22 Most Famous Polish People

1. Mikołaj Kopernik – Nicolaus Copernicus

Did you know that he was born in Toruń, one of the most beautiful cities in Poland? Everyone knows Copernicus, the famous Polish astronomer and mathematician.

Warsaw is truly proud of him, as his name is famous in most of his museums in Poland, and nearly every city has a statue of Copernicus Nicolaus honoring him.

Aristarchus of Samos, who lived in the early eighteenth century, independently formulated a model of the universe in which the center was not the Earth but rather the Sun, suggesting that the Earth is placed at the center of the universe.

Nicolaus Copernicus was born on February 19, 1473, in the city of Toruń (Thorn), in the Royal province of Prussia, within the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. He died on May 24, 1543, at the age of 70, after being afflicted with paralysis and apoplexy towards the end of 1542.

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2. Frederic Chopin

If you are not particularly a fan of this music, it might be a surprise to me that you have never visited Paris and Warsaw before.

Regrettably could not fulfill his desire, yet he harbored a constant longing to revisit Poland. Initially residing in Warsaw for half of his lifetime, he subsequently spent the latter half in France. Having relocated shortly after his birth, he resided in Zelazowa Wola, a petite village in close proximity to Warsaw. Frederick Chopin, who was born in Zelazowa Wola,

Frederick Chopin Monument Warsaw

He was buried in Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, and he died on October 17th, 1849. He was one of the greatest pianist players and one of the greatest composers. He asked for his heart to be transferred to Warsaw, his homeland, and his body to be in France. These were his last moments of life.

In particular, Warsaw is a symbol like Frederick Chopin. You can find his footsteps in every corner of the city. Perhaps you can enjoy a Frederick Chopin Tour in Wola Zelazowa and Warsaw.

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3. Pope John Paul the Second

Wojtyła Józef Karol, who was born in the Polish town of Wadowice, 50 kilometers southwest of Krakow, might be the most famous Polish person in the world as Pope John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II Statue

In his native Poland and throughout all of Europe, he is recognized for helping to bring an end to Communist rule during his papacy from April 2, 2005, to October 16, 1978. Just 33 days after his death, I was called John Paul Pope, after which he was elected pope by the second papal conclave of 1978.

John Paul II greatly enhanced the Catholic Church’s connections with Judaism, Islam, and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

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4. John the Third Sobieski (1629 – 1696)

During his early years, Sobieski traveled across western Europe and received his education at the Jagiellonian University (Krakow). Being born into the Polish nobility, it is imperative for every individual residing in Europe to be aware of this remarkable Polish monarch.

During the war against the Ottoman Empire, Sobieski demonstrated his military prowess as he established himself as a leading figure in Poland and Lithuania.

Stech Kessel Bitwa pod ChocimiemBy Andreas Stech «pinakoteka.zascianek.pl» – Source

His greatest success came in 1683 with the great victory of the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, who invaded Europe and fought against the Battle of Vienna.

The Turkish military was assaulted by the combined Polish-German army consisting of approximately 70,000 troops. Sobieski, commanding the attack, ordered a complete assault on September 12th, since the Ottoman army (comprised of 143,000 Turks) was on the verge of penetrating the fortifications.

Descending the slope, Sobiecki took command of the Polish husaria cavalry and, in a formidable assault, led them alongside the Austrians and Germans, having witnessed the ongoing battle at approximately 5 pm.

Sobieski finally entered the deserted tent of Mustafa Kara and the Battle of Vienna ended around 5:30 pm. He was hailed as the Savior of Vienna and praised by foreign dignitaries and the Pope as the hero of Western European civilization.

“Ah, let us honor such a courageous hand!” Exclaimed me, as only others were touched; everyone kissed my clothes, my feet, and my hands, just like common people. He wrote about it in a letter to his wife.

Many historians believe that the victory in the Battle of Vienna on September 11th was so important because it was connected to the attack.

Source: John_III_Sobieski.

5. Maria Curie

Maria Skłodowska departed from the Polish Kingdom for Paris in 1891 in order to pursue her studies at the Sorbonne. She passed away in France on July 4, 1934, having been born on November 7, 1867, in Warsaw.

The cause for this was that in the 19th century, females were prohibited from pursuing studies in Poland, which prompted her to establish her scientific profession in that nation.

Pierre and Marie CurieBy nieznany – Source

Henri Becquerel and Pierre Curie discovered the phenomenon of radioactivity and conducted research on it in the field of physics. In 1903, she became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize.

The investigation of the chemical characteristics of radioactive elements, the purification of unadulterated radium, and the unearthing of polonium and radium – in the field of chemistry, it received recognition once again in 1911.

