POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS, Vice President for American Affairs Anthony J. Bajdek
REPORT, April 19, 2012
1. SOBERING REALITY CHECK AND/OR AN OPPORTUNITY: CONSIDERING THE PRESENT STATE OF AFFAIRS WITHIN THE POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS AS A PRELUDE TO THE FUTURE
Informed Americans familiar with the history of the United States, as well as those citizens of other nations who study American history for both positive and negative purposes, are familiar with the poignant statement, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” — which referenced the growing mid-19th century chasm between America’s free states and slave states, between the North and the South — made by Abraham Lincoln on June 16, 1858. Unfortunately, it took a bloody Civil War that began in 1861 and ended in 1865 to prevent our great American home from falling. It had been a war in which some 620,000 American combatants were killed in action, thus exceeding our nation’s losses of soldiers in all its other wars combined from the time of our War of Independence in the 18th century to Vietnam in the 20th century. History’s lesson, in this regard, is compelling.
Today, we find the Polish American Congress, being another “house” dear to our hearts, divided against itself amidst invective and recrimination afield that has grown more antagonistic, depressing, sometimes libelous, and potentially fatally destructive, as it had been in the United States preceding the attack on Fort Sumter, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, the spark that set our divided nation ablaze. In 2012, however, while divisiveness persists in the Polish American Congress, some aspects of our venerable organization proceed in a positive direction as examples of what it should strive to be, that being, a dynamic entity, always moving forward and united, rather than a static entity falling behind changing times on the American scene by concurrently “shooting itself in the foot” as the expression goes.
2. APPROACHING CROSSROADS LEADING TO OPPORTUNITY: CREATING FIRST-EVER DIVISIONS IN NEW STATES ACROSS THE NATION, THEREBY BECOMING A MUCH MORE BROADLY-BASED NATIONAL ORGANIZATION, AND ENJOYING INCREASED MEMBERSHIP, INCREASED FINANCIAL DEVELOPMENT, AND INCREASED POLITICAL CLOUT IN THE UNITED STATES
Considering the practical examples of our recent first-ever Divisions in Maine and in New Hampshire, It really hasn’t been that difficult to do, and I propose, should become an organizational objective pursued with missionary zeal, fully in keeping with the healthy outlook of being a work in progress.
In a very short period of time that began on a snowy day in Portland, Maine on December 30, 2010 at a small Polish delicatessen/restaurant, I began the process that led to the creation of two first-ever Divisions of the Polish American Congress in Maine and then in New Hampshire, the former achieving sufficient membership for full Division status in May 2011, the latter achieving full Division status in February 2012. What enabled me and others to pull together functioning Polish American Congress Divisions in Maine and New Hampshire was something that both states lacked prior to that point, that being a relatively significant interest in creating a state-wide Polish American organization with both a cultural and political agenda, on one hand, and affiliation with its national parent organization on the other, amidst an increasing void of Polish American entities caused by the decline in the numbers of citizens having fluency in Polish, the concomitant loss of Polish parishes, and an undefined yearning to reclaim Polish roots, heritage and tradition, especially among the great majority of Polish Americans nationally who are a near-century or more removed from their immigrant ancestors who ventured to America. Comparatively speaking, the Polish American populations of Maine (17,731) and New Hampshire (32,164) are dwarfed generally by the mega Polish American state populations of the midwest and northeast, for example, and likely viewed by some to be of peripheral importance in the scheme of things Polish in the United States, but not so in my opinion.
Going back to our CND meeting in Phoenix in 2007, my consistent thesis has been that the Polish American Congress, by expanding to new states, will augment the number of its legitimate voting constituencies of more Congressional delegations in Washington, DC thereby increasing the greater likelihood of influencing federal lawmakers in matters of interest to Polish American voters and Poland. (Of course, even if we did have Divisions in all 50 states, achieving political clout would depend on every state’s Division[s] engaging their Congressional Delegations consistently and vigorously in the manner, for example, of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a 501-c-4 entity such as we are, but with overwhelmingly-more financial resources, and annually converging en masse on Capitol Hill.) With the establishment of the New Hampshire Division in February 2012, the Polish American Congress currently now has a formal presence — albeit only on paper inTexas as of the moment — in 20 states (AZ, CA, CT, DE, FL, IL, IN, MA, MD, ME, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, TX, VA, WI) and the District of Columbia.
