Poland became free of Russian, German and Austrian occupation at the end of World War One.
Before Poland was officially proclaimed as an Independent country on November 11, 1918 (Polish Independence Day) a war was started between Poles and Ukrainian National Army in the city of Lwow (German name Lemberg, Ukrainian Lviv).  The Ukrainian Army seized the city on November 1st, 1918.  Polish citizens of Lwow (many of them school children known as Orleta) and some Polish soldiers managed to free the city by November 22, 1918.  This event sparked a War between Poland and the Bolsheviks in Russia which lasted until 1921.  The Polish leader, Jozef Pilsudski, had been working for the cause of Polish Independence (especially from Russian occupation) even before World War One started.  Although under Austrian command during World War One, Pilsudski led a Polish Volunteer Force, the Polish Legions, against Russia.    
After the end of World War One, the Bolsheviks under Lenin planned to invade Europe.  Germany was defeated and was full of civil unrest.  France was War weary and had economic problems.  Lenin felt the only thing needed to spark a proletariat revolution in these places was to give them a little shove, using the Red Army.  The only thing that stood in Lenin's way was Poland.

In August 1920, the Red Army approached Warsaw.  The very existence of Poland and much of Europe hung in the balance.  Pilsudski made his stand at Warsaw.  The battle of Warsaw was won by the Polish Army with help from Polish citizens.  Many called it a miracle.  The Red Army was defeated and forced to retreat, saving Europe in the process.  A Peace Treaty between Poland and the Bolsheviks came into effect in 1921.  The Soviets returned in 1939 and exacted revenge when it and Germany co-invaded Poland. 

Many of the awards of the 2nd Republic reflect the heroic fight for Polish Independence and the Victory over the Communists, 1918-1921.  Originally awarded before the 1795 partition of Poland, the Order of the White Eagle and the Order of Virtuti Militari were revived.  Other awards such as Order of Polonia Restituta, the Independence Cross and Medal, the Cross of Valour and the Cross of Merit were new awards.


Rank   Award

1.            Order of the White Eagle
2.            Order of Virtuti Militari I class
3.            Order of Virtuti Militari II class
4.            Order of Virtuti Militari III class
5.            Order of Virtuti Militari IV class
6.            Order of Virtuti Militari V class
7.            Order of Polonia Restituta I class
8.            Order of Polonia Restituta II class
9.            Order of Polonia Restituta III class
10.          Cross of Independence with or without Swords
11.          Order of Polonia Restituta IV class
12.          Order of Polonia Restituta V class
13.          Cross of Valour
14.          Cross for War Volunteers
15.          Cross of Merit for Bravery
16.          Gold Cross of Merit
17.          Independence Medal
18.          Medal for War Volunteers
19.          Silver Cross of Merit
20.          Bronze Cross of Merit
21.          Cross of Merit of the Central Lithuanian Army
22.          Silesian Cross on Ribbon of Merit
23.          Medal for Rescuing the Perishing
24.          1918-1921 War Medal
25           Gold Academic Laureate Medal
26.          Silver Academic Laureate Medal  .
27.          10th Anniversary of Independence
28.          3rd of May Medal
29.          Gold 30 year Long Service Medal (Never awarded)
30.          Silver 20 year Long Service Medal
31.          Bronze 10 year Long Service Medal


Order of the White Eagle, Sash, Badge and Star of the Order.  Poland's highest Order, awarded only to the most outstanding Poles and to some Foreign Leaders.  Originals are extremely rare, but quality replicas like this one can be found.
Image courtesy of Darek, e-mail:

II Republic Awards: Order of Virtuti Militari; Independence Cross; Order of Polonia Restituta; 1918-1921 War Medal.  The Virtuti Militari was awarded for extremely outstanding acts of bravery.  The Independence Cross is a high ranking Decoration awarded to those who made significant contributions to the cause of Polish Independence up to 1921, excluding the Polish-Soviet War.  The Order Polonia Restituta was awarded in 5 classes to those who made contributions in a number of areas that benefited Poland.  The 1918-21 War Medal was awarded to those who served in the War against the Bolsheviks.

Cross of Valour, awarded for Bravery.  Can be awarded multiple time, each additional award denoted with a bar on the ribbon.

Independence Medal; 10th Anniversary of Independence; 10 Years of Service (II Republic)
As with the Independence Cross, the Medal was awarded for acts contributing to Polish Independence up to 1921, excluding the the Polish-Soviet War.  The 10th Anniversary of Independence was awarded in 1928 to those with 5 years Civil Service or Military Service.  The 10 Years of Service Medal was awarded starting in 1938 to those who served in Public or Military Service for 10 years.  See 20 year Medal below.
20 Years Service (Hallmarked Silver)  Cross of Merit of the Central      Lithuanian Army (copy)  Cross of Merit 1st class. 
Note the lack of "cut-outs"  between the arms of this version. Marked "A. Nagalski, Warsaw" on reverse. 

Akademia Laureate.  Awarded for work in Arts and Literature.  Photo courtesy of Auctions H.D. Rauch , used by permission.

Life Saving medal.  "ZA RATOWANIE GINACYCH" on reverse.  Photo courtesy of Auctions H.D. Rauch , used by permission.

Silesian Cross on Ribbon of Merit.  First awarded with the medal but changed to a ribbon only award, later to be changed back to a medal award.  Three versions exist.  First version is like the one shown.  2nd version was a commemorative first awarded in 1927.  The 3rd version looks like the first one, but has an additional "5 PP RYBN" on the reverse (5th Regiment of the city of Rybnik).
A silver star on the ribbon denotes a "1st Class" award (given to active Combatants).

Honourary Decorations

Upper Silesian Star.  Awarded to those who distinguished themselves during the struggle for Upper Silesia.  Photo courtesy of Auctions H.D. Rauch , used by permission.

Cross for the defense of Lwow; Orleta Decoration.  The Lwow Defense Cross was awarded to those who helped defend the city between November 1 and November 22, 1918.  Three versions exist.  The first has no swords or Virtuti Militari.  Later, after the city of Lwow was awarded the Virtuti Militari, two other versions emerged:  One with a small Virtuti Militari on the lower arm and the other with the Virtuti Militari on the lower arm and crossed swords (on the side arms).
The Orleta (Eaglets) Decoration was awarded to the Polish school children of Lwow who fought bravely in the defense of the city.  Both of these awards (and many others) fall into the category of "Commemorative Decorations" awarded mainly by organizations.  Commemorative Decorations were awarded for such areas as the Defense of Lwow, the Silesian and Wielkopolski Uprisings, and other areas like Wolyn, the Belorussian front and Central Lithuania..