The Warsaw-Vienna Railway Station is the current Warszawa-Śródmieście station. It was there that Józef Piłsudski arrived 105 years ago and went to a meeting with the Regency Council. Several other points on the map of Warsaw witnessed Poland regaining independence. Some still exist today, others have disappeared or changed completely.
On November 10, 1918, at 7:00 a.m., Józef Piłsudski, released from the fortress in Magdeburg, arrived at the Warsaw-Vienna Railway Station. He was to arrive at noon, when his ceremonial welcome was planned. However, the train arrived at 7:00 a.m. – so only a few people greeted it. They included, among others: Prince Zdzisław Lubomirski representing the Regency Council and the President of Warsaw Piotr Drzewiecki.
The station where Piłsudski arrived was renamed the Main Station a year later, in 1919. Before World War II, its expansion began and a monumental building with Art Deco elements was built. The building was to be a showcase not only of the capital, but also of the entire country. Unfortunately, before the investment was completed, a fire was started at the construction site and a significant part of it burned down. And after the fall of the Warsaw Uprising, it was demolished by the Nazis. The current Warszawa-Śródmieście station was built on its ruins and is used by SKM lines and suburban trains.
Breakfast in the White Palace on Frascati
Straight from the station, Piłsudski went by car to Frascati – for breakfast and talks with the Prince Regent Zdzisław Lubomirski. The gentlemen went to the White Palace, where the prince lived.
At that time, Piłsudski received an offer to take the position of supreme military commander from the socialist provisional government of Ignacy Daszyński, which was established in Lublin, and an offer to take over the position of minister of military affairs in the National Democratic government of Józef Świeżyński, which the Regency Council wanted to establish. The commander rejected both. It was agreed that he would become commander-in-chief by decision of the Regency Council.
The White Palace was designed by Szymon Bogumił Zug in the 18th century and was built surrounded by gardens, which were later transformed into a park called “Frascati”. The palace suffered damage during World War II, was rebuilt, and today it houses the Earth Museum of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
Meeting with the Regency Council in the Archbishop’s Palace
The Regency Council held its office in the Archbishop’s Palace. It was here – on November 10, 1918 at 4 p.m. – that Piłsudski’s first meeting with all members of the council took place.
The Archbishop’s Palace, also known as the Borch Palace, was built in the 18th century. It has changed owners and functions over the years. It included, among others: hotels, restaurants and the Alexandria Institute for the Education of Girls. From 1843 to this day, it has served as the seat of the Archbishop of Warsaw.
However, the most important meeting of the Regency Council with Józef Piłsudski took place in the apartment of the supposedly ill regent Józef Ostrowski – on November 11 between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. It was then that the Council transferred all power to the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Army, Józef Piłsudski.
Skirmishes with the German garrison of the citadel at the Kowelski Railway Station
At the same time, things were not at all calm in Warsaw in those days. The Germans were disarmed and shootings broke out every now and then. The press reported skirmishes with the German garrison of the citadel in the area of Kovel Station. This building was destroyed in 1915, when the Russians were withdrawing from Warsaw.
After World War I, the Gdański Railway Station was built in its place. Currently, SKM trains to Legionowo and the Zegrze Reservoir, Koleje Mazowieckie trains, and, during renovation works on the cross-city line, many long-distance trains depart from it.
Chłodna Street witnessed many important events
At the same time, Bolshevik demonstrations took place on the streets of the Polish capital. On November 9, a revolution broke out in Berlin and Polish communists hoped that it would also happen in Warsaw. The press reported numerous incidents. Shooting a 20-man unit of Polish soldiers from a cab at the corner of Marszałkowska and Królewska streets. A demonstration of several dozen people with red banners on Chłodna Street, which dispersed the crowd going to mass.
Over the years, Chłodna Street has witnessed many important events. Fryderyk Chopin passed through it in 1830, leaving the city and going on a journey around Europe. Buildings by such outstanding architects as Antonio Corazzi and Henryk Marconi were built here. During World War II, this street was the border between the small and large ghetto and was crossed by a wooden bridge connecting its two parts. In its place, the “Memory Footbridge” monument was built in 2011. On part of the street, the pre-war pavement with tram tracks has been preserved.
“Niebotyk” at Stanisława Moniuszko Street
There was no shortage of important buildings on the prestigious Stanisława Moniuszko Street. There was a philharmonic hall there and the most elegant restaurant in the city, Adria. It was here that the political and artistic elites of that time met. There was also the Bank of the First Warsaw Mutual Credit Society, which, rebuilt after the war, became the seat of the Warsaw Television Center.
On the plot adjacent to the bank there was a guesthouse, or rather “furnished rooms”. The building had seven floors and was one of Warsaw’s “skyscrapers”, as high-rise buildings were then called. There were shops downstairs, and a guesthouse on the upper floors, where Piłsudski stayed from November 10 to 13. From his balcony he greeted the cheering residents of Warsaw.
Here, during these three days, behind-the-scenes talks regarding the future of the country took place. As a result, Daszyński’s government in Lublin was dissolved. And on November 14, the Council, recognizing Józef Piłsudski’s ability to form a government, decided to dissolve itself and transfer all power to the Chief of State.
Main photo source: Albert Zawada/PAP