Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Jan III Sobieski was born in 1629. He was related to great Polish and Russian noble families. Later biographies of the future king mentioned that when Jan was being born, the Tartars were approaching the castle in which his family stayed. At the same time his ancestors kept tradition of fighting with believers of Islam – let it be Turks or Tartars – very often sacrificing their life.
Family of the Sobieskis cared for education of their sons. Jana and his brother Marek were soon sent to Nowodworski High School (the oldest secondary school of Poland). There they have been presented, by some of the teachers, the model of leader-soldier, a great individual who can lead the country. Right after finishing school, Jan and his brother started their studies at Krakow Academy. Apart from education, Sobieskis gained their experience during travels. They had opportunity to study foreign languages as well as gain military knowledge that Jan would be able to use afterwards.
They came back to Poland in 1648 (after the death of their father). As that was the moment when Chmielnicki Uprising broke out, the brothers had immediate opportunity to use their military knowledge they gained previously. His hatred grew with death of his brother, Marek. He was also imprisoned by Turkish army, what helped him to get to know the structure of Turkish camps. He gained more military experience during so called ‘Swedish Deluge’ when he commanded the Tartar army. He also came closer to the royal family. He also fell in love with royal courtier – Maria – whom he married in 1665.
The most important part of Jan III Sobieski’s career was Polish-Turkish war between 1672 and 1676. It was the period of threat that Polish Commonwealth would get under the rule of Ottoman Empire. The most glorious battle was the one by Chocim in 1673 that brought Jan III Sobieski international fame. Leading 3000 of soldiers, he managed to win with Turkish army of about 30 thousand. He freed about 40 thousand people. This victory brought him afterwards Polish crown. In 1674 he was elected as a new Polish ruler. His lifetime victory was, however, still to come.
Sobieski made an agreement with Austrian Tsar against Turkey. He expected that ottoman Empire would make attempt to invade Poland. Surprisingly the Turks surrounded Vienna. He did not hesitate to help Austria in their battle as he believed this was the battle not only to protect Poland from foreign rule but also to protect Europe from non-Catholic invaders. In 1683 he led a battle by Vienna – during which almost 15 thousand of members of Turkish army died (while only 3 thousand Catholic soldiers were ceased). The Pope proclaimed the 9th of October the day of Saint Mary (as the remembrance of the march of Sobieski’s army after the Ottoman army running away).
Long after the victory of Sobieski was used to express the power of united Poland. Jan III, himself, is a great example of king who has not been elected only because of his roots and great connections but because of great military talent and patriotism.