Wladysław Eugeniusz Sikorski (May 20, 1881 – July 4, 1943) was a Polish military and political leader. He was born in Tuszow Narodowy a village in the present-day Sub Carpathian Voivodeship of south-eastern Poland, which at the time was part of Austria-Hungary, one of Poland’s three partitioners.
Prior to World War I, he established and participated in several underground organizations that promoted the cause of Polish independence. He fought with distinction in the Polish Legions during World War I, and later in the newly created Polish Army during the Polish-Soviet War (1919 to 1921). In that war he played a prominent role in the decisive Battle of Warsaw, when Soviet forces, expecting an easy final victory, were surprised and routed by the Polish counterattack. In the early years of the Second Polish Republic, Sikorski held government posts including prime minister (1922 to 1923) and minister of military affairs (1923 to 1924). Following Josef Pilsudski’s May Coup (1926) and the installation of the Sanacja government, he fell out of favour with the new regime. Up until, and throughout 1939, he remained in the opposition, and wrote several books on the art of warfare and on Polish foreign relations.
During World War II he became Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile, Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces, and a vigorous advocate of the Polish cause on the diplomatic scene. He supported the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Poland and the Soviet Union, which had been severed after the Soviet alliance with Germany in the 1939 invasion of Poland. In April 1943, however, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin broke off Soviet-Polish diplomatic relations following Sikorski’s request that the International Red Cross investigate the Katyń massacre. In July 1943, Sikorski was killed in a plane crash into the sea immediately on take-off from Gibraltar. The exact circumstances of his death remain in dispute, which has given rise to conspiracy theories, however, investigators have concluded that Sikorski’s injuries were consistent with a plane crash.