President lays wreath at monument to Marshal Józef Piłsudski

Tomasz Gzell/PAP

Polish President Andrzej Duda laid a wreath at a memorial to inter-war Polish strongman Marshal Józef Piłsudski on Saturday to mark both Armed Forces Day and the centenary of the 1920 Battle of Warsaw.

The president was accompanied by his wife, Agata Kornauser-Duda, Sejm (lower house) Speaker Elżbieta Witek, Senate Speaker Tomasz Grodzki, Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Piotr Gliński and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak.

In line with tradition a ceremonial changing of the guard was performed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Warsaw's Piłsudskiego Square. Also present at the ceremony was US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who earlier signed a defence cooperation agreement with Błaszczak at the Presidential Palace. The deal foresees an increase in US troops in Poland and the location of the 5th Corps of the US Army's forward command in Poland.

"The hundredth anniversary of the great Warsaw victory and Armed Forces Day - how important today is, when we thank our soldiers for their service, pay homage to all those fallen for the motherland, but also remember that difficult, dramatic time, but at the same time of such great importance in the history of our country and also in a sense beautiful," the president said at the ceremony.

"The Bolshevik onslaught crushed Poland then," Duda continued. "Conflagration, death, rape, despair, fear, horror, a fall in the morale of society and among soldiers. A loss seemed inevitable. Many thought that what had happened could not be undone, that Poland would fall under the blows of Soviet Russia, the Red Army, that communism carried from the East would envelope our country and further flood Germany and the whole of Europe."

But, he said, there were always those that doubted the outcome and worked to save their motherland, including at their helm, the great military leader, Józef Piłsudski.

Also present on Piłsudskiego Square were Polish government officials, the leader of the Lithuanian parliament and the defence ministers of Sweden and Romania.

August 15 marks the 100th anniversary of Poland's unexpected victory over superior Bolshevik forces at the Battle of Warsaw in 1920. The same date was named Armed Forces Day in 1923 and the holiday was observed until 1947 once again being revived in 1992.