Military and Civilian settlers

Source: ‘From the Eastern Borderlands of the Republic of Poland – Memories from Military Settlements 1921 – 1940’

The military settlement of the Eastern Borderlands has a lasting place in the history of the Second Republic, even though it only included some 9000 soldiers who actually fought for independence during the 1914-1920 period. The notion to settle the Kresy region in this manner arose in the heated days of August 1920 and was passed into Law by the Polish Parliament on December 17th of that year. However it was soon subjected to severe criticism from both within the Parliament and the Press. The criticism originated from groups who felt that their political and economic interests were being threatened by the presence of the Pilsudski-supported military settlements. Within two years, in March 1923, further expansion of military settlements was suspended.
In the early years, the living conditions of the settlers were extremely difficult. The land they had been allocated was often overgrown and spoiled by the military action of the preceding years, buildings were neglected, there was a lack of basic farming tools and machinery, and of course the former soldiers had little money in their pockets to improve matters.
With the passage of time the settlers’ situation improved gradually. During the 1930s the Press commented very favourably, and often very enthusiastically, on the achievements made by the settlers and the positive role they fulfilled in the Eastern Borderlands. There, in the eastern part of the country, where different nationalities lived as if in a crucible: Polish, Ukrainian, White Russian, Jewish, as well as a number of smaller minorities, the settlers were able to live well and on friendly terms with the indigenous population, without generating an atmosphere of the ‘Polish Lord’, the ‘Ukrainian peasant’ or ‘White Russian’ peasant.
Toward the end of the 1920s, in addition to military-based settlements (where former soldiers were awarded land free of charge), civilians also began to settle in the Eastern Borderlands where they were able to purchase land at lesser prices than in other parts of Poland.
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Janina Stobniak-Smogorzewska
Osada Krechowiecka, Wołyń

                

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