Rakowicki Cemetery: heroes of the fight for Polish independence

ul. Rakowicka, Kraków

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The Rakowicki Cemetery is the final resting place of Polish independence fighters from the 19th and 20th centuries. Here you can find their individual and mass graves, and memorials to the memory of the fallen.

Their number includes participants in the uprisings of the Polish nation, the November (1830–31), Kraków (1846), and January (1863–64) uprisings, who lie near the Chapel of Resurrection in the central part of the Cemetery. In turn, the ashes of soldiers of the Polish legions killed in 1914–20 are deposited in three sections of the necropolis (two in the old part, and one in its new section on the other side of Prandoty Street), which together are known as Military Cemetery No. 388 Kraków–Rakowice.

It is worthwhile topping even for a moment by two important grave–memorials. The one commemorating fallen members of the Polish legions stands by the south-western wall of the Rakowicki Cemetery. In the shape of a broad plinth, it brings a grave marker to mind, and has a small sculpture of Four Legionnaires, crowned by two eagles perched on the rear wall of the monument. The inscription on the monument is borrowed from the Riflemen’s Anthem: “from our hardship and toil, Has Poland risen to live”. The graves of legionnaires from various regiments run in two rows on both sides of it. Another grave marker is situated along the wall by al. 29 Listopada Street: a simple form with an uhlan’s sabre and cap in relief on the front, with a stone sarcophagus at the top. The latter contains the ashes of the soldiers of the Polish legions killed in the charge at Rokitna (today in Ukraine) in 1915. It marks the bravado attack of 63 legionnaires on the positions of the Russian troops at the cost of 15 lives, including that of their commander, cavalry captain Colonel Zbigniew Dunin-Wąsowicz. The charge made history as an example of the heroism and sacrifice of Polish soldiers.

In the Rakowicki Cemetery there are also the graves of military veterans, and political and social activists engaged in the fight for independence. Their number includes the painter Jan Matejko, Mayor of Kraków Juliusz Leo, Lieutenant Antoni Stawarz, politician Ignacy Daszyński, Colonel Władysław Belina-Prażmowski, and Apollo Korzeniowski (father of Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski) who was exiled into the Siberian hinterlands of Russia for his underground activity.

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