“General Tadeusz Kosciuszko” by artist Marian Konieczny – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO


[Alex Storozynski] Most Americans have no idea who Kosciuszko was. I’m Alex Storozynski, I wrote a biography of Kosciuszko. [Patricia Stewart] My name is Patricia Stewart, I teach art history courses at the University of the Arts here in Philadelphia. [Storozynski] Tadeusz Kosciuszko was born in Poland. [Stewart] He was a trained military engineer. [Storozynski] He fought in the American Revolution. He stood up for Black people in America. He stood up for white peasants in Poland. [Stewart] And he came to the United States and volunteered himself to help fight in our War of Independence. [Storozynski] He figured that he would be able to fight for freedom in the United States and then bring that revolution back to Europe, so he showed up on Benjamin Franklin’s doorstep. [knocking] [Storozynski] And he said “I’ve come to take your test for military engineering.” Imagine being Benjamin Franklin, right? This guy just kind of appeared! [Storozynski] And Ben Franklin looked at him like he was from Mars, and said we don’t have a military much less a test of military engineering, but we do have a guy who knows a lot about geometry so come back and we’ll give you a geometry test. Well, Kosciuszko came back and aced the geometry test and Ben Franklin said Great! You’re in charge of building forts. Stewart] Which he did, very competently. [Polish being spoken] [Marian Konieczny] My name is Marian Konieczny and I sculpted the piece of Tadeusz Kosciuszko which stands in front of you right now. [Stewart] The artist has made a statue of someone standing in deep thought. [Polish being spoken] [Konieczny] He’s definitely in a kind of battle thinking mood and he’s holding a scroll. These are the fortification plans that he was working on during the war. He needed peace and quiet in order to get his work done properly, hence his posture. [Polish being spoken] Stewart] What we’re seeing is a figure that reaches forward as it is held back. Try that pose yourself – one leg is reaching forward but your weight is so far back that it’s not taking you anywhere. It is fitting for this reason because Kosciuszko, he did so many good things and yet he failed in doing the thing that mattered most to him. He couldn’t create a free Polish state. [horse trotting] [Stewart] Jefferson and Kosciuszko were good friends. [Storozynski] Jefferson would visit Kosciuszko in his room on Pine Street. [Stewart] I can imagine that Kosciuszko who’s an engineer and designer and Jefferson who’s an architect and designer found a great deal to talk about. [Storozynski] Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal” yet he owned slaves. It’s quite clear that Kosciuszko took Jefferson to task for this. Kosciuszko had land and serfs of his own in Poland so he freed his serfs and then in the United States he earned a salary of $17,000 as a general in the American Revolution. He left that salary with Thomas Jefferson and said I want you to use this money to buy me slaves and free them and leave enough money to buy them land and farming tools and cattle so that they can make a living in this new country of yours. Jefferson just never did it because he himself was a slaveowner and all of his friends were slaveowners. It ended up with different people claiming they were the true heirs of Kosciuszko. It went all the way to the Supreme Court in 1852 and he was declared to have died without a will. I think the most important takeaway from Kosciuszko is that he was a prince of tolerance that stood up for all races and religions. [Stewart] Kosciuszko had a personal motto “For your freedom and for ours.” [Storozynski] And he truly believed in that. [Stewart] Nobody’s free until all are free.

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