Mariusz Zaruski (1867–1941) was a Brigadier-General in the Polish Army, a pioneer of Polish sports yachting, an outstanding climber of the winter and caves of Tatra Mountains. He was a photographer, painter, poet and writer, a seamen and traveler, a conspirator, legionnaire and lancer in Polish cavalry.
During his active life, he was a devoted social activist, sportsman and teacher.
Zaruski was born on 18 January 1867 in Dumanowo near the Kamieniec Podolski in Poland. During his youth at Odessa University where he studied mathematics and physics, he was attracted to sea activities. As a volunteer, he worked as seaman on various ships. He traveled a lot to distant regions like Siberia, China, Japan, India, Egypt and Syria.
For his participation in a Polish patriotic anti-Russian organization, the Russian government exiled him to Arkhangelsk in 1894. There, while being a prisoner he was able to graduate from the Seaman School. Conditionally he was allowed to work on merchant ship “Derzhava”. On his first sea journey on the ship, he went to Norway with the logs and fur cargo. Later he became a captain of the ship “Nadezhda”.
After finishing his prison term, Zaruski returned to Odessa where he had lived for 2 years. There he married Izabela Kietlińska. Later, he moved to Kraków where between 1901-1906 he studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1907, after graduation, the couple moved to Zakopane so as to improve Izabela's health.
For many years Mariusz Zaruski had been working in Zakopane as a mountain guide for tourists and rescuer. He organized the Tatra Mountain Rescue Service. In his articles in Polish newspapers he publicized and popularized the tourism of the Zakopane region. He was the first climber to reach the Kozi Wierch and Kościelec mountains. At the start of the First World War he organized 11th Polish Cavalry Regiment and became its commander. For his bravery during the offensive on Wilno City on April 16, 1919, he was decorated with the highest Polish Military distinction the Order of Virtuti Militari 5th Class and several times with the Cross of Valour.
He ended up his military career in a rank of the Brigadier-General and Adjutant of the Polish President Stanisław Wojciechowski. He retired before the May Revolt in 1926. During his retirement, he devoted his time to popularize moral, economic and political benefits of Poland’s access to the Baltic Sea. He introduced members of Polish elite to the yacht sport. Through his teaching he attracted countless number of Polish youth to seamanship and yachting.
Together with Antoni Aleksandrowicz he organized the Yacht Club of Poland. Thanks to his government connections he was able to acquire for the club the first in Poland’s history ocean yacht “Witeź”. On his initiative the Sea and River League and the Committee of National Flotilla were established. The committee founded the sailing ship “Dar Pomorza”. He was an organizer of the Inspectorate of Youth Marine Education. He helped to establish the Marine Terminology Commission which included representatives from Marine Academy and Universities. The Commission edited six volumes of the Polish – English – French – German - Russian Marine Dictionary. In Poland, before the Second World War, boy scouts movement was important part of marine educations among Polish youth.
General Zaruski played a leading role as a seamanship instructor for Polish Scouts units in Jastarnia located on the shore of the Baltic Sea. He used to say that the hardship of sailor’s duties strengthen sailor’s moral character. In 1935 he became a captain of the schooner Zawisza Czarny. At the same time he was elected as the President of the Polish Sailing Association. During his presidency all youth at universities, boy scouts and yacht clubs all over Poland were integrated in one mass movement devoted to seamanship and marine education. As a captain on “Zawisza Czarny” he was treated with such respect and adoration by youths that they called him no other than “Sir General”. His last voyage on the Zawisza Czarny was in 1939.
Deliberately, despite the fact that he could leave Poland at the outbreak of World War II, he did not abandon his motherland. He was arrested then imprisoned by Soviet Secret Service NKVD in Lwów after Red Army invaded Poland in September 1939. On 29 March 1941, NKVD sentenced him, as a socially dangerous element, to penal resettlement to Krasnoyarsk Krai in Siberia. He died of cholera in Soviet prison in Kherson on 8 April 1941.
In Autumn of 1991, thanks to the Polish Scouts - Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego efforts, ashes of Gen. Zaruski were brought to Poland and buried in Zakopane Cemetery. He was decorated posthumously by the Polish state with the Grand Cross of Order of Poland’s Rebirth in 1997.
Father Seweryn, mother Eufrozyna, older brother Stanisław, younger brother Bolesław. His devoted wife: Izabella Kietlińska.
Includes: collection of poems and novels about the Tatra mountains titled Na bezdrożach tatrzańskich (1923) as well as his marine novels titled Wśród wichrów i fal (1935). He expressed his passion for horses in several of his poems.
He gave countless speeches, lectures and published many articles. He wrote several textbooks for sailors and first in Polish history textbook of marine navigation.
Honours and awards
- Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari,
- Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (posthumously in 1997; previously awarded the Commander's Cross and the Officer's Cross
- Cross of Independence
- Cross of Valour (five times)
- Commemorative Medal for War 1918-1921.