Tadeusz Kosciuszko in Switzerland
19 November 2018
Tadeusz Kosciuszko was born as the son of a Polish aristocratic family in 1746, in a town now part of the Republic of Belarus.
He took on a career as an army officer, first in Warsaw (1765-1769) and afterwards in France (1769-1774), where he acquired his expertise as a military engineer in building military fortifications. He was abroad during the First Partition of Poland in 1772.
He moved to America to volunteer in the War of Independence of the United States against England to escape his occupied country. The United States Congress named him a colonel of engineers in the United States Army.
Kosciuszko built eight fortifications, and for his merits, he was promoted to Brigadier-General and obtained estates near Westpoint and an annuity. However, Kosciuszko didn’t stay in America but returned in 1784 to his estate in Poland.
During the second (1792) and third (1795) uprisings and partitions of Poland, he earned his fame as a Polish national hero.
The King, Stanislaw August Poniatowski (1732-1798), whose secretary was Maurice Glayre (1743-1819), a Swiss from the canton of Waadt, wanted to turn Poland into a modern state.
Inspired by the experience of the American and French revolutions, he tried to implement similar reforms in Poland.
Russian armies invaded the Polish kingdom and crushed the reform movement. Kosciuszko emigrated and first went to Saxony, then to France, where the Legislative Assembly gave him honorary citizenship.
Russia and Prussia then effected the 2nd partition of Poland.
In September 1793, Kosciuszko became the Supreme Commander of the Polish liberation army. He was beaten in November 1794 after initial victories. In January 1795, the three invaders (Russia, Prussia and Austria) divided the country.
On December 19, 1796, he travelled through Sweden and England and arrived in Philadelphia in mid-August 1797.
On the news of the formation of Polish Legions in Italy, Kosciuszko went to France in 1798, fighting alongside the French Legions in Italy and along the Rhine to accomplish his main objective, the liberation of Poland.
Napoleon had other objectives and created the Duchy of Warsaw, linked by a personal union with the Kingdom of Saxony. Kosciuszko returned to Paris, where he met Peter Joseph Zeltner, a Swiss Member of Parliament from Solothurn.
Poland was prey for Russia, Prussia and Austria after the fall of Napoleon and his Empire. The country’s fate was sealed at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
Kosciuszko settled in Solothurn, where he died on October 15, 1817. He was buried in Zuchwil, near Solothurn. His Odyssee didn´t end there. His remains were buried in Cracow in 1818, but his heart ended up in the Polish National Museum in Warsaw in 1927.
The Swiss Kosciuszko Society is named after this unconventional aristocrat, who is still being commemorated in the United States, Poland and Switzerland.
A national commemoration plate in Philadelphia, the Kosciuszko bridge in New York, Kosciuszko municipalities in Indiana and Missisipi, Kosciuszko Island in Alaska, the Kosciuszko mountain in Australia, Kosciuszko stars in the cosmos, the Kosciuszko hill in Cracow and the Kosciuszko Museum and Society in Solothurn