Popiel Karol, pseudonym K. Prawdzic, Kornicz (1887-1977), political activist, columnist. Born on Oct. 28 in Rzochow in Mielec county, he was a son of a cabinetmaker and Katarzyna Szczerbicki. He graduated from the High School in Tarnow in 1908 and in 1908-19012 he attended the Law School at Lviv University. He published his first pieces in 1904 in "Ojczyzna" and later in "Slowo Polskie" and "Teka". During his High School years he was a member of National Society of Youth and while at the Law School he was a member of "Zet" and he was one of the directors of "Pet"; since March 1909 he joined co called "Independent Zet". Popiel was a co-creator of the organization of "Zarzewie" youth and a president of its secret leadership: Independence League (IL) called later Association for Independence. In 1911/1912 he became a president of the legal Student Association "Kuznica" and an editor of its newspaper called alike. Also, he was one of creators of the Polish Rifle Troops (PRT) and - as he stated - the name of the organization was his idea. As a IL and PRT representative he participated in the congressses of the Independence Organizations (Aug. 25 and 26, 1912 in Zakopane, Nov. 10, 1912 in Vienna, Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, 1913 in Krakow), he worked for the Board of Polish Army Treasury, as an emissary he travelled to Poznan and Warsaw and West Prussia by 1914. He was a correspondent for "Kurier Lwowski" from "the Kingdom" and Austrian partition.

In July and August of 1914 he was in Krakow, participating in the National-Independence camp meetings on subordination of PRT to Jozef Pilsudski command. In second half of August 1914 he secretly travelled to Warsaw and participated in the establishment of the Polish Confederation - a common representation of the National camp.From July 5, 1915 he was a member of the General Commitee of the United National Parties (KN ZSN) On August 16, 1915 he participated in the meeting with Jozef Pilsidski, when Pilsudski announced stopping further enlistment to the Polish Legion. As a KN ZSN representative he met Pilsudski in Otwock and supported his new political tactics. Popiel was an author of the KN ZSN anti-enlistment proclamation of Sep. 1, 1915. Since Dec. 18, 1915 he was a member of the Central National Commitee (CKN) and till last decade of November 1916 he was a supporter of co-operation with  leftist activists. At the beginning of December 1916 , under influence of arriving from Warsaw Feliks Mlynarski, Popiel changrd his political orientation moving on position of support for Wladyslaw Sikorski and Department of Army of the General National Commitee. Popiel left CKN (Feb. 18, 1917) and joined National Center. During 1917 he worked in the Executive Department of the Provisional Council of State.

In fall of 1917 Popiel stopped being a politician and in January 1918 he started new career as an officer in the Department of Interior Affairs. He worked there as a director of the Personnel Bureau till beginning of April 1920. Popiel left the Department on April 1, 1920. He restarted his political activities in January 1920, becoming an editor of National Workers' Association (NZR) weekly magazine "Workers' Matter". At the beginning of April he left for Pomerania, and there, as a NZR reprezentative he supported an election campaign of the National Workers' Assembly (NSR) to the Parliament. Shortly thereafter (beginning of July) he become a resident of Torun and an editor of the National Workers' Party (NPR) (united NZR and NSR) newspaper "Worker's Voice". Since then, for long year he was with Pomerania's organization of NPR. During second Congress of NPR (Sept. 4-6, 1921 in Krakow), as a member of party Commission for Party Program,  he successfully extinguished a conflict between "radical" wing and majority of Congress supporting "christian ethics". He was elected there to the party Supreme Council (RN) and Main Executive Commitee (GKW) and became one of the leadres of the party. Also, he was a City of Torun Councilman. During first election to the Parliament he was nominated and won the election and as a PM he was a member of the Administrative Commitee. Shortly thereafter he became a President of the party Main Executive Commitee (Feb. 25 - May 21, 1923), during gen. W. Sikorski's cabinet.

