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by Paweł Dybel

Let me begin my presentation with a simple question: what does it mean today to be Polish? Is there something very specific about Polish people today which clearly differentiates them from those who consider themselves Americans, Canadians, Germans, Russians, etc.? Is it the language that they speak? Or that they can sing Polish folk-songs and dance Polish folk-dances? Or that for generations their ancestors have been Polish? Or that they belong to the Catholic Church, the faith of the overwhelming majority of Poles today? Or is it the fact that one has lived in Poland from birth, has experienced the hardships of the communist rule, fought against it (and was persecuted for it) and is now engaged in establishing the new democratic order?

Of course, each of these answers, each of these characterizations, by itself is either insufficient or totally irrelevant to a full definition of what it means to be Polish today. Would one be more successful by combining three or four of these characteristics together? By specifying, for instance, that being Polish means being able to speak Polish, having ethnic Polish roots, and being Catholic? Or, alternatively being a citizen of the Polish state, living in Poland and identifying oneself with Polish traditions? or some such combination? - On reflection, we have to conclude that none of these characteristics offers a complete and satisfactory answer to our question. For each of us knows of people who identify themselves as Poles yet do not speak the language, or whose ethnic roots are not Polish, or who are not Catholics, who don't live in Poland, and cannot dance the Kujawiak or the Oberek.

It would be very difficult, nay virtually impossible to enumerate all the factors that make someone feel "Polish" or "American", "Canadian", "Jewish", "German" etc. or to establish a clear and unquestionable hierarchy of the validity and significance of such factors. This difficulty doesn't result from our knowing too little about our historical past or failing to agree with each other on relevant issues. Rather, it's due to the fact that the question of national identity is a complex one. In this context, it suffices to point out that the very concept of national identity itself changes with time and that what we understand by it today would be totally incomprehensible to our ancestors during the Middle Ages or even during the times of the First Rzeczpospolita, the so-called Republic of the Nobles.

Thus, our very simple question proved to be much more complicated and not as easy to answer as it might have seemed to start with. That being so, it is appropriate to seek an answer from the historians regarding the origins of these traditions. They should know, for they have spent their professional lives dealing with Polish history and have a thorough and detailed knowledge regarding the birth of the Polish nation and the dramatic changes it has undergone through the ages. Yet, when one begins to study the various concepts of Polish identity put forward by the Polish historians and politicians in the 20th century, one is in for another disappointment. Not only do they fail to offer any clear and unequivocal concept of Polish identity but, what's more, they often differ radically from each other in their views in this matter and sometimes even contradict each other. Historians whose views mirror those of Roman Dmowski, the founder of the Stronnictwo Narodowo-Demokratyczne, that is, Endecja or National Democratic Party place stress on such factors as ethnic Polono-Slavic origins, the language and Catholic religious tradition as the main characteristics of Polish identity. The views of other historians tend to mirror those of Józef Piłsudski, whom they regard as the greatest Polish politician of the 20th century and who cherished the idea of Poland as a great multinational Slavic state spread on the territories reaching east and south to the Dniepr and the Dunaj, in other words to a great extent encompassing the territories of pre-partition Poland. These historians maintained that to be Polish means first of all to be a faithful and reliable citizen of the Polish state and to identify oneself with it, question of one's ethnic origins and religion being of secondary importance. One should add that for the historians of the communist epoch, the very question of national identity was only a remnant of past nationalistic prejudices destined to disappear with the establishment of the super-national socialist (or communist) state.

Should we therefore conclude that it is not at all possible to address the question of national identity? Or that this concept is so "subjective" and "ambiguous" that one's understanding of it depends, to great extent, on one's personal experiences and views? Of course not! Though it may not be possible to give an ultimate and "objective" definition of what it means to be Polish today, there are nonetheless some unquestionable elements of Polishness, traditions associated with being Polish, which we, I hope, will all readily agree with.

An element of basic importance is, I think, one's knowledge of Polish tradition and one's personal attitude towards it. All of us has some knowledge regarding our Polish roots, about the country from whence came our ancestors, about its history, culture, literature and art. Some in a setting such as this will be, I suppose, quite knowledgeable in this regard, some less so, and yet others will have very little or almost no knowledge of such matters. This is of course due to many factors. For example, in the families of those who emigrated to United States, the parents may not have placed much stress on the cultivation of Polish tradition, may not have spoken Polish in the home, or one may have been bereft of contacts with Polish people at school or in the workplace. But all this notwithstanding, most of you - I suppose - have some knowledge of this tradition and a special emotional attitude to your Polishness, which renders you especially interested in and attached to everything what reminds you of Poland, of its culture, history, traditions, etc. What's more, though you may sometimes have better knowledge of American tradition or even of the cultural tradition of other nations, your attitude to everything that reminds you of your Polish roots has nonetheless a special meaning for you which is something apart.

Three Traditions

Among the tradition that are associated with being Polish are some that both Poles and well informed foreigners view as being characteristically Polish: a fierce love of democracy, an enduring yarning for freedom, and an age-long attachment to tolerance. Yet, generally, such traditions are passed by parents to their children, or more broadly, by the community to its young people without an explicit discussion of their roots, whereby those maintaining these traditions do so without being fully conscious of their roots.

At times these traditions have been challenged, as for instance during the communist epoch, when democracy and freedom, as well as political tolerance were very much put in question, and earlier when the Endecja, that is, the Democratic Nationalism Party founded by Roman Dmowski, questioned the tradition of ethnic tolerance and, to some degree, also that of democracy. Yet, in the end, the nation continues to return to these traditions and the vast majority of those who consider themselves Polish, share them.

Let me then share with you some of my reflections on what, in this presentation, I call the roots of Polish national identity. Perhaps my remarks on this issue will help you answer some very simple but very basic and important questions like: why are my Polish roots still so important to me though I do not speak Polish, have limited knowledge of what Poland is like today and my knowledge of Polish traditions may be somewhat meager?

As I reflect upon it, I believe that when we look at our tradition from the late Middle Ages to the first half of the 19th century there are three main roots to Polish national identity to be mentioned. The first goes back to the late Middle Ages, to the times of Jagiellonian Dynasty, and encompasses the period of the First Rzeczpospolita, or, in other words, of the Republic of the Nobles.

The second one derives from the second half of the 18th century and encompasses the period of the Enlightenment, a harsh time during which Poland suffered three successive and cumulative partitions. It was a time when the government of the day was almost completely dominated by Russia, Prussia and Austria, autocratic states which tried everything possible in a bid to prevent Poland from adopting internal political and military reforms. These reforms, however, were achieved by the action of a patriotic and progressive groups of nobles and burgers who, convened in the Polish Sejm, or Parliament.

Those actions found their most impressive expression in the Constitution of the 3rd of May, modeled partly on the Constitution of United States and that being formulated by the French Republic. And although the premises of the May 3rd Constitution could not be wholly realized in social and political practice because of the military intervention of the Russia's Catherine the Great and the resulting third partition of Rzeczpospolita, they nonetheless became an inherent part of the political consciousness of many Poles, thereby influencing deeply their way of thinking about a future Polish state and its political and social organization.

The third and last root reaches into the first half of the 19th century and encompasses the period of Polish Romanticism. On the one hand, this is a period characterized by numerous, unsuccessful and tragic uprisings against the Russian, Prussian and Austrian in the areas of Poland they occupied, respectively. On the other hand, it's also a period marked by a great flourishing of Polish literature which reaches its heights in the work of the bards Mickiewicz, Słowacki, Krasiński and Norwid. It was during this time that the Poles begin to identify themselves as the unyielding fighters in the cause of freedom and the independence of the Polish state but also came to see themselves as the victims of history.

Let me now to present you in a more detailed way the significance to these three traditions as factors which contributed mightily to the national identity of Poles today.

The Sarmatian Tradition

The first tradition, reaching from the 15th century to the first half of the 17th century could be called the Sarmatian one. The name itself stems from antiquity and relates to an ancient Hellenic tribe of warriors. The Polish nobles who played a central role in the structure of political power in Rzeczpospolita thought of themselves as descendants of this bellicose ancient tribe and called themselves Sarmats by way distinguishing themselves not only from such other estates of the Polish realm as peasants or burgers but also from the nobles of other European countries. Of course the Sarmatian ancestry of the Polish nobles was an illusory one, the mythology having been created by them in order to justify their privileged position in the political structure of the state. It also gave them a sense of superiority over other nations.

