Some Individuals at Camp Kościuszko

There were many individuals involved with the camp as staff, recruits and as influential leaders. These are just a few of the over 22,395 stories that came out of Camp Kościuszko.

By Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Colonel Arthur D’Orr LePanNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Colonel Arthur D’Orr LePan

LePan was the Commandant of the Polish Army Camp. He was admired by many of the Polish recruits. He showed great empathy for the struggle for Poland’s independence and made sure that the Canadian staff treated every volunteer with respect and admiration for their patriotism.

Lt. Col. A.D. LePan, Commandant and Staff Polish Army Camp, With Major M. Mercadier and Attachéd French Officers (1919-01-15/1919-01-15)Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

His efforts dedicated to the Polish cause were not forgotten; he was recognized by the French and the new Polish Government. The former awarded him the Croix de Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and the latter the insignia of Commander of the Order of Polonia Restituta.

Lieutenant Lucjan ChwałkowskiNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Lieutenant Lucjan Chwałkowski

Chwałkowski, born in occupied Poland on December 6, 1894, emigrated to New York with his parents at age 11. He became involved with the Polish Falcon organization, where he took part in field training exercises.

First graduating class of Polish Officers trained at officers at the Canadian School of InfantryNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Lucjan was a part of the first class of Polish Officers’ to undergo training at the School of Infantry in Toronto. When Camp Kościuszko opened, Lucjan served in the First Battalion, which departed the camp on January 1, 1918.

Canadian Officers’ Training Corps Certificate of Military QualificationsNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Lucjan's Canadian Officers' Training Corps Certificate.

LettergramNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

In France, Lucjan was assigned to the First Regiment of Polish Riflemen. On the night of July 8, 1918, he led his troops toward German trenches near Rheims and was mortally wounded. His last words were: “It is for Poland”. He was the first Polish officer killed in action in France.

Ignacy Jan PaderewskiNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Ignacy Jan Paderewski

Paderewski was sent to America in early 1915 by the Polish National Committee in Paris as a political activist. His mission was to inform the Americans of Poland’s rich heritage and culture and to convince the government to sanction the training of a Polish Army on American soil. Ignacy visited towns and cities where he would ask for funds and volunteers for the proposed Polish Army. The reaction to his pleas for recruits was especially enthusiastic among the members of the numerous Falcons organizations.

Paderewski at Camp Kosciuszko, 1917Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Paderewski visited the camp on two occasions, including this one in November of 1917.

Major Antoni Wiącek Major Antoni WiącekNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Antoni Wiącek

Wiącek was a member of the Polish Falcons and was part of the first Polish Officers’ School of Infantry class at the University of Toronto. In the summer of 1918, he joined the First Rifle Regiment and when the war ended, he went to Poland to take part in the Polish-Soviet War.

Clarence Richard YoungNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Clarence Richard Young

Young became an officer of the University’s contingent of the Canadian Officers’ Training Corps, serving on the staff of the School of Infantry at Niagara Camp. When the Polish Army began training at Niagara he became its Adjutant. Proficient in the Polish language, Young maintained close ties with several Polish veterans and was an active member of the Toronto Branch of the Canadian Friends of Poland.

John “Jack” LuckasavitchNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

John “Jack” Luckasavitch

Jack was one of at least 28 men from the predominately Kashub community of Wilno/Barry’s Bay, Ontario, who enlisted in the Polish Army. He enlisted in 1918, at the age of 21, and headed to Camp Kościuszko. After just nine days of “training”, Jack departed to Bordeaux, France.

Jack and Eddie LuckasavitchNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

After arriving in France, Jack attended an Officers’ school for a month, was outfitted in a French uniform and then sent to the Western front, where he was promptly promoted to Corporal. When the war ended, he stayed behind to fight in the Polish-Soviet War. He returned to Canada

Albert Burchat Photograph and Identification Card Albert Burchat Photograph and Identification CardNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Albert Burchat was also one of the young men from Wilno, Ontario who enlisted in the Polish Army.

Albert Burchat Photograph and Identification CardNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Father Zygmunt Jan RydlewskiNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Father ZygmuntJan Rydlewski

At the time of his enlistment in the Polish Army, Rydlewski was a pastor at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church in Pittsburgh. He was a zealous proponent of the Polish cause and it was no surprise that he was one of the first chaplains to enlist in the Polish Army. In early 1918, he arrived at the camp to serve as senior chaplain, where he comforted the recruits who were dealing with the thoughts of being sent off to war. On August 8, 1918, Rydlewski left with a depot of recruits for France, where he later served as a chaplain in Haller’s Army. After the war, he was discharged from the army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Rydlewski remained in Poland, where he opened and ran an orphanage.

Jan PelaNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Jan Pela

Pela, joined the Polish Falcon as a young man and trained as a cadet at the Alliance College in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania. He graduated as a second Lieutenant with the second group of Poles in the Officers’ Training Course at the University of Toronto. Having accompanied the first depot of men from Camp Kościuszko to the overflow camp at St. Jeans, Quebec, he shipped out aboard the first transport of volunteer Polish Americans, SS Niagara, bound for France. He was the youngest American volunteer to be awarded the Order of Virtuti Militari, Poland’s highest military award for bravery.

Wincenty SkarzyńskiNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Captain Wincenty Skarzyński

Skarzyński (right) early in the war propose the formation of a Polish Army in Canada to government officials and was turned down. He was the first person to graduate from the School of Infantry on February 24, 1917. When Camp Kościuszko opened, he served as the Polish adjutant.

Captain George SmithNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Captain Alexander George E. Smith

Alexander, son of Cayuga chief Alexander George E. Smith Sr., lived on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. He enlisted in the Canadian Militia and became an officer in the 37th (Haldimand Rifles) Regiment which, in the pre-war years, made their journey to Niagara for the annual summer camp. When the First World War began, Alex went overseas with the Second Contingent and fought as a commissioned officer in France with the 20th Battalion. He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery on the Somme, and was promoted to Caption, but was sent home in April of 1917. When the Polish Camp opened he was appointed adjutant.

Smith was admired by many of the Poles at the camp and for his services he was named an Officer of the Order of the Black Star.

Credits: Story

From November 11, 2017 until November 15, 2018, Camp Kosciuszko: The Polish Army at Niagara Camp, 1917-1919 was on display at the Niagara Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum. This exhibition could not have been possible without the co-curators: Shawna Butts, Dr. Richard Merritt, and members of the Polonia Canadian Institute for Historical Studies, Andazej Kawka and Roman Baraniecki.
Images are courtesy of: The Polish Amy Veterans Association of America, Inc. Archives, New York; Carol Baggot-Forte; Andazej Kawka; The University of Toronto Archives; the Polish Falcons of America; the Polish Kashub Heritage Museum; the Polonia Canadian Institute for Historical Studies; and the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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