British writer Laurence Alma-Tadema loved Poland and helped it regain its independence

Laurence Alma-Tadema was a British writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She worked in several genres and was also known to be the daughter of the Dutch painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Laurence was a successful artist and grew up in a wealthy family. 

Throughout her life, Alma-Tadema developed an ever closer association with Poland. She gained interest in Polish history and its culture via the Polish virtuoso and politician Ignacy Paderewski, whom she knew personally. As she got to know the pianist’s homeland better, she even learned Polish and later translated classical Polish works. 

When WWI broke out, it became clear that Poland had a chance to regain its craved independence. From 1915, she became increasingly involved in helping the Polish nation regain its sovereignty. Poland had been wiped off the map for over 120 years following the country’s Partitions in the late 18th century. 

Alma-Tadema became the secretary of the „Poland and the Polish Victims Relief Fund„. Given the fact that Poland’s cause was ill-know or even disregarded in Britain, she wrote articles, handed out fliers, organised concerts, and coordinated fundraisings to shift the view Britain’s elites and society had on this ill-known Central European country. She did all of that in order to support the nation she now loved like her own. 

I carry Poland in my heart. I believe in Poland’s resurrection and am able to put in the effort and work to provide Poland with help and support,” – she once said.

In the meantime, Józef Piłsudski was taking charge of what was soon to become the Second Polish Republic. The farsightedness of this larger-than-life military leader turned his ambitious plans into a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

On the international scene, Ignacy Paderewski was lobbying Western powers as Poland’s Prime Minister to ensure Poland’s borders and access to the Baltic Sea. He was backed in his efforts by the outstanding diplomat Roman Dmowski. The latter collaborated closely with Alma-Tadema during the Great War. He also used his excellent language skills to push Poland’s cause through in Paris during the long international negotiations leading to the Treaty of Versailles. The three statesmen mentioned above remain viewed as the main fathers of Poland’s regained independence.

During the whole interwar period, Alma-Tadema continued her philanthropic activities. She founded three schools for Polish children in Freiburg and ensured that her homeland always welcomed Polish emigrants with open arms. 

Laurence Alma-Tadema died at age 75, while WWII had already broken out. Similarly to personalities such as Hungary’s PM Pál Teleki or the Indian diplomat Sir Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja, she is remembered by Poles as a true friend of their nation who helped with concrete action in times of need. 

 

Image: US Library of Congress

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen

 

Project co-financed by the Instytut Dziedzictwa Myśli Narodowej im. Romana Dmowskiego i Ignacego Paderewskiego as part of the Fundusz Patriotyczny.

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