Today is the 50th Anniversary of Charles de Gaulle Death, leader of the French resistance during the WWII and President of France from 1959 to 1969, Charles de Gaulle, has an important history with Warsaw and Poland.
— Charles de Gaulle has a long story with Warsaw —
April 1919 – May 1920 / June 1920 – January 1921 – Warsaw – French Military Mission in Poland
Charles de Gaulle served in the French Military Mission in Poland during the war against communist Russia (1919-1921) just after the WWI Armistice. The mission consisted in 400 French officers sent to Poland to teach the Polish infantry technics of war, improve the organization and logistics (equipment). The French institutions built 16 military instructions centers and schools in Poland from the General Staff School in Warsaw to the Infantry School in Rembertów where De Gaulle served as an instructor. After 1 week of train across Germany, he arrived in Modlin on April 1919, and waited 3 months in “boring and bad conditions”. He describes the place as “decrepit” and “boring”. Finally, in July 1919, he moved to the Infantry School in Rembertów where he served under the commandment of General Henrys (Paul Prosper Henrys), and instructed the Polish Army.
In only 5 months, he will be 2 times promoted, becoming Studies Director in November and Superior Officers studies director in December. He impressed the audience during the conferences through his presence, attitude and knowledge. General Henrys proposed him to stay in Poland, but he refused as he wanted to prepare his future exams to become a professor in the Military School of St Cyr in France. 1 Months after returning to France, he decided to come back.
From June 1919 to January 1921, he lived a social and military experience with the Poles, during the defeat and victories and with the Army during several operations in South and Central Poland. As advisor under the commandment of Rydz-Smigly and Marshal Pilsudski during the South Poland campaign, he witnessed the disorganization of the troops and the way the Marshal Pilsudski dislocated the organization to take the commandment himself. Despite this, the fact the head of the state fought with his army had a positive impact on the morale of the troops and after several battles won the war against one of the biggest army of the world, the Red Army.
Charles de Gaulle came back to Warsaw and witnessed the victory in the capital he wrote about it “The crowed showing our dirty uniforms came to us. From all those chests rise a scream: “Vive la France!” She was here with us, ardent, wise, and determined. We are watching us with the same expression. And, suddenly, each French are here, shivering with holy enthusiasm, feels beat against his passing man heart, the heart of the motherland”. He stayed in Warsaw and lived at Nowy Swiat 15/17 until January 1921, and wrote general reports on the Polish army. After success in operations near the River Zbrucz as major, he was awarded the Virtuli Military, the highest military decoration in Poland.
Anecdote: One of the favorite places of Charles de Gaulle in Warsaw was the Blikle Café, Nowe Swiat 33, he was fond of Paczki (the famous Polish donuts).
September 6-12th, 1967 – Official visit in Poland
On September 6th, 1967, Charles the Gaulle now President of France was welcome in Warsaw by a large crowd of 1/2 million peoples from Okecie Aiport to the center of the Capital with “Vive la France” cards. De Gaulle, first went to the tomb of the unknown soldier to laid flowers before being invited to lunch at the presidium of the Council of Ministers (today the Presidential Palace) at Krakowskie Przedmieście. For the official diner at the Wilanów Palace, Charles de Gaulle asked Jerzy Bilkle son of the Blikle Café creator, he knew in the past to create an almond paste white cake called the “Cake of the General”, still a success today! The next day, the French delegation spent the evening at the Theater Wielki, watching fragments of Faust and Straszny Dwór.
« Vive la Pologne ! Our dear Poland, noble and brave Poland! » The last words of De Gaulle before leaving Warsaw
After 2 days in Warsaw, he visited several cities in Poland, Kraków, Katowice, the salt mine in Wieliczka, Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Gdańsk
Inauguration of the Charles de Gaulle Roundabout – Warsaw – 1990
In 1990, Warsaw inaugurated the Charles de Gaulle Roundabout in the center of the capital after a proposition of Halina Skibniewska, chairwoman of the Polish-French Friendship Society. This proposition was made following the contribution of Charles de Gaulle during the Polish-Bolchevick war between 1919 and 1920 but also his centenary. They also chose this place because he lived near the roundabout at Nowy Swiat 15/17.
March 15th, 2005 – Charles de Gaulle Monument inauguration
On March 15th, 2005 a statue of Charles de Gaulle was inaugurated in the famous General Charles de Gaulle roundabout by the French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier. Created by the French sculptor Jean Cardot, the statue is a copy of the monument inaugurated 5 years earlier in the Champ-Elysées in Paris. The Warsaw version was created after a proposition of Jean Caillot, chairman of the board of the Polish section of the Association of Mutual Assistance of Members of the Legion of Honor.