Mikolajczyk emerged as a major figure in Polish politics as he rose through the ranks of the PSL, serving as a Parliament member from 1930 to 1937 and leading peasant strikes in 1937. He fought as a private in the campaign of September 1939, after which he was interned in Hungary before escaping to France on Poland's defeat. From December 1939, he was vice president of the Polish National Council in Paris (the Parliament-in-exile) until his evacuation to London on Germany's occupation of France.
In 1941, Mikolajczyk was appointed deputy premier and minister of the interior in General Wladyslaw Sikorski's Polish government-in-exile in London (the London Poles). One of his principal tasks was to maintain ties with the resistance in Poland. On Sikorski's death in July 1943, Mikolajczyk replaced him as premier. He lacked the national prestige of his predecessor, but he also inherited an impossible political situation, with the Soviet Union demanding that the Curzon Line set by the Allied powers after World War I be made the new eastern border of Poland. The November 1943 Tehran Conference made clear the difficult diplomatic situation in which the London Poles were placed.
In October 1944, British Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill traveled to Moscow and met with Soviet leader Josef Stalin. They invited a delegation from the London Poles, including Mikolajczyk, to join them for discussions with Soviet leaders and members of the rival, Soviet-sponsored Lublin Polish Committee (the Lublin Poles), in what was to be a final opportunity for reconciliation. Mikolajczyk was open to some compromise, but his colleagues among the London Poles were not. Frustrated by his own increasingly fractious government and the lack of Allied support for the Warsaw Rising, Mikolajczyk resigned on 24 November 1944. Moscow then broke off relations with the London-based government-in-exile.
Probably no genuinely representative Polish government would have been prepared to yield the concessions or exhibit the spirit requisite for Soviet security. Strong British and U.S. pressure, especially at the February 1945 Yalta Conference, induced the communists to admit Mikolajczyk (as deputy premier) and three other representatives to the government, and the West then reluctantly recognized the Lublin Poles as the legal government.
Not until January 1947 did the Polish regime feel confident enough to call elections. The old Polish Peasants' Party had been so completely infiltrated that, on his return to Poland, Mikolajczyk started a new peasant organization, known as the Polish People's Party. The government directed its full attention against it and Mikolajczyk, branding him a British agent or worse. Given the circumstances, no one was surprised when the government bloc, which included the nominal participation of several captive parties, won 394 out of 444 seats in the Parliament.
In October 1947, Mikolajczyk fled Poland, which was completely dominated by the communists by then. Mikolajczyk reached New York in November 1947 and settled in the United States, continuing to champion the Polish cause in exile. He died in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on 13 December 1966. Spencer C. Tucker
Churchill, Winston L. S. The Second World War. Vol. 6, Triumph and Tragedy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1953.; Coutouvidis, John, and Jaime Reynolds. Poland, 1939–1947. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1986.; Mikolajczyk, Stanislaw. The Rape of Poland. New York: Whittlesey House, 1948.; Prazmowska, Anna. Britain and Poland, 1939–1943: The Betrayed Ally. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.; Raczynski, Edward. In Allied London. London: Weidenfeld, 1963.; Salter, Cedric. Flight from Poland. London: Faber and Faber, 1940.
Spencer C. Tucker