The history of the friendship between Kulski and Starzyński dates back to the high school times. They both graduated from the same prestigious gymnasium after Jan Kreczmar, which was the first school to be allowed to teach the Polish language during the Russian partition.
During this period, Kulski and Starzyński got involved in a school strike in 1905, appealing, among others, for the abolition of police supervision over school youth, as well as religious and class restrictions in access to education.
Kulski and Starzyński were also connected by their world views – both in their adolescence sympathized with the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), for which they paid in their later years, including also by getting into prison.
Julian Spitosław Kulski (born 03 December, 1892 in Warsaw) – entered the pages of the history as a patriot, soldier, vice-president of Warsaw, and a long-time friend of the legendary president of the capital – Stefan Starzyński.
Julian Spitosław Kulski decided to continue his education at the University of Brussels, where he started studying electrical engineering. Kulski’s academic interests changed over time, and, as a result, he moved to Nancy. There, he continued his studies at the Institute of Electronics and Applied Mechanics. However, from his academic career, Kulski was much more interested in the political activity, motivated by a strong patriotic spurt and longing for his homeland.
In 1913, Kulski joined the Belgian company of the Riflemen’s Association, then in 1914, at the invitation of Stefan Starzyński, returned to Poland and joined the Legions led by Józef Piłsudski to fight together against the overwhelming forces of the tsarist army. After the end of the war, Starzyński and Kulski were interned together in the Beniaminów camp.
After returning to Warsaw and after the death of his father in 1917, the 25-year-old Julian Kulski became the head of the family. In the interests of his mother and siblings, he started working in the Supply Department of the Municipal Board as a bakery inspector. Then he connected his professional plans with the People’s Militia, under which in 1919 he took command of the Warsaw district, which at that time included not only the capital, but also the entire province. Starzyński appeared once again during that period of Kulski’s life. On his initiative, Kulski changed the job, taking up employment in the Supreme Command of the Polish Army.
At the end of 1921, Kulski decided to resign from further military service. At that time, Starzyński was the Secretary General of the Moscow Re-Evacuation and Special Commission, and Kulski was offered the position of his deputy. The activities of Kulski and Starzyński in the Re-Evacuation and Special Commission contributed to the recovery and transport of many valuable cultural and historical monuments of Poland from Moscow.
After returning from Moscow, Julian S. Kulski decided to re-enter the academic path, starting in 1925 diplomatic and consular studies in Paris. During the studies, he joined the Institute of European Law in Paris. After graduating in 1927, he returned with his wife to Warsaw and began working at the Ministry of the Treasury, where Stefan Starzyński served as a Deputy Minister. In the following years, Kulski’s offsprings were born – son Eugeniusz (1929) and afterwards daughter Wanda (1932).
The story of Julian Spitosław Kulski was also intertwined with the fate of Stefan Starzyński, who in the years 1934–1939 held the office of the President of Warsaw. In 1935, Julian S. Kulski accepted his friend’s proposal and became the Deputy President of the capital. The management of the City Board then consisted of six people: the president and five vice-presidents. Soon after the start of the German occupation, Kulski remained the only Vice-president in office. Afterwards he became President Starzyński’s the right hand.
In 1938, due to the growing threat of war, Kulski was appointed the Commander of the Civil Air Defense of Warsaw. After the arrest of President Starzyński in October 1939, he took over his duties. With the consent of the delegate of the Polish Government to Poland – Cyryl Ratajski and the representatives of the Polish Underground State and the government in exile, he served as the president of the capital until the first days after the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising.
Before his arrest, President Starzyński ordered Kulski to continue his mission watching over the fate of the inhabitants of Warsaw. Thanks to Kulski’s efforts, the lives of thousands of Warsaw civilians were saved. Employees of the town hall, with the consent of Kulski, issued false identity documents and employment certificates in the town hall. It turned out to be invaluable help for members of the Polish Underground State and other people wanted by the Nazi occupiers. The capital city hall actions also saved the lives of thousands of citizens of Jewish origin, as well as refugees from the Warsaw ghetto.
President Kulski and his family risked their lives every day. During his tenure in the occupied Warsaw, Kulski experienced many dramatic moments, including his arrest and interrogation at the Gestapo headquarters at Szucha Avenue, the arrest of a 14-year-old son or numerous arrests of City Hall employees. Their evacuation from Nazi arrests was possible thanks to the personal intercession of Kulski.
Julian Kulski, with the consent of the Government Delegate for Poland, Stanisław Jankowski, resigned on 05 August, 1944. After 3 weeks of fighting in the vicinity of Śródmieście and the Old Town, he managed to get to Żoliborz, where his fifteen-year-old son was. After the fall of the Uprising, Julian S. Kulski shared the fate of thousands of Warsaw residents, passing through the German transit camp in Pruszków.
After the end of the war, Julian S. Kulski continued his work for the City Hall, preparing reports on the activities of the City Board during the war and occupation for the needs of the city archives. From 1946, he was employed in the shipping company C. Hartwig in Gdynia. A year later, he worked at Public Sector Building in Warsaw, and then at Workers’ Housing Estates (ZOR).
He retired in 1960, devoting himself entirely to historical and opposition activities. He died in Warsaw on 18 August, 1976. His grave is located in Aleja Zasłużonych (“Avenue of the Distinguished) in the Warsaw Powązki Cemetery.
