“The plighted word of an officer must always be a guarantee of truth”.
Edmund-Leopold Swidzinski was born on the 15th of November 1848 in a Polisch city of Kalisz of the Warsaw province of the Kingdom of Poland. His father had also chosen a military career, which made the family to move constantly from place to place. That is why Edmund got his basic military education at the 1st Moscow Cadet Corps, from where he was called up to military service (26th of August 1865). After graduating from the 3rd Alexander Military School (1867) Edmund became the sub-lieutenant of the 98th Infantry Dorpat (Yuryevsky) Regiment, where he served as a company commander for more than 6 years.
In order to achieve career advancement and accelerate his career, Swidzinski entered the Mykolayiv Academy of General Staff in 1880. Having graduated from this educational institution, he became an officer of the General Staff in 1882 where he made spectacular career. In the rank of captain Swidzinski was appointed an orderly officer at the staff headquarters of the Omsk Military District (November 24, 1888 – March 30, 1884), and later – a senior adjutant at the headquarters of the 9th Infantry Division in Poltava (March 30, 1884 – April 13, 1886).
Having got the rank of a colonel, Edmund Swidzinski was appointed on the 13th of April 1886 an orderly officer to the headquarters of General Staff of the 10th Army Corps in Kharkiv, located on Sorokinsky Lane 3 . Swidzinski and his family settled in a private residence of Silakov on Moskaliovska Street 27 . In 1887 he moved to a private apartment in the house of Protsenko on Chernyshevska Street 15 , which was within ten minutes walking distance from the place of service.
The aforementioned corps was formed in 1876 and included various military units, namely: the 10th Hussar Ingermanland Regiment, the 1st Orenburg Cossack Regiment, a number of infantry regiments and an artillery division. Direct duties of Swidzinski consisted of providing communications between commanders of the units with the headquarters of the corps, accommodation of troops, provision of their supplies, and creating plans for deployment during maneuvers. All these tasks were diverse, since the very composition of the specified units was diverse: from the Orenburg and Don Cossacks and to the Ingermanland Guards. The nearest company of Swidzinski was at that time the commander of the Kharkiv Military District, hero of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-78, lieutenant-general Fedir Fedorovich Radetsky, the head of the district headquarters – major general Eduard Gavrilovich Ehlers, the chief of staff of the corps – brigadier general Dmitro Mikolaiovich Schafhausen-Schenberg-Ek-Schaufuss, noblemen of Kharkiv – captain Pavlo Sergiiovich Sawwich and captain of cavalry Mikola Oleksandrovich Hendrikov.
It was during his presence in Kharkiv that Swidzinski wrote a series of military-journalistic essays, published in periodicals, and training literature. They were mostly devoted to the education and training of lower military ranks, noncommissioned officers and warrant officers. In particular he wrote some instructional aids on tactics and field service, as well as an instructional aid on military-service disciplines for training reserve officers and war time courses.
The general idea of Edmund Swidzinski’s attitude to military service is reflected in his book “Military and moral talks on the duties of a soldier and penalties for its contravention”. In one of the chapters Swidzinski states, at first glance, the banalities and clichés that are typical of such a publication, but behind each word there are principles that the author followed himself: “Joining the imperial military service, each of us begins a completely new life … The honorary title of the protector of the Faith, the Emperor and the Fatherland is not given for free, and from the first days of his service the soldier has to adopt the main merit of every serviceman, namely: always and in all things obey the chiefs, even if it leads to death. Such a behavior is the first merit … A soldier looks pathetic, if only fear makes him perform his duties”, “A soldier must avoid those places where there is a mess. It is forbidden for lower ranks to visit drinking establishments, namely: taverns, inns, drinking houses and so on … Beware of these locations! There is a temptation inside waiting for you … Steer clear of them!”
In addition to the moral and ethical side of the service his work considered the important questions of the arrangement of soldier’s life: “Do not believe in stupid rumors. At night, at a camping site, be tight asleep till wake-up signal. Do not be afraid of alarm signal. Do not act without an order, do not scurry … and do not grab your weapon without an order. Keep your feet always clean and dry as well as your foot cloths. Change foot cloths as often as possible. Boots must be fitted to foot cloths. Be tidy!”. In the essays was formulated the relevant for those days code of behaviour not only for lower military ranks but also for officers: “An officer must avoid all kinds of amusements and in general all preoccupations that can tarnish his name, not to speak of Officer Corps. The plighted word of an officer must always be a guarantee of truth, and therefore lies, boasting, failure to fulfill the duties – the vices that tear down the belief in the officer’s truthfulness and disgrace the officer’s rank cannot be tolerated. ”
The subsequent military service of Swidzinski was connected with the training of future officer personnel. Having spent the summer of 1889 in the 98th Dorpat Infantry Regiment (in order to obtain another qualification), on the 14th of September 1889 he was appointed a teacher of “military science” of the cavalry school for future officers in Yelisavetgrad. There he stayed till 1892.
