The Great Constructor of Gdynia. - Niepospolici
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The Great Constructor of Gdynia.

Eugeniusz Felicjan Kwiatkowski was born in Cracow on December 30, 1888 and died there on August 22, 1974. He was a chemist, a Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Trade and Infrastructure (1926–1930), and Minister for Treasury (1935–1939) of the Second Republic of Poland. Nicknamed the father of Gdynia and Stalowa Wola.

He was born into a gentry family, son of Jan Kwiatkowski (1841–1902), lawyer, and Wincentyna Maszczyńska (1864–1951). His father worked as a Royal Railway clerk. After inheriting his brother’s estate Jan Kwiatkowski moved with his family to Czernichowce near Zbaraż (Land of Tarnopol, Eastern Lesser Poland). Here Eugeniusz spent his childhood together with his brother Roman (1885–1948), and sister Zofia (1900–2000). In 1898 he began his education at the Gymnasium named in honour of Francis Joseph in Lviv. Due to some behavioural issues and poor results his parents decided to move Eugeniusz to the legendary boarding school, known for its strict rules. It was   a gymnasium ran by the Jesuit Order and located in Bakowice by Chyrow. He graduated in 1907. He then went on to study at the Faculty of Chemistry at the Technical University of Lviv (1907–1910). That was where he got involved in the independence movement. He entered into the underground Associations of Zet [Z] and Zarzewie [The Source]. He later joined the Polish Rifle Squads. In 1910 Eugeniusz gave in to the pleads of his anxious mother, worried by his underground activity, and left for further studies in Munich (1910–1912). He returned to Lviv in 1913 and started an internship at the Municipal Gas Plant. In September 1913 he married Leokadia Glazer (1890–1977), a niece of Jakub Glazer. She gave Eugeniusz four children: two sons of which one died in infancy and the other, Jan, was born in 1914 and died in 1939; and two daughters – Anna (1918–2007) and Ewa (born in 1922).

During the Great War he served firstly in the Eastern Legion, and then in the Polish Legions. He was also engaged in conspiracy for the Polish Military Organisation. During the Polish – Soviet war, he worked at the chemistry department of the Army Supply Office under the Ministry of Military Affairs.  He retired from the army as a lieutenant in 1921 and received the Medal of Independence for his efforts in rebuilding of the independent Poland. He also received the Grand Cross of Polonia Restitua Order for his work for the development of the Polish economy.

The First World War was still ongoing when he accepted the position of Deputy Director at the Gas Plant in Lublin. After Poland regained independence he became an assistant professor at the Technical University of Warsaw where he gave lectures on the chemistry of stone coal and gas. In 1921, armed with a degree in Chemical Engineering, he took up the position of technical director at the State Nitrate Factory in Chorzów. Ignacy Mościcki – the later President of Poland – was it’s General Director at the time. It took him merely three years to turn a devastated factory from which the Germans removed all the documentation and technical personnel, into a prosperous company. Between the years of 1924 and 1926 he was the Chairman of the Polish Association of Engineers and Technicians in the Silesian Voivodeship.

After the May Coup of 1926, the President of the Second Republic of Poland, Mr. Ignacy Mościcki, recommended Kwiatkowski as the Minister for Trade and Industry in the second government formed by Professor Kazimierz Bartel. And so, Kwiatkowski served as the said Minister in the years of 1926 and 1930.

When Walery Sławek became Prime Minister in 1930 he did not appoint Kwiatkowski to head one of the ministries. He ran for election to the Silesian Seym from the list of the Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government (Sanacja), stepping down from his office when in 1931 he took the position of the General Director of the State Nitrate Factory in Chorzow and Moscice (1931–1935).

Between October of 1935 and September 30, 1939 he was a member of the so-called Castle Group formed by President Mościcki and his associates. During that time he was also the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Treasury in the governments formed firstly by Marian Zyndram, and secondly by Felicjan Sławoj-Składkowski. Politically Kwiatkowski remained in conflict both with the General Inspector of Armed Forces, Marshall Rydz-Śmigły, and Minister for Foreign Affairs – Beck (Kwiatkowski was critical towards Polish policies on the 3rd Reich). He also got involved in the activities of the Sanacja movement Camp of National Unity. He became known as the author of the plan of the development of sea trade and the constructor of the port of Gdynia. In today’s Gdynia he is still held in high esteem and treated as one of the main icons of the development of the city. It was thanks to him that construction works of the port, which at first were quite slow, gained speed in 1926 and Gdynia became the window to the world of inter-war Poland. He also played an important part in the forming of the Polish Merchant Fleet which allowed Poland to free itself from customs paid to foreign companies. It was also him who initiated the formation of the Polish High-Seas Fishing Fleet, tasked with supplying Poland with large quantities of fish allowing all Poles to introduce fish to their menus. He saw this as a way to provide cheap, yet nutritious, food to poorer citizens.

In his 1935 parliament speech he clearly described the magnitude of challenges he faced. He said: “The structure of our economy is highly unfavourable (…). The Polish countryside of the 20th century travelled back in time to the subsistence economy.  The needs of those living in the villages are met in an abnormal, highly primitive manner. Matches are split into parts; torches are again in use; and transport on even long distances has gone back to means of pedestrian or wheel transportation – something thaw was already a thing of the past in the previous century“.

Politically Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski, being actively engaged in rebuilding the economy, was of the stand that Poland needed quick industrialization and land reform (which would allow for State intervention and influence on the prices of crops, debt adjustment plans, and public investments). He recognised the benefits of long-term central planning as well as the involvement of the State in strategic investments (State control). He advocated equal rights for ethnic minorities in Poland. He believed that the Sanacja should enter into better dialogue with the opposition as without cooperation there is no room for active economic policy. His texts, written under a nom de plume, were published in the oppositional Warsaw Courier [Kurier Warszawski]. He invited members of the opposition to play their part in the Citizens’ Loan for the National Defence Committee [Obywatelski komitet Pożczki Obrony Narodowej]. He successfully mediated and organised meetings of opposition members with the President. However, his efforts to obtain pardon for those sentenced in the Brest Trial were futile.

From 1937 he oversaw the realisation of the Central Industrial District – an idea conceived by the Kosieradzccy brothers (Władysław Kosieradzki and Paweł Kosieradzki). Investments which were then initiated were mainly of a military (arms industry) and transportation nature, but they were too late and did not manage to level economical differences in the development of Poland in the space of a few years prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski left Poland after the Polish army was finally defeated on the 17th September 1939. He was interned in Romania between the years of 1939 and 1945. Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski refused his request to be enlisted in the Polish army in France as he held him personally responsible for the tragedy of 1939,

After the war his talents and deep knowledge of economy were used by the communist rulers, however, as Stalinism progressed, he was deprived of all public positions. After 1956 he returned to academic work.