However, what Polish historians today regard as one of the most essential features of this tradition is not as much the Sarmatian ideology, which the nobles invented for themselves, but the manner in which the Rzeczpospolita was governed. Specifically, the d e m o c r a t i c structure of the Polish state and the manner in which the nobles wielded political power in this state. Of course, this was a very peculiar kind of democracy, differing as much from the ancient Greek model of democracy as from the modern democratic state that the United States is today. First: the king, though elected, still held the central position in the state, but his power was very much circumscribed by various legal acts and requirements. Secondly: only the nobles were accorded political rights, namely the vote in the Sejmiki and the Sejm - regional and national parliaments, respectively - to participate in the elections of the king, to decide about war and peace, etc. Third: only the nobles had the right to exercise the so called liberum veto whereby any noble, like any one of the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, could block the passage of a proposed resolution or law by vetoing it. Lastly, the nobles had the right, in the event that the King failed to abide by the laws of the state, or sought to limit or question their privileges, to refuse his commands and to oppose him by force of arms. To that end they would gather in a rokosz to form a "confederation," a sort of legalized rebellion.

The historians overwhelmingly agree today that it was the free royal election and the third and the fourth of the rights acquired by the nobles that contributed in a major way to downfall of the Rzeczpospolita, the republic. Some of them, however, also point at some positive aspects of this Sarmatian model of democracy. First, they say, we should note that this Sarmatian model functioned quite well in the Jagiellonian period, when Poland, thanks to its union with Lithuania and its victory over the Teutonic knights at Grunwald, became the greatest and politically most influential state in the Central and Eastern Europe with borders stretching literally from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea,. It was the time of the first elected kings. It was also the first attempt to establish a democratic model of a state in Europe since ancient times.

For all its drawbacks, the model allowed the nobles, by the end of the 15th century, to consider themselves as the political entities of the state - rather than subjects of a king who had absolute dominion over them, a king who could use them as the instrument of his power. What's more, when we take into account that the nobility constituted between 10 and 15% of the overall population of the Rzeczpospolita, and in the ethnically Polish lands up to 30%, we are forced to conclude that by the late Middle Ages a large percent of the Polish population became politically conscious to the extent unheard-of in other European countries at this time. True, that in the end, the Sarmatian model of democracy became corrupted and ineffective. Yet, the three centuries of existence of democratic state in Poland became the inherent element of Polish political tradition that greatly influenced progressive Polish political thought in the 19th century and the political consciousness of later generations of Poles.

And last but not least, historians point that the Rzeczpospolita's democratic model lead it to observe the principles of religious and ethnic tolerance from the 15th to the 17th century. It was the o n l y state in Europe to do so. And this came about because at the time the Rzeczpospolita was a multinational and multi religious state in which ethnic Poles and Catholics accounted for only 35-40% of the whole population, being thus a minority group. Any attempt to privilege politically, socially or economically one of the religious or ethnic groups could have proved disastrous to the further existence of the state as a whole.

Andrzej Walicki, one of the best contemporary Polish historians, a professor at the Notre-Dame University in Indiana, maintains that the national identity of the Poles at this time was first of all of a political nature. One identified oneself as Pole, first and above all, on the basis of being the citizen of Rzeczpospolita, not on the basis of ones ethnic origins, religion, or even on the basis that one spoke Polish. For example, when a noble was asked in court, or on other occasions, to provide personal identifying information, the response very often might sounded as follows: nationality - Polish, ethnic origin - Belorussian, language - Lithuanian, place of birth - Lwów.

I need to digress here and parenthetically note, that during the second half of the 17th century, this situation changes radically and for two reasons: the Kozak or - as we might say today - Ukrainian uprising led by Chmielnicki and the Swedish wars, wherein the Poles found themselves devastated, first by the adherents of the Eastern rite - Orthodox Christians and Unites - and, then by Swedish Lutherans. The resultant successes of anti-reformation in Poland, lead to the abandonment of the principles of religious tolerance. This and the incursions had disastrous consequences for the cultural and economic development of the state.

Walicki further stresses that this old Polish model of national identification is very similar to how we understand the question of national identity today in the United States. One is an American because one is a citizen of United States, which does not prevent one from also identifying oneself as Polish, German, British, Jewish, French, etc. In this respect the Rzeczpospolita was a good example of how the delicate and sensitive problem of national identity can be solved by a democratic state without privileging any ethnic or religious group.

