header image

The Greater Poland Uprising Cross (1946, 1957-1999)

Tadeusz Jeziorowski

The Greater Poland Uprising Cross, the first of two awards of the same name, was instituted by the decree of the National Council in 1946, along with the Silesian Uprising Cross. Both were to be awarded on the same basis. However, only Silesian Uprising Cross came into effect and from the implementation of the Greater Poland Uprising Cross communist authorities withdrew for political reasons. The decree of the National Council has not been published, although the image of the cross has been presented in the press. The second Greater Poland Uprising Cross was established in 1957 by the decree of the Council of State of Polish People's Republic.

The first proposal of instituting the Greater Poland Uprising Cross was introduced to the National Council by the Association of Greater Poland Uprising Participants (1918-1919) established in 1946. There are two well-known projects of the award.

The first project presented white enameled cross pattée: the face with a Boleslawowski’s Eagle in the circle against the background of the rising sun. This enigmatic term with no historical references hid Polish Eagle deprived of his crown by “folk” authorities. On the reverse side of the cross there were supposed to be the letters KRN (abbreviation of Krajowa Rada Narodowa –The National Council) surrounded by laurel wreath and following dates: 1918-1919 on left cross arm, 1939 on the right arm, 1945 on the bottom one. There was red ribbon attached to the cross as a reference to Powstaniec Broni, Powstaniec Zasługi and Wojak Award which have been popularized by the Society of Insurgents and Troopers operating in the military districts Corps No. VII and VIII, and covering the Greater Poland and Pomerania within their limits.

Information about instituting The Greater Poland Uprising Cross and The Silesian Uprising Cross (source: Żołnierz Polski. Tygodnik ilustrowany nr 2(65), 17-23 January 1947 r.)

The second project was presented to the press in January 1947, it was also cross pattée with framed arms and made of bronze. In the middle of the face there was white enameled eagle without a crown in a triangular, red enameled shield, covering the central part of the sword shown on vertical arms. On the horizontal arm there were dates "1918-1919" and "1939-1945". On the back side without enamel, on the shield there were initials "KRN" above the year of establishment "1946" and on the horizontal arms of the cross subtitle: "COMBATANTS OF GREATER POLAND" (a reminiscence of the prewar Cross of Independence on which there was an inscription: "Independence fighters"). In this project, the cross was supposed to be worn on the red ribbon but with dark blue edges and a dark blue stripe in the middle, with white stripes on the sides.

The Greater Poland Uprising Cross, established according to the second draft of the National Council’s decree on 8th of October 1946 along with the Silesian Uprising Cross, was supposed to be awarded to citizens of good character, taking an active part in the Greater Poland Uprising and to those who with their work and struggle during the war from September 1939 to January 1945 helped to maintain the spirit of resistance, struggle against the occupier or directly assisted in the liberation of Greater Poland. There were the criteria which allowed to award the cross not only to Greater Poland Insurgent from 1918-1919, but also to underground activists of World War II, although the wording of the press release indicated that in both cases the merits referred to "former insurgents ".

Despite extending the time frames entitling to award the cross, its name was clearly associated with the Greater Poland Uprising 1918/1919. The victorious Greater Poland Uprising, an example of the solidarity of all states, obviously contradicted, however, officially promoted class struggle, that for ideological reasons withheld the introduction of the cross. For ten years there has been silence, not only about the awards for the uprising but also about the uprising itself. Although the cross has not been manufactured according to National Council’s pattern from 1946, there are some miniatures of the cross. Made of bronze, with a metal loop for either not preserved or never made ribbons, their identical appearance suggests that they were probably made by one of the engravers on the basis of the image from the press. In October 1956 The Greater Poland Insurgents could claim their recognition and the Greater Poland Uprising Cross again.

The Uprising of June 1956 reverberated in the whole country. For a new party, Poznan was too important center not to try to be a "human face of socialism", in whose name the communist Prime Minister was threatening in public to chop off hands. In the 38th anniversary of the December Uprising Outbreak, the President of the Council of State of the Polish People’s Republic, Aleksander Zawadzki, came to Poznan for the first celebrations that took place after several years. In his speech during the academy at the university, where the insurgents were gathered in the auditorium, he carefully explained the reason why the forgotten Greater Poland Uprising has been recalled:

Our homeland needs your hearts, unbreakable will, dedication and patriotism. However, this plea was preceded by an unambiguous statement: Today more than ever we have to refer to patriotic feelings and patriotic traditions of our nation. Our country, despite major achievements of 6-year-plan, found itself in a difficult economic situation. […] Greater Poland is a region, which plays an important role in national economy. […] Greater Poland has the highest agricultural culture in the country and is the richest granary of Polish People’s Republic. […]Let me be clear: it is now a matter of great, economic and moral-political importance that the Poznan region, its working class, the peasantry, the intelligentsia, and young adults be undeterred in the front ranks of these positive and creative social forces of Polish People's Republic. [...] Let the Greater Poland Insurgents stand selflessly and unswervingly in the front ranks of workers and fighters.

