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Postal History
poland postal history, polish liquidation commision, ukrainian constitutional assembly, republic of tarnobrzeg

The period, commencing with the independence of Poland till the issue of the first definitive stamps by the Polish Ministry of Post & Telegraph, forms without doubt the most interesting part of Polish Postal History.

The generally accepted date of the independence of Poland, after World War 1, is the 11th November 1918. This date, however, really only applies to the central part of Poland occupied by Germany (General-Gouvernement Warshau). The area occupied by Austria was freed on 29th October 1918. The Wielkopolska area was held by the Germans till 27th December 1918 and the Pomorze area till 10th February 1919.


The Polish Liquidation Commission, comprising of most of the Polish political parties in Galicia, was formed on the 28th October 1918 in Krakow. They declared themselves as an independent government for the whole of Galicia, including Silesian Cieszyn and the Ukrainian part of Galicia. Within two days of their formation they were in control of Krakow, but beyond Krakow they had little or no control. The real power lay in the hands of local committees. Despite the formation of a government in Warsaw, which had the support of much of the country, the Polish Liquidation Commission maintained itself independent till the 31st December 1918.


On the 19th October 1918 a Ukrainian Constitutional Assembly took place in Lwow and proclaimed an independent Ukrainian nation. With the help of the remnants of the Austrian army still remaining in Eastern Galicia they gained control of all Galicia east of the river San on the 1st November 1918. This independence was short lived, on the 22nd November 1918 Lwow was regained by the Polish army and the rest of Eastern Galicia came under Polish control soon after.


A Republic of Tarnobrzeg (Republika Tarnobrzeska) was declared at a mass meeting of some 30,000 people in the town of Tarnobrzeg on the 6th November 1918. It only gained local support from the surrounding towns of Kolbuszowa, Mielec, Niszko, Sandomierz and Janow. Again this was short lived.


On the 7th November 1918 a Provisional Government of the Polish Peoples Republic was formed in Lublin, this gained support from most of the country and was to form  the basis of a the new government of Poland.


With the departure of the Austrian army and Austrian administrators the Post Offices were left in the hands of Polish employees who continued to function normally. Since there was no Ministry of Post there were no stamps being supplied, so existing Austrian stamps continued to be used. The earliest known instruction on this subject is dated the 5th November 1918 which stated that existing stamps were to be used and existing regulation were to be followed. This instruction, from the Director of Post & Telegraph in Lublin, was for the area which had previously been under Austrian occupation.

The Polish Ministry of Post & Telegraph in Warsaw came into being on the 18th November 1918.

On the 12th January 1919 the Director of Post & Telegraph in Lwow issued an instruction that as from the 20th January 1919 Austrian stamps would cease to be valid in Galicia  - this did not apply to officially overprinted stamps. This instruction was, however, not rigorously observed in every Post Office and unoverprinted Austrian stamps continued to be used for some time.

Stocks of the provisional overprints which were supplied to Post Offices were often inadequate and soon run out. The recommended method of payment over the counter proved unpopular as it caused long queues in some Post Offices.

There are several reason for stamps being overprinted rather than being used unoverprinted.
- Because of a patriotic reawakening. The Polish people, after over 120 years, now free and independent, were loath to see the continuing use of a previous occupying power and were demanding Polish stamps. The postal administration being unable to produce Polish stamps attempted to show that the stamps were Polish by the use of an appropriate overprint.
- The new government had issued instruction for the removal of all badges, emblems etc of the previously occupying powers. At the very least this instruction had some influence to overprint stamps of the occupying powers.
- The economic factor was important, it was cheaper and quicker to overprint than to produce new stamps,
 - The philatelic factor was an influence for some of the overprints. In a few instances speculators were instrumental in producing overprints by producing the hand stamps and acquiring stocks from other parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where they were in plentiful supply.


Local overprints, on Austrian stamps, are known from the following:
Baranow, Bielsko, Czermin, Dziedzice, Mielec, Myslenice, Przemysl, Rozwadow, Skalat, Swiatniki Gorne and Tarnow.


Local overprints, on German stamps, are known from the following:
Aleksandrow Kujawski, Blonie, Brzeziny, Ciechocinek, Grodzisk, Izbica, Kalisz, Kolo, Konin, Leczyca, Lowicz, Lukow, Makow, Ostroleka, Ostrow Mazowiecka, Ozorkow, Poddebice, Plonsk, Pultusk, Sieradz, Skierniewice, Wloclawek and Zdunska Wola.


© 2001 Jan Kosniowski