Walicki's reconstruction of how the issue of national identity was perceived during the time of the First Rzeczpospolita, that is, the Republic of the Nobles, is important since it raises serious question regarding schemes and prejudices put forward by German and Russian historians and politicians from the end of the 18th century on by way of justifying the partitions of Poland. Their assertion, which still continues to be given currency by numerous Western historians, is that the partitions came about because the Poles did not know how to govern themselves. What these historians overlooked (or did not wish to see) was, first, that the Polish model of democracy of the nobles functioned very well at the beginning and was one of the sources of the political strength of Rzeczpospolita and, second, that it was not the corruption and decline of this model in the 17th century, which prompted the Russians, Prussians and Austrians to invade Rzeczpospolita and to partition it. On the contrary, it was the courageous attempts of the Poles to modernize the state, to strengthen it militarily and politically that the three autocratic monarchies contiguous to it found so threatening. At the end of the 18th century, it caused them to invade and partition the Polish-Lithuanian state which, as a consequence, disappears from the maps of Europe for more than a hundred years.

The Enlightenment Tradition

The second tradition which is very important for our contemporary understanding of Polish national identity is the tradition of the Enlightenment. Polish Enlightenment was an organic part of European Enlightenment. The latter was above all an intellectual movement which dominated, in the second half of 18th century, the cultural life in such countries as France, Great Britain, the German states, and Austria. It drew on the ideas of the French philosopher Rene Descartes and become fascinated by the developments and great achievements in science and technology. It placed great stress on reason as the basic ability of human beings. The Enlightenment suggested that the whole of human society and culture could be organized in a rational way. That is: its organization shouldn't be based on customs and traditions but on the objective laws of reason, since only these can guarantee its proper and smooth functioning.

Consequently, it followed that all the differences between the estates - that is, between the nobles, the burgers and the peasants - should be abolished and members of each group should have equal political rights. Proposals were advanced by Montesqieu and others that the whole political order of the state should be radically changed. The institution of the king should be either wholly abolished or his political rights drastically limited, that there should be a clear division between the legislative, juridical and executive branches of the government. But perhaps most importantly, the overwhelming majority of the political reformers of this epoch pleaded for democracy as the best political order that could be established.

We may, of course, question Enlightenment's concept that its possible to solve all social and political problems on the basis of reason. One thing however is unquestionable: such epoch-making events as French revolution, the Constitution of United States, and the Constitution of the 3rd of May in Poland would not have come into existence at all but for the Enlightenment thinkers and the reforms they advanced of the political order of the state.

And here it's appropriate to point how important the ideas of the Enlightenment were to prove to Polish history and the concept of Polish identity. Very much promoted by the last Polish king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, an enlightened groups of Polish nobles and burgers began to think about the democratic order of the state in a new way. They realized that the model of democracy as it had evolved in the Rzeczpospolita had many shortcomings and drawbacks. Among them the liberum veto, the so-called free election of the king, and the legally sanctioned right of the nobles to rokosz and to refuse obedience to the king. All of these contributed to the weakness and decline of the state.

They enlightened nobles and burgers therefore advanced a very ambitious programs of reforms, convening to that end the Sejm that sat for four years. They also realized that in a real democracy one cannot restrict political rights to only one estate - that is, to the nobles. Rather, all estates need to equally participate in the political life of the state. Hence the peasants should have the legal right to own the land they till and that serfdom, such as then existed in Poland was an inhuman institution that needed to be dispensed with.

It was due to these new ideas, but also because of the long democratic traditions of the Rzeczpospolita, that strong ties of sympathy and friendship arose between the Rzeczpospolita and the newborn American nation. These ties were cemented by the involvement of many Polish officers and soldiers in the Colonies' struggle for independence in which they joined fighting in the ranks of the American Revolutionary army in the war against the British. Best known among these Poles are of course Kościuszko and Pułaski. One should note that both had earlier been cadets of the Knights College, the school established by King Stanisaw August to provide a state-of-the-art military yet enlightened education for a new generation of military men that were to become the future high-ranking officers of the Polish army. We can therefore conclude then that the links of friendship between the Poles and the Americans were not only of an emotional nature but had their very firm basis in the Polish democratic tradition, whatever criticism can be advanced today regarding its drawbacks and shortcomings.

Unfortunately, the historical vicissitudes of these two democratic states in the19th and 20th centuries were very different. After its victorious war with the Great Britain, the American state began to flourish and became the world's greatest power. On the other hand, the attempts of Polish reformers to modernize the democratic order of Rzeczpospolita failed because Russia as much as Prussia and Austria did not want to have on their borders a strong democratic Polish state and hence invaded it. Even the military genius of Kościuszko himself, who returned to Poland as a hero of the American Revolutionary wars and took command of uprising against Russia, was not able to counterweigh the overwhelming power of the Russian army.

