To the world the fate of Poland appeared predictable. The Bolshevik campaign would crush the country. Without consulting with the Poles, Lloyd George forced the Polish ambassador in London to start cease-fire negotiations with the Bolsheviks at a site within Soviet territory. The Soviets locked them in their rooms and prevented radio communications with Warsaw supposedly due to “atmospheric conditions.” The starting point for their negotiations was the Curzon line, which the Soviets quickly rejected. Without any knowledge of the status of the war, all the Poles could do was stall, which suited the Bolsheviks who were gaining added advantages with each passing day of conflict.
The Bolsheviks intended to carry the invasion well beyond Warsaw. Sergei Kamenev, commander-in-chief of the Soviet army expressed his aspirations to trample over the corpse of Poland and then on to Western Europe to water his horses on the Rhine.
The time of crisis had come. Poland was about to face the Bolshevik onslaught alone, and nothing appeared more certain than the capture of Warsaw. Plotting to gain control of the Polish army, Lloyd George convinced the French to dispatch World War I hero General Maxime Weygand and Colonel Charles de Gaulle to Warsaw as part of an interallied mission. Continuing their steadfast loyalty to Pilsudski, the Poles sought his advice but rejected him as a leader.
It became clear that the decisive battles of the war would most likely take place shortly. Most of the natural obstacles were crossed and the last rear guard defenses were broken. As the Soviet armies streamed on toward Warsaw and Lwów, Pilsudski met with his staff and General Weygand and Colonel de Gaulle. He agreed to take their suggestions under consideration, retired to Belvedere Palace, and prayed as he contemplated his options. That evening he ordered a reconnaissance flight over Tukhachevsky’s left wing and a raiding party to capture prisoners for verification purposes.
“Things look bad,” Karl admitted to Peter as he analyzed the latest Bolshevik advance against Lwów. “It’s time to evacuate the aerodrome and fall back.” A clerk arrived with a message that he scanned hastily. “Forget that! Warm up your Breguet. You’re flying General Sokolski to Pilsudski’s staff meeting.” After a moment he added, “you’re not officially invited, but attend with the general as if you were.”
As they flew over Warsaw, a hundred thousand residents marched in religious processions from one church to another, praying for a miracle, accompanied by the distant sound of Soviet artillery.
A momentous decision was be made—one that impacted the future of all Europe and perhaps the world.
Peter saw Pilsudski bless himself as he entered. With the confident authority of a natural leader he brought the meeting to silence by merely raising his hand as everybody stared at him.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “with our Warsaw and Lwów forces undergoing massive attacks, I’ve taken the liberty of inviting various members of our operations to this headquarters staff meeting. Today you will receive oral orders. Written orders may or may not follow.
“Now let me read the latest report from the French military observers.”
The situation is perilous, Warsaw is doomed! Tukhachevsky will be joined by Budienny. Their victorious forces will soon be at the Oder River. Germany is incapable of resisting, and it is expected that its disgruntled population will join them. In two weeks the Bolsheviks may well be at the French border. If they are able enlist the support of the inclined-to-revolution masses, all of Europe as we know it will be gone.
“Our supposedly allies,” Pilsudski sneered, “those who guaranteed our independence in the Versailles Treaty, are beginning to realize that our plight is also theirs. But where are their regiments . . . their supplies?” Pilsudski stressed intending to embarrass both Weygand and de Gaulle. “Anyway it’s too late. We’re on our own. Our crisis is just another one of many we Poles have faced over the centuries. Sometimes I wonder,” he continued, pausing as if caught in deep thought, “if God’s mission to us Poles . . . is to once again . . . become the sacrificial lamb at the high alter of war . . . again to save European Christianity.
“But I disagree with the French!” he said as he pounded his fist on a desk. “The outcome of the Bolshevik invasion is still in balance!