FIVE o’clock in Warsaw; I was expecting Polish friends to tea. On my way to the dining room the hotel porter handed me a packet.
‘But is there something interesting in that envelope?’ asked Prince A—, once we were pleasantly gathered about the table. ‘That depends,’ I laughed, as I extracted from it a sheaf of Latin and Ruthenian documents — I was on the trail of Poland’s Queen Jadwiga, whose glory and tragedy was that by sacrifice of her love she brought the last pagan people of Europe, the Lithuanians, into the fold of the Western Church, and their territories and defensive power to the aid of the developing Polish nation.
I looked out over the tea dance of five hundred years later as I unfolded the mellow documents from which depended the wax seal of this adored young queen — the great white room was beautiful with encircling green trees and billowy above with floating green and white paper strips. The dance was the international two-step, but here executed with an accent and lilt, a Slavic joyance, that individualized it.
‘May I take a look?’ asked my guest, and soon we were all leaning forward while he read swiftly and musically, passing from Latin to Ruthenian and reversely, paralleling both with an English translation, occasionally referring a Latin word to his daughter, a Ruthenian one to his wife; while to my questions about milieu, which such documents provoke but fa0il to answer, he built in the background from a richly furnished mind, a mind which had arrived at a philosophy of history.
Here the record of a bit of shifting territory — ‘But how interesting, for that was a logical movement.’ Followed a painting of the ethnological picture of Eastern Europe illustrating the flexibility of Aryan languages, the rigidity of others; a pointing out of such strange tongue kinships as those, for instance, between Lithuanian and Sanskrit, Finnish and Magyar. Suddenly someone looked at a watch. ‘Eight-fifteen o’clock! But impossible!’
I do not suggest that this was a typical Warsaw tea party. But it is a fact that here is a country where an extraordinary number of persons would have seized upon that packet with similar delight and rekindled it with equal ease. For there exists no more circumferentially equipped mind than that of the cultivated Pole. It is a mind which, stimulated from within, pursues its own quests — to which the panorama of history, archives, libraries, are school.
Through turbulent centuries, when for the great body of the people of Eastern Europe there was scant hope of cultural advance, the Polish aristocrat made himself a transmitter of the intellectual treasure of his race. Hence the young democracy’s wealth of private libraries and museums, which to-day pour their store into the stream that is feeding the mind of the new Poland; these represent one aspect of the continuity of Polish aspiration.
I had my first view of their present use in the Krasinski Library in Warsaw, where, to be admitted, one has only to give a legitimate reason, and where, once inside, he enjoys more free use of his material than in many a public library.
I found the solid gray stone building housing, first a central museum, with unbelievable treasure in paintings, jeweled armor, embroidered velvets, and beyond it a light-flooded conference room of the type of that of our Academy of Sciences; and then, of course, the book departments — the documents and incunabula, the thousands of lusciously bound volumes. Upstairs and downstairs in research rooms, students from Warsaw University, and other investigators, were deep in work. My own requests brought quick coöperation.
Not far from this library is another treasure of the capital, the Zamoyski Collection, centred in a long goldbrown room whose faded silk banners hang like recording pages from the encircling gallery. Here in especial beauty run shelves of French volumes, many of them lacking even in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris. In one little room is the library of a Jagellonian king; there arc early church books with a richness of decoration unsurpassed in any collection; there is Kosciuszko’s colored crayon drawing of our battlefield of Saratoga — but no superficial reference can suggest the accumulated total. Nor that of the library this same family has given to the nation at Kornik in Western Poland. Nor the splendor and importance of the Czartoryski museum-library at Cracow. Nor of the Ossolinski at Lwow, which counts more than 200,000 volumes, 3000 maps, 6000 MSS., and which is open, as are our public ones. Nor of many another.
Undoubtedly, with increased funds, owners will develop the facilities and usefulness of these collections. With the rapid increase of schools and the development of the whole educational system, demands on all libraries are overwhelming. There is a cry for seating space, for increased personnel, for duplicate copies.
What individuality, what atmosphere, in each of these foundations! An atmosphere which is in itself educative. The books chosen and guarded with personal devotion speak from their places as they never can from the duplicate shelves of the public building.