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6. Robert Lewandowski

In the vicinity of the city, you can catch a glimpse of him in television commercials and also on street billboards. The most renowned and celebrated Polish soccer player requires no elaborate introductions.

I am still looking for the remote control to switch on the TV, and I remember my friend saying, “Lewandowski enjoyed scoring 5 goals in just 9 minutes in this game.”

The one thing that is certain is that we all recognize that Lewandowski is truly the most renowned Polish soccer player globally.

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7. Wisława Szymborska

She was born on the 2nd of July, 1923, and passed away in February of 2012. There is no doubt that she is 100% Polish, okay okay.

In 1996, she received the Nobel Prize in Literature, being recognized as a poet, essayist, and translator. In 1939, amidst the outbreak of World War II, she persisted in her studies by attending clandestine classes.

During this time, she began her career as an artist, writing occasional poems and stories, and providing illustrations for an English-language textbook. In 1943, she managed to avoid being deported to Germany and worked as a railroad employee.

Surrounded by friends and relatives, Szymborska died peacefully of lung cancer in her sleep at home in Kraków in 2012, aged 88.

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8. Roman Polanski

Who isn’t familiar with the renowned Polish-French film director, producer, writer, and actor, who was born in France on the 18th of August, 1933, but relocated to Poland (Krakow) in 1937?

After his father and mother were taken in raids, Polanski spent his formative years trying to survive in foster homes. Just 2 years after moving back to Poland following the invasion by the Nazis, which trapped the Polanskis in the Krakow Ghetto, Poland started World War II.

He made his first film in 1962 in Poland, and “Knife in the Water” was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film by the United States Academy.

The film received several international accolades, including the prestigious Best Director award. It triumphed at the Academy Awards, securing three Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Additionally, the filmmaker went on to produce and direct “The Pianist” (2002), a compelling tale centered around a Polish-Jewish musician’s escape from Nazi persecution. This remarkable piece of cinema also garnered France’s César Awards for Best Picture and Best Director.

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9. Irena Sendlerowa

The woman Hero saved several thousand Jewish children during the Holocaust and should be known around the world as the female Schindler.

Irena Sendlerowa 1942Irena Sendler 1943 – Source

Irena Stanisława Sendler, also referred to as Sendlerowa, was born on February 15, 1910, in Warsaw.

Serving in the Polish Underground Resistance during World War II in German-occupied Warsaw, she worked as a nurse, social worker, and Polish humanitarian, engaging in activities aimed at saving Jews and participating in covert operations.

Sendler participated in smuggling Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, providing them with shelter and false identity documents, and assisting families and orphanages in Poland who were willing to take care of them.

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10. Helena Rubinstein (Chaja)

Helena is one of the most renowned Polish-American businesswomen globally, and she was born in Krakow on December 25, 1872.

She is the founder and namesake of the Helena Rubinstein Incorporated cosmetics company, making her one of the wealthiest women in the world. I assume that most people, particularly those who are unfamiliar with her, may be men.

Helena Rubinstein by Paul César Helleu 1859 1927Helena Rubinstein by Paul César Helleu (1859-1927) – Source

It is worth noting that she quickly discovered eager purchasers for the containers of beauty lotion in her baggage. Nevertheless, her fashionable attire and fair skin did not go unnoticed by the women of the town. Having no funds and limited knowledge of the English language, she relocated from Poland to Australia in 1896.

Aside from being a businesswoman, she is also a renowned art connoisseur and philanthropist.

Chaja, the forerunner of a chain of salons, opened a cosmetics salon in New York City in 1915. In April 1965, she moved to Manhattan, where she died. She moved to New York City with her husband at the outbreak of World War I.

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11. Janus Korczak & Stefania Wilczyńska

The Warsaw Ghetto holds a deep connection to all Polish individuals and is a renowned figure in the fields of medicine, education, literature, journalism, and social advocacy. He was born in Warsaw in the years 1878-1879, under the name Henryk Goldszmit. It is crucial for everyone to be aware of another unsung hero of World War II.

The Orphans’ Home, a Jewish establishment, was relocated to the Warsaw ghetto in the autumn of 1940, situated at 33 Chłodna Street. In September 1939, he delivered his final speech on Polish Radio, advocating for tranquility.

In October 1941, the Orphanage was compelled to relocate once more, this time to a few chambers within the premises of the Association of Commercial Workers, specifically situated at ul. Sienna 16 / Śliska 9.

In the tragic circumstances of the Nazi occupation, Korczak officially assumed responsibility for a facility for orphaned children at ul. Dzielna 39 in early 1942. This was also the time when he started writing a “Diary” which he began in May of that year.

