Kostka Napierski: a tribune or a traitor and a brigand?

This man, sentenced to impalement, became the object of writers’ fascination many years after his death has. read more

This man, sentenced to impalement, became the object of writers’ fascination many years after his death has. This enigmatic man became also the protagonist of many novels and poems. He conquered the castle in Czorsztyn by a stratagem and was defending it intensely for many days.There was no other figure in the history of Pieniny, which would raise as many controversies as Aleksander Lew Kostka-Napierski from Sztemberk did. Yet at the beginning of the 19th century nobody paid interest to this rebel from the time of Khmelnytsky Uprising. And then, after almost 100 years, thanks to some historic texts, the figure of Kostka-Napierski became the inspiration for poets and writers. They wanted him to be the prototype of Janosik, a tribune, a revolutionist and a romantic hero.

Yet in the 1950s he was glorified by writers – until the time when his treason against Polish king was unequivocally revealed by historians. Kostka himself confessed during a process that he was an adulterate son of king Władysław IV.

In the time of political instability in the west of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Napierski prepared a rebel in Podhale region, which was supposed to be the extension of the uprising in Ukraine. The main centre of his rebel was the Czorsztyn castle. The poorly defended fortress was conquered by a stratagem. Napierski was sending commands from here and his plan was to gather the local highlanders in the castle. He also counted on the help of the duke of Transylvania. The first royal division was fought off and proud Napierski wrote a poem about his victory. Finally the bigger army from Kraków forced the defenders to surrender. Kostka, who was sentenced to death, was impaled in Krzemionki, the district of Kraków.

The list of his literary apologists is quite long, just to mention the most famous writers: a historian Szczęsny - Morawski, who popularised the figure of Kostka, Jan Kasprowicz, Władysław Orkan, Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, Jan Wiktor, Jalu Kurek, Józef Hen and Stanisław Nędza-Kubiniec. Napierski was also the main protagonist of a fictional, already forgotten, film called “Podhale on fire” (“Podhale w ogniu”).

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