Historical story

Triumphant, liberator, leader of the nation. What fairy tales about Marshal Śmigły-Rydz were fed to the inhabitants of the Second Polish Republic?

Last updated:2022-07-25

He was equal to kings, he warmed in the glory of glory, and he put Poland on the path of power. Everyone could feel safe with him. After all:"Nobody will hurt us anything, nobody will hurt us when Śmigły-Rydz is with us" ...

A new book by Michał Ogorek - “100 years. How we have honored leaders in the last century ” - sheds light on the uncomfortable and somewhat forgotten thread of the history of the Second Polish Republic. It is well known that before the war the figure of Józef Piłsudski was officially venerated, almost reminiscent of a religious cult. It does not say, however, that the Commandant was not the only one.

Marshal Śmigły-Rydz, Inspector General of the Armed Forces. Postcard from around 1935.

At the end of the 1930s, a new commander-in-chief, Edward Śmigły-Rydz, began to be surrounded by a cult that Joseph Stalin would not be ashamed of himself. It is hard to believe in the devotion to him, especially since Rydz was neither the head of state nor the prime minister. Oh, a general unexpectedly elevated to the role of the Marshal's successor.

Below are some particularly colorful examples from the mentioned book.

Great triumph of the chief

Piłsudski had the right to consider himself a co-creator of Polish independence. Rydz also needed to find a memorable military triumph. For state propaganda, it was the occupation of the disputed Zaolzie, which was plundered from its southern neighbors, taking advantage of the partition of Czechoslovakia by Adolf Hitler.

Although the Czechs did not take up any fight, the press wrote anyway that "our victorious army" had entered the other side of the Olza River. Rydz-Śmigły himself, as the winner, visited ... border posts abandoned by the enemy, where not a single shot was fired.

Rape inflicted by force ... The famous 1939 propaganda poster with Śmigły-Rydz in the lead role

Nobody noticed that the atmosphere was saturated with absurdity. As Michał Ogórek writes:

"Recovered for Poland" incl. a place in the Czech Republic, where Żwirko and Wigura pilots crashed, where under the banner:"Welcome you, Chief in Cierlicek Dolny", "two broken spruce trees that caused the catastrophe" were solemnly seized.

We want to live with you and for you!

In a school performance from that period, people sang:

Thank you, Marshal, for your effort / That you have liberated the whole Silesian people / Gratitude, joy is hard for us to hide / We want to live with you and for you!

The embodiment of strength and reason of state

The author of the official, propaganda biography of the leader, Józef Andrzej Teslar, emphasized that he was ... in fact the new Polish king:

Foreign and powerful nations give him the highest honors, equal to those that crowned heads and heads of state used to welcome and receive, seeing him as the embodiment of strength and reason for the state of the Republic.

He also emphasized that getting to know the profile of Śmigły is a "common obligation" of Poles and that it should be fulfilled "without waiting for the verdict of future historians.

Nobody will do anything to us, because with us Śmigły-Rydz

In the propaganda poem it was emphasized that at the side of Śmigły-Rydz no enemy is terrible for Poles:"General Śmigły-Rydz, our dear, brave, commander, / When he tells me, I will go with him to beat the invaders."

Polish Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz in the illustration of Konstanty Shevchenko

It was further emphasized not to leave any doubts as to the country's prospects:"Nobody will hurt us anything, Nobody will do anything to us, / Because Śmigły-Rydz with us".

Everyone owes him signs of honor and obedience

In the light of the constitution adopted in 1935, the first person in the country was the president. Without heeding the constitution, he was immediately ordered to share his glory with the chief Rydz. As Michał Ogórek writes in the book "Happy birthday!" :

At the very sight of Rydz, Prime Minister Składkowski gave him his seat and issued a circular that "General Śmigły-Rydz is to be considered and respected as the first person in Poland after the President of the Republic of Poland ”.

The prime minister ordered (also to himself) that "all state officials, led by the Prime Minister, should show him signs of honor and obedience". It was only a few months after the adoption of the new constitution, which the Prime Minister did not envisage delegating honor and obedience to anyone.

Śmigły-Rydz surrounded by military personnel in the photo from 1933.

Great Medic

Rydz studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. This character of education did not, however, prevent him from being awarded an honorary doctorate in medicine. When Stalin was even a "great linguist", Rydz could call himself a great medic.

We have entered the trail of the powers

In honor of the leader, it was sung that he was a "man of steel" and that he was "the heir to the Marshal's virtues."

He did it, his job, that we have entered the path / That the old era returns to us, Jagiełło strength, Batory sign. (…)

Formerly Szczerbiec Chrobrego, Dressed to the King, / And now a silver mace, given to the Great Chief.

Edward Śmigły-Rydz. A visit to Świdnik in June 1939

Down to the last breath, like one for two

Official publications repeatedly stated that "Józef Piłsudski mentioned only one man, he gave one surname". And also that the beloved leader, the new Marshal will fight for Poland "like one for two".

To further emphasize his heroism, Śmigły-Rydz's statements were quoted in which he accused Stanisław August Poniatowski of cowardice. And he emphasized that instead of abdicating, the leader of the country should fight to the end and die in defense of the homeland.

What a beautiful lesson, worthy of the one who assured us that "no one will hurt us anything" ...


Trivia is the essence of our website. Short materials devoted to interesting anecdotes, surprising details from the past, strange news from the old press. Reading that will take you no more than 3 minutes, based on single sources. This particular material is based on:

  • Michał Ogórek, Happy birthday! Jan, in the last century, we have worshiped leaders , Agora 2018.