Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Kosciuszko Mound

OK, so this Kosciuszko Mound is the equivalent of our Washington Monument....Tadeusz Kosciuszko (who was actually a veteran of the American War of Independence and then returned to Poland to lead their 1794 insurrection against the partition of Poland among Russia, Austria and Germany/Prussia) has come to personify the Polish fight for independence. Though his battle at Raclawice was successful and much celebrated (we toured a Panorama depicting it in Wroclaw), Kosciuszko and his patriot forces were ultimately unsuccessful and - though it was the first country in Europe to have a democratic constitution in 1791 - Poland did not regain its sovereignty as a country until 1918. (Although perhaps it was because of this constitution that they were taken over and partitioned by neighboring countries - such reform was a threat to the ruling powers. A sobering reminder of what a miracle it was that the patriots won the U.S. War of Independence and that our Constitution has lasted.)

The Kosciuszko Mound is the best know example of a uniquely Krakovian phenomenon which dates back as far as the 7th century, when man-made mounds were raised to honor chieftains (or perhaps to provide a platform for sky-worship). The people of Krakow raised this memorial mound to honor Kosciusko in 1819, two years after he died, importing dirt from his various battle sites including the U.S. Current talk suggests that the next recipient of such a tribute will be Pope John Paul II.

One gets a fairly good view of Krakow from the top of the mound, but the haze you see in the picture reminds me that my itchy eyes and sore throat are likely from the pollution and smog - a legacy from the Soviet era steel mills in nearby Nowa Huta - rather than from an oncoming cold.

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