The historians maintain, however, that both Kościuszko's failed uprising and all the numerous efforts in the second half of the 18th century to bring about reforms in Poland were not for nothing. For it was precisely due to them that the new generation of Poles entered the 19th century with a new political consciousness, well educated in the modernized Polish schools and imbued with new ideas. In other words, although Poland as a state disappeared from the maps of Europe, there were nonetheless such people as Hugo Kołłątaj, Stanisław Konarski, Stanisław Staszic and others who, while reforming the education in Poland, laid firm foundations for the development of Polish science, for the flourishing of Polish literature and art, and for the establishment of the new tradition of Polish political thought. On the other hand, following the defeat of Kosciuszko's uprising many Poles realized that Russia, Prussia and Austria would, as long as it was in their power to do so, never allow the Polish state to be reborn and that independence could only be regained by force of arms.

The Romantic Tradition

It is thus that we enter the third epoch of Polish history which I would like to speak about - the epoch of Romanticism. Two main features characterize this epoch. The first one is historical: the massive participation of Poles in Napoleon's military campaigns and later, after his fall, in the numerous uprisings against the occupying powers, among which the most important are the November uprising in 1830-1831 and the January uprising in 1863-64. The second feature characterizing the epoch was the enormous flourishing of Polish literature and political thought that took place. It was unprecedented and without comparison in any earlier epoch in the history of Polish culture, or, perhaps, any thereafter.

These two features, however, cannot be treated separately since it was the Polish romantic literature that nourished the resolve to fight for independence and conversely, it was the suppression of the uprising of 1830-1831 and the resulting despair that led our great Romantic poets Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki to give voice to their most notable expression. That, in turn, fomented among the Poles dreams of further future insurrections and prompted them to rise once more in 1848-49 and then again 1863.

The deep transformation in the national consciousness of Poles that took place while Poland was partitioned is a striking and interesting phenomenon. It led within two years of Poland's final dismemberment, that is, by 1797, to the formation of the Polish Legions in Italy. These were to fight at the side of the Napoleon army and thus, hopefully, bring about the liberation of the homeland. The aspiration of the legionnaires finds its impressive formulation in the first words of Mazurek Dąbrowskiego (Dabrowski's Mazurek), their song which, in time, became Poland's national anthem:

"Poland has not perished yet
So long as we still live.
That which alien force has seized
We at swordpoint shall retrieve."
        (Mazurek Dąbrowskiego)
The new political idea expressed by this song was, first, that the nation has not ceased to exist even though deprived of its independent state and, secondly, that this state can be regained again only by force: by the steadfast struggle of the whole nation for independence. Today, this seems to us to be quite obvious. However, at the time this was a wholly novel idea, especially for the Poles who had hitherto identified their Polishness with Rzeczpospolita, that is, with the multinational and multireligious state. Consequently, the descendants of the Sarmats, Polish nobles who had thought of themselves as valiant defenders of European Christendom from the Tatar and Turkish hordes, but by the 17th century had forgotten how to fight and had become comfortable landowners, now saw themselves as the steadfast fighters for independence. This process is very impressively described in one of the greatest Romantic epic poems, Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz.

What mattered most to the Polish-Lithuanian nobles, portrayed in this poem, were their private quarrels which they sought to solve in the traditionally unlawful way - through a zajazd (foray) onto the property of their antagonist. Suddenly, by a set of happy coincidences, they avoid a punitive Russians expedition and join up with the Polish legions to march at the side of Napoleon's army on Moscow. From now on they will fight for the independence of Poland, leaving aside the grudges and squabbles that hitherto occupied them.

In the other poems and dramas composed by Mickiewicz and Słowacki this process is described in terms of the transformation of the romantic lover Gustaw into Konrad - the unbroken fighter for independence. This is also the specific feature of Polish romantic literature which differentiates it essentially from the European Romanticism where the patriotic and national motives are of secondary importance.

It should be stressed that the Polish romantics, who made the concept of the struggle for freedom and independence the central motive of their writings, didn't view it in narrow nationalistic terms. They believed that the reappearance of an independent Polish state should be closely correlated with the establishment of the new democratic order in Europe as a whole. Therefore they were ready to fight for the independence of other countries as well - in Hungary, Germany, France, and United States. Nor were the struggles of the Poles for their independence entirely without benefit to Europe's democratic order, for the Polish uprising of November 1830 saved the newborn French Republic from suppression at the hands of Russian troops which were sent to Poland instead.

