the UN’s dissent against the Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe. On 30 January 1959 the delegation arrived in Tokyo (visiting Honolulu on the way on 27 January), where it was welcomed by Wakako Yokoo, an ex-student of Prof. Jerzy Lerski (a famous emissary known by his pseudonym “Jur” who happened to give lectures in the capital of Japan for a few years before that, and who himself met the delegation in Pakistan). During their 5-day stay in Tokyo, the ACEN delegates met representatives of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the Institute of Foreign Affairs, as well as Japanese journalists.
On 5 February 1959 the delegation reached Seoul, and its later destinations were: Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia (which afforded them a chance to meet with World War Two veterans who settled in great numbers in Australia after the war), Singapore, Indonesia, South Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. Korboński returned to Washington at the end of March 1959, and the reminiscences of his trip can be found in his book W imieniu Polski Walczącej.
Korboński arrived in Strasburg on 20 April 1959, to a session of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe devoted to the tenth anniversary of it’s founding. The session ended in a resolution passed on 23 April supporting all European countries in their aspirations of independence. Four days later, in a telegram sent to American Secretary of State Christian Herter, Korboński requested that that issue be discussed at the Geneva conference as well.
On 27 May 1959 Korboński took part in the funeral of former American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who died three days before.
Korboński, together with three other members of the ACEN Main Committee, were, on 17 July in Washington, handed President Eisenhower’s Proclamation in which the Captive Nations Week (17–23 July 1959) was first proclaimed. The Proclamation was delivered to the delegates by Douglas Villon – known for his Polish origin – substituting for the then-absent US Secretary of State.
The Captive Nations Week turned out to be a great success. Korboński was welcomed in New York by Francis Cardinal Spellman, who celebrated a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. On 20 July the nine national flags were raised at the ACEN headquarters.
Arrangements were also made to hold a meeting with the chairman of the trade unions united in the then-influential American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations, George Meany, who appealed to the American workers to support the people “behind the Iron Curtain”.
Korboński availed himself of the opportunity occasioned by the official visit of US Vice President Richard Nixon to Warsaw, scheduled for 2–5 August 1959, to advise presidential officials of the 15th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Rising, to which Nixon then referred in his welcome address at the airport. Korboński himself gave a Warsaw Rising anniversary-related speech aired by RFE on 2 August. Five years later, on 31 July 1964, acting in his capacity as the Chairman of the Committee for the 20th Anniversary of the Warsaw Rising (Komitet Obchodu Dwudziestolecia Powstania Warszawskiego), he arranged for a meeting in the White House with President Lyndon B. Johnson, who proclaimed 1 August 1964, the Warsaw Rising Day. In Washington he also received General Tadeusz Komorowski, a former Commander-in- Chief of the Home Army, who was visiting the biggest Polish communities abroad.
Acting in his capacity as the Chairman of the ACEN General Committee, Korboński participated in a session of the American Congress on 14 August 1959 by invitation of Harold D. Cooley, a congressman and chairman of the American delegation to the 48th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Warsaw. He gave a speech about the Warsaw Conference and handed over the related memorandum. The most important Polish problems – from the ACEN’s point of view – were also recapitulated in a nine paragraph document submitted to Pope Paul VI by the Korboński couple during the audience which they were granted in connection with their protest action defending the cause of the Church in Poland on 19 October 1963. The Pope assured them (in Polish!) of his pastoral care.
On 21 February 1966, under the American Congress program to commemorate the Millennium of Christianity in Poland,Congressman Henry Helstoski from New Jersey presented Stefan Korboński’s essay, Polish Millennium, to the House of Representatives of the US Congress. Korboński chaired the Committee for the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland (Komitet Millenijny Chrztu Polski) in Washington, and was a co-organizer of the Millennium Ball. The proceeds from that charity event were donated to support the Polish cause. The celebrations of the Millennium coincided with the World Meeting of Fighting Poland (Światowy Zjazd Polski Walczącej) scheduled for 19–21 May 1966.
