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News

Alex Storozynski tells the saga of an unknown American hero

BY BEN GIFFORD

There once lived a largely unsung hero, at least in America, named Thaddeus Kosciuszko. He was a Polish-Lithuanian who possibly could have prevented the American Civil War, had events in history happened slightly differently, according to a lecture by Alex Storozynski.

Storozynski is the president of the Kosciuszko Foundation and is the author of a book published in April 2009 entitled The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Era of Revolution.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who is also a former member of the New York Daily News editorial board, a founding editor of amNewYork and a former city editor of the New York Sun, was at CSU on Sept. 29 to give a presentation about Kosciuszko based from his book.

Storozynski’s book has been well received by critics and readers alike. Andrew Nagorski of Newsweek called it “... a sweeping, colorful, and absorbing biography,” and David Lee Poremba of the Library Journal said the book is “Strongly recommended for both lay readers and specialists.” It holds a very solid five-star review on Amazon.com with 27 ratings by the public.

In his research on this lesser-known hero, Storozynski offers a great deal of focus on Kosciuszko’s role in the Revolutionary War. After serving for the colonists as a military strategist, the “Peasant Prince,” as Storozynski has deemed him, was owed a great deal of money. By the time he wrote his will, he estimated that interest had pushed the total to $17,000. His will stated that the entire sum of money should be used to purchase slaves, free them, provide for them and educate them.

This will was never properly executed. Several years after Kosiuszko’s death, Thomas Jefferson plead that he was unable to act as executor and the estate was instead awarded to Kosciuszko’s descendants some 35 years after his death.

In 1908, Israel Losey White, literary editor of the Newark Evening News, wrote “[Kosciuszko’s] will is an unwritten chapter in American History. It is possible that if its suggestions had been followed, there might have been no Civil War in the United States, and the race problem of today would not be so perplexing to economists.”

This story of an unfulfilled will was only one of many fascinating details in the account of the military leader’s life. “This was my third time seeing this presentation,” said Rick Bentley, secretary of the Northeast Ohio chapter of the Kosciuszko Foundation. “I’ve learned more every time.”

After viewing the presentation, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Gregory Sadlek said “Kosciuszko was a courageous military leader and a pioneer for human rights. He was well ahead of his time with respect to his defense of the rights of oppressed African-American slaves, Jews, and Polish serfs.”

Dean Sadlek continued by praising Storozynski’s lecture.

“The talk was well-constructed, nicely illustrated and authoritative,” he said, “Alex Storozynski [...] is the perfect person to tell this very dramatic tale. [He] has done us a great service in bringing Kosciuszko’s accomplishments to the attention of the American public.”


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