The most important pre-war collections were in such private libraries as these, and in those of the universities and scientific corporations of Warsaw, Vilna, Lublin, Cracow, Lwow, and Poznan. Some 10,000 items of the famous Zaluski Collection, stolen by the Russians, have already been returned and will go to the new National Library. The quite natural desire of Cracow, lovely old capital of the South, that its historic Jagellonian library become the present national one, has quite as naturally been thwarted. Through a compromise, the Jagellonian will remain the chief source for periods before 1800, while the library in the newer capital, Warsaw, will specialize in later material. The Pole in the Cracow region envies his Czech neighbor, who has the luck to have centred in a single Prague the ancient glory of the old state and the promise of the new.
Poland’s great families have carried not only books, tapestries, sculptures, down warring centuries, but also the magnificent estates on which they sheltered them. But, alas, the adaptation of this mighty treasure of domain to the best uses of the republic, whose economic interest is chiefly agricultural, is not so simple.
It is too much to expect that the present representative of those who fought to bring an unbroken heritage to his hands should see arrived the historical moment for relinquishment. The more so since many outside his class hold, with him, that land division beyond a certain point spells economic disaster.
Yet obviously when, in a democracy of 28,000,000 inhabitants, some 19,000 of them owned 45 per cent of all privately held farm land in the country, reapportionment was inescapable. From the immense properties down (the Zamoyski estate covers half a province) were all sizes, until one reached that third of the agricultural population which had barely enough land to support itself, and, still further below, that other third of the workers who owned nothing.
So, during the first ten years of its existence, the Polish Parliament has been intensely occupied with the agrarian-reform programme, which, by the end of the first half of the decade, was expressed in Acts that have been progressively operative. But scarcely with the consent of the land magnates! Though many of them, financially embarrassed, have been glad to part with certain portions of their holdings.
The Polish people, whose historical record is one of tolerance and patience, are proud of the moderation of this land-readjustment programme, holding it generous in time and remuneration, not so extreme in the ordained degree of division as are the programmes in neighboring countries, and yet carrying the opportunities due the new citizen.
It is variously specialized, with different degrees of subtraction for border and interior lands and for those promising industrial development, and with exemptions for forest areas and such other large properties, already highly productive, as beet plantations, seed nurseries, breeding stations, and orchards. In accordance with this — to point concretely to but one period of the advance — between 1919 and 1923 some 5000 estates, which included state and church lands, parted with a million acres, from which 24,000 new properties were created; while 47,000 supplementary tracts were added to inadequate farms. Parcellation thus begun has continued gradually, but steadily. And at the same time the consolidation of small holdings is increasing by leaps and bounds.
The people as a whole view this record optimistically. But most of the large owners, who see written the minimum unit of 450 acres, and who, quite aside from their personal despair, believe that the total potential production of a number of small properties must lag behind that of an equal area developed as a unit, with opportunities for better machinery and methods, are doing their utmost to check this progress.
They ask, too, what will become of the future heirs of the owners of very small farms. In Poland not the eldest son alone, but all, inherit, and the Polish peasant hears no preaching of birth control. How much division will a few acres stand? Children will be forced to leave the country for cities, and the thing to be avoided will not have been avoided after all!
As one studies the successes and failures of the reform, he is impressed, not so much with the reactionary attitude of the great proprietors, as with the reasonableness of the whole people.
Last week, in the country, I sat in a centuries-old library where Emerson and Whitman are as much at home as Mickiewicz and Sienkiewicz, and where Poland’s past speaks from marvelous portraits. And that evening it spoke through Chopin, as hour after hour a protégé of Paderewski sat at the piano. Just beyond his head hung a Titian Madonna and Child, lighted by the flickering taper in a little red cup swung below it. After dinner, as we lingered over our coffee, through the dining-room door quietly walked the old family friend, a beautiful Arabian horse, to encircle the table for his accustomed bread and sugar.