Korboński was appointed a member of the Honorable Committee and Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs. The meeting was also attended by his wife Zofia, who was Deputy Chairman of the Washington Group.
Korboński and his wife participated in a great demonstration of Polish Americans in Doylestown (called American Częstochowa) on 16 October 1966, connected with the dedication of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa, founded by Michał Zembrzuski, a Pauline Father. The celebrations attracted over 100,000 pilgrims from the USA and Canada, among them President Lyndon B. Johnson. A visit to Polish communities in Montreal and to the Canadien Polish Congress in Toronto where Korboński traveled on 11 November 1962, acting in his capacity as the RJN President and Member of the ACEN General Committee, was an opportunity to meet Polish Canadians grouped around Home Army Veterans Clubs.
On 14 August 1970, acting as usual in a formal capacity, Korboński gave a speech on behalf of the ACEN and RJN at a convention of the Polish American Congress in Chicago, and, later on, he participated in a convention of the PAC, held in Detroit from 6–8 October 1972. His contribution to the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Warsaw Rising consisted of reading a topical paper at two universities in Ottawa by invitation of Carleton University and of the Adam Mickiewicz Foundation in Canada, scheduled for 17–18 October 1974. That event also occasioned two interviews for Canadian TV stations as well as a meeting with the authorities of the Canadian Polish Congress. The next time he visited Canada was on 13 April 1975, in connection with the 35th anniversary of the Katyń massacre, in order to participate, by invitation of the CPC in Toronto, in the unveiling of the Katyń Monument and in the great demonstration that followed it. In the period between 7–9 November 1975, he took part in the Convention of Poles Living in the Free World (Zjazd Polonii Wolnego Świata) in Washington.
Korboński met twice with Karol Wojtyła, the Head of the Polish Episcopate Delegation to the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia in August 1976, and on 24 September 1976 he participated in the yearly Convention of the Polish American Congress in Philadelphia. He also represented the ACEN and Polish Council of Unity at the conference „Polonia ‘78 – Polonia Jutra” („Polish Diaspora of 1978 – Polish Diaspora of Tomorrow”), held in Toronto from 25–28 May 1978. On 6 December 1978, as part of the program commemorating the 30th anniversary of adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Korboński was received by President Jimmy Carter. He was also one of the presidential guests at the gala party given for representatives of Polish-American communities to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Warsaw Rising on 3 August 1979. The next opportunity for Korboński and his wife to talk with the President was at the garden party given at the White House in honor of Pope John Paul II on October 6 of that same year.
A special mention should be reserved for Korboński’s journalistic output, for example his letter published in “The Chicago Tribune” on 11 January 1960, with respect to the deterioration of the Polish and American mutual relations, and his text published in the “Evening Star” on 10 October 1960, in response to the speech given by Gomułka at the UN session in New York. In November and December 1967 “AFL-CIO Union News” published a long article by Korboński: The Polish Panorama (Polska Panorama). In connection with the armed intervention of the Warsaw Pact in Czechoslovakia on 21 August 1968 Korboński submitted a relevant memorandum to the US Congress and to the Department of State, and had five letters published by various American periodicals, with the last one issued on 20 June 1973, during Brezhnev’s official visit in Washington. It was in the speech given at the Convention of the PAC held in Ohio on 27 September 1968, that Korboński referred to the “Prague Spring”. That was also an opportunity to mention the March 1968 student protests in Poland. In January 1971, in issue No. 1 of the AFL-CIO “Free Trade Union News”, Korboński’s article: The Polish December: Five Days that Have Shocked Poland (Polski Grudzień– pięć dni, które wstrząsnęły Polską) was published.
