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The General Sikorski Historical Institute was called into being on 2nd May 1945 when an agreement between Helena Sikorska and
members of the organising committee was signed. By this agreement Gen. Sikorski's widow donated her husband's papers and
memorabilia to the new Institute. The committee's task was to take care of them and organise an institution bearing her husband's name. Its
task was to facilitate research into Gen. Sikorski's career and his times. The Organising Committee formed the Institute's first Council. At
its head stood the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, Chairman of the Polish-Scottish Society.
The main initiative to set up such an institution came from Gen. Sikorski's Chef de Cabinet Lt. Col. Zygmunt Borkowski, who was
also Head of the Military Archive and Museum Service between 1944 and 1948. He became the Institute's first director, a post he held
From a legal point of view the Institute was organised as a Trust and later received charity status. To avoid any pressure from either
the British Government or the communist regime in Warsaw it was decided not to establish the Institute by a decision of either the legal
President of Poland or the Polish Goverment then residing in London.
During the first meeting of the Institute's Council on 13th December 1945 at the Dorchester Hotel, Colonel Stanisław Szurlej
reminded his listeners of "similar Polish institutions such as the Polish Library in Paris and the Polish Museum in Rapperswil and that their
common aim in the collecting of historical documents witnessing Poland's contribution to worldwide culture in general, and as far as this
Institute is concerned specially to the period of the Second World War. The Institute has been named after General Sikorski, as the basis of
its collections are the General's memorabilia donated by Helena Sikorska the Generals's widow as well as the fact that the General's name
is inextricably entwined with Poland's role in the war, side by side with the British and American allies. These same reasons are the cause
of Madame Sikorska's special privileges in the Institute”.
Ceremony of laying down the Regimental
Colours in the Museum at Prince's Gate:
- Colour Parties formed up in Prince's Gate
- Prelate Reverend W. Cieński with the Institute's
chairman Profesor St. Stroński
- General Władysław Anders and General
In 1946 number 20 Prince's Gate, Kensington was purchased to house the collections. On 9 July 1947 the Reverend W. Cieński,
Chaplain-in-Chief of the 2nd Polish Corps, blessed the building following which the regimental colours of the Polish Armed Forces were
ceremoniously trooped in, to hang alongside the colours of various pre war regiments.
In 1965 the General Sikorski Historical Institute and the Polish Research Centre (established in London in 1939) amalgamated to
form The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum. In 1970 the Polish Regimental Colours Fund
was set up with the aim of safeguarding and conserving the colours as well as the building
In 1973 the Polish Historical Institute (previously known as the Historical Commission
of the former General Staff) became an autonomous part of the Institute. Its task remained to
write and publish military historical books about the role of the Polish Armed Forces in
particular during the Second World War. The Commission under several (changing) names,
was active until its winding up in 2006. In 1979 the Institute was one of the main instigators of
the permanent Libraries, Museums and Archives Conference, a forum for co-operation
between various Polish academic institutions in exile.
Sir Winston Churchill, visiting the Institute
and the Museum on the 5th July 1949.
HRH Prince Charles visiting the Polish Institute
and Sikorski Museum in 1989.
The President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Wałęsa
at the Institute with the children of the volunteer staff,
In 1988 the Polish Underground Movement (1939-1945) Study Trust amalgamated with the Institute. Whilst losing its separate legal
status, it was granted internal autonomy in its daily aims and activities.
The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum is divided into the following departments and sub departments:
- The Archives
- The Museum (which also has responsibility for)
- the Photographic Archive
- the Film Archive
- the Sound Archive
- The Reference Library
- Regimental Colours Fund
- Membership is divided into:
- Honorary Members (chosen by the AGM)
- Full Members (chosen by the Council)
- Life Members (single donation of £100 and above)
- Members (regular annual donation, £5 and above)
The Primate of
Józef Glemp, in
the Chairman of
The Institute is governed by the Council which elects the Executive Committee from its members who run the day to day business of the
Institute. At the head of the Council and Executive Committee is the Chairman.
During the Institute's 64 years of existence it has had six chairmen:
- Prof. Stanisław Stroński PhD (1945-1951)
- Lt. Gen. Prof. Marian Kukiel PhD (1951-c.1965)
- Count Edward Raczyński PhD (c.1965-1976)
- Stanisław Leśniowski Msc (1977-1979)
- Capt. Ryszard Dembiński (1979-2003)
- Krzysztof Barbarski CEng (2004-
The President of the Republic of Poland
Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Madame Jolanta
Kwaśniewska, during their visit to the Institute in
Visiting the Institute and the Museum in September 2008, from the left: Lieutenant Colonel Stanisław
Żurakowski (long standing member of the Institute's voluntary staff), Polish Minister of Defence Bogdan
Klich, Polish Military Attache in London, Colonel Krzysztof Szymański, Current Chairman of the Institute
Krzysztof Barbarski, Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces General Franciszek Gągor.
The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum