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Pope John Paul II
 
John Paul II

John Paul II (Polish: Jan Paweł II) born Karol Józef Wojtyła 18 May 1920 - 2 April 2005) reigned as the 264th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 16 October 1978, until his death, almost 27 years later. His was the second-longest pontificate after Pius IX's 31-year reign. He has been the only Polish pope, and the first non-Italian pope since the Dutch Adrian VI in the 1520s. During his reign he travelled extensively, visiting over 100 countries, more than any of his predecessors. He remains one of the most-travelled world leaders in history. He was fluent in numerous languages: his native Polish and also Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Croatian, Portuguese, Russian and Latin. Always remembering of his Polish identity he once said: “I have a sweet tooth for song and music. This is my Polish sin”. On the day of death among his last words in Polish were: "I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you." (in his Papal apartment, Vatican City - Apr. 2, 2005)

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Lech Wałęsa
 
Lech Wałęsa

Lech Wałęsa (born September 29, 1943) - Polish politician and a former trade union and human rights activist. He co-founded Solidarity (Solidarność), the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the past century. Lech Wałęsa's courage helped bring about the disintegration of the Eastern Bloc and the end of the Cold War. Intervied once, he said about his struggle: "I had conversations with all the powerful people of the world: with presidents, with prime ministers, chancellors and kings, too. None of them believed that there was any chance of us toppling communism before the year 2000. I didn't meet a single person among those people who would believe that was possible. Not a single one in the whole world". But he managed to be one of those, who changed the face of the world…

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Nicolaus Copernicus
 
Nicolaus Copernicus (portrait from Town Hall in Toruń - 1580)

Nicolaus Copernicus (Polish: Mikołaj Kopernik) - born in Toruń, Poland on Feb. 19, 1473 (died - May 24, 1543) was the first astronomer to formulate a scientifically based heliocentric cosmology that displaced the Earth from the center of the universe. His book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), is regarded as the starting point of modern astronomy and the defining epiphany that began the Scientific Revolution. His publication of a scientific theory of heliocentrism, demonstrating that the motions of celestial objects can be explained without putting the Earth at rest in the center of the universe, stimulated further scientific investigations, and became a landmark in the history of modern science that is known as the Copernican Revolution. Copernicus was a mathematician, astronomer, physician, classical scholar, translator, Catholic cleric, jurist, governor, military leader, diplomat and economist.

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Frederick Chopin
 
The only known photograph of Frédéric Chopin (ca 1849)

Frédéric Chopin (Polish: Fryderyk Chopin, sometimes Szopen - born March 1, 1810 in Żelazowa Wola near Warsaw - died October 17, 1849 in Paris) - Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic period. He is widely regarded as the greatest Polish composer, perhaps the greatest of all composers for the piano. Called a "musical genius" when he was a teenager, Chopin composed a remarkable variety of brilliant pieces. His father, Nicholas, was a Frenchman who had lived in Poland for many years. His Polish mother was of noble birth. Even as a small child, Chopin loved piano music. He started to compose music even before he knew how to write down his ideas. He wrote few concertos and sonatas and perfected freer musical forms. Among his compositions are some 50 mazurkas, 25 preludes, 24 etudes, 21 nocturnes, 17 waltzes, 11 polonaises, 4 ballades and 3 sonatas. For his polonaises and mazurkas he used the rhythms and spirit of Polish folk dances.

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Maria Skłodowska-Curie
 
Maria Skłodowska-Curie

Maria Skłodowska-Curie (born Maria Skłodowska; also known as Marie Curie, Madam Curie; Nov. 7, 1867 - Jul. 4, 1934) was a physicist and chemist of Polish upbringing and, subsequently, French citizenship. She was a pioneer in the field of radioactivity, the first and only person honored with Nobel Prizes in 2 different sciences, and the first female professor at the University of Paris. She was born in Warsaw, and lived there until she was 24. In 1891 she followed her elder sister Bronisława to study in Paris, where she obtained her higher degrees and conducted her scientific work. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw. She was the wife of fellow-Nobel-laureate Pierre Curie and the mother of a third Nobel laureate, Irène Joliot-Curie. As a French citizen, she never lost her sense of Polish identity. Madame Curie named the first new chemical element that she discovered (1898) "polonium" for her native country, and in 1932 she founded a Radium Institute (now the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology) in her home town, Warsaw, headed by her physician-sister Bronisława.

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