In October 1924 Popiel became a President of the Parliament Club of NPR, what made him the most prominent politician of the party. He tok a part in political meetings and caucuses and slowly he moved to center-right. In inner political life he gained a significant supporter. In 1923 Franciszek Kwiecinski, became the President of the Regional Board of NPR in Warsaw, Popiel gained a co-worker in the Warsaw area. With his help Popiel could in 1924-1925 amass enough money on the party account to buy a linotype for the party printing shop "Ars" and thanks to that he could publish a NPR daily "Everyday Voice"in Warsaw (1926-1927). During May Coup Popiel was in Warsaw and was in constant contact with the PM Witos. Immediately after the coup he opted for moderate cooperation with new authority, mainly because he wanted to pacify relations in Western provinces. In regard with that he introduced in NPR a rule of common vote for Moscicki as a President of the Republic. In September 1926, because the government supported the renegade group in NPR, Popiel joined opposition. He gave numerous speaches (NPR Congress in Torun, 10-16-1926, NPR meetings 1-10 and 6-19 1927) accordingly. Shortly thereafter Popiel resigned from his office of MP in relation with a court case against general Michal Zymierski, so that the authorities could investigate and interrogate him (general M.Z. was charged with misuse of money appropriated for the Army; the government tried to charge Popiel, too, in spite of fact that Popiel never was involved in those matters). Due to his resignation, his political life was somewhat impaired. On 12-19-1927 he left Poland with an emigration passport for France, where he was in close touch with general Sikorski.

When Popiel returned to Poland, during Fifth Congress of NPR (9-8-1929 in Poznan) he was again elected for the President of GKW and remain on the office to the time the party ceased. Shortly after the election in close cooperation with F. Kwiecinski he started publishing a weekly magazine  "Outpost" in Warsaw, a piece with strong anti-government accents.Also, he was a political columnist for Pomerania periodics such as "The Worker's Voice" and "". As a President of NPR he took a part in the Congress of the Centrolew (6-29-1930) and as his party representative, he voiced his anti-government sentiments. Because of his speech he was attacked by the pro-government press for the matters related to the court case of gen. Zymierski. In response he bublished in several newspapers an open letter ("Warsaw News" and "The Worker"), in which he recalled that he voluntarily resigned from his MP office only, to make possible an exhaustive investigation of the charges by the government agencies and the office of persecutor, and that neither government not persecutor in fact did not use their power against him. On 9-9-1930 in the night he was arrested together with the other leaders of Centrolew and jailed in the Brzesc fortress. During processing of the arrested Popiel was heavily beaten up. During his stay in jail the authorities arranged for his and Herman Liberman's fictious execution. He was released on 12-29-1930 and he was received by the Primate, Cardinal August Hlond. Popiel thanked to the Primate for his intervention for the Brzesc political prisoners with the Poland's President. A last accord of the Brzesc matter was his witnessing at the court during the case of the Centrolew leaders on 11-18-1931. His case was separated and supposedly was on its way, however it never came trough.

Years 1930-1932 were years of Popiel's work for uniting NPR with Polish Party for Christian Democracy (PSChD). The idea came to Popiel during his time in prison from his discussions with W. Korfanty (Popiel, On the friends' tumbs, p. 49). The idea had a bad repport with the members of both parties, therefore negotiations stopped at the end of 1932. Nevertheless during this time Popiel wrote in his "The People's Defense" some articles on convergence between NPR and Catholic social doctrine and common between these parties wide acceptance of the Pope Pius XI's encyclica "Quadragesimo Anno". Fiasco of the union negitiations pushed Popiel towards elimination from NPR of the activists being against the union. During Sixth Congress of NPR (20 and 21 of May, 1934 in Torun) Popiel won a broad support, eliminating from the party's leadership so-called "old leaders" (J.S. Jankowski) and leaders of Polish Trade Union (ZZP). During 1936 Popiel was engaged in organization the Front Morges. Simultaneously, he tried to strnghten NPR influence in political life by initiating National Work Platform, re-creation of liaisons with ZZP and an action to counter radicalisation of Working Youth Association "Unity".  At the outbreak of 1937 conception of Front Morges, cooperation between NPR, National Democracy, Christian Democracy and Peasans' Party collapsed. Durin that time Popiel was a close co-worker of W. Sikorski. That time he again started talks with Korfanty on uniting NPR and PSChD about what he informed gen. Sikorski by mail. He saw his political reasons in uniting these parties not taking care of doctrinal attitude of partners-to-be. However, in later years he maintained that the uniting supposed to create "basis for modern Christian-social movement" (Na mogilach przyjaciol, s. 19). Popiel was in charge of general performance of the uniting congress of NPR and PSChD on 10-10-1937, when Labour Party (SP) was created. During absence of the president Korfanty he as vice-president was a president in-fact of the Party Board. From 11-24-1937 to 10-1938 he also was an editor-in-chief of the SP's "Nowa Prawda" and "Nowa Rzeczpospolita", sharply fighting policies of Jozef Beck. That was a chief reason of closure of the publishin house by the authorities.

After outbreak ow the World War II, Popiel at the beginning stayed in Warsaw, then in Lviv (10-7 to 10-10--1939) and in the internment camp in Rumania. After assigning gen. Sikorski as a prime minister Popiel was summoned to Paris where he arrived on 10-4-1939. Shortly thereafter he became an Undersecretary in the Ministry of Social Welfare. On 2-11-1940 he became a President of the Labour Party. On 6-8-1940 he became a member of the commission for September campaign. After fall of France he left for England. After outbreak of German-Russian war he was opting for normalization of the political relations with Soviet Union. When it came to a conflict inside the Government on Polish-Soviet treaty, Popiel together with Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, the president of the Peasant Party and H. Liberman, the president of Polish Socialist Party gave full support to gen. Sikorski. As a consequence of the cabinet crisis, Popiel became a Minister w/o portfolio till 10-30-1941, then he became a Minister of Justice, till 1-21-1942. At the beginning of 1942 he was a leading negotiator for federation with Czechoslovakia. As a representative of SP he was a member of the Commitee for the State Affairs at the Council of Ministers. After Sikorski's death he was a member of the mikolajczyk's cabinet, from 7-14-1943 as a minister w/o portfolio, from 7-4-1943 to 11-24-1944 a minister of the Public Administration and a member of the Politic Commitee of the Ministers. In that team he was one of the closest supporters of the PM. Together with him, under political pressure of the Britons, he opted for compromise with Soviet Union. After Teheran conference he was for Curzon line as an Eastern Polish borderline in return for a compensation in the West. In that time (1944-1945) he maintained a close contacts with the SP leadership in occupied Poland. On 7-25-1944 he took a part in the historic meeting of the Commitee for the State Affairs when the Commitee decided on giving necessary powers to the Government Delegate for Poland, The President of the United National Council and the Commandant-in-Chief of the Home Army for starting the armed action in Warsaw in the very moment they will consider fit. After Mikolajczyk dismissal he was not in the cabinet anymore.

In the effect of the conference of the Polish politicians in Moscow )June 17 to 21, 1945) and summoning by the leadership of the SP in Poland, Popiel came back to Poland on 7-6-1945. He started from legalizing and expanding of the SP with an approval from the Polish Episcopate. Being convinced that the Jalta agreement allowed for pluralistic model of the political life he tried to keep SP as a Christian-social party in constructive opposition with support of the block of democrat parties. Since September 1945 SP started official political activities. On 11-14-1945 SP united back with "Zryw", a SP fronda under leadership of Zygmunt Felczak i Feliks Widy-Wirski, a group co-operating with the Temporary Government of Poland from the beginning of 1945. However, establishing of common basis, the party Board decided to suspend activity of SP. The activist of former "Zryw" overtook the leadership on 7-28-1945 what was confirmed by the congress of SP on 12-1 to 12-2, 1945. In that time Popiel was also active as a MP at State National Council (12-29-1945 to 7-20-1946) and he was a president of the Main Commitee for the State Loan for the Country's Rebuilding. He submitted a memorial to the PM Jozef Cyrankiewicz on creating of the Christian-Social Party. When possibilities of the legal political activities in opposition to the communist regime were exhausted, he left Poland on 10-26-1947.

