Since 26 February 1927, ‘Mazurek Dąbrowskiego’ [‘Dąbrowski's Mazurka’], a patriotic composition written by Józef Wybicki to a folk tune, has been the national anthem of Poland.
Wybicki, a politician and a soldier, wrote the mazurka as a song of the Polish Legions in Italy, a military formation created after the third partition of Poland, fighting alongside French and Italian army in 1797–1807. The Legions, composed of approx. 35,000 Polish soldiers, 20,000 of whom died in combat, shaped magnificent officers and were a school of patriotism. Mazurek Dąbrowskiego, named in the honour of General Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, the founder of the Legions, was meant to inspire hope for independence.
The song was written between 16 and 19 July 1797 in the town of Reggio nell'Emilia, in the then Cisalpine Republic, which is now the region of Emilia-Romania in Italy. The first public performance took place on 20 July 1797, and the lyrics were first published in the ‘Dekada Legionowa’ magazine in Mantui in February 1797.
The song was well received by soldiers and soon thereafter performed in all annexed territories. It was also sung It could also be heard during the triumphant arrival of General Dąbrowski and Józef Wybicki to Poznań on 3 November 1806, during the November Uprising, the January Uprising, and was often hummed by Poles of the Great Emigration, during the revolution of 1905 and both World Wars.
The Polish anthem has inspired other Slavic songs and anthems: Slovak, Czech, Slovenian, Lusatian, Ukrainian and Croatian.