Not being afraid to produce long running coin series, the excellent Stanislaw August and History of Polish Coin series being evidence of that, the National Bank of Poland (Narodowy Bank Polski NBP) has embarked on another epic set of silver coins. With tensions higher than normal between Poland and Russia over the Ukrainian conflict, it seems that they felt it was time for a reminder of why there exists such distrust between the two countries on many levels.
This series celebrates and remembers some of the brave individuals that fought the Soviet Communists after the Second World War. The first coin will be a general remembrance, while following ones will look at some of the most famous participants in the resistance. We’re not going to go into detail here as the NBP has done a terrific job with its release information and you can read more about each coin below by clicking the MORE button. Suffice to say it’s a fine theme, well deserving of the permanence that numismatics often bring.
Each coin will be struck in half-ounce of sterling silver and have a small band of colour on the reverse face, something the NBP doesn’t do very often. Coins to date have been designed by Dobrochna Surajewska and/or Urszula Walerzak, and struck by the Mint of Poland, the mint that strikes Polish commemorative coins. These aren’t fancy coins, devoid of all the current trends permeating the precious metal commemoratives market and they’re all the better for it. Sometimes the subject of the coin should take precedence and we think that’s the case here.
It appears there will be 22 coins in the set, with two or three being released annually. That would indicate that the series would potentially be split over 4-5 years, not too long with current trends. It’s good to see traditional coin styles still being put out there and we’d imagine the theme would resonate strongly in todays Poland. The coins sell for around the 160 Zloty mark (€38 / $40 / £32). A noble series and one that Poles in particular would do well to look at.
Born on 6 June 1904 in Vilnius. He had completed 5 grades of middle school before the outbreak of WWI. In September 1918, he volunteered to the Vilnius Vigilante Organization, and later to the 1st Battalion of Neman River Riﬂes with which he fought in the Polish-Soviet War. He subsequently worked for the People’s Militia in the Neutral Zone – an area under international control afer fghting between Lithuania and Poland was over. In free Poland he worked as a civil servant and ran a farm. He was probably associated with Polish as well as French military intelligence.
In August 1939, he was mobilized to the Border Security Corps as a sergeant. He took part in the fghting against the Red Army on 17 September 1939. Afer being interned by the Lithuanian authorities, he managed to escape from the camp in November and returned to Vilnius, where he became involved in the Polish conspiracy movement. In January 1940, he was arrested by the Lithuanian police, but was released because no evidence was found to prove his guilt. When the Soviets marched into the town, he was arrested once again, handed over to the NKVD (the People’s Commissariat for Internal Aﬀairs), and condemned to death for espionage. However, the death sentence was not executed since he ﬂed from the transport afer the German troops entered Vilnius.
From January 1944 he fought in the Vilnius Brigades of the Home Army: the 3rd Brigade of Col. Gracjan Fróg alias Szczerbiec, the 5th Brigade of Mjr Zygmunt Szendzielarz alias Łupaszka (deputy platoon commander), and the 4th Brigade of 2LT Longin Wojciechowski alias Ronin (company commander). Promoted to second lieutenant, wounded twice, he received the Cross of Valour.
In July 1944, following the disarmament of his troop by the Soviets, he was interned in Kaluga. In April 1945, he managed to escape and return to Vilnius, from where he was repatriated to Poland six months later. At the end of 1945 and the beginning of 1946, he established contact with Major Szendzielarz, who was reassembling the 5th Vilnius Brigade of the Home Army in Pomerania. He took command of a 5-strong independent combat and diversionary patrol of the Gdańsk and Olsztyn region, whose task was to obtain funds for organisational activity and to conduct propaganda campaigns.
He was arrested on 8 July 1946 in a conspirators’ ﬂat in Sopot; three Security Ofce (UB) functionaries were said to have been killed during his attempted escape. He was then transported to a remand centre in Gdańsk and subjected to a brutal interrogation. He made a failed escape attempt. On 17 August the District Military Court in Gdańsk sentenced Second Lieutenant Selmanowicz to death. He was murdered on 28 August 1946 at 6.15 am in the cellar of the Gdańsk prison in Kurkowa Street, together with Danuta Siedzikówna alias Inka, a medic of the 5th Vilnius Brigade of the Home Army. Both of them cried “Long live Poland!” before their death.