He was very active in exile as a president of SP. Also, he became a president of the Executive Department of the Polish National Democrat Commitee (created in 1959 in Washington, DC) uniting Polish Peasant Party, Labour Party, and Democratic Party. He was one of creators of the Christian-Democrat Union of the Middle Europe. On 11-10-1959 he informed the Pope John XXIII on the Union works during special audience in Vatican. He was active as a part of the Nouvelles Equipes Internationales (NEI), i.e. Internationa Union of Christian Democrats, where he was a strong supported and defender of the Polish national interests, in particular confirmation of Polish new Western borders on Odra and Nissa. He settled in Rome in 1962. He maintained close relations with the old country. His main interest then were results of the researches on the modern history. In 60 and 70-ties he published his memories and historic essays: Na mogilach przyjaciol (Londyn 1966), Wybor prezydenta I. Moscickiego ("Zesz. Hist." Z. 9: 1966), Od Brzescia do Polonii (Londyn 1967), W sprawie nazwy Stronnictwa Pracy ("Wiez" 1967 nr 1 ), Sprawa zwolnienia gen. Sosnowskiego ze stanowiska naczelnego wodza ("Kultura" 1967 nr 9), Wobec "Mojej tulaczki" Wincentego Witosa ("Zesz. Hist." Z. 13: 1968), General Sikorski w mojej pamieci (Londyn 1978). Also, he wrote an autobiography ending in nineteen thirties (in possesion of Konrad Sieniewicz in Rome); He published in Poland Wspomnienia polityczne Karola Popiela ("Lad-Katolicki Tygodnik Spoleczny" 1982 no 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 1983 no 2, 3, 4). At the end of life he intended to come back to Poland, however, he died on 6-6-1977 in Rome. A requiem mass was held on 6-10-1977 in the St. Stanislaw church. On 6-17-1977 he was broght to Poland and on 6-18-1977 he was re-buried in the Powazki Cemetery.

His wife Irena Zukowska, from 1st marriage Gaszynska, died in May 1964.

