- Can you name a great champion of human rights who was born on February 12th?
- A man far ahead of his time, who hated slavery and advocated for its permanent abolition from America?
- A man described “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known” by one of this country’s great presidents?
- The answer seems simple—Abraham Lincoln, right?Good guess, but the correct answer is General Tadeusz Kosciuszko! He was born on February 12, 1746. Kościuszko was a true son of the Enlightenment Age and a hero in the struggle for human rights in the late 1700’s.
Born in Poland, he studied military engineering in France, volunteered for the cause of American independence and returned to his homeland to fight for freedom there. At a time when many throughout Europe only paid lip service to the principle that “all men are created equal” and many more would not even consider such a radical idea, Kościuszko led the fight, was critically wounded and was imprisoned trying to bring freedom and equality to peasants and Jews in Poland. And at a time when many of our own founding fathers owned slaves, Kościuszko left a will in America, directing that his sizable Ohio estate and all other US holdings be sold, with the proceeds used to purchase freedom and education for African slaves in America.
Since 1905, a monument to General Kościuszko has stood in his namesake park on Milwaukee’s South Side. The monument’s story is nearly as fascinating as the man himself. Even though they had already committed to the daunting task of building the magnificent St. Josaphat church during the 1890’s, Milwaukee’s early Polish settlers also took on a more secular and smaller (yet still very significant) job at the same time—building a monument to Poland’s and America’s hero. These early Polish immigrants raised over $13,000 (roughly $350,000 in today’s dollars) to memorialize Kościuszko with the bronze equestrian statue that still stands today. Thousands contributed whatever they could spare from their meager incomes to help make this dream become a reality. Once they reached their goal, over 50,000 people attended the dedication ceremony in 1905—well over half of Milwaukee’s Poles at that time—and Milwaukee’s Lincoln Park was renamed Kościuszko Park at that ceremony.
However, after more than 100 years, the statue and its base require extensive restoration, cleaning and structural work. For the past five years, a dedicated group of volunteers has worked to raise the necessary funds to restore the Kościuszko monument. We are pleased to announce that we have now matched the efforts of our ancestors and will make this project a reality in 2013.
WHAT: Join us on Kosciuszko’s 267th birthday, to see his monument lifted from its base and loaded onto a truck headed for the conservation artist’s studio in Ohio.
WHEN: Tuesday February 12, 2013 @ 1:00 p.m.
WHERE: Kosciuszko Park at 9th Place & Lincoln Avenue
Claude Krawczyk, Chairman
Restore Kosciuszko Monument Project 111 East Wisconsin Avenue #1400
Milwaukee, WI 53202 414‐276‐5000 Ext. 4730 (Office)