Jarosław Wróblewski

The Cavalry Captain


Heroes are defined by their courage in the face of adversity, and there is no doubt that Witold Pilecki was a hero. Throughout his life he went above and beyond what was asked for him in service of not just Poland, but also humanity itself. From holding the front line in the fight against the advance of totalitarian communism and Soviet Union during their failed invasion of Poland in the 1920’s, to becoming a mastermind of the Polish resistance movement during the occupation by Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

Pilecki was a man constantly prepared to do what needed to be done, even if it meant putting himself in harm’s way. In 1943, as an officer in the Polish Home Army, Pilecki had himself court and deported to Auschwitz concentration camp from where he produced his famous ‘Pilecki Report’ for the Government in exile in London, on the persecution and genocide against Polish jews. In an act of bravery, he escaped the camp and carried his report to the Allies.

Returning to Poland in 1944 he helped to organise the Warsaw Uprising, in an attempt to secure the freedom of the Polish Nation from the authoritarian tyranny of the Fascist regime. He was unfortunately captured and held in Germany until the end of the War, but his belief in the liberation of his homeland never faltered.

In 1945 he was asked by the legitimate Government in Exile to return to Poland to find out more about the new Communist regime that was being imposed on the country by the Soviet Union. He knew, even then, that this would be his most dangerous mission. Under cover, he worked to establish a network of informants that reported back on the situation of the country under Communism.

In 1947, he demonstrated his extraordinary bravery and commitment again when he refused to leave Poland at the order of superiors. Choosing instead to keep up his work against the Communists. However, he was captured.

He stood trial against false charges, and llegal border crossing, use of forged documents, not enlisting with the military, carrying illegal arms, espionage for General Anders, espionage for „foreign imperialism” and planning to assassinate several officials. He was found guilty and executed.

Yet his memory has lived on, not as the Communists would have wanted him to be remembered, but instead as a hero who stood up for the defence of his nation during times of great struggle. Pilecki exemplified every good characteristic of a Polish officer – showing his resourcefulness, dedication, and loyalty to his home country.

Since his passing, much work has been done to highlight this hero of history, and to remember his enormous contribution to the Second World War. Many books have been written on him, analysing his life from every perspective, and all of them showing how he went above and beyond.

The linguist and politician Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka worked hard together with Michał Tyrpa, President of the Foundation Paradis Judaeorum, to raise the profile of Witold Pilecki in the European Parliament during her time in office, and many other Polish leaders since have worked to have him recognised far wider in Europe.

Many politicians, academics, and thought leaders now hold Pilecki as an example. Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, wrote in the foreword of the English translation of Pilecki’s report: „When God created the human being, God had in mind that we should all be like Captain Witold Pilecki, of blessed memory.”

Today we continue to honour his legacy and hold him as an example of what can be achieved when someone truly believe in the cause of defending their homeland and saving human lives from the faceless monster of tyranny.

With this book, we are able once again to look in detail at the life of Witold Pilecki, but perhaps uniquely we can explore who he was as a man. Where he came from, how he grew up, his relationship with his family, where his sense of duty came from, and what compelled him to go on. Jarosław Wróblewski has produced the most comprehensive book on Pilecki the man, and Pilecki the hero, that has been produced to date.

I hope that Pilecki can once again be seen as the most important example for future generations on the importance of the fight to defend our values, and protect human dignity in the face of extreme adversity.

Tomasz Poręba MEP
New Direction President