• Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland



  • Author:

    dr Kamila Faszcza

    The Scientific Foundation Norden Centrum




    The first records of Polish-Danish relations date back to the early years of the first Polish ruling dynasty, the Piast dynasty. In 996, the first Polish king, Mieszko I, gave his daughter Świętosława in marriage to the Danish King Svend Forkbeard. This move was most probably a part of the Polish king's plan to strengthen his power. Around 1129/1130, the two countries cooperated in arranging a common expedition to the island of Wolin in what is now Northwestern Poland. This alliance, however, did not last for long. Another instance of Polish-Danish rapprochement took place in the 14th century when the Danish King Erik Menved concluded an alliance with the Polish king Władysław the Elbow-high, which was directed against the rising power of the German Margraviate of Brandenburg. Władysław’s son Casimir the Great twice invited the Danish King Valdemar Atterdag to his court in Kraków in the middle of the 14th century. During one of his stays, the Danish King participated in a banquet hosted by Mikołaj Wierzynek – whose restaurant carrying his name still exists today in Kraków’s Main Square. This event was made famous by Polish chronicler Jan Długosz’ depiction of the event.


    A very strong determining factor behind the foreign policies of the two kingdoms was the German expansion – by the Hanseatic League and the Teutonic Order – in the north and in the east. The Polish-Lithuanian Union and the Danish-Swedish-Norwegian Kalmar Union, which were both established in the late 14th century, were motivated by a desire to counteract the widespread German influence. In this context, mention should be made of Erik of Pomerania from the House of Griffins, which was a dynasty ruling the Duchy of Pomerania. Erik was adopted by the Danish Queen Margaret I and thanks to her efforts was crowned the king of the three united Nordic countries in 1397.




    The second part of the 16th century marked the beginning of a long period of fighting between the countries around the Baltic Sea to secure themselves the hegemony of the Baltic Region. What the Polish-Danish relations is concerned, this turbulent period was characterized by a series of short-lived alliances, most often directed against Sweden. The most famous episode of the Polish-Danish relationship in this period is undoubtedly the campaign of a corps of Polish soldiers under the leadership of Hetman Stefan Czarniecki. Czarniecki's troops came to the rescue of their Danish ally during the Second Northern War (1655-1660). The Danish King Frederik III had declared war against Sweden in 1657 but, much to his surprise, the Swedish troops soon defeated the Danish army. In 1658, Stefan Czarniecki and his squad of 6.000 soldiers came to the rescue of Denmark. The Polish troops especially distinguished themselves in the liberation of Als and Koldinghus – the former seat of the Danish kings. These events were vividly depicted by the Polish chronicler and nobleman Jan Chryzostom Pasek, who himself took part in the expedition.


    In the following decades, the Polish-Danish relations gradually lost their importance in comparison with relations connecting Poland and Denmark with other countries. An important reason for this was Russia’s rising power and influence over the political situation in the Baltic Region. During the reign of the last two Polish kings in the 18th century, Russia succeeded in completely taking over control of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In a series of three partitions (in 1772, 1793 and 1795), Poland’s neighbors, Russia, Prussia and Austria, divided the territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between them, which led to the complete disappearance of Poland as a political entity from the map of Europe in 1795.


    As a consequence of the partition of Poland, the Polish-Danish relations were reduced to unofficial contacts. In the 19th century, Danish writers often wrote about the loss of independence of the united Polish-Lithuanian state and the fight for its resurrection. In this period, an important common interest uniting Poles and Danes was the fight against Germanization, which affected both the former Danish and the former Polish parts of the German Empire.




    During the First World War (1914-18), the Danish public again took an interest in the fate of the Poles and their endeavors to create an independent country. The first attempts to establish representations in Denmark were already undertaken during the war by Polish power elites acting in former Polish territories as well as abroad. In 1914, an official of the Austro-Hungarian Embassy in Copenhagen, E. Łuniński, was given the mandate by the Supreme National Committee – a Kraków-based quasi-government for the Poles in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the years 1914-17 – to act as the press delegate to Denmark. In October 1918, the German- and Austrian-backed Regency Council undertook efforts to establish a consulate in Denmark and, in the beginning of 1919, the Paris-based Polish National Committee, which was recognized by France as the legitimate government of Poland, attempted to entrust Jan Jakub Kowalczyk with the position of temporary honorary consul in Copenhagen. On 14 January, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Denmark accepted this latter request.


    In a situation in which several power centers were claiming the right to represent Poland abroad, Denmark chose a wait-and-see-approach and postponed its de iure recognition of the Polish Republic. In the meantime, the question of how to regulate the Polish-Danish relations became an increasingly important issue. This was due to the fact that Denmark was housing a large number of Polish immigrants, who had emigrated to the country before the war to work.


    After Poland had been recognized by the European great powers, the Scandinavian countries expressed their willingness to establish official contacts with the new-born Polish Republic. In the beginning of May 1919, Romuald Sędzikowski travelled to Copenhagen to fulfill the position of Temporary Consul of the Polish Republic. Even though no peace settlements had yet been signed, Denmark recognized the Polish state de iure on 30 May 1919.


