Fornalska, Malgorzata (1902–1944)

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Fornalska, Malgorzata (1902–1944)

Polish revolutionary who was one of the leaders of the Left in the 1930s and during the Nazi occupation. Name variations: (underground alias) "Jasia." Born on June 10, 1902, in Fajslawice; shot by her Nazi captors in Warsaw, Poland, on July 26, 1944.

A powerful revolutionary tradition has characterized much of modern Polish history, and by the early 20th century women were playing an increasingly influential role in both the Socialist and nationalist movements. Once Polish independence was restored in 1918, a Communist

Party arose on the extreme left in opposition to the more moderate Social Democratic Party. Inspired by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, some Polish radicals hoped to create a Communist regime in their country that would be closely linked to Lenin's revolutionary state, thus facilitating the onset of a general revolutionary upheaval in Central Europe. These dreams were never realized, and Polish Communists were regarded by most of their compatriots as being political adventurers at best and, more likely, as representing the forces of subversion and upheaval. Individually, however, each Polish Communist had a unique life story to tell, and that of Malgorzata Fornalska is well worth telling.

Fornalska was born in a poor village and early in her life she became active in the workers' movement. During World War I, she and her family were evacuated to Russia, where she became an enthusiastic supporter of the revolution. Living in Tsaritsin in 1918, she joined the Marxist Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania. Determined to save the revolution from its enemies, she joined a Red Guard detachment and soon became a member of the Red Army. Returning to Poland in 1921 after the end of hostilities, she settled in Lublin where she became a member of the Communist Party of Poland (KRPR). As a revolutionary activist, her activities were noted by the local security police and after being arrested in 1922 Fornalska was found guilty of subversive activities and sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment.

Released from prison, Fornalska went to Moscow where she worked in the international revolutionary organization, the Communist International. Returning to Poland in 1934, she took a post in the agricultural section of the KRPR. Again the Polish political police decided that her activities represented a threat to the internal security of the dictatorial regime, and in August 1936 she was again arrested. Held without a trial, she was still in the Warsaw prison when Nazi Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939. Although she suffered considerably as a political prisoner, Malgorzata Fornalska did not share the fate of her brother Aleksander, who had remained in the Soviet Union where he lost his life in Josef Stalin's bloody purges. A few days before Warsaw surrendered to German forces, the prison governor decided to release a number of prisoners including Fornalska. Eluding the Germans, she was able to escape to the city of Bialystok in the newly annexed territories of the Soviet Ukraine. Here she worked as a teacher until June 1941, when Hitler's forces attacked the USSR.

Fleeing the advancing Germans, Fornalska worked with Soviet forces behind the front lines to establish resistance groups to free Poland from Nazi occupation. She parachuted into occupied Poland in 1942, immediately joining up with local underground elements. Fornalska concentrated on organizing printing facilities that produced all-important forged documents. Her luck ran on out November 14, 1943, when she and Pawel Finder, another leader of the Communist underground apparatus, were arrested in Warsaw and incarcerated in the infamous Pawiak prison. As Soviet forces neared Warsaw, the Nazis decided to systematically liquidate their prison system and on July 26, 1944, Fornalska was shot. After 1945, she became one of the martyrs celebrated in the People's Republic of Poland, with streets, squares and schools named in her honor. A commemorative postage stamp of Fornalska was issued on January 18, 1952.


Fornalska, Marcjanna. Pamietnik matki. Warsaw: "Ksiazka i Wiedza," 1988.

Partington, Paul G. Who's Who on the Postage Stamps of Eastern Europe. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1979.

Simoncini, Gabriele. "The Communist Party of Poland: 1918–1929" (Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1991).

Toranska, Teresa. "Them": Stalin's Polish Puppets. Translated by Agnieszka Kolakowska. NY: Harper & Row, 1987.

John Haag , Assistant Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia