Polish Legion of American Veterans - USA
PLAV Post #55
9 Daniels Street
Lord Mayor of Warsaw
Stefan Bronislaw Starzynski
Stefan Bronislaw Starzynski (January 19, 1893 - c. October 17, 1943) was a Polish politician, economist, writer, and epitome of Warsaw. President of Warsaw before and during the Siege of Warsaw in 1939.
"I wanted Warsaw to be great. Both me and my colleagues were making plans of a great Warsaw of the future. And Warsaw is great. It happened sooner than we thought. And although where we wanted parks are barricades, although our libraries are burning, although the hospitals are burning the city of Warsaw, defending the honor of Poland, is today at the highest point of its greatness." – the last radio broadcast, September 27, 1939
Born: January 19, 1893, Warsaw, Russian partition of Poland (presently Poland)
Address: Szustra 72, Warsaw, Poland
Father: Alfons St., sculptor, industrialist
Spouse: Pauline Chnanowska, 1912
Education: Commercial Highschool, Warsaw University (Law), Military Highschool
Died: Unknown, probably Dachau Concentration Camp
Stefan Starzynski was born on January 19, 1893 in Warsaw to an impoverished noble family. His father, Alfons Karol, worked initially as a clerk. Then he moved with his family to Lowicz, where he started a woodworking and metal working business. Starsynski's mother, Stefania Jadwiga nee Lipska, was a teacher.
Starzynski went to high school in Lowicz and later in Warsaw. During this time, he was arrested three times by the Russians, who were occupying this part of Poland at this time, for his underground activities.
He belonged, among others, to an organization of socialist youth (Zwiazek Mlodziezy Postepowo-Niepodleglosciowej, Progressive-Independent Youth Association), an offshoot of PPS (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, Polish Socialist Party). After finishing his gymnasium he joined the Faculty of Economy at the Higher School of Trade (Wyzsze Kursy Handlowe), a private-run university.
Starzynski was active among Polish students under the Russian occupation until 1914 and as an agitator for the boycott of Russian schools. He was in Russian prisons (1910-11), served with the Polish legions (1914-1917), was interned by the Germans for refusing the German oath (1917), in the Polish army (1918-21), left the army as a captain (1921), and was a member of the Committee for the Re-evacuation of Moscow (1921-24)
Having already been involved with many patriotic organizations, such as Zwiazek Strzelecki (Riflemen's Association), Starzynski joined Pilsudski's Polish Legions and became an ordinary soldier in the 1st Brigade in August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I, taking part in all of 1st Brigade's battles and skirmishes. He was quickly promoted to officer. After the Pledge Crisis in 1917 he was arrested and, together with most of his colleagues, interned in Beniaminów. In November 1918, the Polish Army and he became the chief of staff of the Polish Army's 9th Polish Infantry Division. He was
transferred to the intelligence-gathering 2nd Department of the General Staff during the Polish-Bolshevik War.
Politician & Economist.
After demobilization and following his time as a soldier, he remained in public service. Starzynski served in various political and economic positions.
He supervised one of the repatriation commissions in Moscow and later supervising one of the departments in the Ministry of Treasury. In the years 1929-30 and 1931-32 he was a deputy minister of treasury. Starzynski was a member of Polish Sejm (Congress/Parliament) for three years beginning in 1930 and deputy president of one of Poland's largest banks at the time, Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego.
There are numerous papers on economy authored by Starzynski during his lifetime.
President of Warsaw.
In the early 1930's Warsaw had a huge gap in its budget. The city development was halted by lack of funds while the population grew rapidly. Due to the serious lack of funds for the city's development and Starsynski's experience in economics, he was chosen on August 1, 1934 by the Sanacja (Sanitation - political movement in Poland) to become the president of Warsaw with special powers. Local units of self-government were disbanded and Starzynski became responsible to the government only. At first Starzynski was viewed by the majority of Varsavians as yet another member of Sanacja imposed as a governor of a city that supported mostly the opposition. However, he soon gained considerable popularity, even from former enemies, after quickly reforming the financial system.
