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8 października 2016
Kosciuszko Speech at the NSW Parliament House
Regina Jurkowska

Polish Consul General Regina Jurkowska
Hon. Robert Borsak - Member of Parliament of NSW, Representatives of Consular Corps, Representatives of Polish Organizations, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests. It is my pleasure and honour to be here at the Parliament House at an event dedicated to one of the most well-known and important Polish nationals who left an indelible mark in the history of the modern world democracy – Polish and American General and national hero, Tadeusz Kościuszko. First of all, I would like to thank Mrs. Ernestyna Skurjat-Kozek, the President of Kościuszko Heritage for the invitation and most of all, for organizing this event, as well as all the events to come next year in the frame of commemoration of Kościuszko’s death bicentenary.

I would like to congratulate Ernestyna for her hard work on the documentary we are going to see today. The Consulate General of Poland had the pleasure to host the premiere of the Polish version of the film in October last year and it was a great success. There is one more important thing I would like to congratulate the Kościuszko Heritage for. Kościuszko Heritage, together with the Kościuszko Mound Committee in Krakow and the Kościuszko Foundation in New York jointly submitted a motion for UNESCO patronage over the bicentenary commemorations, and UNESCO agreed to take over patronage of observances marking Tadeusz Kościuszko's death bicentenary planned for 2017 all over the world. It is a great achievement to have all Kościuszko related events under this prestigious umbrella.

2017 was also proclaimed the Year of Tadeusz Kościuszko by the Polish Parliament. The resolution adopted in this regard emphasizes: „Tadeusz Kościuszko has a special place in the pantheon of national heroes. He is a symbol of freedom and a model patriot, not only for Polish citizens. He embodied the dearest values: tolerance and equality; Thomas Jefferson, one of the authors of the US Declaration of Independence, called Tadeusz Kościuszko ‘a pure son of liberty’, giving tribute to him in connection with his activities in the United States of America ".

Tadeusz Kościuszko was indeed a remarkable man who is well-known internationally for fighting for the values of freedom and equality of all races and nations. In the United States he remains a hero of the American War of Independence; in Poland, he is more recognisable as the general and commander of the 1794 insurrection named after him. Kościuszko never set foot in Australia, but certainly left his mark also in here. In 1840, Sir Paul Edmund Strzelecki, Polish explorer, first climbed and identified Australia’s highest summit and named it after Tadeusz Kościuszko, considering that – as he wrote himself - "amongst a free people, who appreciate freedom" the name of Kościuszko, symbol of liberty, will be the best suited.

Born in 1746, Kościuszko was a man of Enlightenment. Well educated, not only in military schools, but also in engineering and art, he was an accomplished military architect, designing and overseeing the construction of many US fortifications, including those at West Point. He also painted portraits and scenes, designed gardens, as the one at West Point which still exists and is still enjoyed by the cadets. He wrote books and composed music.

After his return from the States to Poland in the glory of American hero, Kościuszko took part in the war for defense of the Polish 1791 Constitution (the first Constitution in Europe and the second in the world after the American one). The defeat in this war, resulted in the second partition of Poland and the uprising organized by Kościuszko against Russia in March 1794 was a final effort to save Poland’s independence. Kościuszko was captured by the Russian forces at the Battle of Maciejowice in October 1794. And this is the moment, from when the story of today’s film starts.

So I will only add to Kościuszko’s history that, in his will he dedicated his American assets to the education and freedom of U.S. slaves. Unfortunately, this will has never been executed. Kościuszko died in Switzerland in 1817. His body was repatriated and now rests in a crypt at Wawel Cathedral, a pantheon of Polish kings and national heroes, while his heart now reposes in an urn at the chapel of the Royal Castle in Warsaw.

Kościuszko is one of the most popular Poles ever. There are monuments to him around the world, beginning with the Kościuszko Mound at Kraków, erected in early XIXth century with earth from the battlefields where he had fought. Two bridges in the US were named in his honor. A historical novel, Thaddeus of Warsaw, written by Jane Porter was very popular in the 19th century. There was even an opera written about him. So there is no wonder that Kościuszko still inspires artists, politicians and all the people for whom freedom is the supreme law. Therefore, I would like to thank once again Kościuszko Heritage for bringing the memory of this extraordinary Pole to the Parliament House in Sydney.

Regina Jurkowska, Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Sydney

Honorary Guests - from left: Tanaya Stewart (Ngarigo), Rev. Fr Kamil (The Society of Christ Fathers), consul E.Robbiani (Switzerland), consul R.Jurkowska (Poland), consul V.Fowler (United States), Ch.Borsak, Hon. R.Borsak (MLC - Parliament of NSW), Sharon Stewart (Ngarigo representative), her son Evan, Eman Sharobeem (SBS), Mark Cummins (SBS), Alison Broinowski (author & journalist) and Richard Broinowski (Australian Institute of International Affairs). Photo Puls Polonii

SBS Radio - Dorota Banasiak talks to Ernestyna Skurjat-Kozek about the gala premiere