BGen Wilhelm Orlik - Rückemann
Specialist Training Center for Border Guards
in Lubań, Poland
Celebration of Polish Border Guard Day
Charmingly located at the foot of the Jizera Mountains in southwestern Poland, with a population of 23,000, the city of Lubań is the main center of Lubań County, one of the oldest cities in Poland, having been granted municipal rights since 1220.
In the Middle Ages, there were important pedestrian and communication routes - the Salt Road, the Frankian Way and the most important Via Regia road. Today, there are important routes leading to the south and west of Europe.
Lubań was the site of one of the last Nazi German victories in World War II. After it was taken by the Red Army on February 16, 1945, the Wehrmacht successfully retook the town in a counterattack on March 8, 1945.
In the forest near Toporow, the 2nd Polish Army held its ground in fierce battles on the Nysa-Łużycka line: April 15-16, 1945 the 2nd Polish Army repelled German forces.
At the end of World War II, the region east of the Oder-Neisse line became part of Poland following its capture by the Red Army and the decisions of the Potsdam Conference. The German inhabitants who had not already fled ahead of the Soviet army were then expelled westward and replaced with Polish settlers.
Many of the fallen soldiers are buried in cemeteries nearby, and those who survived stayed in the region. In their honour a monument was erected. Every year a ceremony is organized to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers.
Before the war, this area was a German village called Tormersdorff. During the Second World War, the Nazis formed a temporary camp for Jews where about 700 people were transported to extermination camps.
There are still remains of buildings that housed Polish Border Guards who protected this part of the Polish-German border. Currently, the forest is a place that is managed by forest rangers.
Near Luban there is a museum dedicated to the POWs in Żagań. A complex of POW camps opened in 1939. Stalag VIIIC had about 49,000 soldiers in it. Not everyone held out, many died of hunger, disease, and torture.
In 1942, a camp for Allied airmen was established here. From Stalag Luft 3 - the most daring escape was organized from the camp through a tunnel prepared by the prisoners. Based on this event, the film “The Great Escape” was created.
More information about the museum can be found on its website: https://muzeum.zagan.pl/en/
Brigadier General Wilhelm Orlik-Rückemann
Wilhelm Orlik-Rückemann was born on August 1, 1894 in Lwów to Edmund Rückemann and his wife Józefina née Stalkiewicz. Rückemann married Róża Wanda Fajans in 1924 and had a son Kazimierz Jerzy (born 1925).
Having completed his secondary education in 1912 Rückemann started studies at the Road and Bridge Engineering Faculty of the Lwów University of Technology and became an active member of the Polish Rifle Squads (Polish pro-independence paramilitary organization).
However, as early as August 1914 he abandoned his studies to enlist in the Polish Legions. He then served as a company and battalion commander with the 6th Infantry Regiment and was wounded in the Battle of Laski on October 26, 1914. Next year Rückemann earned the rank of lieutenant. In 1917 he was drafted into the Austrian Army where he served with the 19th Rifle Regiment. In 1918 he graduated from the Infantry Reserve Officer's School and was assigned to his previous regiment.
In May 1918 Rückemann joined the Polish Military Organization (Polish secret military organization during World War I). In November 1918 he joined the Polish Army and after the lost Battle of Mikulińce was taken prisoner by the Ukrainians. Released in June 1919 he returned to duty in the Polish Army and was promoted to captain.
From 1919 to 1921 Rückemann served at various command posts, including: the Polish Legions 6th Infantry Regiment Reserve Battalion Deputy Commander, the Polish Legions 3rd Infantry Brigade Headquarters Staff Adjutant, the Polish Legions 6th Infantry Battalion and Regiment commander, the 132nd Infantry Regiment commander and took command of the 1st Tank Regiment.
In 1920 Rückemann was awarded the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1920-1921 he participated in the informational course for senior officers in Warsaw.
Gen. Orlik-Rückemann was one of the main pioneers of Polish armoured warfare (during the Polish-Soviet War he commanded the 1st Tank Regiment) and also performed the function of Armoured Warfare Inspector with the Ministry of War Affairs.
From March to November 1921 he attended the tank combat commanders training in Versailles, France. After completion he was again the commanding officer of the 1st Tank Regiment until 1927.
In 1924 Rückemann was promoted to colonel. From May 1925 he performed duties with the Ministry of War Affairs Engineering Department. In January 1928 he became the deputy commanding officer of the 23rd Infantry Division in Katowice.
