Cairns Post

12 January 1937

The two towns of Solothurn and Cracow, one in Switzerland and the other in Poland, and the Australian State of New South Wales would seem to have no more intimate relation than that they are all names to be found in an atlas.

And yet it is possible to find a more substantial link than that.    

Let us start with Solothurn, where there has just been opened, in the presence of the Polish Foreign Minister, Colonel Beck, and of leading Swiss statesmen, a "Poland Museum" as a memorial to Kosciuszko.

Who was Kosciuszko? Why is he remembered in Solothurn? And why does a mountain in New South Wales bear his name? And how does Cracow come into the story?

Tadeusz Kosciuszko was a Polish patriot and general who struggled to preserve his country from the attacks by Russia and Prussia, which led to the dismemberment of Poland and its partition between those two Powers in Austria in 1795.

He chose the career of arms, and studied in Germany, France and Italy.

At the age of 31, an unfortunate love affair with the daughter of a great nobleman made it advisable to depart from Poland, and he emigrated to America.

There he fought in the war of independence on the side of the colonists with such distinction that Washington promoted him to colonel of artillery, and made him his adjutant.

In 1783 he was rewarded with the thanks of Congress, the rank of brigadier-general and the privilege of American citizenship.

Kosciuszko returned to Poland in 1786. In the war with Russia in 1792 he held a position at Dubienka for five days with only 4000 men against 18,000 Russians.

In spite of this, the pusillanimous King Stanislaus submitted to the Empress Catherine, whereupon Kosciuszko resigned his command and retired to Leipzig.

In 1794 Kosciuszko was back in Poland, and placed himself at the head of the National movement at Cracow; on March 24, with mediaeval ceremony, his arms were consecrated at the church of the Capuchins at Cracow, and on the same day he took an oath of fidelity to the Polish nation in the market place.

In the following months he waged valiant war against the two great enemies of his country, but his forces were too meagre to allow him to win more than a single battle against great odds, and the Prussians compelled him to fall back upon Warsaw, where he maintained himself resolutely until the approach of two new Russian armies induced him to march to meet them.

At the battle of Maciejowice, on October 10, 1794, he was overpowered by superior numbers, and he himself fell, sorely wounded, into the hands of the Russians.

Two years later the Emperor Paul released him, and he spent the remainder of his life chiefly in France.

In 1816 he settled at Solothurn with his friend Zeltner, and there he died in 1817, killed by the fall of his horse over a precipice. His body was carried to Cracow, and laid in the cathedral there.

The people, reviving an ancient custom, raised a great mound to his memory outside the city.

That then is the story of Kos sciuszko, a great and much-loved man, and it explains why he is so well remembered, in Cracow and Solothurn.

To find why a mountain in Australia was named, after him we have to dip into the story of Australian exploration.

There we find the name of another Pole, Count Strezlecki, a friend of Governor Gipps, and the author of a well-known work, "The Physical Description of New South Wales, Victoria and Van Dieman's Land."

It was he who gave its name to Gippsland, and as he made his way over the south-eastern portion of the Dividing Range he named the highest peak "Koscuiszko" because of a fancied resemblance in its outline to the mound raised by the citizens of Cracow in memory of the hero who lies in their cathedral.