Earlier, the party showed self-criticism: I must admit that [...] in Polish People's Republic we did not immediately came to the proper assessment of the Greater Poland Uprising, and afterwards very important words have been stated that when the Union of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy appeared with the initiative, it met full support of the highest authorities of our country. The evidence of this support was passing by the Council of State a decree about the Greater Poland Uprising Cross. After ten years, this was the first official signal of returning to the idea of introducing cross commemorating the uprising, which finally gained Party recognition: Citizens and Comrades! [...] With this year's celebration of the anniversary we solemnly affirm that the Greater Poland Uprising is one of the glorious traditions of the Polish people fighting for social and national liberation.

On the same day, on the tenement house located at the intersection of Ratajczak and December 27th streets, in place of the prewar plaque dedicated to the first killed insurgent, Francis Ratajczak, and destroyed by German occupiers, finally a new plaque has been unveiled. It exists today and appears on the Greater Poland Uprising Cross almost exactly as at the pattern of National Council from 1946 but with different dates: there are only 1918-1919.

Contrary to information from A. Zawadzki stating that the award has already been established, “The Greater Poland Uprising Cross”, the name written in quotation marks, was established by the decree of State Council of Polish People’s Republic in February 1st, 1957. The decree has been published in the Journal of Laws no. 10, February 16th, 1957, item 43 and the same day it came into force. From February 1st comes also the resolution of the Council of State of the articles of association of the Cross, published in the Polish Monitor No. 13, item. 91, March 19th, 1957.

The Cross has been established to reward the merits of the Greater Poland Uprising participants 1918/1919, who with guns in their hand or otherwise actively participated in the fighting against the German invaders. The Cross could have been also given posthumously. The work and the social attitude of person represented to this award have been taken into consideration, and the submission has been presented to Social Council by supreme authority of political and social organizations and bureaus of provincial councils. The provision to include "social attitudes" was a clear selection of insurgents; the important thing here, as it was determined in questionnaires, was candidates’’ "positive attitude to reality".

The Orders and Decorations Act of February 17th 1960, published in the Journal of Laws no.10, item. 66 effective from date of publication that is February 29th 1960, determined that the Greater Poland Uprising Cross is a reward for those who took part in the Greater Poland Uprising (1918-1919) against the German invaders in but without specifying the type of the fight. The name of the award had no quotation marks, while all the previous regulations have been overruled. Thus, the information in the official Online System of Legal Acts, which defines the status of the decree, dated 1957 as not binding – cause not determined, is surprising.

The Cross, established in 1957, has a similar shape and construction as the second project of 1946, it is brown, isosceles, with extended and framed shoulders, with the image of the sword on the face, but the shield is round and framed by a wreath of oak leaves, and the transverse arms have dates "1918" and "1919". It differs on reverse: at arms’ crossing point there are initials "PRL" (Polish People's Republic) encircled by the inscription – “Greater Poland Insurgents”. The designers of the cross were Poznan artists, Joseph Drygas (1921-1988), visual artist of that time in ZBoWiD and the originator of the Cross award and Eugene Rosik (1926-1996), who developed the lettering.

The Cross of approximately 36 x 36 mm , 40 mm high (including the loop), has a wire loop 1 mm thick and about 10 mm in diameter. It is hanged on the dark blue silk rep ribbon which is 34 mm wide with two amaranth stripes width of 2 mm, 2.5 mm from the edges. According to J. Drygas, the colors of the ribbon were originally a reference to - he believed - the blue color of the city of Poznan and amaranth tabs on insurgents’ uniforms from 1863, as he remembered. Finally, after presenting the project to ZBoWiD authorities in Warsaw, and also as suggested by Kazimierz Rusinek, Secretary-General of ZBoWiD, the dark blue color of the ribbon has been accepted. It is worth noting that the same colors - navy blue with amaranth stripes, had the designed before World War ribbon of Memorial Cross of Greater Poland Uprising 1918-1919 which was planned by the Veterans’ Association of National Uprisings.

The award of the Greater Poland Uprising Cross was minted exclusively by the Mint in Warsaw. They were made of tombac imitating bronze, all convex elements were polished, which as a result enlightened the borders, sword, crown and inscription. Only the shield (transparent red) and the eagle (white) were enameled and the whole cross was varnished. Crosses were handed out in multicolored boxes with book-binding covers, with embossed, gold image of the national emblem, and later without gold plating. The cards were printed out according to unified pattern of decorations, on the white cardboard of 10 x approx. 14 cm (10 x 7,5 cm folded), with red book-binding cover with a national emblem embossed on the box. The red color darkened with time, giving a cherry tint. On the printed form there were only: card number, date, last and first name and father's name of honored person. Signature of issuer was imprinted with facsimile stamp.

After regaining sovereignty and restoring the name to the Republic of Poland, the Orders and Decorations Act of 1960 was repealed, and declaring the Act of October 16th, 1992, The regulations implementing the Orders and Decorations Act, repealing the regulations referring to the titles of honor and amending certain laws (Journal of Laws No. 90, item. 451), in May 8th 1995 article 7 was considered the termination of awarding the Greater Poland Uprising Cross according to existing regulations. Ultimately that date was postponed to May 8, 1999, effective May 9th 1995 with the Act of June 22nd 1995 (Journal of Laws No. 83, item. 419) announced in July 19th 1995.