You cannot get something for nothing-life, after all, means just a few inexorable laws operating, one of them this one. If those long deprived are now to have their turn, it must be paid for. And just as in our own country, with the freeing of the slave, disappeared the charm and picturesqueness of life on the plantation, so here will pass the beauty of life culturally rich and self-contained, as it has been lived for centuries on Poland’s vast properties. Such a milieu is not built up by one generation, nor yet by two. For how long will the forward road be that of standardization, — our own road still, — of sacrifice of quality and individuality to the lifting of the general level of material well-being? There is that sadness in the air, inevitably incident to change, but the mood of Poland is not one of morbid regret over the passing of the old order — it is one of healthy joy over the coming of the new.
Moreover, the rest of Poland claims that as a group its cultivated aristocracy have failed to give energetic coöperation in the founding of the democracy. Even in foreign affairs, where they were especially prepared to serve, they have not carried the large responsibilities. The complaint is that their contribution is apt to be dilettante, spasmodic. Securely placed, for them, as for the typical rich man’s son, the thrust behind endeavor is wanting. At the same time people recognize that during these particular years, because of destruction of property and financial chaos, many have been held to their estates, in what has seemed to them a struggle for existence.
No; the government is being shaped not by the aristocracy, but by the classes socially below them, by the lesser gentry, by intellectuals of that and of peasant stock. The man who dreams of the university as leading the people would be happy in Poland to-day.
As, in the beginning, the inspired pilot Paderewski and that other economist pilot, Dmowski, came from the humbler gentry, so to-day Marshal Pilsudski, whose ten years’ service to the infant state has resulted in his amazing position within it, was born of the smaller gentry; born near Vilna, in a beautiful region of which he never tires of talking. And, in parenthesis, Vilna, in its far-northern setting of lakes and hills and wearing a crown of churches unique in their loveliness, will one day be starred on the travelers’ list.
President Moscicki, a distinguished chemist of country gentlemen’s stock in former Russian Poland, was professor at Fribourg University when, one day after Upper Silesia had become Poland’s, the Germans to a man walked out of its great nitrate factory at Chorzow. He hurried to the rescue.
In less than a month he had accomplished a miracle of reorganization, and in two years the factory was producing more than it had in German hands. He gave to his people not only money, but belief in their capacity to manage their own enterprises — in those days the thing most needed. When Marshal Pilsudski picked him for President, he knew that he would be hailed as deserving first place. Besides, he was able. He showed great tact in helping to solve the cabinet crisis of December 1929, and he had a day of triumph last January, when a second great nitrate factory was opened near Tarnow.
There is no more interesting pursuit in Europe to-day than this following of the rise of Poland’s lesser gentry to leadership. But one cannot in passing cite more than one or two further illustrative instances. Bartel, the recent Prime Minister, began in Southeastern Lwow, as a locksmith, in the workshops attached to the Engineering College, then made his way up through that Engineering College to a professorial chair in it. An inordinate worker, he laughingly boasted that at least once every two months some one of his staff was forced to flee to a rest home. He had dedicated himself to bridging the perilous gulf between Pilsudski’s modified dictatorship and Parliament, trying first to fuse the Left with the Marshal’s support, — for the government bloc has not a majority, — then the Right. He has been wrecked on the rock of this attempt. But he has been Prime Minister five times in four years, and is now known as the man who always ‘comes round again’ when things go wrong.
From the minor gentry, too, comes August Zaleski. who as Secretary of State has won the confidence of Europe. He was a journalist, graduate of the London School of Economics, and lecturer on Poland in the University of London during the war. One has only to remember Polish-German relations to understand the impression made by the tone in which, as Chairman of the League of Nations’ Council in 1929, he paid a tribute to his dead adversary, Stresemann. Great German Statesman.
And of the same class as Zaleski is Ladislas Wroblewski, former Minister to Washington and now head of the Bank of Poland. He was University lecturer on law and head of an Agricultural Syndicate at Cracow before the war.
These smaller landowners of the border gentry are the salt of the Polish earth.
Poland’s Lloyd George is the peasant Witos, — shrewd tactician, three times Prime Minister, — who began his political career in the Vienna Parliament, when Austria, in 1897, got universal suffrage. He is now overshadowed by Pilsudski, who ousted him from power. The Peasant Party which he led has suffered a collapse; but both for the party and for its leader an important part in Polish political life is no doubt still in store.