    The return of Poland on the map of Europe and the reestablishment of its state structures after the First World War made it possible to establish official relations between Poland and the Kingdom of Denmark. The first official representative of the Polish Republic in Copenhagen was Aleksander Dzieduszycki (1919-1924). Józef Piłsudski, who had greatly contributed to the resurrection of Polish independence in 1918 and was appointed Chief of State in the same year, signed Dzieduszycki’s letter of credence in July 1919. In the beginning, the Mission of the Polish Republic was located in the Phoenix Hotel in Bredgade 47. Subsequently it was moved to Frederiksgade 17, next to the Royal Palace of Amalienborg.


    An important event that had an immense impact on the Polish-Danish relations was the signing of the Commercial and Nautical Treaty on 22 March 1924. The treaty led to a significant increase in trade and a growing interest in each other, which was also positively reflected on the political and cultural levels.


    In the years 1931-1936, the position of Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary to Copenhagen was filled by Michał Sokolnicki. The position of Secretary of the Mission of the Polish Republic in Copenhagen, in the years 1932-1935, was filled by the famous writer, translator and co-founder of the poetic grouping „Skamander“, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz. Iwaszkiewicz later published some very interesting notes from his stay in Denmark with the title „Swans‘ Nest“ (1962).


    Sokolnicki’s time in office was a period characterized by increased diplomatic and consular activity. Firstly, this was a part of a plan to expand Polish economic activity on the Danish market. Secondly, this was a consequence of the reorientation of Polish foreign policy initiated by Józef Beck, who filled the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1932 until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. The attempts at a rapprochement at the political level between Poland and the countries in the Scandinavian-Baltic region were conditioned by Poland’s wish to establish an Intermarium federation, which was intended to act as a “third power”, consisting of the countries of the Scandinavian, Baltic, Central European and Balkan regions, balancing the strong neighbors to the west and east: Germany and The Soviet Union. This idea, however, never caught the interest of the Danish political circles, as Danish foreign policy was guided by very different principles. The principles of neutrality, avoidance of forming alliances with other countries and a wish to reduce the military potential were all contrary to the principles behind the Intermarium plan.




    The German-Soviet attack on Poland in September 1939, and the ensuing collapse of the state structures of the Polish Republic, forced the diplomatic corps to leave Warsaw. Poland’s representative in Copenhagen, J. Starzewski (1936-1940), however filled the position as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary until 14 April 1940. After the German occupation of Denmark, the Polish Mission in Copenhagen and the Polish consulates were closed. King Christian X received permission from Adolf Hitler to let the Polish, French and British diplomatic representatives leave the country without being arrested. In April 1940, the diplomats left Denmark in a special train heading for the Netherlands.


     The Polish-Danish diplomatic relations were reestablished on 7 July 1945 in the completely new post-war political reality, in which Poland found itself under Soviet dominance. On this day, Copenhagen recognized the Soviet-backed Provisional Government of National Unity as the sole body of authority with the legal entitlement to represent the resurrected Polish state in international relations, and Copenhagen declared its willingness to exchange diplomats. The very quick establishment of diplomatic relations between Poland and Denmark happened primarily due to the economic needs of both countries.


    A villa on Richelieus Allé 12 in Hellerup, north of Copenhagen, was chosen as the seat of the Polish Mission, which was later to become the Polish Embassy. Among the most important tasks of the Polish Diplomatic Mission in the first post-war years was the coordination of the repatriation of the Polish citizens that had ended up in Denmark during the war, as well as the negotiation of a trade agreement. The negotiations leading to the establishment of official commercial cooperation between Poland and Denmark were finalized with the signing of a trade agreement on 29 August 1945.


    The Polish-Danish economic and political relations experienced a significant deterioration in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. In 1949, Denmark acceded to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and six years later, in 1955, Poland acceded to the Warsaw Pact. The growing political and economic tensions that developed between the East and the West in the second half of the 1940’s were also reflected in the Polish-Danish relations. In consequence, the relations between the two countries were markedly reduced. It was not until Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953 that the countries of the Socialist Bloc were again able to act more independently on the international scene. Among the priorities of Polish foreign policy after 1953 was the goal of reanimating relations with the Scandinavian countries, which resulted in an upgrading of the diplomatic representations in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo to the status of embassies. The first Polish Ambassador to Copenhagen was Stanisław Wincenty Dobrowolski (1957-1963), who had presided the Kraków-based “Council to Aid Jews”, which was also known under the codename “Żegota”, during the war. Poland and Denmark established a political dialogue that made it possible to replace short-term trade settlements with a long-term agreement and to sign, in 1960, for the first time in history, a Polish-Danish agreement on scientific and cultural cooperation.


    In 1968, the Polish-Danish relations experienced a crisis, which caused Denmark to freeze political relations with Poland. This was Copenhagen’s reaction to the participation of Polish troops in the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. A contributing factor to the Danish decision was the influx to Denmark of a large number of Polish political refugees, primarily of Jewish descent, who had been forced to emigrate from Poland as a consequence of an anti-Semitic campaign waged by the Communist regime. In the context of growing international tensions, the Polish diplomatic mission in Copenhagen was often used by the intelligence service of the People’s Republic of Poland to gather information.


