On the occasion of the National Day of Poland (the May 3rd) that marks the adoption of one of the first constitutions in the modern world, the Polish Institute in Bucharest together with the Golești Museum, invites you to the exhibition “Tadeusz Kościuszko – the price of freedom”.
We invite you in the atmosphere of the 18th century, the age of the Enlightenment and the struggle for civil rights, to meet Tadeusz Kościuszko (1746-1817), a famous Polish officer and statesman. He was born into a noble family, receiving a technical and tactical education at the Warsaw Military Academy. He was noticed by King Stanisław II Augustus Poniatowski due to his special abilities and intellectual capacities. The king sent him to Paris to continue his studies in architecture and painting. Madly in love with Ludwika, the daughter of a Polish general, Tadeusz Kościuszko tried to run away with her, but was stopped by her father. Following the scandal and to avoid the revenge of the offended general, Kościuszko went to France, then to America, where he enlisted in the army of colonists who fought for Independence. Due to his technical knowledge, he played an important role in the construction of the fortifications of the American army, the most famous construction being that of West Point. At the end of the war he was granted American citizenship and the rank of Brigadier General in the US Army. On his return to Poland in 1784, Kościuszko freed his peasants from serfdom, and five years later he re-entered military service with the rank of general, fighting against the tsarist army that had invaded his country. Forced into exile, he continued to seek support for the cause of Polish liberals and reformists in the revolutionary governments of France. In March 1794, Tadeusz Kościuszko assumed the political and military leadership of the country, establishing a revolutionary administration and a country army consisting mainly of peasants armed with spears and scythes. He abolished serfdom and halved the obligations of dependent peasants. The most famous military action remains the defense of Warsaw for two months, against the Tsarist and Prussian armies. With all his effort and courage, despite his determination and bravery, Kościuszko lost to external enemies and was taken prisoner. Without him the insurrection was put down and Poland suffered the third Great Power partition in its history.
After his release from captivity, Kościuszko lived in the USA, where he was a good friend of Thomas Jefferson, then in France and Switzerland. He died in 1817; his remains being taken to Cracow and laid in the cathedral, alongside the kings of Poland.
The constitution adopted on May 3, 1791 in Warsaw is considered to be the first modern constitution in Europe and the second in the world (after the American constitution of 1787). Its authors were the last king of Poland Stanisław August Poniatowski, the Polish politician and activist Ignacy Potocki and one of the main ideologues of the Polish Enlightenment Hugo Kołłątaj. Among other things, the constitution introduced the hereditary monarchy, considerably limited the privileges of the nobility, abolishing the liberum veto – the right of every deputy participating in the sessions of the Seimas to force the immediate termination of the current session of the parliament and to reject the laws adopted by it, this being considered a among the main causes of the decline of the state. The constitution also introduced equality of political rights between the townspeople and the nobility and placed the peasants under the protection of the government. This document revived in the Poles hope and a sense of responsibility for their own country. He still remains the symbol of innovative and brave thinking about what Poland should look like. The constitution of May 3 lasted only fourteen months, being abolished by Russian troops supported by the demoralized Polish nobility, for whom the document represented an attack on their privileges. However, it remained in people’s memory even after the partitions of Poland, and after regaining independence in 1918, May 3 was declared Constitution Day.
From May to September, at the Golești Museum, in the cellar of the Golescu Manor, an interesting exhibition awaits you: a very document about an exceptional personality of the modern era. Tadeusz Kościuszko embodied the ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity of the Enlightenment, with the bravery and determination for which the Polish military went down i