Emilia Plater in Battle

Emilia Plater in Battle

Emilia Plater (1806—1831 CE) was a Polish noblewoman who participated in the Warsaw Insurrection against Russia. She was born in November, 1806 to Count Francis-Xavier Plater and his countess, Anna. In 1815, Anna took her to stay at her family’s estates, as she had separated from her husband. There, Emilia was brought up in luxury, and received an education typical of noblewomen. She read, studied mathematics, wrote poetry and prose, sang, was an accomplished equestrian, and hunted. Something that was atypical about her was that she was very interested in the lives and plights of peasants, and mingled with them, learning of their customs and lives. This probably led to her interest in folk music, which she learned and transcribed into notation.

In 1823 she studied the conditions of peasant life, and noted the lack of freedom under Russia. One of her noble cousins was also forced to join the Imperial Army of Russia as punishment for his outward speech against Russia. This did not sweeten Emilia’s outlook on the country. Because she was well-read and educated, Emilia grew up inspired by Joan of Arc and Laskarina Bouboulina, two women that stood up to oppression and invasion. The Warsaw Insurrection broke out in 1831, and much to the horror of her family, Emilia joined. She became a Captain in her own right and led a unit that consisted of 280 infantry, 60 cavalry, and hundreds of peasants who wielded scythes. She participated in many battles against Russia, sometimes participating and sometimes strategizing behind the war lines, as she was considered too valuable to lose to the enemy.

When Poland lost, she became fatally ill, never recovered and died at her family’s lands in 1831.

Legacy: Although her story is not considered to be accurate in parts, Emilia was considered to be the icon of Polish freedom, and a symbol of their near success.