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  • 24 January 2017

    Due to the proximity of the 200th anniversary (October 15, 2017) of the death of the Polish national hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a world icon of the struggle for freedom and independence, the Senate declared the current year as Kosciuszko Year.

    Tadeusz Kosciuszko, as stated in the Diet resolution, occupies an unique place in the Polish national memory as Head of State during the uprising called Kosciuszko's Insurrection, and as Commander in the victory at the Battle of Raclawice (1794). Kosciuszko is at the same time a model patriot and a symbol of freedom not only for the Poles: he has a special reputation in the American tradition, and also in Europe (he was granted the title of Citizen of Honor in several European cities). The universal values of struggle for freedom, democracy, and human dignity (including the freedom of other nations), of which he was an exponent, allow the celebration of such a day with an international dimension, thanks to the patronage of UNESCO, approved in its General Conference.

    The special affection for Koscuiszko in the US comes from the Fort Billingsport fortification in Philadelphia, the protection of the Delaware River bank against a possible British invasion. Kosciuszko initially served as a volunteer in the service of Benjamin Franklin, but on October 18, 1776, Congress promoted him to Colonel of Engineers of the Continental Army. In 1778, Kościuszko was in charge of improving the defense works in the fortress in West Point, where he would perform a great work that until today is praised. His excellent judgment on the battlefield and meticulous attention to detail in the American defense thwarted British attacks, and eventually Kościuszko was promoted by Congress to the rank of Brigadier General.

    After this, he returned to Poland, where he received the title of Naczelnik (Commander-in-Chief) of all the Polish-Lithuanian forces that fought against the Russian occupation. Kościuszko began to mobilize the population with the intention of getting enough volunteers to counter the Russian army, larger and more professional, hoping that neither Austria nor Prussia would intervene. Kościuszko assembled an army of about 6,000 men, including 4,000 regular soldiers and 2,000 new recruits, and marched towards Warsaw, obtaining the victory at the Battle of Racławice on April 4, 1793. Kościuszko was wounded months later in the Battle of Maciejowice on October 10, and captured by the Russians. Shortly thereafter, the uprising ended with the Battle of Prague and the later massacre, where (according to a contemporary Russian witness) Russian troops killed about 20,000 Warsaw residents. The third partition of Poland that followed ended the existence of the Polish-Lithuanian state during the next 123 years until the Constitution of the Second Polish Republic in 1918, when Poland and Lithuania were to separate.

    Kosciuszko was a Polish military engineer and leader who became a national hero in Poland, Belarus and the United States. He is considered one of the most brilliant generals of Poland, and its influence in the world is even noticeable in the highest mount of Australia, Mount Kosciuszko, that takes that name in his honor.

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