And so on down the list — in the Cabinet, in Parliament and outside, men in key positions are of the lesser gentry, with an increasing admixture of peasant stock. They are the men directing the struggle over politics and aims, which in so young a government are still undetermined.
And what are the outstanding problems? There are two.
First, the purely political one of the reform of the Constitution, which, modeled on the French Constitution, has, after a decade’s trial, been found seriously wanting, chiefly because of the weakness of the executive branch of the government — Poland’s fundamental difficulty ever since, in 1455, she became a parliamentary ‘gentry democracy.’ And second, a many-sided economic problem, which, expressed in limited and immediate terms, is the necessity of improved commercial arrangements with Germany.
If one sees a group in intense discussion in a café or home, he may be fairly certain that the talk centres on one of these subjects. And there is much talking, both in the Lower House of 444 members and outside of it. The power of the Senate in the present scheme is negligible. Elected in the same manner as the House, or Sejm, it has only one fourth the size and almost no initiative — a certain group even asks that it be abolished. It is amusing, on arriving, to hear echoes of a weary home-town voice in the Pole’s ‘If we could only adjourn the Sejm and stop the talking, we’d progress.’ The extremist adds, ‘Let Pilsudski again, as during earlier years, take the reins strongly in his own hands, dismiss Parliament, declare the needed constitutional reforms, and direct the state until it becomes adjusted to its new machinery.’ Out of what necessity spring such demands?
How many constitutional reforms are asked for? ‘As many,’ the cynic replies, ‘as there are inhabitants in Poland.’ Just as he will tell you, if you question which, numerically, is the strongest political party, that it is the one which does not vote. And again one is hearing echoes.
Such changes as these are urged: election of the President by popular vote, instead of, as at present, by Parliament; change in the representation and power of the Senate; appointment by the President, instead of by the House, of the important Board of Supreme Control which follows the disbursing of the budget. But there is one major reform on whose necessity practically all are agreed. This would, following the United States Constitution, make the Cabinet responsible, not to the Parliament, but to the President.
By thus strengthening the weak executive arm, it is believed that the most serious present difficulties would be overcome and the government’s power to expedite public business would be assured. As it is, in the course of the last three years of discussion of constitutional reform, such practices as presidential legislation by decree in urgent administrative matters, and automatic operation of the old budget, if the Parliament fails to pass the new one in time, have, under the pressure of necessity, become customary law. We may be able to afford the luxury of the inefficiency of democratic institutions; Poland cannot!
Since both these functions to be transferred to the executive are now vested in the Sejm, which must vote them away, one can understand the delay. Listening in, he feels himself again in the Senate Gallery on Capitol Hill, while week after week the debate on the flexible tariff provision, or some other question of inalienable prerogative, drags on. Parliaments are parliaments, the world over.
In this particular body, as in our own to-day, the government party, the B. B., a non-partisan bloc, lacks a working majority. Made up of all shades of opinion from Right to Left, it gets its character chiefly from the ‘colonels’ who immediately surround Marshal Pilsudski. There are, besides, the Nationalists and the Socialists, the three peasant parties, — two of which are radical and one liberal, — and a number of others. A varicolored political spectacle, which the Marshal, though he has expressed his contempt of it, follows with more or less patience. He has rarely gone to the extreme of abolishing the opposition; his dictatorship is restrained and objective.
There are daily attacks upon him, written and spoken; for Poland enjoys complete freedom of the press and of speech. While one group charges him with advocating the strengthening of the executive in the hope that he himself may become that more powerful executive, another complains of his lack of courage, of his failure to put forward and push with sufficient vigor a clearcut programme. But the majority see him as the lover of and protector of the democracy, wise enough to let it pursue its normal development, except when, in his judgment, its very existence seems threatened. In the meantime, his transcendent personal power continues — a power resting on that of the army and the people.
The prevailing belief is that both these imperatively necessary reforms will be voted. The question is, When? The persistent hope is, Soon.
