On Monday, the Ministry of Culture, National Heritage and Sport announced that the so-called "Michał Sokolnicki collection" - the ambassador's property, archives and library - is returning to Poland after more than 75 years. On the same day, part of the collection was seen by President Andrzej Duda and the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture, National Heritage and Sport Piotr Gliński, who were on a visit to Turkey. The memorabilia purchase contract was signed by Robert Kostro, director of the Polish History Museum.
Ambassador Jakub Kumoch said that the retrieved Sokolnicki collection consists of artefacts, books, and archives that Ambassador Sokolnicki took out of the embassy in 1945 on government orders to prevent them from falling into Communist hands.
"After his death, they were in the hands of Otto Herman Woeber, an Austrian who grew up in Turkey and owned the apartment of Mr and Mrs Sokolnicki. This man tried for 41 years to give back this collection to Poland in various forms. In the beginning, the communists were not interested in this," Kumoch said.
"We were obviously interested, but we spent a long time looking for a formula on how to get them back. Over a year ago, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński gave me an order to act in this direction. It was possible thanks to the Polish History Museum, which took over the storage of this collection" - he reported.
Kumoch stressed that recovering the archive was a collective effort. "I'm very happy that it worked out," he added.
The Ambassador added that "Sokolnicki's collection is probably the largest surviving set of documents on Second Polish Republic diplomacy. It was taken over by Woeber and then returned to Poland in its original, unchanged form," he added.
Michał Sokolnicki (1880-1967) was a historian, politician and diplomat. Born into a landowning family, he studied in Paris at the elite School of Political Sciences (Sciences Po) and the University of Lviv (under Szymon Askenazy). He was an activist of the Polish Socialist Party, and before World War I, he joined "Strzelec". He became Józef Piłsudski's private secretary. During World War I he was, among other things, the secretary of the Supreme National Committee. In 1919 Sokolnicki participated in the delegation to the peace conference in Paris.
He later worked in diplomacy, serving as ambassador to Denmark and Turkey (from 1936). At the latter post, he spent the period of World War II. In September 1945, after Turkey recognized the Communist-led Provisional Government of National Unity in Warsaw, Sokolnicki was forced to leave the embassy. He remained in exile in Turkey, where he taught at Ankara University. After the war, he collaborated with emigration institutions, including the Piłsudski Institute in New York and the Polish Scientific Institute.
Source: Poland Daily, niezalezna.pl, pap.pl