Julian S. Kulski was honored with a number of medals and distinctions for his heroic and courageous actions. He was awarded the Medal of Valor three times for his service in the Legions. For the fight against the Bolsheviks, he got honored with the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari. For post-war services for the activity aimed at independence and social work Kulski received the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta. As a token of recognition for the activities for the Malta Hospital in Warsaw, the Order of Malta awarded him the Grand Cross with the Star of the Order of Merit.
Stefan Bronisław Starzyński was born on 19 August, 1893 in Warsaw. He was a politician, publicist and economist. He was the Commissioner President of Warsaw in the years 1934–1939. During the defensive war, he was the Chairman of the Citizens’ Committee during the defense of Warsaw.
The birthday is supposed to be 19th August, 1893. He was born at 33 Dobra street. He was the third son of Alfons Karol Starzyński and Jadwiga Lipska. In his family house, he received a solid education, where patriotic and insurgent traditions were passed further.
His spent his childhood in Łowicz. From the early age he demonstrated signs of social activity. After moving to Warsaw, together with Julian S. Kulski, he participated in the school strike in 1905. From 1907 he continued his education at the Emilian Konopczyński gymnasium in Warsaw, where he was an active member of the Progressive-Independence Youth Union. This organization was ardently operating among young people in Polish secondary and academic schools in the Kingdom. Already since his junior high school times, he was very independent. He was earning additional money by tutoring. He was also a member of the Underground. For the first time he was arrested in 1910 and served a month’s sentence in the Citadel. After leaving the prison, he was forced to change the school. At the age of 19, he became involved in the independence activities.
He spent the First World War period serving in the Legions. He was declared as pro-Piłsudski. In the army, he reached the rank of reserve major. In the Second Polish Republic, after the May coup, he was an official for special tasks at Prime Minister Kazimierz Bartel. From 1930, he assumed a parliamentary mandate on behalf of the Non-party Block of Cooperation with the Government. He also realized his professional competences as a lecturer at the Warsaw School of Economics. After Piłsudski’s death, he supported the the rule of Edward Rydz-Śmigły.
In 1934 he was appointed the President of the capital city of Warsaw. He tidied up the capital’s system. At the initial stage of his activity, the inhabitants were reluctant to him, only then did he gain their respect as an efficient manager. His achievements include modernization of the sewage system, improvement of public transport efficiency or many streets renovation. Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, he developed a plan for the evacuation of the Government and the collections of the National Museum.
The 5 years of Stefan Starzyński’s rule contributed to Warsaw flourishing. Over 100,000 apartments with the necessary infrastructure were built. The construction of 30 school buildings and the modernization of several dozen old ones got completed. The following places were finished and put into service: the National Museum, the Tourist House, the market hall in Żoliborz or the Hospital of the Transfiguration. The Blanka Palace, the Arsenal and the Bruhl Palace were renovated. Other initiatives undertaken during the reign of Starzyński include: the discovery of Warsaw medieval walls fragment, preparation of the preliminary design for the construction of the Piłsudski bridge and the metro network, modernization of Warsaw’s arterial roads, modernization of seven hospitals, construction of the Żoliborz viaduct over the Gdańsk Railway Station, as well as the extension of Bonifraterska Street. On 27 July, 1939, he wrote a will, where he bequeathed his own art collections to the National Museum.
In the face of the approaching German troops, he refused to carry out the evacuation order from the capital. At that time, he assumed the position of the Civil Commissioner at the Warsaw Defense Command. On the proposal to depart from Warsaw by plane sent by E. Rydz-Śmigły, he replied to General Juliusz Rómmel as the Commander of the defense of the capital: “Just as you share the fate of your soldiers – so I will remain among my own.” On 6 September, General Kazimierz Sosnkowski summoned President Starzyński to the headquarters of the commander of the defense of Warsaw, General Walerian Czuma. In his memoirs “Shadows of September” K. Sosnkowski wrote:
“I appealed to President Starzyński with a demand to immediately mobilize the people of Warsaw for the fight and the auxiliary work. It was agreed that he would immediately appeal to the inhabitants of the capital to appear at designated assembly points for digging ditches and building barricades. The city committed to provide as much engineer equipment, as it had at its disposal. The rest, as well as mining equipment, were to be provided by the commander of I district. The city administration was to turn off gas and water in defense zones. Before the end of the briefing, President Starzyński reported to me that he would implement all the recommendations immediately, but the next day he had to hand over the office of the president to his deputy and leave Warsaw to report to the regiment the 8th Heavy Artillery Regiment in Toruń), which he was assigned to on the basis of a mobilization card. My response was a call to stay where he was, in Warsaw, where he would be more needed than in the regiment. President Starzyński declared that in the face of such an order, he would remain in office, treating my order as an exemption from the obligation to appear in the regiment ”.
After the capitulation of Warsaw, Starzyński was a co-founder of the underground administration structure. He collaborated with the first commander of the Polish Victory Service, General Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski. He was arrested by the Germans on 27 October, 1939 in the town hall, imprisoned in the Central Detention Center in Warsaw, and then transferred to the Pawiak prison.
The investigative division of the Institute of National Remembrance, conducting the investigation regarding the circumstances of Starzyński’s death, completed the investigation on September 8, 2014. The prosecutor of the Branch Prosecution Commission stated that his death was the result of being shot by the Gestapo between 21 and 23 December 1939 in or around Warsaw. The perpetrators of the murder were: SS-Oberscharführer Hermann Schimmann, SS-Hauptscharführer Weber and SS-Unterscharführer Perlbach.