Those who understand the job the new democracy faced — and it has just celebrated its tenth birthday — are not discouraged. It had to establish a state mechanism and to resuscitate an economic organism broken into three parts — to bring unity out of long-separated Poznan, Galicia, and Congress Poland. And this was especially difficult because the war here lasted two years longer than elsewhere. It was only after Pilsudski, in 1920, drove the Bolos back that there could be any feeling of security. Even now if one complains of the emigration of numbers of Poles — a million have gone to France — when there is land in Eastern Poland to be developed, he hears these emigrants, many of them former soldiers, saying, ‘No, not eastward.’ It will take a long time to convince them that there can be security near the eastern frontier, or even, for that matter, near the western one. Moreover, lack of capital would hinder them in the east, while in the west one needs only his two hands to make a beginning.
Poland’s first necessity, then, is to strengthen the executive branch of the government. With fully half of her industrial enterprises state-owned, the importance of an effective administrative machinery needs no comment. Her second major problem, the economic one, begins thus in politics, and, one might add, ends there. At the start, when there was almost no private capital, if there was to be any business at all the state was obliged to undertake it. The government today inherits the drawbacks as well as the advantages of this experiment. Practically all the great chemical and lumber industries are in its hands, the salt mines, and much of the coal and zinc. The opponents of étatisme point to waste in the handling of these enterprises, to overstaffing, overpaying, to general inefficiency. Their number seems to be growing, and the movement toward private enterprise becoming stronger. Yet lack of capital still bars progress in the many directions where rewards unquestionably wait. There are many pathetic instances of failure, in which capacity and courage have been beaten by this lack.
The direction of development, whether toward increased state ownership, or the reverse, will depend as much, then, on the success of the constitutional reform as it will upon the increased facility with which private credits can be negotiated.
At present the country is suffering from an acute economic depression, partly sympathetic, reflecting our own and other crises, partly of individual origin. It concerns, first of all, agriculture. One is again back on Capitol Hill! This year the evil is an overproduction which is not met by favorable export arrangements, and, heading the list of the farmers’ relief programme, Debenture! — not called by that name, but there it stands, followed by lower freight rates and other familiar items.
As the agricultural-relief programme has been fighting its way through the Sejm, there have been other efforts of cardinal importance. And first among them has been the negotiation of the commercial treaty with Germany. Nothing has more completely occupied the public mind. To mention but one or two points involved, Germany asked for a most-favored-nation’s clause which would ensure a developing market for her industrial products, implements, machinery, cars. On Poland’s side the chief exports would be raw materials, Upper Silesian coal, live stock, cereals, potatoes. She wished especially a rye export price agreement and the opportunity to send her pork products across her neighbor’s frontier. Above all discussion one heard again the word ‘pig’; and, remembering the Serbian pig and the World War, shivered! The signing of this treaty which resolved an array of seemingly unresolvable difficulties is one of the most important and most encouraging rapprochements between two former enemy countries.
While I write, the President of the Dresdener Bank is in conference with the President of the Bank Polski. At a café table near my own is a group of Germans in Warsaw on treaty business. At most tables there is intense discussion of German-Polish relations, either political or commercial. There is a ‘now or never’ feeling in the atmosphere, as these two peoples, despite their loud-crying nationalists, are trying desperately hard to get together.
As President Hoover acted recently in a threatening economic situation, so this government is attempting to control conditions. The ministers of commerce and labor have just visited Lodz, the textile centre, to discuss assistance, which will probably include government orders for textile products, provision for constructive credits, and tariff rebates to facilitate exports. They have promised, too, special unemployment relief funds.
While anyone who has followed our own economic situation during the past six months will easily orientate himself in Poland, he will find, too, unfamiliar factors, which will make him salute the courage with which its people press forward. Besides the sad lack of capital to invest, of money to purchase, the practice of modern business administration, especially in the smaller enterprises, is yet in its infancy. The Poles are, for instance, by tradition, individualists in business. To most of them yet it is difficult to think in terms of mass production. Only the other day, an American buyer, much interested in beautiful Polish peasant handicrafts, omitted Warsaw for another European city, where he could buy by thousands instead of by hundreds.