Between 10–14 May 1971 Korboński, with a group of his ACEN colleagues, participated in the debates of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, at which the 1970 Polish protests were discussed. On 3 June 1972 the Republican Party-owned “Human Events” published Korboński’s article: Jakie są prawdziwe cele Rosjan? (What Are the True Objectives of the Russians?), reprinted by “Orzeł Biały” (“White Eagle”) (a monthly) in October 1972. At the beginning of 1975 Korboński wrote a long, factual text Prawda o Enigmie (The Truth behind the Enigma), in which he pointed out at the achievements of the Polish cryptologists.
In connection with the disclosure in America of the aerial photographs showing gas chambers and crematoriums in Auschwitz- Birkenau, dating from 1944, Stefan Korboński explained in “Jewish Week – American Examiner” (on 18 March 1979) that he, as the Head of KWC and the last person to act as the Delegate of the Government in Exile, had transmitted radio telegrams to the western allies keeping them updated on the Holocaust and demanding that the railway lines and the surroundings of the concentration camp be bombed. He also argued (23 October 1977) with the letter written by Manuel Bekierman and published in “Jewish Week – American Examiner” on 4 September, in which the author accused Polish people and the Home Army of having their share in the Holocaust and in the Kielce pogrom. On 14 December 1979 he responded with a very sharp tone to that piece of the interview given to Dutch television: Televisie Radio Omroep Stichting in Hilversum by Menachem Begin, the Israeli Prime Minister, on 15 May 1979, and then reprinted in the September issue of “Kultura”, in which Poles were charged with collaborating with Germans and with indifference towards the Holocaust.
Copies of the long and factual letter sent by Korboński to the Dutch TV station in response (as one of many of his letters touching upon that issue) were received by: Pope John Paul II, Jan Cardinal Król from Philadelphia, Władysław Cardinal Rubin from Rome, Clement J. Zabłocki, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives of the US Congress, Zbigniew Brzeziński, a National Security Adviser to President Carter, Alojzy Mazewski, President of the Polish American Congress, and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Washington. As part of his struggle to maintain Poland’s good reputation, he protested against the use of the term “Polish gas chambers”(“Life”, 12 February 1965).
On 18 June 1977, in connection with the Belgrade Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Korboński had a long and factual article, Belgrade Conference: The Need to Support Soviet Block Dissidents, published in issue No. 25 of Vol. 37 of “Human Events”, dealing with human rights in Eastern Europe. In his letter published in issue No. 49 of “Human Events” on 6 December 1980 he argued against the statements made by Edmund Muskie, US Secretary of State, on the American assistance to Polish workers on strike. A few months after Ronald Reagan’s election to the office of the President of the United States (4 November 1980), in the March/April issue of “Wiadomości”, a 15-page-long text written by Korboński Od Cartera do Reagana, czyli zmiana lokatorów Białego Domu (From Carter to Reagan, i.e. Changing the White House Tenants) was published. It wasan analysis of Carter’s system of government, and reflections on theReagan Presidency which had just started. Korboński had expected Carter’s re-election and was cautious about his victorious opponent. However, after some time he changed his attitude, and the text referred above reflects his opinions after that change.
On March 1982 Korboński wrote 10 texts about the Polish Underground State, commissioned by the RFE, and had his article Podziemie wczoraj i dziś(The Underground Yesterday and Today) published in the April issue of “Kultura”. On 11 April 1983 “The Washington Post” published Korboński’s Powstanie żydowskie (The Jewish Rising) to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto struggle. Korboński had his letter Polska pomoc dla getta (Polish Assistance to the Jewish Ghetto) addressed to the editorial board of “Jewish Week” published on 13 May in the above-mentioned weekly. On 4 May 1985“Human Events” featured another article by Korboński: Wewnętrzna wojna trwa (The Civil War Is On), describing the situation in the Polish People’s Republic after the introduction of martial law.