On all the Greater Poland Uprising Cross orders, awarded in the reborn Poland by the Polish President, the initials "PRL" (Polish People’s Republic) have been replaced by the initials "RP"(The Republic of Poland).

The earliest date appearing on cards for the Greater Poland Uprising Cross is August 27th 1957, which was related to the first decoration planned on October 12th 1957, on the Polish Armed Forces Day, celebrated on the anniversary day of the Battle of Lenino. The President of the Council of State, A. Zawadzki, was invited to the ceremony which unfortunately has been cancelled and the first crosses were handed out by Kazimierz Rusinek, Secretary General of ZBoWiD, during the celebration of the 39th anniversary of the outbreak of the Greater Poland Uprising on December 26th - 27th 1957. There was announced the posthumous award for Francis Ratajczak, he first fallen in the Greater Poland Uprising. There is a discrepancy between the Dating of the first card, and the actual date of adoption of the first resolution by the State Council on ticking. Although related to the same people, the resolution is dated only on 6 December 1957.

Last awarding took place by the order of the President of the Republic of Poland on April 27th 1999, and so released just before the official termination of the statutory grants of the Greater Poland Uprising Cross. It was after almost 42 years after the Cross has been established.

It needs to be clarified who was defined as the Greater Poland Insurgent. Establishing the Cross and the Medal of Independence in 1930, a military decoration awarded i.a. for participating in the Greater Poland Uprising, the authorities of the Republic of Poland recognized January 17th 1919 its caesura –the Main Command in Poznan announcement of three age-group enlistment. The compulsory enlistment has changed the voluntary nature of the military service, which the insurgents undertook on December 27th 1918. In 1937 the Association of Polish Uprisings Veterans 1914-1919 suggested to transfer the caesura to February 18th 1919, i.e. the date of suspension of activities as a result of the armistice in Trier but it was not considered and until the end of the Second Republic only volunteers participating in the armed struggle for the Greater Poland liberation to January 17th 1919 have been recognized as the Greater Poland Insurgents. Some of them did not terminate the service in 1919 and remained in the ranks of Greater Poland Forces, existing separately to August 20th 1919. The distinctive uniform of Greater Poland, with characteristic rosette of club-shaped leaves on the left quarter of the hat, was being equated with insurgent’s uniform, which in fact did not exist. The hat with club-shaped leaves has become almost an emblem of numerous Insurgents and Troopers Societies.

After World War II, and especially when the communist government recognized in 1956 the Greater Poland Uprising, the duality of the two terms – whether the insurgent-volunteer or a soldier of Greater Poland Army- effaced even more. The monument commemorating the Uprising was erected in 1965 in Poznan and the characters standing by the monument symbolize the insurgents and are presented in the uniforms of soldiers of the Greater Poland Army.

The authorities of ZBoWiD, the only approved veteran organization since 1949 consociating i.a. the Greater Poland Insurgents, assumed that only their members could claim for the award of the Greater Poland Cross. This is a separate subject how many insurgents remained outside the organization, how many did not received the posthumous decorations, how many insurgents-volunteers were there among them and how many soldiers of the Greater Poland Army were equated with insurgents. The list of awarded with the Greater Poland Uprising Cross could be an encouragement for further research.


T. Jeziorowski, „Niezrealizowany projekt krzyża za Powstanie Wielkopolskie 1918/19 r. [w:] Biuletyn Numizmatyczny, Polskie Towarzystwo Archeologiczne i Numizmatyczne, Komisja Numizmatyczna, Nr 5 (123), Warszawa, maj 1977, s.84-87;

T. Jeziorowski, „Wielkopolski Krzyż Powstańczy” [w:] Studia do Dziejów Dawnego Uzbrojenia i Ubioru Wojskowego, cz. VIII, Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie, Stowarzyszenie Miłośników Dawnej Broni i Barwy, Kraków 1982, s. 125-135;

T. Jeziorowski, „Wielkopolski Krzyż Powstańczy – dwukrotne narodziny” [w:] Powstanie Wielkopolskie 1918-1919. Wybrane aspekty z perspektywy 90 lat. Materiały z ogólnopolskiej konferencji naukowej „90 rocznica Powstania Wielkopolskiego 1918-1919” Poznań, 17 grudnia 2008 r., Redakcja naukowa Janusz Karwat, Poznań 2008, s. 197-210;

T. Jeziorowski, „Za męstwo, odwagę i poświęcenie. Jak na tle innych czynów zbrojnych wypada bilans uhonorowania zasług za walkę w Powstaniu Wielkopolskim?” [w:] Powstanie Wielkopolskie, Zeszyt 5, 90. rocznica wybuchu Powstania Wielkopolskiego, Bezpłatny dodatek do poznańskiego wydania „Gazety Wyborczej” z 3 grudnia 2008 r., s. 2-4.

Dekret o ustanowieniu Wielkopolskiego Krzyża Powstańczego z 1 lutego 1957 r. (źródło: ISAP)

Statut Wielkopolskiego Krzyża Powstańczego (źródło: ISAP)