Hero of 1920 Battle of Warsaw honoured with headstone after 70 years lying in unmarked grave in Scotland

The headstone for General Mikołaj Osikowski who fought in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw was unveiled at his grave in Scotland. PLinEdinburgh/Twitter

The headstone of a Polish general who defended Warsaw from the Bolsheviks in 1920, has been unveiled in Scotland – after nearly 70 years of his remains lying in an unmarked grave.

General Mikołaj Osikowski died in 1950 in the Scottish town of Kirkcaldy after an incredible military career defending Poland. 

Born in 1873 in the town of Skiernewice, in what is now central Poland, but which was part of the Russian Empire at the time, as a young man he joined the Imperial Russian Army.

Following the outbreak of WWI, he signed up with the newly created Polish army under the direction of Józef Haller where he served from 1918-1919 as a commander.

The Battle of Warsaw, also known as the Miracle of the Vistula, was a decisive Polish victory in 1920 during the Polish–Soviet War. Poland, on the verge of total defeat, repulsed and defeated the Red Army in what Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, called 'an enormous defeat' for his forces.Public domain

During the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921, Osikowski led Polish soldiers against the Bolshevik troops and in 1920 took command of the Lower Vistula Group, fighting the Bolsheviks in the town of Płock, in central Poland, that month. 

Later that year, he became commander of the Lithuanian-Belarusian Division.

He retired from military service in 1923 to the region around Vilnius, which was on Poland’s territory at the time, but moved to France and then Britain after the outbreak of World War II. 

The ceremony in Kirkcaldy was attended by Polish and local officials, along with members of Osikowski’s family. PLinEdinburgh/Twitter

In Britain, he spent time at the Officer Concentration Station Rothesay, a military centre of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, established on the Scottish island of Bute in August 1940. 

He remained in Scotland after the war and died in Kirkcaldy, a town in Fife, on the east coast, in 1950.

Osikowski received numerous Polish military honours, but was buried in a nameless grave.

The headstone was unveiled in Kirkcaldy on 23 November after an extensive campaign by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, the Polish Consulate in Edinburgh and the Fife authorities. Google maps

Now, almost 70 years later, his headstone was unveiled in Kirkcaldy on 23 November after an extensive campaign by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, the Polish Consulate in Edinburgh and the Fife authorities.

The situation was complicated by the fact that Osikowski was not buried alone. He shared the grave with a Polish major and, for unclear reasons, a Scottish child – both of whom are mentioned on the new headstone.

The ceremony in Kirkcaldy was attended by Polish and local officials, along with members of Osikowski’s family. 

Polish Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki said: 'I am glad that after years of efforts of numerous people and institutions, General Mikołaj Osikowski, a participant in the Battle of Warsaw many times decorated and a resident of the city of Kirkcaldy, is finally honored in a proper manner.' PLinEdinburgh/Twitter

In his speech, Polish Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki evoked the memory of Osikowski and the other soldiers from Poland who settled in Scotland after the war.

He said: "I am glad that after years of efforts of numerous people and institutions, General Mikołaj Osikowski, a participant in the Battle of Warsaw many times decorated and a resident of the city of Kirkcaldy, is finally honored in a proper manner. 

“He is one of many Polish soldiers who, after the war, unable to return to Poland, settled in Scotland and became a pillar of strong Polish-Scottish relations, which continue to this day.

“I believe that, thanks to this, the local and wider British community will learn about the history of this unique man and treat him as one of its outstanding inhabitants.”