Some of his most notable achievements that were due directly to the money saved from his reforms and clever investments were the reducing of unemployment, bringing electricity to the suburbs of Wola and Grochów, paving all major roads leaving Warsaw and connecting the city with the newly-built northern area of Zoliborz through a bridge over the northern railway line. These actions and achievements brought Starzynski the nickname,
"the president of the suburbs."
Starzynski was also popular among the residents of borough of Sródmiescie (city center) residents for his beautification programs which included the planting of trees and flowers along the main streets. A large park in Wola was created under his orders as well as several other minor green areas throughout the city. During his presidency, he also enlarged the city of Warsaw towards the south. Mokotów borough's former airfield, Pole Mokotowskie, was split into two parts by aleja Niepodleglosci (Independence Ave.), which is presently one of Warsaw's main streets.
A number of important facilities and other projects were initiated by Starzynski during his presidency. For example, the National Museum, a new city library building, a new building for Warsaw School of Economics (his alma mater) and the Powszechny Theater, which became one of the most influential scenes of Warsaw. Other initiatives of Starzynski include beginning of the construction of the city's metro and the reconstruction of the Vistula riverside boulevards and Old Town's barbican.
In 1934 he was chosen as a president of Warsaw for a 4-year term. Starzynski was elected to a second four year term on December 18, 1938, in democratic elections. Starzynski he held his office until World War II broke out. During his presidency:
- 2,000,000 km˛ of paved roads were built
- 44 schools were opened
- National Museum was built
- 2 major parks were opened to the public (one of them is now a National Reserve)
- Construction of Warsaw Metro started
Hero & Leader By Example.
Starzynski was a man who led from the front. A true leader by example. After the start of the Polish Defensive War of 1939, he refused to leave Warsaw together with other state authorities and diplomats on September 4, 1939. Instead he joined the army as a major in the infantry after the invasion by Germany. The Minister of War shortly before his departure created the Command of the Defense of the Capital with general Walerian Czuma as its commander. On September 7 the forces of 4th German Panzer Division managed to break the Polish lines near Czestochowa and started their march towards Warsaw. Most of the city authorities withdrew together with a large part of the police forces, fire fighters and military garrison. Warsaw was left with only 4 battalions of infantry and one battery of artillery. The Headquarters of general Czuma had barely any forces to organize the defense of the city. Also, the spokesman of the garrison of Warsaw issued a communique in which he ordered all young men to leave the city.
Monument to Stefan Starzynski
in Warsaw's Saxon Garden
To counter the panic that started in Warsaw, general Czuma appointed Stefan Starzynski as the Civilian Comissar of Warsaw. Starzynski immediately began organizing the Civil Guard to replace the evacuated police forces and ordered the city's administration to retake their posts. The importance of his daily radio releases, which urged the construction of barricades and anti-tank barriers at the outskirts of Warsaw. According to many sources from the epoch his daily speeches were a crucial factor in keeping the morale of both the soldiers and the civilians high during the Siege of Warsaw. This cannot be overestimated. Starzynski commanded both fire-fighting brigades and the distribution of food, water and supplies while organizing shelters for many civilian refugees from throughout Poland. Before and by the end of the Siege, he was well-known as the symbol of the defense of Warsaw in 1939.
Starzynski had many opportunities to leave Warsaw after the German occupation but refused each time. He was allowed to continue his duties as president of Warsaw, where he headed many reconstruction projects. Among some of his most important contributions is his active participation in the organization of occupied-Poland's first underground resistance, Sluzba Zwycietwu Polski (Polish Victory Service), and providing many members of the
resistance effort with false identities and clean documents. Sluzba Zwycietwu Polski was later redesignated as Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej (Union of Armed Struggle) which eventually became the famous Armia Krajowa (Home Army) in 1942.
On September 27 the commanders of the besieging German forces demanded that Starzynski be present during the signing of the capitulation of Warsaw. Before the capitulation he was offered to leave the city several times. The pilot of the prototype PZL.46 Sum plane that managed to escape from internment in Romania and landed safely in besieged Warsaw offered himself to evacuate Starzynski to Lithuania. He was also proposed to go underground and receive plastic surgery in order to escape the city. He refused.