All further life of Swidzinski was connected directly with military career. From September to October 1892 he headed the headquarters of the 21st engineering division, then Swidzinski occupied a similar position in the 38th infantry division; from the 22nd of August 1894 he was the chief of staff headquarters of the 20th infantry division. From the 16th of March 1899 Swidzinski headed the infantry starorussky regiment. After being promoted to brigadier general (the 19th of May 1900) he was appointed commander of the 1st brigade of the 19th infantry division, and from the 16th of August 1901 he headed the 2nd Brigade of the 42nd infantry division. On the 21st of November 1908, having received the rank of major general, Swidzinski became the chief of the 11th infantry division in Lutsk, and then on the 19th of June – the chief of the 41st infantry division in Kazan. And finally on the 16th of November 1911 due to the old age and failing health, Edmund Swidzinski resigned as a general of the infantry.
Years of the World War I became a turning point in his fate. From 1914 upon an initiative of Grand Duke Nikolay Nikolayevich (junior) it was planned to create on the Polish lands voluntary national troops – “Polish squads” or Legions. They were considered to be voluntary guerrilla bands and had to be used for reconnaissance and sabotage activities behind enemy German and Austro-Hungarian armies. On the 13th of January 1915 in accordance with instructions of the Polish National Committee a specially created Organizing Committee engaged with an organizing of the Legions, headed by major general Edmund Swidzinski. The structure included two regular officers of Polish descent – Lubomyr Stepowski-Janocha (future lieutenant general) and Petro Shimanovsky (future lieutenant general). The members of the Organizing Committee were also Sigismund Balitsky, count Constance Broël-Plater, Anthony Sadzewicz and Witold Gorchinsky. The Organizing Committee engaged with the recruitment of agents, finance, outreach efforts, military, civil and sanitary training. According to the memoirs of contemporaries, the military unit of the Lublin Voivodeship, headed by Edmund Swidzinski, was the best among others at it.
On the 20th of March 1915 the Pulawy legion, established with the participation of Edmund Swidzinski, became part of the Grenadier Corps and was sent to the Russian-German battle front. From May to September of that year the legion participated in a number of battles, including the battle at Mikhalevo (16.06), at Pulawy Hill (22.07), at Opaka (23.08), and others. During the battles in summer-autumn of 1915 most of the Pulawy Legion was destroyed, which led to its disbandment and the incorporation in Polissya rifle brigade.
After disbandment of the legion, Edmund Swidzinski returned to Kyiv, where he met the stormy events of 1917. At the time when the Union of Polish Militants was created in February of that year Swidzinski actively participated in the organizing and activities of the Kyiv branch of this organization. The main task of the union, which existed until the end of 1917, was the support of the Poles who fought in various parts of the Russian army (namely, encouragement of the national spirit and education, care for the fallen and orphans, assistance to war prisoners etc.). In early 1918 Swidzinski supported the creation of the 1st Polish Corps which in February took part in battles near Minsk-Litovsky. Despite the bloody and tragic events of 1918 Edmund stayed in Kiev, where he died in 1919.
For his years of service Edmund Swidzinski was awarded the Orders of Saint Stanislaus 3rd class (1873), Saint Anna 3rd class (1879), Saint Stanislaus 2nd class (1885), Saint Anna 2nd class (1889), Saint Vladimir 4th class (1896), Saint Vladimir 3rd class (1903), Saint Stanislaus 1st class (1905). In 1932, posthumously, Swidzinski was awarded the Polish Cross of Independence.
Sources of information:
1. Kosk H. Generalicja polska. Popularny słownik biograficzny. – Pruszków, 2001.
2. Жебровский С.С. “Солдатские дети” – генералы императорской русской армии // Власть и общество в России: традиции и современность (к 35-летию кафедры философии и истории): материалы IV Всероссийской научной конференции 12-13 апреля 2008 года / Отв. ред. О.А. Тарасов, С.А. – Рязань, 2008. – С. 28-41.
3. Свидзинский Э.Ф. Сборник бесед и практических задач для занятий с унтер-офицерами. – Санкт-Петербург, 1909.
4. Список генералам по старшинству. Составлен по 1-е января 1911 года. – СПб., 1911.
5. Харьковский адрес-календарь на 1887 год. – Харьков: Типография Губернского правления, 1886.
Prepared by Sergiy Kushnariov