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24th May, 2004

BLUE PLAQUE FOR POLISH STATESMAN COUNT EDWARD RACZYNSKI

Monday 15:57

Polish statesman Count Edward Raczynski (1891-1993) will be commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at 8 Lennox Gardens, London SW1, where he lived from 1967-1993. The Blue Plaque will be unveiled by the Polish Ambassador, Stanislaw Komorowski, at 3pm on Tuesday 25 May.

Count Raczynski was regarded as a great statesman, a national hero who dedicated his life to the struggle for independence and sovereignty of the Polish people. For fifty years Raczynski was one of the key figures of the Polish government-in-exile and during that time heads of state, politicians, historians and writers all made their way to his flat at Lennox Gardens in Belgravia, London. It was here that Raczynski lived and died in London.

Count Edward Raczynski was born in Zakopane, Poland, in 1891 to a prominent noble family. After studying at the Universities of Krakow and Leipzig, he attended the London School of Economics before joining the foreign service of the newly created Polish Republic in 1919. After distinguished service in Copenhagen and Geneva as the Polish representative at the League of Nations, he was appointed Ambassador to the Court of St James in November 1934. He was closely involved with the assistance pact of 1939 that effectively brought Britain into the Second World War.

After the fall of France in 1940, the Polish government fled to Britain and Raczynski proved himself invaluable as an interpreter and mediator. His excellent contacts and good English resulted in him acting from 1941-1943 as both ambassador and head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the exiled government.

After the Second World War Raczynski remained an active member of the Polish community. He sat on the Anglo-Polish Resettlement Committee, represented Poland in the European Movement from its foundation, acted as chairman of the Polish Research Centre, and became chief Polish advisor to the Ministry of Labour and chairman of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum. He also set up a 'second government in exile' with Arciszewski and General Anders. In 1979 he became President of the Polish Republic in exile, uniting the different political factions within the Polish community. He retired in 1986, aged 95.

On his 100th birthday Count Raczynski received an honorary knighthood from the Queen. He was also awarded the Polish Order of Merit by President Lech Walesa and made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Pius IX, the highest papal order that can be bestowed on someone who is not a head of state.

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