After the Germans entered the city on September 28, 1939, Starzynski was allowed to continue his service as the president of Warsaw. He was active in organization of life in the occupied city as well as its reconstruction after the German terror bombing campaign. At the same time he became one of the organizers of Sluzba Zwyciestwu Polski, the first underground organization in occupied Poland that eventually became the Armia Krajowa. Among other things he provided it with thousands of clean forms of ID cards, birth registry forms and passports. Those documents were later used in validation of false identities of many members of the resistance.
Starzynski was arrested by the Gestapo and taken hostage with other prominent Warsaw inhabitants on October 5, 1939 as a warrant of safety of Adolf Hitler during a victory parade held in the city of Warsaw. He was released the next day following the parade but was again arrested by the Gestapo later in the month on October 27, 1939 and taken to Gestapo headquarters at aleja Szucha 25 (Szucha Ave.). Following his arrest, in Pawiak prison in December 1939, he was once again given the opportunity to escape but refused as he felt it would cause too costly consequences for those involved in the escape plot.
Starsynski's fate remains unknown and his death is a mystery to this day although the most probable account is that he was transferred to Moabit prison
in Berlin and then to Dachau concentration camp where he shot while in Dachau concentration camp on October 17, 1943. However, several accounts assume that he was either transferred to a potassium mine in Baelberge or that he was held hostage in Warsaw until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising. The most probable date of his death is October 17, 1943 (shot to death in Dachau), although other versions mention August 1944 (Warsaw), 1944 (Baelberge), 1943 (Spandau prison) or January 1940 (Dachau).
In 1957, his cenotaph (a symbolic grave) was erected in the Powazki cemetery in Warsaw in his memory.
Primary School No. 46
in Warsaw, Poland
in Warsaw, Poland
Starzynski is still seen as the embodiment of Warsaw. For both his pre-war accomplishments as well as his resistance and rebuilding efforts. There is a street and several monuments and schools in Warsaw honoring him today. After the war the rebuilt Warszawa II radio station was named after him. His September radio broadcasts are considered to be part of Polish pop culture with his unmistakable, silent, hoarsened voice and the texts of his speeches are nowadays being easily recognizable by many Varsovians.
His story was told on the big screen by Andrzej Trzos-Rastawiecki in the 1978 movie, Gdiekolwiek jestes, pania prezydencie (Wherever you are, Mr. President).
And in 2003, Starzynski was voted by an overwhelming majority of viewers of the Warsaw branch of public television and Gazeta Wyborcza readers as the "Varsovian of the Century."
Compiled from the following sources:
Prominent Poles: Stefan Starzynski
Wikipedia: Stefan Starzynski
Norman Davies "Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw", Pan Macmillan Ltd, London 2004 Marek Drozdowski "Stefan Starzynski prezydent Warszawy", Panstwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszawa 1976
TIME Magazine, "Such Is War" - September 18, 1939
Stefan Starzynski & Warsaw Links
History of Warsaw's Contributions Levied by the German Occupation Authority During WW-II
TIME.com: "Such Is War" - September 18, 1939
TIME.com: "Divide and Rule" - October 2, 1939
KZ Dachau Wikipedia RSS: Dachau Nazi Concentration Camp
Polish American Journal: The Story of One Tragic September
Library ThinkQuest: The Invasion of Poland
Holocaust Research Project: The Warsaw Ghetto - On 23 September 1939 Mayor Stefan Starzynski appointed Czerniakow as Chairman of the Jewish Community in Warsaw. Czerniakow wrote in his diary "A historic role in a besieged city. I will try to live up to it."...
The mayor: Saga of Stefan Starzynski
Stefan Starzynski: Chcialem by Warszawa byla wielka
Wspomnienia o Stefanie Starzynskim (Varsaviana)
Stefan Starzynski w mojej pamieci (Varsaviana)
Stefan Starzynski, prezydent Warszawy (Biblioteka wiedzy o Warszawie)
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