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Countess Emilia Plater : 1806 –1831

Countess Emilia Plater was a revolutionary from the lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. She fought in the November Uprising and is considered a national hero in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, which were former parts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Plater was brought up to appreciate the efforts of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, and the poet Adam Mickiewicz. She also admired Bouboulina, a woman who became one of the icons of the Greek uprising against the Ottomans, as well as Joan of Arc. These pursuits were accompanied by an early interest in equestrianism and marksmanship, quite uncommon for early 19th century girls from aristocratic families.

In 1830 after the outbreak of the November Uprising against Imperial Russia, the lands of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania were initially unaffected by the fighting and during the initial stages, no anti-Tsarist units were in existence. Emilia Plater decided to form one of the first such partisan Lithuanians units herself. From the area of Daugavpils she entered Lithuania, where in April 1831 her unit seized the town of Zarasai.

Later in the struggle she was made the commanding officer of 1st company of the Polish 1st Lithuanian Infantry Regiment. She fought with distinction and was promoted to the rank of captain, the highest rank awarded to a woman at that time. After the Polish units were defeated by the Russians she refused to retreat with the general. Soon after she became seriously ill and died.

Her death was widely publicised and Emilia Plater became one of the symbols of the uprising. The symbol of the fighting girl became quite widespread both in Poland, Lithuania and abroad. Various literary works based on her life were published, mostly abroad, both by Polish emigres and by foreigners. She also became the theme of paintings by several artists.

In 1842 J. K. Salomonski published a short biography of Emilia Plater in New York, under the title of Emily Plater, The Polish Heroine; Life of the Countess Emily Plater. She was shown on the Second Polish Republic's notes (20 zloty). During the World War II, there was a Polish female support unit named after her, later its former members founded a village (Platerówka) in Lower Silesia. In 1959 a ship built for the Polish Oceanic Lines was named M/S Emilia Plater and she has a street named after her in most major towns of Poland.

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