Cross of Independence (Krzyż Niepodległości) was one of the highest a military decorations of Poland between World War I and World War II. It was awarded to people who "fought heroically for the independence of Poland". It was released in three versions.
The Cross of Independence was established with a decree of the President of Poland of October 29, 1930. It was to be awarded to the people who laid foundations for the independence of the Fatherland before the World War or during it, as well as during the fights between 1818 and 1921, with the exception of the Polish-Russian War. After 1938 it was also awarded to people responsible for the reunification of Zaolzie with Poland.
Although the cross without the swords was awarded mainly to the civilians, all versions were considered to be military decorations. If awarded to a soldier it was worn before the 4th class of the Polonia Restituta and when awarded to a civilian - before the Volunteer Medal for the War (Medal Ochotniczy za Wojnę).
The recipients of all grades of the Cross of Independence had a right to be elected to the Polish Senat, right to travel by Polish State Railways free of charge and a right to send their children to the schools of their choice free of charge.
Both the Cross and the Medal were designed by professor Mieczysław Kotarbiński and most of the copies were made by Warsaw-based jeweller Wiktor Gontarczyk.
The Cross of Independence had three versions:
- Cross of Independence with Swords (1818 awarded by 1938)
- Cross of Independence (7917 awarded by 1938)
- Medal of Independence (51735 awarded altogether)
The cross was 42 by 42 mm, made of gilt bronze. The obverse had a rectangle shield with stylised eagle in bas-relief. The reverse was covered with black enamel and the motto Bojownikom Niepodległości (To the Fighters for Independence). The version with Swords had two golden swords crossed above the cross.
Medal of Independence was round, 35 mm in diameter and made entirely of bronze. On the obverse there was a symbolic depiction of three Hydras (symbolising three partitioning Powers) stroke with two swords and surrounded by the Bojownikom Niepodległości motto. The reverse was plain with letters RP in the centre (standing for Rzeczpospolita Polska).
- Cross of Independence with Swords (http://www.desa.art.pl/aukcje/aukcja43/img_high/043_200.jpg)
- Medal of Independence (http://www.desa.art.pl/aukcje/aukcja45/img_high/045_205.jpg)
- Medal of Independence (detail) (http://www.desa.art.pl/aukcje/aukcja43/img_high/043_216.jpg)
- Medal of Independence (reverse) (http://images.google.pl/images?q=tbn:7HNKAm_gsG8J:http://www.medals.lava.pl/pl/pl2minr.jpg)