Unvanquished is the epic story of Joseph Pilsudski (1867-1935), the father of Polish independence. Poland was once one of the most powerful, prosperous, and progressive states in the world. But at the time of Pilsudski’s birth, Poland did not officially exist, as the country had been partitioned by its German (Prussian, Austrian) and Russian neighbors in 1795. Through a combination of perseverance, singleness of purpose, and luck, Pilsudski was able to resurrect Poland as an independent republic, and through his inspirational leadership, to protect the state against its traditional enemies.
Pilsudski was an unlikely messiah. During much of his life, he was impoverished, imprisoned, or under constant threat of arrest. He was denied a university education, a traditional career, or a normal family life. Yet somehow he emerged as the leader of the restored Polish state, and although lacking formal military training, defeated the Red Army, which was intent on spreading the Bolshevik Revolution to Poland, and beyond. He was Poland’s preeminent patriot, the most charismatic politician of the era, and a quintessential modern hero.
Yet few outside of Eastern Europe are familiar with Pilsudski and Poland’s story, partially because this history has often been deliberately distorted. Poland has been the victim of two hundred years of negative publicity, in part orchestrated by her enemies, which has manifested itself in everything from revisionist history to bad jokes. This book is an attempt to set the record straight.
Unvanquished chronicles one of the most inspiring of human endeavors; the triumph of the lost cause. As Pilsudski’s life illustrates, a cause is lost only when it is abandoned, and that it is the struggle, win or lose, that defines us. Or as Pilsudski put it, “to be vanquished and not surrender, that is victory."