Grzegorz Nowik


Dr Grzegorz Nowik - public lecture ‘Before Enigma got deciphered…’ Successes of the Polish code-braking specialists in early 1920-s.

Tuesday 22 November 2005, 6:00 pm

Hadtörténeti Múzeum, Budapest

Polish code breakers won the Polish Russian war

It wasn’t a miracle, it was Polish intelligence. The victory of the Polish army over Soviet invaders in the summer of 1920 in one of the most important battles of the 20th century. Newly discovered evidence suggests that what came to be known as the miracle on the Vistula river, was no miracle at all. It was all down to Polish military intelligence. The miracle means a miraculous reversal of fortunes – the Russians had been winning the war until they suffered a crushing defeat at the gates of Warsaw. Apparently Poland knew all steps to be taken by the enemy thanks to Polish cryptologists breaking all Red Army’s ciphers. More from Iwona Lejman

Polish intelligence documents just discovered by historian, Grzegorz Nowik at the Central Military Archives in Warsaw show unquestionably that when the whole world heard that Soviets claimed peace pact with Poland in 1920, Poland had already known they got ready to attack their neighbouring country.
This is how Russia struggled to recover territory lost in World War I and expand the Communist revolution to the west of Europe. In 1919 the Poles gained control of most of the disputed territories. The Soviet counter-offensive was very successful, throwing Polish forces back westward all the way to the Polish capital of Warsaw, were the decisive battle took place, but many communists in Moscow, at that time, saw Poland as a bridge over which communism would pass even as far as into Germany.
When the Polish forces achieved an unexpected and decisive victory in the Battle of Warsaw in the summer of 1920, the war ended with a ceasefire dividing the disputed territory between Poland and Soviet Russia.
The victory, like all the knowledge from Soviet messages deciphered by Poles faster than by the Russians especially at the end of the war, is all owed to Polish cryptologists, says Grzegorz Nowik:

'It was excellent intelligence, highly modern and effective. The cryptologists broke practically all Russian ciphers, not only the Bolshevik ones. Poland controlled then the whole correspondence from the White Sea to the Black Sea, from the River of Dnepr to Vladivostok. Poles were informed about the situation in the country and on the battlefield by the Russian political, administrative, organizational military correspondence. '

Already in the spring of 1920 the headquaters of Polish Army knew nearly all steps to be taken by the Red Army. Polish cryptologists would inform Jozef Piłsudski, the then Polish commander-in-chief, not only about the enemy’s number of units, armament, equipment, staff, but even about their low morale – a result of diseases and hunger as well as of their bare feet during battles.
Later Polish cryptologists broke the Enigma code which was one of the major successes in World War II. Grzegorz Nowik says, the specialists in deciphering German codes learnt directly from their colleagues, the heroes of 1920:

'Enigma wasn’t just a coincidence or a miracle. It’s a consequence of Polish intellectual thought. The new thing that my book shows is that Poles didn’t only win the war using force and army, they mainly won it intellectually. '

Altogether Soviet codes and a few thousand Soviet messages were deciphered successfully. In his book: ‘Before Enigma got deciphered…’ Grzegorz Nowik gives the whole story of professors of Polish Universities in Warsaw and Lvov who led by a mathematician and linguist lieutenant Jan Kowalewski, stopped communism at thePolish border in 1920 and later taught younger colleagues to break codes to win the war against fascism.