On the day of his deportation, specifically on the morning of August 5, 1942, amidst the so-called “great action”, Korczak consciously declined numerous offers to protect himself and ultimately chose not to abandon the children and staff of the Orphanage.

Instead of relinquishing the children, Stefania Wilczyńska and the rest of the orphanage personnel opted for demise, alongside Korczak, despite being offered the opportunity to evade deportation to Treblinka.

Finally, he marches with his children on their last trip from Umschlagplatz to Treblinka extermination Camp supporting them till the last moment.

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12. Daniel Celsius

Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit, a Dutch-Polish-German physicist and inventor, was the maker of scientific instruments and the inventor of the Fahrenheit temperature measurement method. He was born in Gdansk, which was then a part of Germany, and his contributions to the field of thermometry revolutionized the history of physics.

He is also the inventor of the Fahrenheit scale, which uses the Fahrenheit degree (symbol: °F) as a unit. Daniel invented the glass-in-mercury thermometer for measuring room temperature.

Fahrenheit was born in Danzig, but he spent most of his life in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which formally was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland.

Following 1791, the Commonwealth of Poland emerged as a dual entity, a bi-confederation comprising Poland and Lithuania.

Source and Discover More: Daniel_Gabriel_Fahrenheit.

13. Maximilian Kolbe

On January 8, 1894, Raymund Kolbe was born as St. Maximilian Kolbe in the Kingdom of Poland, which was a part of the Russian Empire at that time. At the age of 12, he experienced a profound impact on his life when he had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who played a significant role in his efforts to promote the Immaculate Virgin Mary.

“On that night, I asked Mother, the God of me, what it was that made me become the one she held, the other one being red and the other one being white.”

I stated my willingness to embrace both. The crimson one symbolized my role as a martyr, while the ivory one symbolized my commitment to maintaining purity. Inquired about my readiness to accept either of these regal symbols, she did.

block 11 auschwitz death blockBlock 11: Auschwitz Main Camp – Read: Auschwitz Visit

In Japan, the monastery continues to hold a prominent position within the Roman Catholic Church in Japan up until now. Kolbe also established monastic communities in both Japan and India. In 1910, Kolbe received the religious title Maximilian. One year after experiencing his vision, Kolbe and his older sibling, Francis, entered the Conventual Franciscans.

In 1936, due to his poor health, Kolbe was forced to return home to Poland after the invasion of Germany and the monastery became home only to the remaining brothers once he began his invasion in WWII.

Despite the persecution of Jews, including 2,000 Germans hiding as refugees, he continued to work in his monastery, providing shelter. However, when asked to sign a document recognizing him as a German citizen with German ancestry, he refused.

On February 17, 1941, Kolbe was arrested by the German Gestapo and taken to the prison Pawiak. Later, he was transferred to Auschwitz, where everyone who visits will definitely hear his story and be moved by the cells and martyrs. The monastery was shut down. Three months later, he was transferred.

In order to caution against attempts to escape, individuals were selected to confront the prospect of starvation during the latter part of his second month in Auschwitz. Despite enduring brutal aggression and persecution, Kolbe, the recipient of such cruelty, steadfastly clung to his role as a priest.

On August 14, 1941, Father Maksymilian Kolbe made the decision to exchange Franciszek Gajowniczek, a fellow prisoner who had been convicted, during the roll call in the basement of the “death block” at the German concentration camp Auschwitz. Instead of Gajowniczek, Kolbe chose to willingly endure starvation until his death.

Eventually, he was killed in a crematorium where his body was burnt, without consuming any food or drink, through the injection of phenol, after spending 15 days in a cell.

Source: «https://www.Catholic.Org/saints/saint.Php?Saint_id=370».

14. Ignacy Łukasiewicz

Ignacy Łukasiewicz was born on March 8, 1822 in Zaduszniki, near Mielec, as the youngest of five children in the Austrian Empire after the Partitions of Poland.

He was a Polish inventor, businessman, engineer, and pharmacist. He was one of the most prominent philanthropists in the Kingdom of Lodomeria and Galicia, a crownland of Austria-Hungary.

Furthermore, an innovator who constructed the first ever advanced oil refinery in the world in 1856. His successes consisted of:

  • The invention of the process to extract kerosene from seepage oil,
  • The creation of the contemporary kerosene lantern (1853).
  • The implementation of the initial contemporary street light in Europe (1853), and the.
  • Establishment of the inaugural contemporary oil drilling site on a global scale (1854).
  • Learn more about Ignacy.

    15. Jerzy Ivanov-Szajnowicz

    Jerzy Lambrianidis, a Greek businessman, was born in Warsaw, Poland in December 1911. He is the son of Jannis and his mother, who separated from her first husband. Jerzy is a hero of World War 2 and a Polish-Greek athlete.

