Michał Rola-Żymierski as Marshal of Poland
|Born||September 4, 1890|
|Died||October 15, 1989(aged 99)|
|Service/branch||Austro-Hungarian Army (1911 - 1914)
Polish Legions (1914 - 1919)
Polish Army (1919 - 1927)
People's Guard (1942 - 1944)
People's Army (1944)
People's Army of Poland (1944 - 1989)
|Years of service||1911 - 1927; 1942 - 1949|
|Rank||Marshal of Poland|
|Battles/wars||World War I. Polish-Soviet War, World War II|
|Other work||Minister of National Defence|
Michał Rola-Żymierski was born as Michał Łyżwiński in Kraków on September 4, 1890. In 1910 he started studies at the law faculty of the Jagiellonian University. In 1914 he joined the Polish Legions and fought with distinction on many of the most important battlefields of the Austro-Hungarian Eastern Front. After the Oath Crisis of 1917 he retired from the Austro-Hungarian army and returned to Kraków, where he finished his law studies and graduated from the Kraków Trading School.
In 1918 he joined the reborn Polish Army and took part in the Polish-Soviet War. He initially commanded the II Infantry Brigade and then was promoted to the commander of the prestigious Polish Legions 2nd Infantry Division. After the war he was sent to Paris, where he graduated from École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr. Upon his return he was promoted to General. Żymierski served in Warsaw as the Deputy Chief of Administration of the Polish Army. During the 1926 coup d'état he defended the democratically-elected government of Stanisław Wojciechowski. After the coup, in 1927, the new sanacja military dictatorship of Marshal Józef Piłsudski framed him of bribery and embezzlement, and was eventually court-martialed and demoted to private first class, expelled from the army and sentenced to five years in prison.
After Stalin's decision to disband the Polish Communist Party in 1938, Żymierski emigrated to France. However, shortly after the outbreak of World War II he returned to Poland, and as NKVD secret agent, as revealed first by Józef Światło, engaged in dealings with Nazi Germany's secret police Gestapo, and in 1943 he was named the deputy commander of Gwardia Ludowa and then (since 1944) the commander of Armia Ludowa. As such he was promoted by the Polish Committee of National Liberation back to the rank of General and became the commander-in-chief of the Polish Army fighting alongside the Soviet Union (the Polish Armed Forces in the East). He was Minister of Defence in the Provisional Government of Republic of Poland (Rząd Tymczasowy Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, January–June 1945). On May 3, 1945, he was promoted to the rank of Marshal of Poland.
Since 1946 Żymierski was the head of the Commission of State Security. He was responsible for repressions against the former resistance fighters, members of the Polish 2nd Corps and non-communist politicians, as well as for usage of the Polish Army against Polish Freedom and Independence fighters, Ukrainian citizens of Poland in Operation Vistula. Until 1949 he also held the post of Minister of National Defence. In this year he was replaced by Polish-born Soviet Marshal Konstanty Rokossowski, who received the rank of Marshal of Poland and held his office until 1956. As an effect of Stalinist purges organised in Poland by Bolesław Bierut Żymierski was arrested in 1952. However, he was released in 1955 without any charges. He was rehabilitated by the Polish government in 1956.
After the end of Stalinism in Poland he held various posts, including head of the National Bank of Poland (between 1956 and 1967) and the honorary head of the ZBoWiD (Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy, an organisation of Polish war veterans). He was also a member of the Polish United Workers' Party, and after Wojciech Jaruzelski's introduction of martial law in Poland Żymierski also became the member of its Central Committee and of the Front of National Unity.
He died in Warsaw on October 15, 1989. He was the last officer to date to hold the rank of Marshal of Poland.
Honours and awards
- Order of the Builders of People's Poland (1970)
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order "Virtuti Militari"
- Silver Cross of the Order "Virtuti Militari"
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta
- Commander of the Order of Polonia Restituta
- Cross of Grunwald 1st class
- Four Crosses of Valor
- Order of the Banner of Work 1st class
- Partisan Cross (1946)
- Medal of the 30th Anniversary of People's Poland
- Medal of the 40th Anniversary of People's Poland
- Medal for Warsaw 1939-1945
- Medal for Odra, Nysa, and the Baltic
- Victory and Freedom Medal 1945
- Medal for Participation in the Fighting in Defense of People's Power
- Medal Rodła
- Medal "For Contributions to National Defence"
- Wound badge
- Order of Victory № 17 (USSR)
- Order of Lenin (USSR)
- Order of Friendship of Peoples (USSR)
- Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit (USA) (personally awarded by General Eisenhower, Frankfurt, 1945)
- Knight of the Legion of Honour (France)
- Order of the White Lion 1st class (Czechoslovakia)
- Order of the People's Hero (Yugoslavia)
- Jubilee Medal "Twenty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945" (USSR)
- Jubilee Medal "Thirty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945" (USSR)
- Jubilee Medal "Forty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945" (USSR)
- Andrew A. Michta, 'Red Eagle: The army in Polish politics 1944-1988'
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