There are famous Belarusians, and there are Belarusians other countries would like to call their citizens. Below are just five of our compatriots who make us feel proud.
The original article first appeared on KYKY.org website.
Unquestionably, the Slavic bard who was compared to Byron and Goethe should open the top five great people whom the Poles, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, and Russians can’t share. Adam was born on the eve of Christmas either at his paternal uncle’s estate in Zaosie or in Navahrudak itself, in what was then part of the Russian Empire and is now Belarus.
The umbilical cord was cut over the book so that, according to the folk superstitions, the boy to grow up as a person with a mind for science. As we know, the sign came true. Little Adam who fell out of the window as a child survived to become the founder of Polish romanticism, poet, publicist, translator, professor of Slavic literature and political activist.
His early years were shaped by immersion in Belarusian folklore and by vivid memories, which he later reworked in his poems, of the ruins of Navahrudak Castle and life in Vilnius. He is known chiefly for the poetic drama Dziady, the national epic poem Pan Tadeusz and many other works that served as inspiration for uprisings against the three imperial powers.
Mickievič was active in the struggle to win independence for his home region. After, as a consequence, spending five years exiled to central Russia, he lived out the rest of his life abroad. He died, probably of cholera, at Constantinople, where he had gone to help organize Polish and Jewish forces to fight Russia in the Crimean War. Some scholars claim he was poisoned.
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In 1890, his remains were repatriated from France to Poland. A number of monuments are dedicated to Mickievič, one can meet him in St. Petersburg, Lviv, Minsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Paris, Brest, Grodno, Shalchininkai, Warsaw, Poznan, Gdansk, Vilnius, and even Turkish Burgas. There’s also a street in Israeli Jaffa, his houses in Navahrudak and Istanbul are now turned into museums.
Thomas Jefferson hailed him as the “purest son of liberty I have ever known.” Kosciuszko was born and raised in the countryside around Kosava, a small Belarusian near Minsk. Even though he didn’t speak Belarusian and like most Polish–Lithuanian nobility of the time identified with Polish culture, modern Belarusian writers interpret his Ruthenian/Lithuanian heritage as Belarusian.
The political and military figure of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, leader of the rebellion against Russian rule in 1794, he became a national hero of Belarus, Poland, Lithuania and the U.S. He achieved his greatest military success by defending Warsaw against besieging Russian and Prussian forces. Before that, he fought on the U.S. side in the War of Independence.
A close friend of Thomas Jefferson’s, with whom he shared ideals of human rights, Kosciuszko wrote a will dedicating his U.S. assets to the education and freedom of U.S. slaves. There are monuments and statues to Tadeusz Kosciuszko around the world. Islands, counties, cities, museums, bridges, streets and parks bear his name.
Born near Belarusian Niasviž, Damiejka spent most of his life and died in his adopted country Chile, where he became a national hero. On the 200th anniversary of his birth, UNESCO declared 2002 to be “Ignacy Domeyko Year.” After a youth passed in Poland, he participated in the Polish November 1830 Uprising against the Russian Empire.
Upon its suppression, he was forced into exile and spent part of his life in France (where he had gone with fellow Philomath, Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz) before eventually settling in Chile, of which he became a citizen. He lived some 50 years there and made major contributions to the study of geography, geology and mineralogy.
Damiejka studied several previously unknown minerals, advocated for the civil rights of the native tribal peoples, and was a meteorologist and ethnographer. He is also credited with introducing the metric system to Latin America. Shortly before his death, he fulfilled his dream and visited Belarus.
On his way back to Chile in 1888, he got sick and passed away a year later.
“There is no other popular and respected name than the name of Damiejka. Mr Damiejka is not just a scientist, he is an apostle of science,” local newspapers wrote back then.
The day of his funeral was declared the day of national mourning, each Chilean took this loss as a personal tragedy.
Sudziłoŭski was born in Mogilev to a noble family. He knew ten languages, made discoveries in medicine and genetics. The outstanding man in all senses was destined to see a lot and contribute to the fate of several states. One of the dictionaries even awarded him the title “last encyclopedist of the 20th century.”
From an early age, he had an active political position which doesn’t make his life easier. He was expelled from the university several times and even arranged the mass escape of the prisoners, but his plot failed and he had to flee from Russia to London. There he became friends with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
In 1876 under the pseudonym Nicholas Russel, he took part in the Bulgarian April Uprising against the Ottoman Empire. Along with revolutionary activity, he continued to engage in medicine, defended a dissertation on antiseptic surgery at the University of Bucharest, which was a new word in medical practice and headed the hospital.
Eleven years later, Sudziłoŭski moved to San Francisco and later Hawaii, becoming an American citizen. There he became a founder of the Home Rule Party of Hawaii, which opposed the country’s joining the U.S. In 1900, under the name Kauka Lukini, Sudzilovsky was elected Hawaii Senator and later 1st Hawaii Senate President.
During the Russo-Japanese War, he conducted socialist propaganda, helped the prisoners and even bought them from the Japanese government. Sudzilovsky spent the last years of his life in the Philippines and China. He discovered new lands in the Pacific Ocean, studied tropical flora and fauna, wrote polemical articles and scientific works.
An amazing person, a patriot of Belarus and a Belarusian-American rocket scientist, who lived for 108 years. A “time capsule” with Kit’s name was immured in the wall of Capitol in Washington, D.C. After all, he became the first scientist in the history of fundamental research on rocket fuel. The results of his research allowed the first manned flight to the Moon.
Despite his emigration, Kit stayed a conscious Belarusian through all his life: “Everything I did in my life — I did for my homeland and its fame.”
Kit is the author of the first manual on rocket propellant. The book received many positive reviews and is referenced in rocket science publications even today. He was a long-standing member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the International Astronautics Academy in Paris, Professor Emeritus of Maryland University, among other titles.
In the 90s, Barys Kit even planned to return to Belarus. He had a dream to create a national university, sought funding, but at home, the idea did not arouse enthusiasm: “The future of Belarus is in the hands of young and smart, educated and strong.”