The achievements, actions or work of several Poles benefited not only Poland itself, but the world at large, earning them worldwide recognition. They include such famous figures as Mikołaj Kopernik, Maria Skłodowska-Curie, Pope John Paul II, Adam Mickiewicz, Fryderyk Chopin, Jan Matejko, Andrzej Wajda, Roman Polański or Lech Wałęsa.
Polish scientists can boast many spectacular achievements. Professor Aleksander Wolszczan, a radio astronomer, was the first to discover planets outside the Solar System. Ludwik Zamenhof was the creator of Esperanto, an international language. Johannes Hevelius was the first to chart the surface of the Moon. Ernest Malinowski, an engineer, designed and constructed the Central Trans-Andean Railway in Peru, while geologist Ignacy Domeyko significantly contributed to the development of the mining industry in Chile, which to this day remains one of the key sectors of the country’s industry.
Other individuals whose actions surely merit their inclusion among great Poles include Tadeusz Kościuszko, a military general who fought in the Polish and American wars of independence, as well as Polish heroes of the 20th century – Irena Sendlerowa, creator of a network of individuals that helped save approximately 2500 Jewish children from the Holocaust during the Second World War; rittmeister Witold Pilecki, who allowed himself to be captured by Nazis and sent to the Auschwitz death camp in order to report on what was happening inside and let the world know about the Holocaust; Jan Karski, who was twice smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto and then visited a Nazi death camp to report on the fate of Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
Apart from the film directors named above, other Poles who made huge contributions to global and European film industry include Krzysztof Kieślowski, Agnieszka Holland, Jerzy Skolimowski, Małgorzata Szumowska, Krzysztof Zanussi, Zbigniew Preisner – composer of film scores, directors of photography Paweł Edelman and Janusz Kamiński, Pola Negri – a silent movie star, and many others.
The most famous Polish musicians include pianists Artur Rubinstein and Krystian Zimerman, composers and conductors Krzysztof Penderecki, Stanisław Moniuszko, Ignacy Paderewski, Witold Lutosławski, and opera singer Małgorzata Walewska. We cannot also forget about Urszula Dudziak and Michał Urbaniak and their considerable contribution to the development of jazz.
As far as literature is concerned, Poland can boast multiple Nobel award laureates – Czesław Miłosz, Wisława Szymborska, Władysław Reymont and Henryk Sienkiewicz. Andrzej Sapkowski, creator of the Witcher saga, and Stanisław Lem are Poland’s most famous fantasy and science-fiction authors. Another notable Polish author is Ryszard Kapuściński, reporter and columnist, whose works rank among those most frequently translated into other languages. Polish painters who gained international recognition include Jacek Malczewski and Zdzisław Beksiński.
Polish athletes have had great success in many sports disciplines and set multiple world records. Medalists of world championships, Olympics and many other major international events include Wanda Rutkiewicz, Irena Szewińska, Robert Korzeniowski, Otylia Jędrzejczak, Adam Małysz, Kamil Stoch, Justyna Kowalczyk, Tomasz Gollob, Marcin Gortat, Agnieszka Radwańska, Andrzej Gołota, Krzysztof Hołowczyc, Robert Kubica and many others. Footballers such as Zbigniew Boniek, Kazimierz Deyna, Jan Tomaszewski, Euzebiusz Smolarek, Robert Lewandowski, Łukasz Piszczek, Wojciech Szczęsny and Jakub Błaszczykowski are well-known around the world.
Poland has also made its mark on the fashion world, thanks to models such as Anja Rubik and Kasia Struss, who worked on campaigns of such brands as Versace, Valentino, Chanel, Gucci, Prada and Dior.
The people listed above constitute only a small fraction of famous Poles who achieved global recognition, but are enough to illustrate Poland’s magnificent contributions to many various fields of activity. We are very happy that so many great people hail from our country, bringing pride to their compatriots.