Korboński sent to the Editor-in-Chief of “Tygodnik Powszechny”,Jerzy Turowicz, on 13 March 1987 a text in response to the article by Jan Błoński published on 11 January Biedni Polacy patrzą na getto (Poor Poles Are Watching the Ghetto), which had repercussions throughout the country. Korboński’s argument was never published, however. In January 1989, in issue No. 1 of Jesuit“Przegląd Powszechny”, an interview with Korboński (which happened to be the last press interview given by him) was published: Od czegoś trzeba by zacząć(The necessity of starting from scratch). Korboński gave the interview – aware of the preparations for the “Round Table Debates” – to Michał Jagiełło and Krystyna Stypułkowska-Smith near the end of 1988.
On 14 July 1979 Korboński was distinguished with a Medal for Valor, and on 30 April 30 1981 he was granted a diploma with the medal Righteous among the Nations awarded to him on 12 March 1981 by the Jewish Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem. This was for his outstanding contribution to saving Jewish lives during World War Two, and the award was presented to him by Ephraim Evron, the then-Ambassador of Israel in Washington.
Korboński’s other distinctions and awards include: the Order of the Virtuti Militari (V Class), the Golden Cross of Merit with Swords, the Cross on Silesian Ribbon of Valor and Merit (2nd Class) – introduced in 1921 for the Silesian insurgents, awarded to Korboński in 1933 in recognition of his struggle in the Third Silesian Rising; the Medal of Independence, the Commemorative Medal for War 1918–1921, the Ten Years of Independence Commemorative Medal.
On 29 November 1995 Korboński was posthumously awarded the Order of the White Eagle – in recognition of his great, historic contribution to the cause of the independence and grandeur of the Republic of Poland – in a decision issued by the President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Wałęsa.
Beginning in 1965, Stefan Korboński was a member of the Supreme Council of the Home Army Veterans Club. On 17 August 1984, acting in his capacity as the Chairman of the Home Army Cross Committee, he decorated US President Ronald Reagan with the Home Army Cross in a ceremony, which took place during a gala banquet held to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Rising. Reagan himself used that event as an opportunity to award posthumously American Legion of Merit Medals to the three successive
Commanders in Chief of the Home Army, generals Rowecki, Komorowski, and Okulicki. A few months before that, on 28 May, Korboński issued an official statement on behalf of the ACEN, appealing to Reagan to request during the summit meeting with the participation of the political leaders from Western European countries and from the Soviet Union that elections in Eastern Europe should be independent.
Stefan and Zofia Korboński celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on 10 July 1988, and had a mass concelebrated in the St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington.
Stefan Korboński passed away on 23 April 1989 at George Washington University Hospital in Washington after a short illness, at the age of 88. Five days later he was buried in the Heritage Walk area of the Pauline Fathers Cemetery in the “American Częstochowa”, Doylestown, Pennsylvania (funeral service was held on 26 April in a Washington chapel).
The funeral oration was delivered by Prof. Jerzy Lerski: a “cichociemny” (member of the Polish special military force in World War Two), emissary of the Polish Government in Exile, long-time friend and co-worker of the deceased, who himself was to be buried in the same cemetery later on. Numerous death notices and obituary notices appeared in memoriam both in the United States and in Great Britain. This is how Korboński was remembered by Zbigniew Brzeziński: “Stefan Korboński had true community spirit and was born to fight.
He was an outstanding member of the peasant movement in Independent Poland, a fearless advocate of freedom in the Communist period of the Polish People’s Republic, a Pole recognized in the Western World, and a representative of Polish political emigration. He devoted all his life to the cause of Poland, and served his term of office well.”
On 7 May 1994 Zofia Korbońska unveiled a commemorative plaque on the wall of the building in Praszka which was her husband’s home. On 13 May 1998 the widowed wife of Stefan Korboński received honorary citizenship in her husband’s home town, and in 2006 she became an Honorary Citizen of the Capital City of Warsaw. She has also been decorated with the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by President Lech Kaczyński. Zofia Korbońska died on 16 August 2010 in Washington.
                                                by Roman W. Rybicki
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