Saturday, July 5, 2014

Chapter 6 - Germany Must Be Beaten: Part 3 - Private With a String

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Whether living in Russia, Prussia or Austria, Poles generally seemed to support the side of the country in which they had citizenship. (Somewhere between 600,000 to 800,000 Polish men fought for the Russian army. 200,000 to 300,000 Poles fought on the German side, with a comparable number for the Austrians.) (9)  This led to a tragically ironic result: many Poles found themselves somewhere in the Polish countryside sitting in trenches at opposite ends of gun barrels aimed at each other, despite the fact that they probably all agreed on the goal of a restored, independent Poland.

Nevertheless, Korzybski maintained throughout his life that intelligent Poles wanted the Allies to win.(10) Many Poles fighting for the Central Powers eventually came to agree 
with him especially after Germany and Austria had overrun Russian Poland. These included Poles who began as soldiers in the Austrian army but who finished the war by joining the “Blue Army” of General Haller who had defected from Austria and eventually fought on the Western Front for the French. Josef Pilsudski, who had started the war at the head of Austria’s Polish Legion, eventually came to agree with Korzybski’s view as well. Despite his initial belief that the Central Powers would support Polish independence, Pilsudski eventually realized that their ‘independent’ Poland meant existing under Germany’s rule. He, along with many of his Legionnaires, was imprisoned by the Germans later in the war.

Having decided which side he must support, Korzybski went to Russian Army General Headquarters and volunteered soon after war was declared. He felt he had something useful to offer with his German-language skills and knowledge of Germany. His left hip displacement combined with numerous prior falls from horseback and other mishaps (he may have limped slightly when tired) made him a poor candidate for the regular army. They wouldn’t take him but sent him instead to the Headquarters of the Second Army in Warsaw to see Lieutenant Colonel Terechoff who headed the Intelligence Department there. The Second Army’s territory covered parts of East Prussia and Central Poland, including Warsaw and Lodz. Terechoff, who had already met Korzybski, was organizing his office; he could make use of Korzybski’s enthusiasm and talents. But Korzybski, rejected by the army, would not be allowed to work there as a civilian. Terechoff, however, knowing of Alfred’s abilities as a horseman, had the notion of forming a special intelligence cavalry unit to scout and gather data on enemy forces for the Second Army and for Stavka, Grand Duke Nicholas’s General Staff Headquarters. He applied to the Grand Duke who immediately approved the plan. Although technically a volunteer, Korzybski was given a private’s uniform in this newly-formed Second Army Headquarters, secret, Intelligence Department Cavalry with the official title—because of his multi-lingual talents—“Translator of the General Staff”.(11) 

Korzybski never did any extensive translating work, at least in the office. The unit, which had no more than fifty men, was independent of the regular army and directly under the command of Colonel Terechoff. Alfred liked the Colonel although he considered him “a lazy bones”.(12) Korzybski, in turn, quickly became a favorite of the Colonel, who had learned he could depend on Alfred to get things done. In the first few weeks, Alfred helped organize the office, manage the secretarial workers, etc.; but soon Terechoff began to send him on special assignments.

Next to Alfred’s private’s stripes hung a string or cord indicating his special status as the Colonel’s emissary. The string—along with written credentials he carried—meant that wherever he went, Alfred (for the most part) received the deference due to the Colonel. He also had certain privileges not usually accorded to privates: he could live at home (while in Warsaw) and not in the barracks, and was able to avoid having to scrub floors, do kitchen duty, and other menial jobs given to privates. He was also allowed to eat in restaurants—something ordinary Russian army privates couldn’t do—although he had to request permission if an officer was present.

Once, later that year, he was sitting in a cafe´in Lodz (soon to be captured by the Germans) drinking coffee with Zurowski, a close friend of his from the unit, and two young ladies they knew. Three drunken officers came in and, as protocol demanded, Alfred stood up and asked permission to stay. One of the officers yelled at them to get out. Alfred, feeling reluctant to leave under the circumstances, lied and told the officer they were in the 
café on official business. The officers, unhappy, had to let them stay but took down their names. Later, Korzybski reported what happened to Terechoff, who chewed him out for lying to the officers. But when the officers came to Terechoff to check on Korzybski's story, the Colonel not only backed up Alfred but reprimanded the officers. Indeed, he had them arrested and court-martialed for drunkeness on duty. They each got three months in the brig.

Although Korzybski did not enter military service in the usual way, i.e., recruitment, basic training, etc., he found he fit quite easily into military life—especially in Terechoff's unit. He appreciated the esprit de corps he found there—the sense of group loyalty and responsibility under trying conditions. This, to him, represented military values at their best, which he distinguished from the militarism and regimentation the Prussians loved so much and that he hated. With his long-time experience managing soldiers and his expertise in horsemanship, shooting, and the saber, Korzybski had in effect been in training for the cavalry all his life. Soon after his enlistment, his 19th Century military skills would be severely challenged in a sobering awakening to 20th Century warfare.

Monument in Warsaw – 1000 years of Polish cavalry
"Pancerny" from medieval drużyna of Mieszko I and Polisn uhlan during World War II)

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
9. Olechowski, p. 51; Watts, p. 45. 

10. Korzybski 1947, p. 79. 

11. Ibid., p. 82. 

12. Ibid.

Part 2 

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