Trail of the First War
Monday, 24 June 2019
The symbolic beginning of the Polish path to independence during the First World War was the departure of the First Cadre Company of the Rifleman from Kraków. This first Polish military formation since the time of the January Uprising, set off from Kraków’s Oleandry on the day of the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Russia, August 6, 1914, heading toward the nearby border with Russia in Michałowice, and then marched to Kielce. Fewer than two hundred members of the Rilfemen’s Association and other Rifle organizations from Galicia, poorly armed with outdated Austrian rifles, were charged with a task to start an anti-Russian insurrection in the Congress Kingdom of Poland. Soon, the First Company was followed by other riflemen’s units together with Piłsudski. Unfortunately, his plans of starting an uprising in Congress Poland turned out to be unrealistic, which was soon noticed by the Austrian headquarters, who even demanded the riflemen’s units should be dissolved and incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian army. But the political parties operating in Galicia prevented this from happening and thanks to their influence, the Polish Legions were formed in Vienna on August 16, 1914, in order to fight against Russia on the side of Austro-Hungary. Piłsudski reported to the Polish Legions together with his riflemen’s units, declaring his willingness to join them, in subordination to the Galician Supreme National Committee.