Translation from Polish to English: sp


Pol. Enc. Powsz., Pod red. S. Lama, Paryz 1954; W. Enc. Powsz. (PWN); Wspolczesni polscy dzialacze polityczni, Mala encyklopedia, L.-W. 1919; PSB, (Kwiecinski Franciszek); Moscicki-Dzwonkowski, Parlament RP 1919-27, (fot.);Rzepeccy, Sejm I Senat 1922-7, s. 359 (fot.), 383, 464,474;- Baginski H., U podstaw organizacji Wojska Polskiego 1908-1914, W. 1935 (fot. zbiorowa I osobna); Buczek R., Stronnictwa Ludowe a latach 1939-1945, Londyn 1975; Czajkowski J., Majchrowski J., Karol Popiel "Tyg. Powsz." 1980 nr 45; Demel Cz., Krawulski J., Rzepa K., Dzialalnosc Narodowego Stronnictwa Robotnikow I Narodowej Parii Robotnoczej w Wielkopolsce w latach 1917-1937, W.- P. 1980; Garlicki A., Geneza Legionow, W. 1964; Gebhardt S. M., [List do Redakcji], "Kultura" 1978 nr 1 s. 219-21; Historia katolicyzmu spolecznego w Polsce 1832-1939, W. 1981 (fot.); Hulewicz J., Udzial Galicji w walce o szkole polska 1899-1914, W. 1934 s. 90 (fot.), 91; Karol Popiel w naszej pamieci, Londyn 1978 (fot.); Literatura polska na obczyznie 1940-1960, Londyn 1965 II; Majchrowski J. M., Stronnictwo Pracy. Dzialalnosc polityczna I koncepcje programowe 1937-1945, Zesz. Nauk. UJ. Prace prawnicze, Z. 88, W.- Kr. 1979 s. 22, 28, 35, 53, 81, 85, 88; Micewski A., Wspolrzadzic czy nie klamac? Pax I Znak w Polsce 1945-1976, Partz 1978; Molenda J., Pilsudczycy a narodowi demokraci 1908-1918, W. 1980 ; Monasterska T., Narodowy Zwiazek Robotniczy 1905-1920, W. 1973; Pazdziora M., Gornoslaska Narodowa Partia Robotnicza po zamachu majowym 1926-1937, Kat. 1975 s. 14, 90, 92, 105, 112, 115, 116, 117, 120, 125, 132, 148, 182, 261; Pobog-Malinowski W., Najnowsza historia polityczna Polski, Londyn 1960 Iii passim; Polska sluzba zagraniczna po 1 wrzesnia 1939 r., Londyn 1954 s. 17, 18; Przybylski H., Chrzescijanska Demokracja I Narodowa Partia Robotnicza w latach 1926-1937, W. 1980; tenze, Front Morges w okresie II Rzeczpospolitej, W. 1972; Wandycz P.S., Czechoslovak-polish Confederation and the Great Powers 1940-1943, Bloomington, Indiana 1956; Wapinski R., Dzialalnosc Narodowej Partii Robotniczej na terenie wojewodztwa pomorskiego w latach 1920-1930, Gd. 1962; tenze, Wladyslaw Sikorski, W. 1978;Chadzynski A.,Jankowski J., Peplowski E., Dlaczego wystapilismy z Narodowej Partii Robotniczej, W. 1935; Haller J.,Pamietniki, Londyn 1964; Mlynarski F., Wspomnienia, W. 1971; Pragier A., Czas przeszely dokonany, Londyn 1966; [Raczynski E. J.}, W sojuszniczym Londynie. Dzienniki ambasadora Edwarda Raczynskiego 1939-1945, Londyn 1960; Sprawa brzeska 1930-1932, Kat. 1932; Spraw. Stenogr. Sejmu RP 1922-7; Witos W., Mooje wspomnienia, Paryz 1965 III; "Zarzewie" 1909-1920. Wspomnienia I materjaly, [Oprac.] A. Garlicka, W. 1973;-"Glos Codz." 1926 nr 121, 281, 1927 nr 10, 166, 184, 205, 206; "Ilustr. Kur. Codz." 1927 nr 260, 264; "Kultura" 1961 nr 4 (list P-a do redakcji); "Monitor Pol." 1921 nr 116; "Odnowa" 1958 nr 1, 7, 1959 nr 4, 12; "Placowka" 1930 nr 31; "Prawda" (P.) 1929 nr 211; "Sprawa Robotn." 1920 nr 23, 27, 1921 nr 38, 1922 nr 48; 1923 nr 9, 21, 43, 1924 nr 43, 1925 nr 22; "Tyg. Powsz." 1977 nr 33; "Wiadomosci" 1966 nr 20 (list P-a do redakcji); "Wiez" 1965 nr 11 (rec. P-a z ksiazki A. Micewckiego), "Z geografii politycznej II Rzeczpospolitej"); "Zycie Warszawy" 1977 nr 142;- AAN : sygn. 86 (Sklad osobowy TRS I Komisji Przejsciowej 15 I - 1 X 1917 r. ); B. Jag.: Dokt. 21/72 (Bujak W., Historia krajowej dzialalnosci Stronnictwa Pracy <1937-1950>. Praca doktorska, mszp.); Centr. Arch. KC PZPR: Arch. Mikrofilmowe sygn. 34/1933 t. X k. 793-794 (Komunikat Informacyjnej Komisariatu Rzadu z 27 X 1933 r. nr 134), t. XI k. 352-356 (poufny Komunikat Informacyjny Komisariatu Rzadu z 25 V 1934 r. nr 61); - Informacje Waldemar Bujak z Krakowa (wg jego ustalen na podstawie Akt. I Paderewskiego w AAN, sygn. 1850, zebranie dzialaczy SP w Paryzu odbylo sie nie, jak na ogol sie podaje, w pazdzierniku 1939, lecz 11 II 1940).

Teresa Monasterska

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This site was created on June 15, 1998 and updated on May 13, 2007
Copyright 1998. Jan Popiel & Slawomir Popiel.