Tadeusz Kościuszko

In Brief: A square of stone set into Rynek Główny, so you’ve stepped on it many times but probably haven’t noticed it.

What’s it for? The plaque on the market square marks the spot on which Tadeusz Kościuszko stood on March 24 1794 when he took charge of Poland’s armed forces, sparking the Kościuszko Uprising against Russia and Prussia.

Tadeusz who? Kościuszko. National hero both in Poland and the United States of America.

Why in Poland? Take your pick. He fought several campaigns in the name of Polish independence, most notably at Włodzimierz and Dubienka, in 1792, and at Racławice in 1794 – although the uprising he began subsequently failed.

And in America? Kościuszko was born a revolutionary. Prior to 1794 he served with the Continental Army, fighting for American Independence. Now there is barely a major US city that doesn’t have some kind of memorial to him.

Soundbite: On proclaiming the uprising in 1794, he said: “I, Tadeusz Kościuszko, hereby swear by god to the entire Polish nation, that I shall not use the powers vested in me for anyone’s oppression, but for defence of the integrity of the borders, recuperation of nation’s sovereignty and strengthening the universal freedom. So help me God and the innocent passion of his son!”

Moment of glory: Racławice – as celebrated by the artist Jan Matejko

Ignoble fortune: Legend has it that Kościuszko was injured only once in battle – when he was bayoneted in the backside during his stint in America.

Bookend biography: Born February 12, 1746, Mereczowszczyzna (now Kosava, Belarus). Died October 15, 1817, of typhus, in Solothurn, Switzerland.

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