In August 1931, having completed the course in the Higher Military Studies Centre he took command of the 23rd Infantry Division in Katowice. From February 1932 to December 1938 Rückemann commanded the 9th Infantry Division in Siedlce and in 1933 was promoted to brigadier general.
In December 1938 he became the deputy commander of the Border Defense Corps (KOP) and in August 1939 became its commander. After the outbreak of the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939, BGen Rückemann, commanding the KOP forces group, was the only Polish commander able to bear the burden of the symbolic resistance against the Soviets. Facing communications breakdown, on his own initiative and responsibility, he gave orders to resolutely counter any attempts of annexation of Polish territories by the Bolshevik aggressors.
Apart from several skirmishes BGen Rückemann took up two battles with the Red Army: the Battle of Szack (September 28-29) and the Battle of Wytyczno in Włodawa County (October 1) after which he decided to disband his troops.
When he arrived in Warsaw, he was one of the founders of the underground organization Command of Poland's Defenders. BGen Rückemann managed to evade capture and crossed the Lithuanian border. From there he managed to get to Sweden and with the aid of the Polish Embassy made his way to France.
Finally, by the end of October he reached London. There he remained as Commander-in-Chief without assignment until the end of the war.
Between 1945 and 1947 he worked for the General Inspectorate of the Polish Resettlement Corps. After demobilization, BGen Rückemann lived in London and in 1972 moved to Canada.
He died in Ottawa in 1986 and was buried at the local Notre Dame Cemetery.
In recognition of his patriotic conduct he was awarded several military decorations, including Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, Commander's Cross of Polonia Restituta, Cross of Independence, Cross of Valour (four times), Gold Cross of Merit, Medal of Independence Recovery Decade, Badge of Armour Sign No 243, Wound Badge, Officer's Cross of the Legion of Honour (France).
Celebration of Polish Border Guard Day
May 25, 2018
The official celebrations began with a Mass for the officers and employees of the Border Guard Specialist Training Center.
Proceeding to the parade ground, an official inauguration took place to commemorate 27th anniversary of the establishment of the Border Guard Specialist Training Centre.
During the ceremony, the Commander of the Center, Col. Roman Łubiński, addressed the distinguished guests, Border Guard officers and those gathered at the Main Square:
Distinguished Guests, Border Guard Officers, Ladies and Gentlemen
May 16 is a special date for officers in green - 27 years ago, Border Guards took over responsibility for protecting our country’s borders. The past years have brought many changes for our country. Poland was changing, and with it the Border Guard Training Centre, which adapted its structures and tasks to new conditions. Today, after 27 years of existence, the Border Guard Training Centre plays an indisputable role in the state security system.
Allow me to welcome the guests who have come to the ceremony on their own behalf, as well as the staff of our Center.
A warm welcome to the Provincial Governor of Silesia
I am particularly pleased to welcome Mr. Józef Semrau, the second Vice-president of the Ottawa Branch of the Polish Combatants’ Association in Canada, a descendant of a soldier who participated in the Battle of Monte Cassino with General Anders’ 2nd Polish Corps.
A special welcome to representatives of local and municipal authorities.
I warmly welcome representatives of the uniformed services as well as our foreign guests from Germany
I warmly welcome representatives of the clergy, and on this special day, I particularly welcome the heads of schools caring for the traditions of border formations.
Greetings to you, officers and employees of the Special Border Guard Training Center in Lubań.
The jubilee of the Border Guard’s Training Centre creation prompts a short reflection. The dynamic changes in our formation, both in terms of logistics, security and organization of the service, were also reflected here in the Border Guard Training Center in Lubań.
Thanks to the current government and the introduction of the modernization law, it was possible to strengthen the staff as well as the technical capacity of our formation. A visible result of this are the personnel and technical facilities carried out in our Center providing the best living conditions for the new recruits, while guaranteeing an acquisition of specialist knowledge from qualified teaching staff. A diverse offering in our training covers not only topics of foreigners, border guards, training of service dogs, first aid, but also allows recruits to acquire greater competences and skills. The center is also constantly developing a wide range of international activities with Frontex, IOM, OSCE and training centers in Germany, Slovakia and Ukraine.
On the day of our feast - on May 16, the Minister of the Interior and Administration, Mr. Joachim Brudziński thanked all the officers and employees for their everyday difficult service and work.
I wish to acknowledge the thanks of the Minister and would like to pay my personal respects and thanks not only for your commitment to the implementation of your official duties, but also for your great gift of heart. Our Training Center has many appeals for help, which thanks to you are not unanswered.
