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Virtuti Militari

Today we observe the anniversary of the establishment of the highest Polish order-the Virtuti Militari in 1792 by Polish King Stanislaw August Poniatowski.

The motto of this award is Honor and Fatherland. Virtuti Militari in latin means "to/for the virtue of bravery". The Virtuti militari order was born out of a Polish defensive war which broke out at the turn of the 18/19 c. in response to growing Russian intervention in Polish affairs and the Targowica confederacy. The Virtuti Militari is awarded based on a motion made by the military order's chapter. It is bestowed either during wartime or 5 years after war proceedings. Tadeusz Kosciuszko was only the second recipient of VM during Poland's dramatic last decade of 18 c. In 1832 Tsar Nicholaus degraded this highest Polish medal to a Russian rank and used it to "distinguish" his troops for crushing the Polish November Insurrection which was fought by the Poles against Russian oppression. It may be astonishing to note that 2 Polish cities, Lwow in 1920 (Semper fidelis-always faithful to Poland) and Warsaw (the unvanquished, unconquered city) in 1944-earned the VM for heroically defending their respective sovereignty and territorial wholeness of Poland, by its residents, incl. school age and teenager heroes, under-armed and outnumbered by a savage enemy. Among the few foreigners-recipients we have kings and military advisors to the Polish armed forces, even American and 1 Belgian ace pilots who volunteered to join our Polish troops during Poland's war with Red Russia. The VM is alive and well today and continues to be conferred upon Poles, those living and who have passed, that outstandingly contributed to the good of Poland.

Beatrix Czerkawski

PMA Collection photo documents VM conferment by Polish envoy on 2 US Officers: Capt. Harmond Rorison & Lt. Ken Shrewsbury for valor in their aviation service which helped Polish forces win 1920 Polish-Bolshevik war. Also our PMA Polish Pavilion (1939 New York World Fair) masterpiece A Poland Reborn by Mieczyslaw Jurgielewicz depicts (bottom-center) the VM order.

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