Semper Fidelis, The Lwów Eaglets

Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis is a new publication by author, historian and genealogist Stephen Robert Kuta, and focuses on his Eastern European heritage and the lands known to history as Galicia.

The historical content is set during World War One in the city of Lemberg, a city which later became known as Lwów and eventually Lviv.

Lwów Eaglets (Polish: Orlęta lwowskie) is a term of affection applied to the Polish teenagers who defended the city of Lwów (Ukrainian: L’viv) in Eastern Galicia, during the Polish-Ukrainian War (1918–1919).


Semper Fidelis is available on hardcover and published by Loma Publishing

Semper Fidelis, The Lwów Eaglets – ISBN: 9781916476271

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Semper Fidelis
Semper Fidelis

Extract from book

Mortuus Est Ut Et Qui Vivunt Libera Nos

The borderland countries all wanted independence, and they all looked towards Galicia in ownership, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and Ukrainian’s all thought the same thing.

“They died so that we would live free,” is the Latin inscription commemorating the Eaglets at the Lviv cemetery of the Eagles – and it’s true, they fought, and they died for their independence. The year was 1918, and the Habsburg Empire had collapsed, the days that followed left a crushing blow to most of Eastern Europe and much uncertainty, especially throughout the Borderlands, the regions where areas were home to more than one language and cultural identity. Galicia is an excellent example of this as in 1918 it overlapped present-day Poland, Ukraine, The Czech Republic and Slovakia. It was home to Poles, Jews and Ukrainians. The cities of this borderland were predominantly Polish, less Ukrainian and partly Jewish, Lemberg was a Polish City buried amongst a forest of Ruthenian villages.

However, the surprise came on All Saints Day, 1st November 1918 while the Polish civilians of Lemberg were at the cemetery tending the graves of their loved ones. On return they saw the colours of blue and yellow flags drenched across their beloved city, from the town hall, the station, post office, schools and government buildings the announcement had come – Ukraine demanded the city surrender and Lemberg was theirs. Lviv was born.

That same day, brave Polish youngsters, children, students, young men and women rose upwards and decided to take a stand for Poland and their homes – Like a phoenix from the ashes the Lwów Eaglets held their heads high and stood firm, they were willing to fight for freedom and die trying.

For many years that preceded World War Two, the Eaglets of Lwów/Lviv were kept silent, their story was never taught in schools across the People’s Republic of Poland, as Lviv lay in the Soviet Union, propaganda, and the truth was amiss. Following World War Two, Poland was one of the most significant and most crucial satellite states of the Soviet Union. 

“Together with the use of force and terror, it was instrumental in keeping the country’s communist government in power and was designed to shape Polish society into a communist one.”

Source: Propaganda in the Polish People’s Republic – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_in_the_Polish_People%27s_Republic

“Library collections systematically were cleansed, the majority of the books destroyed, some isolated in Party or academic libraries. A list of prohibited publications and black-listed writers was created in 1950 during the darkest years of Stalinism in Poland with some 1,682 items, and subsequently modified many times by the communist authorities in the Polish People’s Republic. Some writers popular before World War II, for example, Wacław Kostek-Biernacki who was sentenced to death as an enemy of the state in 1953, had their books not only removed from libraries but also meticulously destroyed.”

Source: Censorship in Communist Poland – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_in_Communist_Poland

Off cause today, things are different Communism collapsed in Poland in 1989 and this long forgotten story has seen a return to the classroom and the history books.

As stories go, The children and youth of 1918 Lemberg do have a fantastic story to tell, they took up arms and stood in defence, side by side, until the very end. At first, with very little ammunition, a few had hunting weapons of which they had taken from their parents, and the city itself had very few Polish soldiers, no more than 800 men,  deliberately done with Austrian policy, with most of the Polish army directed far to the Italian or German front. So the children had very little in choice, either surrender or fight. So the defence of Lemberg began.

It wasn’t long before the first guns arrived, obtained by the pupils of Sienkiewicz School, in total this school had 34 defenders, including four offices, commanded by Captain Zdzislaw Tatar-Tresniowski, the legendary defender called the Kmcic of Lviv, at 6 in the morning he sent twelve students under Lieutenant Roman Felsztyn to the police barracks to get weapons. The idea was crazy, as only one revolver took on this action. They burst into the building with impetus and demanded surrender. Only one of the disoriented crew at the barracks disagreed, the Ukrainian sergeant, and he took a shot at one of the Eaglets but missed. The police eventually surrendered and handed over 20 rifles. The first guns had arrived.

Sadly the next two years saw an end to many Eaglets, close to 2000 died in the fights and defence of Lemberg, and many are buried and honoured in the cities necropolis.

It is a memorial that does not bare well in the consciousness of present-day Ukrainians after all Lviv is now a Ukrainian City, and in all pretences, Ukraine wants to remove the memory that Lviv was once a Polish City. So excepting the Eaglets cemetery is not easy for them, and over the years they have tried to remove the necropolis, which is a pantheon of Polish victory and Ukrainian defeat.

Lviv today is home to a million Ukrainians, it means the city of Lions, and the Lion is the city’s symbol. In Ukrainian the city is Lviv, in Russian, it is L’vov, in Polish Lwów, in German Lemberg and Yiddish either Lemberg or Lemberik.

Between 1772 – 1918, the city was officially known by its German name. From 1919 – 1939 it was the third biggest city in Poland. Then it was taken by the Soviets, followed by the Nazis, and the Soviets returned in 1944.
Very few people in today’s Lviv can honestly stand and say that their families lived here before 1945.
The people of the borderlands, of Galicia, are all but gone, most of the Jews were wiped out, and most of the Poles were repatriated to Poland or left for foreign lands.
The word ‘repatriated’, is Orwellian, as these Poles were evicted and sent to places they had not come from, 1918 Lemberg was a far different place than 1945 Lviv. The city was Polish even the street signs, and in the absence of military prowess, and while Europe’s skies were alight with bombs, and flying bullets, these far Eastern fringes looked on, uncertain, unyielding of what the future years would bring. So when the night closed in on ‘All Saints’, and as the polish families lit candles in the city cemetery, Ukraine raised its colours, declared the lands of Eastern Galicia as their own and took control right under the noses of Polish people.

The Eaglets aged just nine and upwards were born.

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