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Tadeusz Kościuszko – Patron of our school

Born February 4, 1746, died October 15, 1817.

Tadeusz Kościuszko has been the patron of the Polish Saturday School of Native Subjects in Ealing since 1967. He is one of the most famous Polish historical figures around the world. He is considered a national hero of Poland and the USA, an honorary citizen of France and a great son of the Belarusian land. In 1792, the French included him among 18 people considered "the elite of humanity".

Kościuszko believed that we had to fight for the nation's freedom, not wait for someone to offer it to us. He said: "It is necessary to arouse love of country in those who until now did not even know that they had a homeland." He was an extremely talented strategist, a brave soldier, an experienced politician, a social reformer, a friend of presidents, and above all, a great patriot.

Tadeusz Kościuszko was born in 1746 in Kosovo in Polesie (today part of Belarus) into a poor noble family. At baptism he received three names - Andrzej, Tadeusz, Bonawentura, but he used only the second one. He lost his parents early - despite this, thanks to his persistence and abilities, he graduated from the Knight's School, founded by King Stanisław August Poniatowski. Graduates of this school were to become comprehensively educated officers of the Polish army.

Thanks to the support of Adam Kazimierz Czartoryski, he went to Paris as a royal scholarship holder. There, in addition to learning the art of drawing and sculpture, he attended lectures by famous architects and engineers, including the creators of defensive lines and fortresses, thanks to which he later became famous as a talented fortifier. During his studies, he first encountered the ideas of the Enlightenment movement. After finishing his studies, Tadeusz went on a journey around European countries - he visited England, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. At that time, he received news of the first partition of Poland.

In the summer of 1775 he returned to the country. He found no employment in the Polish army, reduced to 10,000 soldiers. His brother was the owner of the family estate, and the lack of wealth thwarted his marriage plans - he unsuccessfully courted Ludwika, the daughter of Lithuanian hetman Józef Sosnkowski.

For American ideals

Failure in love and lack of a job in the army caused Kościuszko to leave Poland. In the fall of 1775 he left via Paris for America. There he volunteered to fight in the American Revolutionary War. As a military engineer, he was assigned to build fortifications in the areas along the Delaware River. He was soon appointed colonel engineer. From then on, he was responsible for fortifying the camps of the American Northern Army. Kościuszko distinguished himself with great courage in the battles of Saratoga in 1777. He also became famous as the author of the fortifications of the famous West Point military academy. In 1783, Congress appointed him general. He returned to Poland in 1784 in heroic glory, as a friend of Washington himself.

After returning from America, Kościuszko began to get involved in events in the country. A group of activists who saw the need to carry out reforms played an increasingly important role in Poland's political life. The attitude of the patriotic nobility also became radical. Outstanding political writers, such as Stanisław Staszic and Hugo Kołłątaj, advocated strengthening the central government and granting greater rights to the bourgeoisie and peasants. The Four-Year (Great) Sejm, which met in 1788–1792, began to reform the state and increased the number of the army to 100,000. Kościuszko had the opportunity to pursue a military career in the army of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In October 1789, he received a nomination signed by the king for the position of major general of the crown troops.

Leader of the uprising

Poles' efforts to strengthen their homeland caused concern in Russia and Prussia, as well as some of the local magnates associated with foreign powers. Already in April 1792, the conspiring magnates, Szczęsny Potocki, Seweryn Rzewuski and Franciszek Ksawery Branicki, prepared an act of confederation abolishing the provisions of the Constitution of May 3. The act of confederation was announced on May 14, in the border town of Targowica, and a few days later, the Russian army, at the request of Targowica residents, crossed the borders of the Republic of Poland.

In 1792, in the fight against the Russians, Kościuszko commanded the Battle of Dubienka, in which the Poles won. For the campaign of 1792, Kościuszko, as the second person after Prince Józef Poniatowski, was awarded the Virtuti Militari gold medal. Despite the first victories of the Poles, the king decided to surrender and rely on the mercy of Tsarina Catherine and King Ferdinand of Prussia. In this situation, the patriot camp to which Kościuszko belonged decided to leave the country and continue to work in exile in Dresden and Leipzig. There, preparations began for the uprising, which was later called the Kościuszko Uprising. Kościuszko then said: "I will not fight for the nobility alone, I want the freedom of the entire nation and I will only risk my life for it."

The Kościuszko Uprising began on March 24, 1794. On that day, Kościuszko, as the leader of the uprising, took a solemn oath in the Market Square in Krakow as the Supreme Commander of the National Armed Forces.

