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    War hero's statue awaits a crowd

    On July 4, dignitaries will gather in St. Petersburg to dedicate the statue of Brig. Gen. Thaddeus Kosciuszko.

    By CANDACE RONDEAUX
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 15, 2002


    ST. PETERSBURG -- Polish Brig. Gen. Thaddeus Kosciuszko showed up early for his party.

    A 1,200-pound, bronze statue of the Revolutionary War hero was hoisted onto its pedestal in Williams Park on Friday morning, in preparation for a dedication ceremony that is set to take place on July 4.

    The statue is being donated by the American Institute of Polish Culture. Wallace West, president of the institute, spent three years lobbying for the statue to be erected.

    The city approved the monument under municipal gift regulations the city developed in 1999.

    West raised $120,000 in donations for the $76,500 statue and its installation. Major donors' names were engraved on the monument base.

    The granite panels have the complete text of Kosciuszko's will in which he asked that his estate be used to buy freedom for slaves.

    There is also a quotation from George Washington praising Kosciuszko's military skills. Kosciuszko is largely credited with enabling the American army to survive the brutal Battle of Saratoga in New York.

    "This is a great chance to honor a real American hero who was also a Polish civil engineer and military genius," Wallace said.

    Eager to ensure the statue arrived in one piece, the monument's creator, Andrzej Pitynski, personally supervised the installation of the piece, which was hauled from New Jersey.

    Pitynski has crafted similar monuments commemorating aspects of Polish heritage in several cities, including Baltimore, Boston and Warsaw, Poland.

    The two-hour dedication ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. on July 4. West said the roster of speakers will include City Council member Virginia Littrell, Teresa Janiszewski of the Polish Consulate in Washington, a colonel from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, several local Army generals and a representative from the Pentagon.

    U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Largo, also is tentatively slated to speak.

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