In one of the interviews he gave, Jerzy Giedroyć said: “Between you and me, I harbour no special fondness for the Ukraine or the Ukrainians. My position on the Ukrainian question has been arrived at purely through reasoning”. Although one might subject the first part of this statement to discussion – one should rather view it as a recommendation to avoid basing policy on sentiment – the second part is undeniably true. For Giedroyć, the question of Poland’s relations with its eastern neighbours was one of the prime considerations which engaged him throughout his life.
He was born a subject of Tsar Nicholas II in Minsk (capital of Belorussia today) and began his education at the Polish Committee School in Moscow in 1916. As a pupil he got to know Russians, learnt their language and witnessed the February Revolution of 1917. Later, in Warsaw, when applying to enter secondary school he automatically responded in Russian to questions asked during the oral entrance exam. While a law student at Warsaw University, he also attended prof. Miron Korduba’s lectures on Ukrainian history and became the first editor of “Wschód” (The East), a journal connected with the Promethean Movement, which supported aspirations for independence among the nations which had been subdued by Bolshevik Russia. His own journal “Bunt Młodych” (Revolt of the Young), later renamed “Polityka” (Politics), was – despite its pro Piłsudskiite orientation – especially critical of the Sanacja government’s attitude towards Poland’s pre-war minorities.
Following the Second World War, during which he worked in the Polish Embassy in Bucharest and later served in General Anders’ army, he could see no immediate prospect of the outbreak of a further war (this time against Soviet Russia). He reasoned, therefore, that the fight for Poland’s post-war independence should be fight for capturing hearts and minds, through the medium of the written word – and resolved to create a publishing house. This became the Instytut Literacki (Literary Institute), and very quickly its first priority became the founding of the monthly journal – “Kultura” (Culture). From the outset, Poland’s “eastern question” figured prominently on its pages. Its principal mouthpiece became Juliusz Mieroszewski, who by the early 1950s had grown to become the journal’s leading political commentator. To what degree “Kultura’s” political stance was shaped by Mieroszewski and to what degree by Giedroyć is difficult to untangle. Their extant correspondence indicates that that Giedroyć not only inspired Mieroszewski, but also that not infrequently whole passages in Mieroszewski’s articles were jointly worked out by them in detail.
The formulation of its eastern programme – accepted within the “Kultura” circle as in keeping with the views Giedroyć had held prior to his collaboration with Mieroszewski – took as its starting point, inevitably, the Ukraine. One of the first significant treatments of this question – annotated with the phrase “in accordance with the views held by the editorial team” – was the article written by Józef Łobodowski in 1952, entitled “Opposing the Ghosts of the Past”. It was a polemic against émigré writers, Ukrainian as well as Polish, in which he asserted that in terms of any dialogue between the two nations, the last seven years of exile had been wasted: “It is high time for Poles to understand that the Ukrainians are a separate nation. The Ukrainians in turn would be well served to reconsider, if only in part, their attitudes to the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and to look at inter-war Poland also from a Polish perspective. (…) A young Ukrainian political writer one said to me: Well here we are chatting amicably, at ease with each other, agreeing on many issues, and yet I think that in a few years time, we shall meet again on the bridge in Przemyśl, and we shall be shooting at each other”.
The same year, a veritable storm arose after Giedroyć published a letter from Józef Majewski, a young priest from Pretoria, advancing the idea that Poles should come to terms with the loss of Wilno (Vilnius) and Lwów (Lviv) and that the two cities should respectively remain Lithuanian and Ukrainian. The Polish émigré press erupted and indignant readers inundated “Kultura” with their protests against the very idea of publishing such a view. Writing in “Kultura” in response to these reactions, Juliusz Mieroszewski wrote: “Poland can regain and maintain its independence only within a federated Europe, a Europe which also includes Ukrainians and Byelorussians.”
Thus it was that a debate ensued which culminated almost a quarter of a century later in 1974 with the publication of Mieroszewski’s article “Russia’s ‘Polish complex’ and the ULB” zone. Mieroszewski wrote: “In the twentieth century, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Byelorussians cannot be pawns in a Russo-Polish historical game. We must seek out contacts and come to agreement with Russians ready to grant full self-determination to Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Byelorussians, and – equally importantly – we ourselves must give up once and for all any claim to Wilno and Lwów, as also any policies which would, should conditions be favourable, endeavour to achieve Polish dominance in the east at the expense of these nations. Poles as well as Russians must understand that only a non-imperialist Russia and a non-imperialist Poland have any chance of arranging and ordering their mutual relations. We must understand that every imperialism is wrong, Polish as well as Russian, realised as well as potential. Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Byelorussians must at some time in the future be granted the right to full independence, for the Russian and the Polish raison d’état demands it. Only by adopting this path, will it be possible to put and end to the catastrophic ‘us or them’ game between Russian and Pole and finally bury it”.
This thesis formed the foundation of Jerzy Giedroyć’s and “Kultura’s” eastern programme, and became known as the “ULB Doctrine” which has secured a lasting place in Polish political thinking.