For the past 22 years Poland has been celebrating Święto Wojska Polskiego (Polish Army Day) on August 15th. Same as each year, celebrations reach even the furthest contingents that the Polish Army has worldwide. The main celebrations are traditionally held in the capital, Warsaw. But there is more than just Warsaw being the capital to why the celebrations are held there and why on August 15th. Let me tell you a story of how a tiny country, that just got its independence back a year before, managed to stop the Bolshevik invasion of Europe.
So what are we actually celebrating here in Poland? It all started in 1919. Poland just got its independence back after 125 years of occupation by Prussian, Russian and Austro-Hungarian forces. The new state immediately came under threat from a newly forming power to the east. The Bolshevik Russia, after securing a decisive victory against the anti-revolutionary forces, was big about keeping the momentum and spreading the wind of red revolution across Europe and beyond. The “Revolution from Outside” doctrine meant that the Red Army would aid revolutions in nearby countries to achieve domination of Socialism over more and more terrain.
Poland (as many times before in its history) stood as the gateway to Western Europe. The Bolshevik forces started to reoccupy the lands previously controlled by the German “Ober-Ost” Army as soon as the First World War ended in November of 1918. Soon incursions into ethnically Polish lands started. Since Bolshevik Russia was not recognized worldwide as a legitimate state, there was no officially recognized border between Poland and the Red State. The Red Army in the region was still engaged in fighting against the “White Russians” (anti-revolutionaries and remnants of the Russian Imperial Army) and therefore could not pose a significant threat—although at the time the Polish army was weak. It was mainly formed of conscripts and officers that previously served in the Imperial Armies of the old occupiers (Russia, Germany and Austro-Hungary).
Officially the war started in March of 1919. Since both sides could not field a significant force, the conflict rapidly progressed into a manoeuvre war, something the World War One trench veterans were not used to. By the end of the year, the conflict ended with a stalemate but this gave the Polish state the much needed time to train and deploy a much more significant force to the area.