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The year 2023 marks the 550th anniversary of the birth of the great astronomer Mikołaj Kopernik (Nicolaus Copernicus).

On October 7, 2023, representatives of the KPA in Michigan laid a wreath at the Nicolaus Copernicus monument on the ground of Main Library in Detroit, at Woodward and W. Kirby. Below we publish the speech of Ann Bankowski, president of the PAC, Michigan.

Wstrzymał słonce, ruszył ziemię

Polskie go wydało plemię.

He stopped the Sun and moved the Earth.

Poland was his land of birth

Just imagine what great power one man exhibited- to stop our Sun and to move the Earth- such was the power and significance of the Copernican heliocentric theory, the reality of our own planetary system.

We are here to acknowledge and to recognize the 550th anniversary of the birth of the world-famous Father of Modern Astronomy, one of the greatest movers of human understanding, Mikołaj Kopernik, better known as Nicolaus Copernicus. 

As a true representative of the Renaissance, Copernicus achieved knowledge, proficiency, and success on many fronts, as he was driven by a thirst for knowledge and an unrelenting desire to find answers to the world around him. His most famous accomplishment was his lifetime ground breaking heliocentric theory, which totally reversed the perception of human existence and the surrounding universe, proving that not Earth but the Sun is the focal point of our planetary system.

It was a revolutionary theory which took 3 centuries to finally gain acceptance and be proclaimed as reliable. The courage Copernicus has shown to publish a theory, entirely contradicting popular beliefs, deserves the highest praise and is a source of pride of one of the greatest men in Polish history. He certainly earned his standing among the most respected and renowned scientists. How appropriate that his statue stands on the grounds of the Detroit Main Library.

Copernicus’ discoveries became his everlasting legacy for all of us to honor and appreciate but also, hopefully, for many to motivate us.  In our many roles in life, let us be observant, determined and willing to pursue that which we think could be of benefit from our work and involvement.

The statue we stand by this October afternoon, during Polish Heritage Month, was dedicated and placed here in 1973, 50 years ago. That celebratory year marked the 500th anniversary of Copernicus’ birth in 1473. It was a different era and remarkable time for our community when Polonia came together from all fields, the arts, academia, industry, bringing together with pride young and old. That year Polish American Congress in Michigan helped to sponsor numerous events and exhibits dedicated to Copernicus. One such exhibit took place at this main library.  

This statue was designed and produced by the late philanthropist Bruno Nowicki. It was financed by the Polish government and gifted to the City of Detroit in 1973. We, as PAC-MI, and the community have plans to look into the possibility of adding an appropriate display or sign with more information about who Copernicus was and what his legacy means. That of course will mean working with the City of Detroit. We fervently hope such a project will be realized.

We show our pride, by our presence here today. Pride knowing that the son of Poland reached the pinnacle of human success and that here in Detroit, his statue reminds others of Poland’s contributions to the world. On behalf of PAC-MI, I thank all of you, from the bottom of my heart for your presence this afternoon.

I also thank Ms. Wyatt and the Main Library personnel welcoming our presence and graciously helping us to prepare today’s event.  I thank our Executive Vice President, Barbara Lemecha for creating the beautiful wreath we place in honor of Kopernik and for her beautiful red and white decorative touches, along with the large Polish flag visible to all driving down Woodward Ave and for the donuts and cider served to all participants in today’s event.

Thank you for your cooperation. Dziekujemy wszystkim!

Ann Bankowski, President

Polish American Congress-Michigan

From the editor:

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Toruń in 1473, died in 1543 in Frombork. Apart from astronomy, he was involved in medicine, law, economics, and administrative work.

Nicolaus Copernicus was born on February 19, 1473, in Toruń. At eighteen, he graduated from the local parish school at the church of St. John. The next stage of his life is associated with Krakow, where, in the years 1491–1495, he studied at the Krakow Academy, which was then the focus of humanistic thought and the center of astronomical studies.

He was a student of the outstanding astronomer of that era, Wojciech of Brudzew.

Copernicus’s most famous work is “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” (“On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres”). In it, he presented a theory of the heliocentric structure of the Solar System, which destroyed previous views. According to Copernicus, the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun, not the Sun and the planets around the Earth, as was the model explaining the structure of the world in force in the Middle Ages. The manuscript of this work and several later editions are in the collections of the Jagiellonian Library in Krakow.


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