The Provincial Court in Gdańsk cancelled the death sentence in 1997. In 2014, the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) found the remains of Feliks Selmanowicz hidden by the communists under paving slabs at the Garrison Cemetery in Gdańsk. On 28 August 2016, a ceremonial state funeral of Zagończyk and Inka was held there to mark the 70th anniversary of the death sentence. President Andrzej Duda posthumously promoted Second Lieutenant Selmanowicz to lieutenant colonel.
August Emil Fieldorf was born on 20 March 1895 in Kraków. He graduated from the men’s college of St. Nicholas and later from a men’s seminary there. In 1910, he joined the Sport and Gymnastic Society ”Strzelec” (Shooter), where he fnished the school for non-commissioned officers.
On 6 August 1914, Fieldorf volunteered to join the Polish Legions and set out for the Russian front, where he served as a deputy commander of an infantry platoon. In 1916, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and a year later he was sent to the officer training school. After the oath crisis, he was forced to join the Austro-Hungarian Army and transferred to the Italian front. He deserted and joined the Polish Military Organisation in his home city of Kraków in August 1918.
After the Republic of Poland regained independence, Fieldorf served in the Polish Army from November 1918, first as a platoon commander, and from March 1919 – as a commander of the heavy machine gun company in the Polish Legion’s First Infantry Regiment. In the years 1919-1920, he participated in the campaign of Vilnius and – as a company commander – in the Polish-Bolshevik War, when he participated in the liberation of Dyneburg and Żytomierz, the expedition to Kiev and the Battle of Białystok.
Afer the war, Fieldorf remained on active duty, was promoted to the rank of major and as such he was posted to the Polish Legion’s First Infantry Regiment as a battalion commander. In 1931, he became its second-in-command. In 1932, he became a lieutenant colonel. Three years later, Fieldorf was transferred to the position of a commander of the “Troki” independent battalion of the Border Guard Corps (KOP) in the KOP’s “Wilno” Regiment. In 1936, he was made the district commander of the Polish Riﬂemen’s Association in France.
In March 1938, Fieldorf became the commander of the 51st Giuseppe Garibaldi Riﬂemen’s Regiment in Brzeżany in the eastern fringes of Poland. He was with the regiment for the whole military campaign during the Polish Defensive War of 1939. Afer the battle of Iłża, he reached his native Kraków. He was stopped at the Slovak border during an attempt to get to the West to join the Polish Army under formation. He was interned, but managed to escape from a camp and reached France, where he later completed staﬀ courses and was promoted to full colonel on 3 May 1940. Afer the capitulation of France and after the Polish authorities and the army moved to the United Kingdom, he was appointed the first emissary of the Government-in-Exile and Commander-in-Chief to Poland. On 17 July 1940, Fieldorf set out from London to Warsaw, which he reached on 6 September.
Fieldorf was active in the Union of Armed Struggle in Warsaw and later, from 1941, in Vilnius and Białystok. In 1942, he was appointed a commander of Kedyw (directorate of underground sabotage operations) of the High Command of the Home Army. It was on his order that the German SS General Franz Kutschera was assassinated in Warsaw.
In April 1944, Fieldorf started to form a highly secretive Niepodległość (NIE) organisation, which was designed to continue operations during the expected Soviet occupation of Poland. On the order of the Supreme Commander Kazimierz Sosnkowski of 28 September 1944, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. In October 1944, he became the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Home Army under General Leopold Okulicki and kept the post till 19 January 1945 when the Home Army was disbanded.
On 7 March 1945, Fieldorf was arrested by the Soviet NKVD in the town of Milanówek under the false name of Walenty Gdanicki. Unrecognized as a general, ‘Nil’ was transferred from the NKVD headquarters in Włochy to a camp in Rembertów, and on 21 March 1945 he was sent to the labour camps of Bieriozovka, Stupino and Hudiakowo, in the Ural Mountains . After serving his sentence, he was released and returned to Poland in October 1947. Under his assumed name, he settled in Biała Podlaska, abandoning his underground activities. After moving between Warsaw and Kraków, he fnally settled in Łódź.
On 10 November 1950, he was arrested by the Regional Military Replenishment Unit in Łódź, transferred to Warsaw and placed under arrest in Rakowiecka Street. On 16 April 1952, he was sentenced to death as a ”fascist-Hitlerite criminal”. The sentence was carried out, by hanging, on 24 February 1953. In July 1958, the Prosecutor’s Office discontinued the investigation against General August Emil Fieldorf, citing lack of evidence of guilt. In March 1989, he was rehabilitated afer it was found that “he had not committed the crime he was accused of”. The remains of the hero have not been found until today
by Tadeusz Płużański