But there are more ways than one of doing business, and I have been delighted to watch a ‘snappy’ new firm composed of one quiet young American and one eager young Polish aristocrat turned ‘business man.’ Money is extremely tight; people accustomed to go South for a week or two during January did not go; others have had to give up this or that; yet this young firm within a short time sold sixty automobiles and no less than eight during the last difficult month — good sales, not on long credits. How was it done? Chiefly at luncheon and dinner tables. ‘You must not think that we can wait in my country for business to come to the office,’ laughed the young Pole; ‘people expect the office to come to them. At first my American friend objected that he could not accept an invitation and then lure his host into purchasing a car, but he no longer protests — this is a going concern!’
The recent amazing great fair at Poznan, celebrating the close of the Republic’s first ten years, has greatly heartened the whole people. Especially because of its picturing of the progress of social projects — the astonishing increase of schools, the speed of the educational advance. Such institutions as the Nurses’ Training School in Cracow and the School of Health in Warsaw, with both of which the Rockefeller Foundation coöperates, are giving splendid leadership. President Moscicki, again, gave the initiative for the foundation of a National Institute of Chemical Research, which has quickly grown up in Warsaw and is doing useful service, especially to the Silesian coal industry, whose captains (many of them Germans!) are contributing amply toward its cost.
In the capital, too, stands almost completed the Madame Curie Radium Institute and Hospital. The plans have long been worked over in Warsaw and Paris, and both laboratories and hospital represent the best that is known in medical installation. Warsaw gave not only a generous amount of land as site, but added an adjacent park. The Bank of Poland contributed the X-ray laboratories, and the million zlotys needed for the completion of the buildings is now being raised by a house-tohouse drive, each person contributing his mite. And so Madame Curie’s hope, her dream, is about to be realized. And here the gram of radium recently presented her by her American friends will be put to its beneficent uses.
One could go on enumerating reasons for encouragement pictured by the Poznan fair. Yet to-day, as the second decade starts, many Poles are again fearful, chiefly regarding international relations, and again chiefly concerning those with Germany.
Mention of Polish-German relations raises the curtain on the whole international scene, where humanity appears as it did to Luther — a drunken man riding home from the fair, who falls into the ditch on one side, laboriously lifts himself to his horse, only to fall, a little farther on, into the opposite ditch; and thus by repeated fallings and liftings progresses homeward. Humanity fell into the ditch when it wrote the Versailles treaty.
From this watchtower of Eastern Europe, the Drang nach Osten appears more real to-day than ever before. Will England return some of the lost expansion territory — some of Germany’s forfeited African land? Without it, her eyes are fixed on Russia, Siberia, China. Her road lies either over the old Berlin-to-Bagdad route or by the present northern trans-Corridor one. Will she ever be reconciled to this necessity of crossing the Danzig Corridor? What she wants is to swing it about at right angles to make for herself a Baltic bridge over the neck of Poland.
So, as Poland continues almost feverishly to develop her Baltic port, Gdynia, won after centuries of necessity, how can she do otherwise than keep her mind, too, on a possible Black Sea outlet? Therefore, she has entered into a formal alliance with Rumania, not only because they together face the long frontier of Russia, but also because beyond Rumania lies a Black Sea port.
In Cracow University, half a thousand years old, we celebrate that day ten years ago when Haller’s army reached the sea, and when, after planting the Polish Eagle on its shore, the General dropped a ring into the Baltic. The old hall is glorious with portraits of kings and benefactors, above all of whom Copernicus dominates, his mind overwhelmed with awe as in the blue and star-strewn night above his city he reads the truth. Town officials, faculty and students; crimson and purple, velvet and ermine, jeweled chairs, speeches spaced with song — throughout the land the same serious rejoicing. The spirit of President Wilson seems near.
Polish engineers and other professional men have long ago found in Russia their opportunity; they wish not to be cut off from this field, or from trade expansion eastward, where Germany is already strongly active. On her way, she has made herself the dominant influence in Lithuania, which does not speed the healing of Polish-Lithuanian differences, or the success of the Polish desire for a union of Baltic States. The President of Esthonia has just visited Warsaw. What is the significance of Grandi’s promised visit?
Suspicion in the Ukraine and other new states where Polish landlords once dominated is to be expected; that other ancient law operating — sins of the fathers visited on the children. It will take time to convince the peoples of these regions that their newly won rights are safe in Poland’s presence.
General opinion in the ten-year-old republic favors close ties with Hungary and Italy rather than with neighboring Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia: there is more traditional and temperamental affinity with the Hungarians and the Italians than with the two Slavic peasant nations. Hungary was, jointly with Poland, for centuries Europe’s bulwark against the Turk; and Italy became the alma mater of Polish art and learning in the sixteenth century, when a Polish queen of the house of Sforza brought many Italians to Poland, and encouraged Poles to study at Padua.
Yet to-day a living, working arrangement with Germany is Poland’s immediate and most pressing need. The comparatively small body of Polish and of German nationalists are making a loud outcry against submission to the so-called ‘annexes’ of the Hague Agreement, which the Young Plan advised but did not make binding, but which fortunately the two countries have signed. These include the liquidation of mutual claims, public and private, arising out of the war and the Versailles treaty. Poland admits that under them Germany’s sacrifice in money is, perhaps, greater than her own — she must renounce, to quote one item, the 60,000,000 zloty claim against the lost nitrate factory in Upper Silesia. But against this Poland sets the value of destroyed factories in Lodz. Her concession, by which she gives up her right under the Versailles treaty to expropriate 12,000 families of German colonists, enrages some nationalists, but appeals to her level-minded citizens as a giving up of something utterly impractical now to accomplish. She is to renounce, too, the right, after 1935, to force Germans in business in Upper Silesia to sell. ‘Let the nationalists howl,’ says a cynic. ‘We know that we could n’t; buy them out if we wanted to; we have n’t the money!’
The best elements in both countries want earnestly, as in the matter of the commercial treaty, to get together. Often, they hear Goethe saying in Faust, —
Dock hart im Raume stossen sick die Dinge,
for though ideas are living together in friendship, things continue harshly to knock one another about.
The Pole, who can scarcely be expected to be an optimist regarding these German-Polish relations, rather pins his faith to the Poznanian part of Poland as the road by which ultimately mutual understanding will be achieved. Its population once connected with Germany, but, where the German minority is only about a million, understands both psychologies; and as the post-war acuteness of political excitement dies down, Poznanians stand out as qualified forerunners of such a getting together.
Through all the tangle and difficulty of international adjustment, Poland leans on her historic friendship with France, on her warm, centuries-old friendship with Hungary, on friendship with Turkey, — during all the dark period of her subjection, Turkey had her name called on the diplomatic roll, and received the secretary’s report ‘Absent’! — but chiefly she is happy in her friendship with the United States. The names of President Wilson and of President Hoover are revered and loved.
Writing, I seem to hear still at the University of California Professor Bacon, as he tried to stir us to his own vivid interest in this part of the world, saying: ‘Go home, all of you, and read the Trilogy, and then keep on reading it all the rest of the year, and then don’t stop. And maybe, by and by, you will begin to understand Eastern Europe.’ Thomas Rutherford Bacon of Yale — a teacher!
That was twenty years ago. And today, the Polish friend with whom I am living describes to me the way in which at that time her mother and the neighbors ran down the street at the hour when the newspaper with the daily installments of Sienkiewicz’s novels should appear. She describes the clamoring of the crowd for its spiritual bread. Ask Poles who it was who carried the past and present generation until liberation came, and they will not hesitate. The poet-prophet, Mickiewicz, yes — but above all others Sienkiewicz. When through the immortal Zagloba he said, —
‘Gentlemen! Let me drink a toast in honor of the future generations! May God bless them and let them keep the heritage which we shall leave them, having restored it with our own toil and blood. May they remember us when hard times overcome them, and may they never despair, since there are no circumstances out of which one may not arise, viribus unitis, with the aid of God,’
he lifted and held the heart of the whole people.
And is it not significant that many young Poles to whom he has been teacher and savior now find him increasingly difficult to read? ‘We have passed the day of Fire and Sword,’ said one of them yesterday. ‘The time has come to turn from the intensely nationalistic path which was our only way of salvation, into the broader road of world brotherhood. If there is no successor of Mickiewicz and Sienkiewicz to-day, it is because he is no longer needed.’
Yet there are many young writers, novelists and poets, and painters and sculptors and musicians, for there is great creative activity in Poland — they are seeking new and more universal themes.