Mr Mayor, Consul-General, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends of Poland and Australia. As we all know, and especially those who took part in Friday’s rally, it is not very easy to climb Australia’s highest peak. When you are walking you may ask yourself why you are doing it instead of sitting in an armchair and watching TV. But once you have reached the top you get a reward - a magnificent view of hundreds or even thousands of square kilometres and maybe also the feeling of borderless, limitless freedom which you would like to share with other people.
Mr W. Krzesinski
It might have been this overwhelming feeling that influenced the decision of Paul Edmund Strzelecki to name the tallest mountain on the Australian continent after a fighter for the freedom not only of Poles and Americans but also for peasants and slaves.
For Polish patriots like Strzelecki, coming from a country occupied by foreign powers, Tadeusz Kościuszko was the symbol of hope for the regaining of freedom. Kościuszko was the hero of the insurrection against Russia and one of the architects of the American victory over the British. He was a close friend of Thomas Jefferson, an honorary citizen of France, and celebrated by such poets as Byron, Keats and Coleridge. He was a “hero of two worlds” – the old one – Europe, and the new one – America. I am sure that nowadays he can also be regarded as a model character for one of the youngest Western nations – the Australians.
Kościuszko's deep concern for freedom extended far beyond the horizon of the battlefield. He issued the "Proclamation of Połaniec", in which he granted civil liberty to all peasants. It was the first time that the peasants were officially regarded as part of the Polish nation.
One of the insights into Kościuszko’s character was his plea to Thomas Jefferson to purchase the freedom of American slaves. He wrote:
I beg Mr Jefferson that in case I should die without will or testament he should bye out of my money so many Negroes and free them, that the restante Sums should be Sufficient to give them education and provide for their maintenance.
From left: Ursula Lang, Witold Krzesinski, John Vucic. All photos: Puls Polonii
The core of Kościuszko's philosophy and life was his belief in the equality of all people. Although he lived two centuries ago, his universal values can be shared and accepted all over the world. Like Kościuszko and Poles in general, Australians also have a great love of freedom. On many occasions they have shown a willingness to go to near or distant parts of the world to establish, protect or restore freedom. For this purpose Polish and Australian forces have sometimes fought together in third countries, as currently in Afghanistan.
We can all be proud of the fact that the highest Australian mountain is named Mount Kościuszko – or however you pronounce it. It is the most visible sign of the contribution of Polish people to the development of this beautiful country, but also the proof of the openness and hospitality of the Australian nation. It remains a symbol of a close friendship between two distant countries with similar approaches to life and its values. We should do our best to maintain and develop it – and there are many people among us, who can be called the promoters or ambassadors of this friendship. Let me present the letter of another ambassador, Mr Jerzy Więcław, to the participants of the Kościuszko Festival. The former ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Australia wrote:
From left: Monika & Norbert Oksza Strzelecki from Poznan, Poland, chatting with Tadeusz Matkowski
As a participant in the unforgettable rally and festival of Polish music on Mount Kościuszko in 2007, it was with great pleasure that I learned about the rich and impressive program for this year’s Mound and Mount Kosciuszko Festival. I am especially delighted with the enthusiasm and desire of the Festival organisers and participants to create a tradition that, I believe, will even more strongly connect Paul Edmund Strzelecki and Tadeusz Kościuszko in the consciousness of the Australian people. Preparing such a multi-layered Festival program has had the effect of combining the artistic and organising talents of the local Polish community and their Australian friends. It commands respect and recognition.I wish all the participants in the Festival a great deal of satisfaction from marching together to the Kościuszko summit and from presenting the best aspects of this very important part of the Polish heritage in Australia.
Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Australia
from 2003 to 2007
Warsaw, 15 April 2008
From left: Dave Darlington & John Shumack
Ladies and Gentlemen, I can hardly add much to the message of the great friend and advocate of the Kościuszko Festival. I want to thank the sponsors and the organisers, among others Mrs Ernestyna Skurjat and Urszula Lang, the Kościuszko National Park authorities, the Mayors of Jindabyne and Cooma, the Rotary Club in Cooma, and last but not least our indigenous friends, for making this meeting possible. I am sure that the Festival will be a great success and I will be delighted to attend it again next year.
Polish Embassy in Canberra