Bogusław Wójcik: Ludwik Chmaj – professor and patriot – History of the Institute of National Remembrance

Bogusław Wójcik: Ludwik Chmaj – teacher and patriot

Proof of Professor Chmaj’s social authority and political position was his membership in the officially operational Polish Committee. The possibilities of this body were small. Nevertheless, throughout its existence, the Committee has consistently fought to defend the interests of the people of Vilnius.

  • Photo by Ludwik Chmaj of the arrest

The outbreak of the Second World War also had a dramatic impact on the fate of professors at the university centers in Vilnius and Lviv. Teacher. Ludwik Chmaj is one of the eminent representatives of this environment where scientific activity is combined with social and political activity. This attitude was consistent with the ethical norm that required taking responsibility for others and for the state due to skills and social authority. As confirmed by the example of prof. Ludwik Chmaj, acting in accordance with this standard was of great importance both during the war and in the face of the events that constituted its subsequent political consequences.

From a peasant family – through Sagittarius – to college

Ludwik Chmaj was born on February 15, 1888 in Głogów near Rzeszów in a peasant family.

From an early age, he was involved in social and political activities. In the years 1900-1908 he attended the first high school in Rzeszów, where he belonged to a secret self-education organization. After graduating from high school, he began to study philosophy at Jagiellonian University (Jagiellonian University), from which he received his doctorate in 1912. When the First World War broke out, he applied to “Strzelec “, due to his state of health, he did not join the ranks of this formation. In 1930, he obtained his habilitation and was a private lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University. However, criticized for his political opinions, he only obtained an independent chair in 1938 at Stefan Batory University (USB). At that time he already had considerable scientific achievements, which were reflected in the development of Directions and Currents of Contemporary Pedagogy. In Vilnius, he also became involved in the activities of the People’s Intelligence Union, helping, among other things, to create dormitories for twenty USB students.

After the Soviet aggression against Poland on September 17, 1939, the Vilnius region was under the so-called first Soviet occupation. Chmaj managed to avoid arrest by the NKVD. The aforementioned occupation ended with an agreement between the governments of the USSR and the Republic of Lithuania dated October 10, 1939. Under this agreement, Vilnius and the Vilnius region were transferred to Lithuania. Both in the opinion of some Lithuanian politicians of the time and from the point of view of today, this agreement only delayed the moment of the loss of independence of Lithuania. On the one hand, this period was a period of respite between successive Soviet, German and re-Soviet occupations, but on the other hand, economic and political repressions became increasingly severe for the Polish community. On December 15, 1939, the Lithuanian government decided to liquidate USB and establish a Lithuanian university. As a result, researchers were fired and around 3,000 were fired. students. The response to this fact was the boycott of the “new university” by professors and students and the organization of secret conferences in February 1940.

In the basement

Proof of Professor Chmaj’s social authority and political position was his membership in the officially operational Polish Committee.

The possibilities of this body were small. Nevertheless, throughout its existence, the Polish Committee has consistently fought to defend the interests of the people of Vilnius. Shortly after the Red Army entered Vilnius on June 15, 1940, it was disbanded. After the outbreak of war, underground structures also began to function in Vilnius – the Polish Victory Service (SZP), the extension of which was the Union of Armed Struggle (ZWZ) and the Army of interior (AK). In the fall of 1941, Ludwik Chmaj, representing the People’s Party, became a member of the Provincial Council established as a political advisory body to the SZP. In August 1941, it was renamed the District Political Council. Its status, however, changed significantly with the establishment in March 1942 of the Vilnius Regional Government Delegation.

The clandestine activity of Ludwik Chmaj, in addition to being of a political nature, also had a scientific dimension. Library cards kept in the archives indicate that he collected extracts and prepared new publications in local archives and libraries. The extent of this search is evidenced by the information that he also gave up the possibility of traveling to neutral Sweden, as he could not take “all the papers” with him. In the structure of the district government delegation, Chmaj worked as a university teaching clerk in the district office of education and culture and taught Latin at the secondary level and in the philosophy and pedagogy department of the underground faculty of human sciences. Zofia Lewicka wrote in short notes on teachers of the secret teaching on Chmaj:

“Patriot involved in the resistance movement. After Soviet troops entered Vilnius in 1944, he was convinced of the safety of Poles under agreements between the Allies. Shortly after the capture of Vilnius by the Soviet authorities, he was arrested and deported. »

The activities of the Polish underground state in the Vilnius region remained of interest to Soviet intelligence already during the German occupation. The Soviet authorities managed to maintain the appearance of goodwill and the impression that they would cooperate with the Polish state administration during the fighting for Vilnius in July 1944. However, on August 28 of the same year, during the meeting of the Convention of political parties with the delegate of the government in Vilnius, it was arrested participants, including Ludwik Chmaj.

Investigation and trial farce

In the archives of the investigation of the NKGB (People’s Commissariat for State Security) of the Lithuanian SSR, a photo of him was preserved, in which he was depicted with a blackened right eye, a badly swollen face , cropped hair with fatigue and depression on his face.

This remains proof that, like other Polish underground activists, he was not spared during interrogations. In the indictment of May 4, 1945, he was accused, among other things, of having participated in the drafting of the document on the democratic concentration of Vilnius, recommending to fight the Bolshevik influence on Polish and Belarusian society, to paralyze the activities of the Union of Polish Patriots and to constantly and systematically strengthen the moral attitude, patriotism, will and courage of Poles and Belarusian society.

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