Poland remembers Vilnius operation on silver coin
- Published: Apr 20, 2019, 6 AM
Shortly after World War I, Poland, Ukraine and the Soviet Union found themselves engaged in a battle for territory in what is modern-day Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine.
One such engagement in that war was the Vilna offensive, as Poland attempted to wrest control of Vilnius away from the Red Army.
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The Mint of Poland is marking the centennial of the Vilna offensive (also called the Vilnius operation) with a noncirculating legal tender 2019 silver 10-zloty coin.
The attack was planned and launched by Józef Pilsudski in April 1919, despite the Polish and French military staff’s opinion that it would fail.
The commander-in-chief hoped to forestall an expected offensive by the Bolsheviks, who were concentrating their troops beyond the Neman River to hit the Polish state, which was only just organizing itself, and to transform it into a Soviet republic.
Part of the Polish forces attacked Navahrudak, Baranavichy, and Lida, drawing away the attention of the enemy.
Meanwhile, a group made up of a cavalry brigade and several infantry battalions advanced on Vilnius. The cavalry, or uhlan unit, led by Lt. Col. Wladyslaw Belina-Prazmowski passed the infantry and caught the strong Bolshevik garrison in Vilnius by surprise at dawn April 19. With the support of the local people, part of the city was seized. The enemy recovered from the surprise, and heavy street fighting broke out.
In the evening, when the cavalry was running out of ammunition, a battalion of the 1st Infantry Regiment of the Polish Legions arrived in Vilnius on a captured train.
Victory was secured by the arrival of the main forces of the Polish infantry on the night of April 20 and 21. By noon on April 21, the entire city was captured.
For the Bolsheviks, losing Vilnius was a great propagandistic and military failure.
In Poland, the news of the city’s liberation triggered an explosion of joy. The success was seen as a promise of future victory in the struggle against Bolshevik Russia.
The coin’s design
The coin was designed by Grzegorz Pfeifer.
The obverse carries an image of a military commemorative badge awarded to the participants in the Vilnius expedition in the interwar period.
The reverse of the coin identifies Belina-Prazmowski as the main image, backed by his cavalry marching to Vilnius. The Polish legend translates to Vilnius Expedition 1919.
He was a legionnaire and the organizer and commander of the 1st Uhlan Regiment of the Polish Legions; he organized the 1st Cavalry Brigade in independent Poland, which he commanded in the years 1919 to 1920.
The Proof 2019 .925 fine silver coin weighs 14.14 grams, measures 32 millimeters in diameter and has a mintage limit of 13,000 pieces.
Interested collectors seeking to obtain this coin will have to search the secondary market, as there are no dedicated distributors of new Polish coins in North America.
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