This year marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Tadeusz Kościuszko, the Supreme Commander of the National Armed Forces and leader of the Kościuszko Uprising, Polish and American general, and steadfast champion of the struggle for independence. The Sejm and Senate of the Republic of Poland have declared 2017 to be the Year of Tadeusz Kościuszko.
Celebrations in Kraków will be exceptional – it is here, at the Wawel Cathedral in the Crypt of St. Leonard, where the remains of Tadeusz Kościuszko rest, and at the foot of Wawel Hill stands his memorial, and it was here that citizens erected the Kościuszko Mound, one of the most lasting symbols of the idea of a free and independent Poland.
Tadeusz Kościuszko occupies a special place in the pantheon of national heroes. He is a symbol of liberty and a model patriot. He personifies the highest values of equality and tolerance, and Thomas Jefferson, one of the authors of the American Declaration of Independence, called him a pure son of liberty, paying tribute to Kościuszko’s work in the United States of America.
In the Polish Senate resolution we read: “The ideals and deeds of Tadeusz Kościuszko are a source of pride not only for the Polish nation, but for all mankind, due to the contribution he made to the independence of the United States, receiving from the hands of George Washington the American Order of Cincinnatus, and is still today honoured by the American nation. The greatness and historic significance of Kościuszko have also been recognised by the UNESCO General Conference, which in November 2015 enacted a resolution declaring UNESCO patronage for celebrations of the 200-year anniversary of the death of Kościuszko.”
On March 24th in Kraków, the celebrations of the Year of Tadeusz Kościuszko were inaugurated.
Inauguration of the Year of Tadeusz Kościuszko in Kraków
The official inauguration of the Year of Tadeusz Kościuszko took place on March 24th in Kraków’s Main Square. Representatives of national and local authorities participated, as did members of the Kościuszko Mound Committee, the Fowlers’ Brotherhood, students of schools named after Kościuszko, residents and tourists. The initiation of the Year of Tadeusz Kościuszko was combined with the 223rd anniversary of the Kościuszko Uprising.
Events related to the celebrations take place under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland. A letter to the participants of the celebration in the Main Square was read on behalf of the head of state by the undersecretary of state of the Presidential Chancellery. “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. His life, thoughts, and deeds will once again be an inspiration for Poles and for other nationalities whose history has felt the presence of Kościuszko himself or of the ideals which he stood for,” wrote the President in his letter.
Immediately after the celebrations on the Main Square, a memorial plaque commemorating Tadeusz Kościuszko’s dramatic experiences at sea while sailing to America was unveiled. The plaque is located in the small courtyard (between Bastion V and the Caponier of Fort Kościuszko number 2) at Kościuszko Mound. The plaque was funded by the chairman of the Kościuszko Foundation in Kraków, Tomasz Otrębski.
And that night, red and white lights illuminated TAURON Arena Kraków, Father Bernatek Bridge, and the Lipska-Wielicka overpass.
Kościuszko. History in living pictures
On the 25th of March, to celebrate the inauguration of the Year of Tadeusz Kościuszko, residents of Kraków and tourists were treated to a staging of the Wojciech Kossak painting “Kościuszko’s oath on the Main Square in Kraków on the day of 24th March 1794.” The staging was organised as part of a cycle of educational films entitled “Independent Poland – History in living pictures,” which is being created by the Warsaw Documentary Film Studio. The cycle is co-funded by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, and is an attempt to present key episodes in the history of Poland in the form of filmed “living pictures< based on classics of Polish historical painting.
During the staging, viewers were able to “enter” the depths of the painting, take a close look at its heroes, hear their conversations, and also learn about the historical context of the moment which was captured on canvas. The film was accompanied by the commentary of outstanding experts on the history of Poland. This form of education – living, interesting, engaging – is a step towards a better understanding of Polish history, especially by children and young people.
Kossak’s painting was created in 1911, and it can be viewed at the Tadeusz Kościuszko Museum in Solothurn, Switzerland. The museum was established in 1936 in the apartments in which Kościuszko spent the last two years of his life, and where he died in 1817.
The Kościuszko Uprising Trail in Kraków and Małopolska
The Małopolskie Centrum Edukacji MEC Association in collaboration with Jordan Youth Centre have published a map showing the Kościuszko Uprising Trail, as an educational aid for the Year of Tadeusz Kościuszko, celebrated on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the death of this Polish national hero. You can download the map HERE [PDF]
The Kościuszko Uprising Trail was established in 2016 and involves 10 municipalities: Kraków, Kocmyrzów-Luborzyca, Zielonki, Proszowice, Pałecznica, Koniusza, Racławice, Radziemice, Słomniki, and Igołomia.
The entire trail covers 165 kilometres and is divided into nine segments. It is a part of the network of historical and tourist trails being established under the name “Małopolska Historic Memorial Trail” since 2012 by MEC and the Jordan Youth Centre with the assistance of the municipalities involved. You can read more about the Kościuszko Uprising Trail HERE.