The plaque commemorating Tadeusz Kościuszko has been unveiled in Bristol

A long-awaited plaque commemorating abolitionist and freedom fighter Tadeusz Kościuszko was unveiled on Thursday by Peaches Golding, the Lord-Lieutenant of the City and County of Bristol. It is located on the building at the corner of Broad Street and Newmarket Avenue, where the famous Pole once stayed. 

The plaque, which is in the colours of the Polish flag and reads „Tadeusz Kościuszko 1746-1817 – Polish campaigner for freedom, equality, and the abolition of slavery„. It also features a quote from Thomas Jefferson, who called him: „The purest son of liberty I have ever known.

Tadeusz Kościuszko was admired in Bristol for his idealism and heroism in fighting against imperial aggression,” said Dr Stefan Cembrowicz of the Anglo-Polish Society during the ceremony.

“When Kościuszko arrived in Bristol, he was celebrated not so much as a brave commander who had been defeated, but as a liberator. He advocated for freedom in a very pure way. Britain had many great generals, but few among them were idealists, whereas Kościuszko dedicated his entire life to ideals. And since then, he has been an inspiration for Poles” – he underlined. 

Other distinguished guests also gave a short speech, including President of the Anglo-Polish society Bristol and the South West Simon Selby, Lord Mayor of Bristol Councillor Andrew Varney, Patron of the Anglo-Polish society Bristol and the South West Halina Countess of Munster, and Father Jacek Michalski. 

In the meantime, the Anglo-Polish Society Bristol and the South West is organising an exhibition in the Bristol Central Library about the significance of Tadeusz Kościuszko’s visit to Bristol and how he was celebrated by abolitionists and Romantics. The exhibition can be seen until 23 June. Read more about the exhibition here.

Also, Stefan Cembrowicz will give a lecture about Tadeusz Kościuszko and his rapturously celebrated visit to Bristol at the Bristol M Shed museum On Saturday 15 June at 3PM. Read more about the speech here.

Kościuszko spent his life fighting the major European powers (Russians, Austrians, and Prussians) in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to establish a free and independent Poland. He fled occupied Poland as a young man. He gained renown after travelling to North America in 1776 to join the Continental Army in the fight for US independence from Britain, becoming an American hero after the long seven-year war.

Returning to Europe in 1784, he led the Polish army in an attempt to repel a Russian invasion before escaping to France in the mid-1790s. He later returned to lead a notable uprising against Russian occupation in 1794. 

By 1797, Kościuszko wished to return to the US and came to England, including a stop in Bristol, for the journey. His six-day stay in Bristol was eventful, as he was a vocal opponent of the slave trade and an advocate for social justice and the rights of ordinary people.

The plaque commemorating him was funded by the Polish Cultural Institute in London. 

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen

Photos: British Poles


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