Twelve days later, the first battle of the Polish insurgents against the Russians took place - near Racławice. Initially, the Polish infantry and cavalry failed to break the enemy's strength, then Kościuszko decided to introduce peasants called scythemen into the battle, which tipped the scales of victory to the Polish side. Russian troops began to retreat, suffering great losses. After the Battle of Racławice, Kościuszko dressed in a peasant coat, thus paying tribute to the bravest of his troops. Moreover, to encourage peasants to participate in the uprising, he announced the Połaniec Universal, guaranteeing them personal freedom.

When the Prussian army came to the aid of the Russian army, the uprising began to collapse in the face of the enemy's enormous superiority. In the Battle of Maciejowice, Kościuszko was seriously wounded and taken prisoner. He was taken to St. Petersburg.

In exile again

After his release from prison, he went to France where he supported the creation of the Polish Legions in Italy, although he approached the idea of a Polish army in France with great distrust. He believed that Napoleon would use Polish troops primarily for France's political purposes. Hence, he refused to command the Legions and entrusted this task to Dąbrowski. Kościuszko, unsympathetic to Napoleon, saw a chance for Poland's independence in the new, 'enlightened' Russian Tsar - Alexander. However, when, as a result of the decisions of the Congress of Vienna, the tsar became king of Poland but did not undertake any reforms, Kościuszko, disappointed with the decisions of the Congress, withdrew from political life. He spent the last years of his life in Switzerland, in Solothurn.

In April 1817, Kościuszko signed an act under which all peasants on his family estate were released from serfdom and received land, which they cultivated all their lives. He had earlier issued a similar order for the benefit of blacks in the estates he owned in America. He used his own funds to buy their freedom and educate them. He died in Switzerland in 1817.

Where can you meet the Chief?

When Poland regained independence after 123 years of captivity, the Commander's body was brought back to his homeland and buried in Wawel, among the graves of kings, although his heart rests in an urn in the Royal Castle in Warsaw. In his honor, the Kościuszko Mound in Kraków was built in 1820-1823, modeled on the Wanda and Krakus mounds existing in the city, the Kościuszko Mound in Olkusz in 1861, and the Kościuszko Mound in Połaniec in 1917.

If you are ever at Wawel, you will be greeted by Kościuszko on horseback at the main gate. In the National Museum in Krakow in the Sukiennice there hangs a huge painting by Jan Matejko "Kościuszko at Racławice". In the place where he took the oath of loyalty to the nation - in the largest and one of the most beautiful market squares in medieval Europe - there is a plaque commemorating this event.

Also in Wrocław, it is worth visiting the "Panorama of Racławice" - a gigantic three-dimensional painting by Wojciech Kossak and Jan Styka, transferred from Lviv, reflecting the extraordinary atmosphere of the events of 200 years ago.

Outside Poland there are many places commemorating our patron, including an island off the coast of Alaska as well as bridges, streets and numerous monuments. In the United States, one of the counties in the state of Indiana is named after Kościuszko, and the town of "Kosciusko" is also located in Mississippi. Kościuszko monuments stand at West Point Military Academy, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Chicago. In New York there is the "Kosciuszko Bridge" and the "Kosciuszko Memorial Garden" at West Point. There is a museum in Solothurn (Sloura) in Switzerland. Tadeusz Kościuszko. Sir Paweł Edmund Strzelecki named the highest peak in Australia he discovered, "Mount Kosciuszko", which is located in the Kosciuszko National Park.

One of the most famous Polish aviation units during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920 was the 7th Air Squadron. In 1919, volunteers from the United States joined it. As a sign of gratitude for Polish participation in the American War of Independence, they named the squadron "Kościuszko Squadron". Its badge combined the symbols of both nations - the red Krakow rogatywka and scythes with the so-called "Stars and Stripes". This emblem was used by Polish aviation units, including the 303rd Warsaw Fighter Squadron. Tadeusz Kościuszko. Formed in England during World War II, No. 303 Squadron took part in the "Battle of Britain" and became famous for many aerial victories as well as the courage and bravado of its pilots. 303 Squadron is commemorated on the Polish Airman's Monument in Northolt, a north-western suburb of London.

In the minds of Poles, Kościuszko became a model of patriotism, soldierly virtues and civic fidelity. It is the embodiment of national identity, which is indispensable for building one's own personality, sense of pride, distinctiveness and maintaining the spiritual bond with one's ancestors.

That's why the best of the best became the patron of our school.

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