    In 1938, the best water polo player from Poland was announced, and he became a member of the Warsaw Academic Sports Association while he was staying in Warsaw. Despite emigrating, Jerzy had a strong connection to his home country and would frequently visit Poland for holidays.

    jerzy polish greek famous

    After the outbreak of the war in 1939, he began his cooperation with the Polish military mission in Salonika, helping Polish soldiers who found their way from Hungarian and Romanian camps to Greece, escaping through the territories of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.

    He was given a triple death penalty on December 2, 1942, and his final capture occurred on September 8, 1942, in Athens. He was then enlisted to serve the Polish intelligence in 1940.

    On January 4, 1943, in Kesariani, while leading the execution of the condemned man, he was recognized as a national hero and his statue stands in Thessaloniki, Greece. He was shot and tied by a firing squad and then attempted to escape and managed to get rid of his handcuffs.

    The postage stamp “Jerzy Ivanov-Szajnowicz” was released by the Polish Post on March 25, 2021, during a ceremonial unveiling, in order to honor the bicentennial of the Greek Uprising of 1821.

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    16. 17. Warner Brothers

    The name Warner originates from the founding brothers Sam, Albert, Harry, and Warner, who emigrated from Krasnosielc, Poland under the Russian Partition. They were children of Polish-Jewish parents and relocated to Canada.

    Learn more here: Warner Brothers.

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    18. Shimon Peres

    Shimon Peres was a polyglot, fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, English, French, and Polish. Although he never lost his Polish accent when speaking Hebrew, he was able to communicate effectively in all these languages. Shimon Peres was born on August 2, 1923, in Wiszniew, Belarus, which is now the city of Vishnyeva in Poland.

    Shimon Peres, who served as the ninth President of Israel from 2007 to 2014, was considered the oldest head of state in the world and the last link to Israel’s founding generations. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 along with Yasser Arafat and Rabin.

    19. Samuel Willenberg

    After emigrating to Israel, he became a renowned painter, writer, and sculptor. He also fought in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and later joined the Polish underground. During his time in the Treblinka death camp, he was among the individuals who managed to escape.

    Regarded as a revered figure in both countries, he played a significant role in revitalizing Polish-Israeli relations following the decline of Communism. He was the sole remaining survivor of Treblinka, passing away in 2016.

    20. Władysław Szpilman

    Another famous survivor of the Holocaust was Władysław Szpilman, a Polish classical composer and pianist, who is widely known as the central figure in the film “The Pianist” (No. 8) directed by Roman Polanski in 2002. He and his family were forced into the Warsaw Ghetto during the German occupation.

    Szpilman, a laborer in the Ghetto, stayed at the Ghetto and helped smuggle weapons for the uprising in Warsaw. Unfortunately, in 1942, his family was deported to Treblinka and everyone perished. To support his family, Szpilman began working as a musician inside Warsaw’s Ghetto.

    Upon uncovering his talent as a pianist, the officer requested him to perform a piece on the piano. Szpilman remained concealed in an uninhabited structure located at al. Niepodległości 223, where he was found by a German officer, commencing in August 1944.

    Op. 23, Chopin played the No. 1 Ballade in G Minor. He often received bread and preserves from the officer, who also provided him with a coat to keep warm. The officer considered the Soviet prisoner of war as deceased.

    Finally, after the complete devastation of Warsaw, the Warsaw Uprising took place in August 1944. Since then, Szpilman has been residing in the ruins of Warsaw, referred to as a “Warsaw Robinson,” after its liberation by the Soviet and Berling’s Polish Army on January 17.

    21. Alina Szapocznikow

    Alina, who was born in Kalisz, is a survivor. She primarily worked as a prominent European surrealist, Nouveau realisme, and pop-art artist after the war, using bronze and stone as her mediums. Pabianice and Litzmannstadt were the ghettos where she endured the holocaust, while Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, and Theresienstadt were the places she managed to survive.

    22. Maria Cunitz

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    maria kunitz swidnica rynek

    She authored a book called “Propitia Urania”, which made her the most notable female astronomer of the early modern era. In this book, she provided new tables and a new solution to Kepler’s Law, working on the simpler and more ephemeral path of a planet’s elliptical orbit.

    In her memory, the minor planet 12624 Mariacunitia is dedicated and the Cunitz crater on planet Venus is named in her honor. At the Rynek (market square) of the historic town, one can discover a statue of her seated on a bench. She spent the majority of her life in Swidnica (refer to: 11 most distinctive cities of Poland), where a sculpture of her can be found sitting on a bench at the Rynek (market square) of the historic town.

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