AT THE outbreak of the Great War in 1914, a war destined to change the whole aspect of the world, not one of the belligerent nations had any serious notion of restoring political independence and territorial unity to the Polish nation. When the war was over there stood Poland, a free and independent country. How could such an extraordinary thing ever have come about? To whom, to what, does Poland owe her return to the family of free nations?
To her inner sturdiness, first of all. In the spirit Poland never died. She survived all oppressions, she rose triumphant over all efforts to break her to pieces. She accomplished a social regeneration through the rise of a national bourgeoisie. She achieved economic prosperity. She increased her population. There were 8,000,000 Poles at the time of the third dismemberment (1795). There were 25,000,000 in 1914. At the critical moment, the Polish nation dashed with irresistible spontaneity into independence, finding leaders equal to the historic task which was set them. The world at large was not at all aware of the rich vitality of Polish life during the nineteenth century, and especially during the decades just previous to the outbreak of the Great War. France and the Anglo-Saxon countries knew virtually nothing of Poland. And not even Germany and Russia, who had greater reason to keep in touch with what was going on among their unwilling subjects, were any better informed.
It is true, nevertheless, that Poland would never have experienced her resurrection if it had not been for the concurrence of a number of extrinsic factors. Of these I will emphasize four, two of them operating negatively, two positively.
It will be remembered that during the first days of the war, and notably on August 14, 1914, Russia made an appeal to the heart of the Polish nation. It was not a disinterested appeal, it was a mere politico-military manœuvre. All the same, it served to formulate the Polish question. No one is master of the imponderables in
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