Warsaw, 24 March 2017
President of the Republic of Poland
Ladies and gentlemen, citizens of Poland,
On the 24th of March 1794, Tadeusz Kościuszko, the Supreme Commander of the Polish National Armed Forces, took a solemn oath to the army and the citizens of Kraków promising to fight for “for the integrity of the borders, for regaining national sovereignty and for the establishment of general liberty.” That same day marked the beginning of a mass uprising for independence. An uprising which was called by later generations the Kościuszko Uprising.
This year’s celebrations of the anniversary of this uprising have a special significance. The Year of Tadeusz Kościuszko proclaimed by the Sejm of the Republic of Poland is an opportunity to highlight the timeless values represented by one of the greatest Polish patriots and national leaders on the 200th anniversary of his death.
Kościuszko made his debut on the grand stage of the history of our Homeland as a broadly educated graduate of the Corps of Cadets at the School of Chivalry, the training ground of future national and military elites, and also as a hero of the American War of Independence. His knowledge, experience and conscientiousness, along with his commitment to liberty and bravery in the struggle for the right of national self-determination won him enormous gratitude and respect overseas. Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States of America, wrote of him: “He is as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known (…) liberty which is to go to all, not just the few and rich alone.”
Robed in a simple peasant’s coat, the victor of Racławice did not only inspire the sons of noble families to battle, but engaged the city people and peasants as well. This was a watershed moment in our history. It was then, under the direction of Supreme Commander Kościuszko, in the struggle for a common Homeland and common ideals of liberty and social solidarity, that the modern Polish nation was born. And although the Polish Republic was soon to disappear from the map of Europe, the memory of the war waged in its defence remained. A belief remained in the rebirth of Poland as a strong, sovereign, well and justly governed nation. A hope remained which gave strength to legions of scythemen, militiamen, participants of mass mobilisation, and soldiers of the regular Polish army which was not to fade over subsequent generations. It was this hope that helped us regain freedom in 1918. It was this hope that strengthened our resolve during the Second World War, during the times of anti-communist uprisings, and during our struggle with the totalitarian yoke. The heroism and determination of the participants of the Kościuszko Uprising as well as of its leader to this day fill us with a sense of pride and admiration.
“Kościuszko, look down on us from heaven” sang the participants of the November Uprising. I am certain that the celebrations of the Year of Tadeusz Kościuszko will be a reminder of the person and of the service to our country of this patron of our liberty. Let his life, thoughts, and deeds once again be an inspiration for Poles and for other nationalities whose history has felt the presence of General Kościuszko himself or of the ideals which he stood for. I encourage you to take part in upcoming events which commemorate one of the greatest Polish national heroes and a passionate champion of freedom and dignity for all men.
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