Communist authorities have resurrected the image of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, the enigmatic revolutionary who restored Polish statehood 70 years ago and deposed the government eight years later.
Once consigned to Stalinist oblivion, Pilsudski is now being honored by those same authorities who once scorned him as a reactionary dictator.The government also mounted a gala celebration Friday marking the anniversary of the birth of the prewar republic. A parliamentarian had asked that today - Nov. 11, the main national holiday before World War II - be officially restored as a state holiday.
Today's ceremonies in Warsaw included a rare televised Mass and a military parade in Victory Square. It represented the most elaborate celebration ever under communist authorities to mark the 1918 creation of the capitalist, anti-Soviet republic in Poland between the two world wars.
Earlier this week, Krakow authorities named a street for Pilsudski and a Warsaw newspaper launched a drive to set up a museum for the marshal in the house he owned in Sulejowek, outside the capital.
The cult of Pilsudski has never quite died out in Poland. Go into the home of nearly every supporter of the banned Solidarity trade union and you see on the wall next to the Solidarity emblem and photographs of Polish-born John Paul II the bushy moustache and fiery eyes of Pilsudski.
In recent years the communist party, stressing its role of guarantor of the nation's existence, has begun to embrace popular national symbols such as Pilsudski. But historically, Pilsudski is harder for communists to swallow.
Although he started out as a socialist, he abandoned most leftist trappings soon after taking power.
One of his most-quoted remarks was, "I rode the red streetcar of socialism, but got off at the stop called `Independence."'
Pilsudski's orientation was anti-Russian. He dreamed of creating a multinational Central European state that would be large enough to resist both Soviet and German hegemony.
One of his first acts was invading the Ukraine, capturing Kiev. Polish forces eventually were forced to retreat by the Red Army, which in turn seemed on the verge of crossing Poland and spreading communism to Germany in 1920.
But the Poles' brilliant counteraction in mid-August 1920 handed the Red Army a humiliating defeat, still remembered in Poland as the "Miracle on the Vistula."
Lenin sued for peace, giving up large chunks of previously Russian territory that remained in Poland's hands until the Soviet Union took it back at the start of World War II. Pilsudski and "White Poland" were deemed "class enemies."