General Kosciuszko Monument

While you are looking at the monument of Thaddeus Kosciuszko you might be wondering who was the individual honored with such a spectacular monument, one of the largest in the city of Detroit?

Thaddeus Kosciuszko was a Polish patriot born in 1746 in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He received his superb military education first in Poland, and then in France, where he was trained as a military engineer. Unable to find appropriate employment, and having suffered a romantic heartbreak, Kosciuszko left Poland and in 1776 in France volunteered to fight in the American Revolutionary War. During his impeccable seven-year-long military service in America Kosciuszko built numerous fortifications, the most famous of which were at Saratoga and West Point, and in 1783, in appreciation of his service, Congress promoted him to the rank of brigadier general. A year later Kosciuszko left the US to fight for Poland’s independence from Russia. In 1794 he lead the unsuccessful national uprising in which he mobilized the peasants for the national cause. This defeat led to the third and final partition of Poland the following year. In his lifetime Kosciuszko returned to the States, but left again and died in Switzerland in 1817. His heart remained in Switzerland, but his body was buried in a crypt in the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków, the place reserved for Polish kings and national heroes. In his will Kosciuszko ordered that the American estate he received as a payment for his military service was to be sold and the profits from the sale were to be used to help the slaves from his estate start new lives. Sadly his wishes were not carried out.

There are many places in the States and in the world commemorating the “freedom fighter for two continents”, as Kosciuszko is known. The Detroit monument is a replica of the monument standing by Wawel castle in Krakow, Poland. The Krakow monument, erected in 1900, was destroyed by the Nazis in 1940, and after the war was recreated and given to the city by the then East German city of Dresden in 1960. The Detroit monument, as we can read on the commemorative plaque in Polish and English, was a gift the people of Krakow made to Detroit in 1978 to commemorate the United States Bicentennial (1976). It is interesting how both currently existing monuments are gifts of a community to a community: German to Polish, and Polish to American, respectively.


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