January 17, 2018




Stanisław II Augustus (dob) was the last King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania and the last monarch of the united Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1764–95). He remains a controversial figure in Polish history. Recognized as a great patron of the arts and sciences and an initiator and firm supporter of progressive reforms, he is also remembered as the last king of the Commonwealth whose election was marred by Russian involvement. He is criticized primarily for his failure to stand against the partitions, and thus to prevent the destruction of Poland.


The People's Party (SL) voted in favour of a general peasant strike. The SL decided that if the Polish government did not meet their demands a general peasant strike would be introduced. Participants in the Congress signed an appeal which demanded democratization of the country, amnesty for politicians sentenced in the Brest trials, and changes in the Constitution. The strike was prepared by Stanisław Mikołajczyk, and by Wincenty Witos, who dispatched his advice and instructions from Czechoslovakia. (Note: In 1926 Witos' government was overthrown by a coup d'etat by Marshal Pulsudski. Witos was arrested and imprisoned, and then lived in exile in Czechoslovakia until 1939.)


The Battle of Monte Cassino began in Italy: Also known as the Battle for Rome, it was a disastrous series of four assaults by the Allies against the Winter Line in Italy held by Axis forces during the Italian Campaign. The intention was to break through to Rome. From January 17 to May 18, multi-national Allied forces launched four offenses in the attempt to break through the impenetrable Nazi defences. The Germans held positions at the Rapido-Gari, Liri and Garigliano valleys and some of the surrounding peaks and ridges, forming the Gustav Line and the Monte Cassino Line. In the last phase of the battle, Allied troops consisting of twenty divisions (including Polish troops of the 2nd Polish Corp) attacked along a twenty mile front. Though the Germans were finally driven from their positions, the Allied victory came with devastating casualties of over 55,000 men, while Germans troops suffered about 20,000 killed and wounded.


Warsaw was so-called "liberated" by the Soviets: Over 200,000 Poles had died during the Warsaw Uprising and 800,000 had been deported to the General Government, the Reich or to the Nazi German concentration camps. According to Polish statistics, approximately 174,000 people remained hiding in the rubble.

Russian army liberated Budapest: From occupation to liberation the Jewish population of Budapest was reduced from 200,000 to 70,000 in the ghetto, and about 20,000 housed in specially marked houses outside the ghetto having been granted diplomatic protection by neutral politicians, including Raoul Wallenberg, who issued Protective Passports on behalf of the Swedish Legation, and Carl Lutz, who did the same via the Swiss Government. Of those that were deported (most of them to a concentration camp on the Austrian border), the vast majority were liberated by the advancing Red Army.


Pope John Paul II prayed for end to martial law in Poland: In his second trip to Poland, Pope John Paul met with the communist leaders and bluntly told them to end martial law and restore Solidarity. In a 15 minute speech broadcast live throughout Poland, the Pope urged Jaruzelski to resume good relations with the West, and above all with the US where so many Poles live. The Pope added that such a renewal " is indispensable for maintaining the good name of Poland to the world, as well as finding a way out of the internal crisis and sparing the sufferings of so many sons and daughters of the nation, my compatriots." On the second day of the Pontif's visit, he visited Krakow where he prayed at the Wawel Cathedral, where the heart of King Jan Sobieski is enshrined.


Mother Superior Matylda Getter was recognized on this day as Righteous Among Nations, by Yad Vashem. Getter was a Catholic nun in the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary in Warsaw and social worker in pre-war Poland. When the Nazis occupied Poland during WW2, she cooperated with the famous Irena Sendler and the Żegota resistance organization in saving the lives of hundreds of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto (between 250 and 550 children). She risked her life and the lives of her Sisters by sheltering the children in her orphanages. She hired adults to work with them, cared for the children, and hid them in the Order's various educational institutions.

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