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Briton Finds Poland Very Poor, Yet Determined to Play Big Role

Poland is a country of extreme poverty coupled with a fierce national pride and a determination to play a leading role in European affairs, a special correspondent of the London News – Chronicle declared after a tour of the country.

“After an extensive tour of the country I find the Poles more united than at any time in the last fifteen years on a policy of semi-political and wholly spiritual isolation from the rest of Europe,” the correspondent wrote.

“A high official of the Polish Foreign Ministry summed up the Polish foreign policy by telling me ‘we have no intention of becoming the battle-ground of Europe in the next war.’ This opinion in itself is a sure reflection of the opinions of the people.

ISOLATION RAMPANT

“Polish opinion is today more intensely anti – nationalistic than that of any other European country. I found an epidemic of ‘isolationism’ that would delight the hearts of Lords Beaverbrook and Rothermere.

“My friend in the Foreign Ministry described it as ‘an absolute determination not to become entangled in a foreign alliance.’ And in this connection it is interesting to note that opinion in Warsaw is rapidly stiffening against French influence.

“Poland is no longer content to be the catspaw of French statesmanship. She aims to rank as one of the Great Powers. One of the innumerable causes of friction between Poland and France was the complaint that inferior war material was sold to the Polish army. The latest source of friction is the Eastern Locarno pact.

FEAR ‘TINIEST SPARK’

“This does not imply, however, that intelligent Poles are not conscious of the dangerous position of their country, lying as it does between Germany and Soviet Russia. They know very well that, even if she is not the powder-box of Europe, Poland is sufficiently surrounded by dry tinder to make her fear the tiniest spark.

“Hence the growing interest displayed by all classes in Polish diplomacy and above all, the increased support for the age-old policy of maintaining peace by preparing for war.

“In an exhibition now being shown in Warsaw, Polish prosperity is depicted as resting on four pillars, financial stability, independent foreign policy, permanent peace and a large standing army. The guardian of the four pillars is Marshal John Pilsudski, Polish military leader and virtual dictator. In name Poland is governed by a national bloc, but from behind, Pilsudski pulls the strings.

DICTATOR SELDOM SEEN

“He is almost the mystery statesman of a mystery thriller, seldom seen, seldom heard. ‘I have seen Marshal Pilsudski only twice in the course of five years,’ a foreign diplomat stationed in Warsaw told me. Poland’s military dictatorship is thus well disguised, but it is none the less very real and active.

“One becomes conscious here of the almost pathetic anxiety to believe in the German-Polish pact. ‘Before the signing of the treaty Germans and Poles would hardly speak to one another. Now they slap each other on the back,’ a Polish industrialist told me.

“But your countrymen wonder continuously whether the slap on the back may not suddenly become a blow,” I replied. ‘If it does Poland will be ready,’ he answered tersely.

“The recent demonstrations in Warsaw and elsewhere in favor of Poland’s gesture to the League of Nations have no doubt been astutely engineered. But they indicate only too clearly the temper of the people and the strength of Marshal Pilsudski’s following.

“A visit to Poland is intensely illuminating. In this newly recreated state can be seen all the qualities and the defects of nationalism. Among all classes is displayed a fierce national pride. Even an hotel porter told me with a touch of fine arrogance that Poland has supplied coal to Great Britain during the general strike.

“Recently there has been held the first congress of Poles from all parts of the world and patriotic celebrations have taken place in Warsaw and Cracow.

POWERS’ POOR RELATION

“At the moment Poland is the poor relation of the great powers. She is suffering from an inferiority complex which is sometimes manifested in an appearance of over-weening self-confidence. Her roads are amongst the worst in Europe and she has no money to improve them. But inquiring the way as we motored we were invariably told that the road was good in Poland but—with a shake of the head—’in Lithuania it is bad.’

“The nation is poor but it has the will to succeed. Last year it was decided to raise an internal loan of $5,000,000 by means which closely resembled a capital levy. The result was the splendid total of $15,000,000. Yet even in Warsaw the people buy their cigarettes in ones or twos because they cannot afford a package.

“The sympathy and understanding of all nations must go out to Poland. She has her defects but she compels admiration. For a century and a half the country has been under foreign domination. During the whole of that time the Polish patriots worked to regain their independence. They rebelled and were brutally crushed.

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