Thus it wasn't by chance that Polish emigrees enjoyed a high esteem in the democratic revolutionary circles abroad. They were perceived as the unswerving altruistic fighters for the independence of all European countries, not just of Poland. Accordingly, the symbolic image, presented by Mickiewicz in Dziady (Forefathers Eve), of Poland as the Christ of Nations was intended to indicate that Poles would redeem, through their sufferings, not only their own past faults and sins - and thereby regain their independence - but by their suffering would also redeem all the other European nations. The latter would then be able to establish their own democratic states free of terror and, consequently, all would live together in harmonious and peaceful relations to each other.

Today we know that was a very illusory image of a European Democratic Commonwealth, which could not have been politically possible at the time. On the other hand, however, taking a look at the contemporary European Union, we have to conclude that the dreams of Polish romantics proved to be not too far removed from today's reality.

Finally, I would like to stress one important fact. When Polish romantic writers, thus Mickiewicz, Słowacki, and Krasiński and likewise emigree politicians of the time, thus Lelewel and Czartoryski, describe in their writings the future Polish state, the image in their mind continues to be that of the old Rzeczpospolita. They depict a state of many nations and faiths which, like the Rzeczpospolita of old, will continue to observe the principle of tolerance and political freedom. Their concept of Polishness then, is still a political and not an ethnic one. In other words, they assume that "to be Polish" will mean first of all to be a loyal citizen of the new democratic Rzeczpospolita and identify oneself with it and its tradition and only secondarily to have an ethnic Polish background, to be Catholic, or even to speak Polish. It was thus that the Jagellonian kings, the Lithuanian, Byelorussian and Ukrainian nobles, the German burgers and hundred thousand of Jews, Tatars, and Russians identified themselves with the old Rzeczpospolita.

In Conclusion

If there were not for this liberal democratic concept of national identity which prevailed in Polish history through the ages there would be no Polish Jagiełło, Polish Kopernik, Polish Wit Stwosz, Polish Skarga, Polish Wiśniowiecki, Polish Kościuszko, Polish Mickiewicz, Polish Słowacki, Polish Matejko, Polish Piłsudski and of course no Polish Czesław Miłosz. [1] What is more, it is first of all due to this concept that any democratic state can be effective in the areas of economy, politics and culture and survive all the reverses of fortune. You know this better than me while living in a country which would readily fall apart riddeled from inside by national and religious conflicts if it didn't pursuie liberal and tolerant policies towards the various ethnic groups it encompasses.

And this, I think, is the most essential lesson that the Polish nation learned from those three periods of its history: the period of the old Rzeczpospolita, that of the Enlightenment and that dominated by Romanticism. It is that lesson that became incorporated in the traditions which continue to characterize what is thought of today as the Polish National Identify.


1. There is no doubt about this. Wadysław Jagiełło, the first King of the Jagiellonian dynasty, and Piotr Skarga, the famous preacher and leader of the counter-reformation, were of Lithuanian origin and Wit Stwosz, who sculpted the high altar in Kraków's St. Mary's Church, was of German origin. A matter of dispute between the Polish and German historians are the ethnic origins of Mikołaj Kopernik, the astronomer, however, the decisive argument is that he was the subject of Polish king and represented Polish science and Polish political interests abroad. Jeremi Wiśniowiecki, the hero of the 17th century's Kossak wars and father of King Michał Korbut Wiśniowiecki, was supposedly of Ukrainian origin; the great Polish Romantic poets Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, supposedly had Jewish ancestors (and probably Lithuanian ones as well); and, according to historians Andrzej Walicki and Norman Davies, both Tadeusz Kościuszko and Józef Piłsudski came from polonized noble Byelorussian families; Jan Matejko, the great historical painter, had Czech ancestors; and Czesaw Miłosz, the 1980 Nobel laureate in Literature, considers himself an ethnic Lithuanian as well as a Polish man of letters.

Dr. Dybel is a Professor of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences. He was the 2001-2002 Kosciuszko Foundation Visiting Professor of Polish Studies at the University of Buffalo. The above is the text derives from a presentation made on January 30, 2002 to the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo. It was edited by Peter K. Gessner.


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