Today, eight months have passed since the Training Center in Lubań adopted a new banner and name. Today, we will also witness the ceremonial unveiling of a plaque in tribute to the memory of our Patron Brigadier General Wilhelm Orlik - Rückemann - the last commander of the Border Protection Corps. I believe that our initiative will increase the national, civic, and cultural awareness, not only of the officers and employees of the Training Center, but also of the entire Lubań community.
Warm words and special congratulations are also directed to all who will receive distinctions and promotions today. They are a confirmation of your exemplary service and work, as well as a full commitment to the tasks entrusted to you. I would like to thank all of you for this daily work.
To the people who supported us and continue to support our activities, it is thanks to you that we can accomplish our statutory tasks much easier and create a training system for officers and employees based on professional facilities.
In the presence of many distinguished guests, among whom were: the Provincial Governor of Lower Silesia; local and municipal authorities; and a representative of the Polish Combatants’ Association, Branch No. 8 in Ottawa, numerous awards and decorations were given out to deserving Officers.
The second part of the ceremony was devoted to the ceremonial unveiling of a monument in honour of the Patron of the Specialist Training Centre - BGen Wilhelm Orlik - Rückemann - the last commander of the Border Protection Corps.
The ceremonial unveiling of the monument was made by: Józef Semrau, representing the Polish Combatants’ Association, Branch No. 8 in Ottawa; Mr. Paweł Hreniak - Lower Silesian Governor; and Col. Roman Łubiński - Commander of the Specialist Training Center in Lubań.
After the official blessing of the monument by Chaplain Capt. Jarosław Nowak, bouquets of flowers were laid at the foot of the monument.
Józef Semrau, II Vice-president, Polish Combatants’ Association, Branch No. 8 in Ottawa addressed the distinguished guests:
Dear Border Guards in Lubań,
Dear friends of the Border Guards!
Ladies and gentlemen,
I was born in Argentina and came to Canada as a young 7-year-old immigrant. It took 10 years before I really appreciated my Polish roots and I became involved in the activities of the Polish School, the Youth Club, and the dance group "Polanie".
In my adult life, thanks to the support of my parents, I joined the Polish Combatants’ Association, Branch No. 8 in Ottawa. Today I am proud to say that I am the second vice president of the Branch, the commander of the Colours, and the Chairman of the Charitable Foundation of the Polish Combatants’ Association in Canada.
I had the opportunity to meet Brigadier General Wilhelm Orlik-Rückemann. I remember his dedication and commitment to the life of the Polish Diaspora in Ottawa, and especially his commitment to the work of Branch No. 8, St. Hyacinth’s Parish and the Wiktor Podoski Polish School.
Our Branch Nr. 8 in Ottawa was and is extremely proud that the Brigadier General was its member for many years.
Many Polish heroes are buried in Canadian cemeteries and we honour their memory especially on the Polish Army Day by laying on their graves candles along with bouquets of white and red flowers.
In attendance at this ceremony are the Defence Attaché, together with representatives of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland; members of the Polish Combatants Association; presidents of Polish organizations; Scouts and Girl Guides; youth from the Polish School; and members of the Polish Community.
I hope that future generations will continue to sustain this beautiful tradition of commemoration of the bravery and sacrifice our heroes.
On behalf of the President of the Polish Combatants’ Association Branch No. 8 in Ottawa, Jerzy Kulczycki, and the President of the Head Executive Board of the Polish Combatants’ Association in Canada, Andrzej Ruta, I would like to thank the Border Guard Specialist Training Center in Lubań for commemorating the memory of Brigadier General Wilhelm Orlik - Rückemann, by naming the Centre in his honour.
Today, I have the honour and distinct pleasure to represent not only Branch No. 8 in Ottawa, but also all the Polish Combatants’ Associations across Canada. Thank you very much for the invitation to participate in today's ceremonial unveiling of the commemorative monument.
I salute all Polish Border Guards throughout the country. Once again, I would like to thank you for commemorating our distinguished member as Patron of the Specialist Training Center.
We Honour his memory!
From left to right: Col. Marek Koch, Acting Commander; Mr. Walery Czarnecki, District Head-Lubań;
Mr. Józef Semrau, PCA Br. No. 8 in Ottawa; Col. Roman Łubiński, Commander;
Mr. Arkadiusz Słowiński, Mayor-City of Lubań.