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Apr 12, 2024

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African and Polish Americans Mark
150th Anniversary of Two 1863 Events

New York, N.Y. .. Freedom and emancipation were the goal of two concurrent events which took place 150 years ago in 1863. One took place during America’s Civil War, the other in Poland.  America’s was successful.  Poland’s was not.

At the height of America’s War Between the States, President Abraham Lincoln changed the course of history with his Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery throughout the nation. The observance of the Proclamation’s anniversary during this year’s Black History Month will make it a joyous celebration for African Americans.  Even more so with the knowledge that President Lincoln’s Proclamation prepared America for the acceptance of a Black Man as one of his successors.

In Photo by Polish American Congress
AT PILSUDSKI INSTITUTE COMMEMORATION:  Frank Milewski, president of the Downstate NY Division of the Polish American Congress (left), extends his congratulations to the Pilsudski Institute of America for presenting a special commemorative program on the 150th Anniversary of Poland’s 1863 “January Uprising.” Accepting his commendation are Dr. Iwona Korga, executive director of the Institute and Marek Zielinski, its vice president.  The program took place at the Institute in New York City in remembrance of Poland’s failed effort to liberate itself from oppressive Russian rule.

Observance of Poland’s January, 1863 Uprising anniversary by America’s Polish community could only be a solemn remembrance.  Its commemoration took place in Polish enclaves throughout the United States.

In New York City, the Pilsudski Institute of America on Manhattan’s Lower East Side presented a special commemorative program on January 22nd, the exact date in 1863 that the Polish people attempted to emancipate themselves from the tyrannical foreign rule of the Russian Czar. Defeated by the overwhelming force of the Russian Army, they would have to wait another 55 years for the freedom they so earnestly sought and it took the tragedy of World War I to get it for them.

In its role as the Polish community’s umbrella organization, the Polish American Congress expressed its congratulations and appreciation to the Pilsudski Institute for its effort to prevent this Polish anniversary from being forgotten.

The president of the Downstate N.Y. Division of the Congress, Frank Milewski, attended the Institute’s commemoration and thanked Executive Director Iwona Korga and Vice President Marek Zielinski for conducting the program.

Milewski found it “remarkable” there were so many similarities in Poland’s and Black America’s experiences in the 1800 and 1900’s.

The history books record the violence African Americans suffered even after the Emancipation Proclamation.  Organized groups like the KKK were ready to lynch a black man on any excuse whatever.

It was the same after the Russians put down the January Uprising.  Mikhail Muraviev won himself a prominent spot in Russian history by becoming the chief executioner of Poles who had taken part in the uprising.  He was given the title “The Hangman.”

The love of liberty and the instinctive human yearning to be free is what drove Poland’s Thaddeus Kosciuszko to come to George Washington and offer his services as a military engineer in America’s War of Independence.

Fighting “for your freedom and ours” has been the motto of the Polish Military for centuries.  It continues even today.  And when his service to the new United States was over, all the compensation and property awarded Kosciuszko for it was directed by his Last Will and Testament to be used to free African slaves.

He wrote his Last Will and Testament in 1798, sixty-five years before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  For this, many have called him “America’s First Emancipator.”

Kosciuszko helped the United States become a free and independent nation.  Returning to Poland after this accomplishment, he fought again and tried to do the same for his country.  This time he could not.  For the next 123 years, the Russians, the Germans and the Austrians kept the Polish people continually suppressed.

Despite the January Uprising of 1863 and others like it, the people of Poland had to wait until 1918 for their emancipation.

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