The Unwanted Heroes: War Invalids in Poland after World War I
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 69, Number 2, April 2014
- pp. 185-220
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This article focuses on the unique and hitherto unknown history of disabled ex-servicemen and civilians in interwar Poland. In 1914, thousands of Poles were conscripted into the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian armies and forced to fight against each other. When the war ended and Poland regained independence after more than one hundred years of partition, the fledgling government was unable to provide support for the more than three hundred thousand disabled war victims, not to mention the many civilians left injured or orphaned by the war. The vast majority of these victims were ex-servicemen of foreign armies, and were deprived of any war compensation. Neither the Polish government nor the impoverished society could meet the disabled ex-servicemen’s medical and material needs; therefore, these men had to take responsibility for themselves and started cooperatives and war-invalids-owned enterprises. A social collaboration between Poland and America, rare in Europe at that time, was initiated by the Polish community in the United States to help blind ex-servicemen in Poland.