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Wiktor Heltman (1796 -1874)

Wiktor Heltman, (1796 -1874) Born on December 23, 1796 in Wierzchowiska, in the eastern part of the first republic of Poland, 1810 - 1815, he attended a secondary school in Swislocz. After graduation he became a librarian of Count Chodkiewicz in Warsaw, which enabled him to attend courses on political economy, philosophy, and history at the Warsaw University from 1817-21.

Heltman began his political activity in 1819 by helping to set up a secret society aiming to fight for the independence of Poland. The society included A. Zamoyski, T. Krzyzanowski, and Maciejowski. In 1820, the society merged with another similar one to form the Union of Free Poles. W. Heltman was one of the union's leaders. The union published its journal, Dekada Polska (Polish Decade) with W. Heltman as the editor-in- chief.

In 1821, Heltman was arrested and forced to serve as a private in the artillery of the Russian Lithuanian Corps. Thanks to an amnesty declared to commemorate enthronement of Nicholas I, Heltman was promoted, at first to second lieutenant and then to lieutenant of the infantry.

As a Russian army soldier, Heltman changed sides and joined the Polish forces in spring 1831 during the Russian-Polish War. Once the November Rising collapsed, on September 24, 1831, he crossed the Austrian partition's border.

On November 7, Heltman began his political exile. Soon after the Polish Democratic Society was formed in Paris on March 17, 1832, Wiktor Heltman joined it on September 26, 1832 as the society's fiftieth member. In 1835 he was elected to the society's governing body, the Centralization (Central Coordinating Committee) in Poitiers. He moved there from Toulouse. During the next eleven years he was repeatedly elected a Centralization member and became the longest-serving Centralization official.

Heltman was one of the authors of the Democratic Society's Manifesto of 1836. He strove to popularize the principles of universal republican democracy the manifesto expounded. To this end, together with J. N. Janowski Heltman founded in France a historical journal Przeglad Dziejow Polskich (A Review of Polish History) (1836-1844); he also wrote for the political journal Demokrata Polski (Polish Democrat) (1837-1862) and for Pismo Towarzystwa Demokratycznego Polskiego (Journal of the Polish Democratic Society) (1837-1841). His contribution to Rozbior kwestii polityczno-socjalnych (Analysis of socio-political issues), a collection of Society members' opinions on the political and social system of the future liberated Poland, was significant.

In late 1843, he was sent by the Centralization on a secret mission as an emissary to Poland, where a new rising was being prepared. In 1844, Heltman joined a committee which was preparing the insurrection; a year later, it was planned that he would be the national government member once the fighting erupted. After the defeat of the Cracow Revolution of 1846, he returned to Paris and was reestablished as a Centralization member 1846 - 1848.

After the French February revolution broke out Heltman - alongside other Centralization members - was involved in talks in March 1848 with Lamartine, and he received promises of support of the Second Republic's Provisional Government for the cause of Polish independence. On March 30, 1848, Heltman left Paris to travel to Poznan, and on April 5 he stopped in Cracow where he wrote an appeal to peasants. Subsequently, on April 13, Heltman arrived in Lvov where he collaborated with radical democrats. He became one of the founders and contributors to the democratic Dziennik Stanislawowski (Stanislawow Journal) (September 2-November 1, 1848). After Lvov had been bombed by the Austrians on November 2, Heltman hid near Stanislawow (now Ivano-Frankovski) until January 1849 and then escaped to Paris. Soon, however, he responded to the call of German radicals and, as an official representative of the Democratic Society, together with Aleksander Krzyzanowski, arrived on April 13, 1849 in Dresden. There they collaborated with Mikhail Bakunin. It was also intended for Heltman to collaborate with the Czechs. On May 5, Heltman and Krzyzanowski concluded an agreement with the revolutionary authorities in Dresden concerning the Polish-Saxon collaboration. Heltman fought in Dresden and, after the revolution there was defeated, he escaped to Frankfurt. On May 15, Heltman and Krzyzanowski travelled to Kaiserslautern and engaged in talks with representatives of the revolutionary government of Baden on the Polish-German collaboration. As a result of the preliminary agreement concerning, among other matters, the future Polish-German borderline, the revolutionary army of Baden was commanded by Ludwik Mieroslawski, a Democratic Society member, while the Palatinate army was commanded by General Franciszek Sznajde. A Polish-German Legion was established as well, with Polish officers arriving from France. Heltman, Krzyzanowski, and Adolf Chrystowski formed the Polish Commission which on June 29, 1849 concluded another agreement with the revolutionary government of Baden concerning the financial support for emissaries in Poland, Czech lands, and Hungary.

After the fall of the German revolutions, Heltman returned to France; in 1850 he arrived in Brussels where he married Leonora Dmochowska.

He did not stop writing and published his political articles in Demokrata Polski, Przeglad Rzeczy Polskich (Review of Polish Af fairs), Ognisko (Heath), Wytrwalosc (Perseverance), and Niepodleglosc (Independence).

Exhausted by a disease, Heltman penned his ideological testimony in Krwawe slowa dla ludu (Bloody words for the people), published in L. Bulewski's journal Rzeczpospolita Polska (Polish Republic).

Heltman died on July 16, 1874 in Brussels. He was one on the prominent Polish political writers and publicists of the democratic and republican stream in the first half of the 19th century and an emigre politician who played a significant role in the revolutionary events of 1846-1849 both in Poland and in Germany.

Heltman's written heritage, correspondence, and library were destroyed in Warsaw during World War II.
Ursula J. Lech


Heltman, W., J. N. Janowski, Demokracja polska na emigracji, with a preface and footnotes by H. Rz■dkowska, Warsaw 1965.

Kalembka, S. Towarzystow Demokratyczne Polskie w latach 1832 - 1846, Torun 1966

. Limanowski, B. Szermierze wolnosci, Cracow 1911.

Luczak, H. Wiktor Heltman, Poznan 1935.

Owsinska, A. Powstanie palatynaco-badenskie 1849 roku oraz udzial w nim Polakow, Wroclaw - Warsaw - Cracow 1965.

Tyrowicz, M. Towarzystwo Demokratyczne Polskie 1832 - 1863. Przyodcy i kadry czlonkowskie. Przewodnik bibliograficzny, Warsaw 19 64.

Zessin, H. "Zur Herausbildung einer gemeimsamen Kampffront polnischer, tschechischer und deutscher Demokraten gegen die europäische feudalabsolutische Kontrrevolution im Frühjahr 1849 in Sachsen: Ein Beitrag zur Erforschung der internationalen Solidarität in der Revolution von 1848-49", Diss., Dresden, 1971.

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