    In the 1970’s, relations between Copenhagen and Warsaw again became closer. An issue that was given much attention in this period was the question of disarmament and peaceful cooperation in the Baltic Sea region. Poland, however, was worried about Denmark’s moving closer to the European Economic Community, which finally led to Danish membership of the EC in 1973.


    In the 1980’s, the Polish-Danish relations experienced another deterioration. Copenhagen reacted firmly to the introduction of martial law by the Communist authorities in Poland in December 1981 and the ensuing repression of the members of the opposition, who were gathered around the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union "Solidarity". The Polish regime’s crack-down on dissidents resulted in another wave of Polish emigrants to Denmark, which was commonly known as the “Solidarity immigration”. This wave of immigration started in 1981 and lasted, with variable intensity, until the end of the decade.




    The political and systemic transformation of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, as a result of which Poland became a member of the club of democratic countries, marked the beginning of a new epoch in the Polish-Danish relations. Following the collapse of the Communist regime and the first partly free elections in Polish post-war history in 1989, Janusz Ryszard Roszkowski was appointed Ambassador to Denmark (1989-1991). Roszkowski had been correspondent and subsequently editor in chief of the Polish Press Agency. He was accredited by the Danish government on 13 November 1989. The systemic transformation of Poland in the beginning of the 1990’s opened up a new chapter in the history of Polish-Danish relations. Contacts on the economic, cultural and, in particular, on the political level were given a new impulse for development and took the form of unrestricted cooperation. After the collapse of the Communist system in Eastern Central Europe, Denmark engaged itself actively in the development of the new democracies, with a special interest in the Baltic Sea region. On the initiative of the German and Danish governments, and with the support of e.g. Poland, which was also among the founders, the Council of the Baltic Sea States was established. Until today, the Council continues to be an important forum for international cooperation in the Baltic Sea region.


    The Polish efforts to become a member of the European Union and NATO were also actively supported by Copenhagen. Already in the early 1990’s, Poland began to develop its cooperation with individual NATO members, including in particular Germany and Denmark. Bilateral Polish-Danish military contacts were initiated already in September 1991. The military cooperation was further deepened after the Polish accession to NATO on 12 March 1999.


    During the years when Poland negotiated the conditions of its accession to the European economic and military structures, the leader of Poland’s diplomatic mission in Copenhagen was Jerzy Stanisław Sito (1991-1997) – poet, playwright and translator of e.g. William Shakespeare and Thomas Eliot. He was accredited as Ambassador by the Danish government on 20 April 1991. In 1997, the leadership of the Polish Embassy in Copenhagen was handed over to Professor of Economy and Rector of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Jan Górecki. Górecki’s successor, Barbara Tuge-Erecińska, became the first expert on Scandinavian affairs to hold the position of Ambassador to Denmark in the history of Polish-Danish relations. Tuge-Erecińska had been an experienced political activist associated with the Solidarity movement, and she had long experience from within the ranks of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when she took over the leadership of the Polish Embassy in Copenhagen on 10 August 2001. A function that she fulfilled until July 2005.


    From the second half of the 1990’s it became an overarching priority of Danish foreign policy to work in favor of an enlargement of the European Union. In an effort to secure political stability in the Baltic Sea region, Copenhagen put a strong emphasis on supporting democratic transformation in the Baltic republics and Poland. The main areas of support were the legal, administrative and institutional issues in connection with implementation of EU norms, promotion of environmental protection, cooperation in the areas of general security and aid in the development of a civil society. These activities were not only intended to turn Poland into a reliable partner in political relations, but also in economic relations. In the new context of a free market economy, Denmark became an important foreign investor in Poland. Business relations are today one of the most important areas of close contacts between the two countries, and statistical data bear witness to the gradual intensification of the Polish-Danish trade relations.


    At a time of deepening Polish-Danish cooperation in the framework of the EU, NATO and the Baltic Sea region, the leadership of the Polish Embassy in Copenhagen was taken over, in 2005, by Jakub Wolski, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Marek Belka’s government. Already in November 2006, however, the position of Ambassador to Denmark was handed over to the experienced diplomat, Dr. hab. in the Humanities, Adam Halamski. In 2010, the leadership of the Polish diplomatic mission in Copenhagen was taken over by Rafał Wiśniewski – former Ambassador to Hungary, Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the years 2005-2007 and Director General of the Polish Foreign Service in the years 2007-2010.


    Today the Polish-Danish relationship is characterized by permanent political dialogue. This was for example the case in the consultations between the two countries when Poland took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union (1 July 2011 – 31 December 2011) and was immediately followed in this role by Denmark (1 January 2012 – 31 June 2012). The role of the diplomatic services in the development of contacts between the two countries since 1989 has been very significant. Their task has not only been to secure the interests of the states they represent, but also to react to the needs and expectations of the Danish and Polish publics in the bilateral contacts between the two countries.  

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