Polish Contribution To The Independence Of Haiti
FOR YOUR FREEDOM AND OURS' was the banner under which the Polish fought for the independence of their country and others used to the rule of oppressive empires. The shared story of Poland and Haiti began even before the poles set sail for the country to fight against the rebels under Napoleon. After aiding the United States in their independence, Poland created Europe's first democratic constitution in 1791. This action led to an attack a year later by Russia, Austria and Prussia, who sought to dismantle Poland's nascent democracy.
Come 1796, Napoleon, seeking men for his army, offered freedom back to Poland. Millions joined with him and became the Polish Legions. But it was not a promise Napoleon kept as, upon attaining victory, he set up Grand Dutch of Warsaw, a mere fifth of the true Polish Republic.
Then, in 1802, the Haitian Revolution forced the French emperor to send 50,000 men to suppress the rebellion. Of this number over 5000 were Poles who had thought they were headed for the United States until they landed in the Caribbean. By the end of that year 4000 Poles had died, mainly from yellow fever. Already disillusioned by Napoleon, disheartened by the loss of their countrymen, and demotivated by the similarities of their struggle to that of the Haitians, the survivors started disobeying orders and soon joined the rebels under General Dessalines and fought the French for Haiti's Independence.
For their service, a special Guard of Honor was created and the constitution drafted to include the Poles among the short list of 'white men' allowed to hold land in Haiti. 400 naturalized Poles remained in the country, most of them becoming farmers. Their descendents can be found across Haiti, from Cazale to Port Salut, Les Cayes and more.
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