The process that led to the creation of Polish American Congress Divisions in Maine and New Hampshire began, for me at least, with identifying one person in each state inclined to the idea. I have identified such individuals in three other states with peripheral Polish American population characteristics: in Montana (15,778) by way of a member of PAC-NH whose sister lives there, and in Nebraska (73,559) and Vermont (14,152) where I personally worked with state legislators (John Synowiecki and Michael Obuchowski respectively) for the successful passage of Visa Waiver for Poland Resolutions in 2005. With regard to Nebraska, fellow CND member Antoinette Trela offered to help the cause for creating a new Division there by approaching some Polish Women’s Alliance of America members inclined to the idea.
Despite the fact that in 2011 a new Long Island Division of the Polish American Congress was created in the State of New York, bringing the number of Divisions in that state to four (Western New York, Central District of New York, Downstate New York and Long Island), a highly commendable achievement in its own right, it did not add a new Congressional delegation to our national reach. However, it did bring in new members who had not been inclined to join the Downstate Division, preferring to add their own geographically-distinctive region to those already existing in the state. This example can be replicated.
In contrast to what has occurred in New York, my consistent ambition to stimulate the Polish American Congress into sustaining expansion of first-ever Divisions to new states is fueled by the fact that 26 other states have Polish American populations under 50,000 (AK, AL, AR, CO, GA, HI, ID, IO, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, NV, NM, NC, ND, OK, OR, SC, SD, TN, UT, VT, WV, WY), five of which said states have Polish American populations under 10,000; ten from 10,000 to 19,999; five from 20,000 to 29,999; five from 30,000 to 39,999; and one in the 40,000 to 49,999 range (Source: The Polish American Encyclopedia, © 2011). In these states, it takes at least twenty members to form new Divisions of the Polish American Congress.
By sustaining expansion to new states, large as well as small, the Polish American Congress will remain a dynamic rather than a static national Polish American organization — serving the interests of American voters of Polish descent principally, and Poland by extension — imbued with a wholesome, vibrant “work in progress” attitude. As we expand to new states and become known to the executive and legislative branches of state and federal government as a purposeful, disciplined, and unified activist entity, we likely will be better able to have an impact on federal and state legislators, for example, in the arenas of domestic and international affairs, provided that we can represent compelling issues of significance to the welfare of the United States as well as those of significance to Poland and its European Union home.
For those who may be skeptical about what they read in this report concerning first-ever Divisions, perhaps about PAC-NH in particular, I offer our state’s membership list as of this writing. Among our 42 members, three — John W. Cebrowski, Walter Kołodziej and Joseph F. Krasucki — are current members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, probably the highest number of state legislators in one PAC Division in the country. Another member — Eryk Jadaszewski — produces in NH replica Husaria armor and full costume for sale world-wide, and yet another is Paul Sobiechowski, newly-installed Polish National Catholic Church Bishop for New England. John W. Cebrowski, originally from New Jersey, had been a United States Marine jet fighter combat pilot during the Vietnam War, whose late brother, Arthur K. Cebrowski, also from New Jersey, rose to the rank of Vice Admiral in the United States Navy and had been the President of the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island:
Bajdek, Anthony J., Hudson, NH, Bajdek, Christopher J., Holliston, MA, Bajdek, Cynthia J., Hudson, NH, Bajdek, Michelle B., Hudson, NH, Bajdek, Peter A., Hudson, NH, Cebrowski, Amanda W., Bedford, NH, Cebrowski, Helen, Bedford, NH, Cebrowski, John W., Bedford, NH, Cłow, Frances E., Bradford, NH, Cłow, Verne R., Bradford, NH, Darois, Cynthia M., Nashua, NH, Dudek, Donna, Manchester, NH, Dworczak, Karolina, Pittsfield, NH, Edmonds, Anne Z., Chichester, NH, Franasik, Renata, Manchester, NH, Gocłowski, Dorothy M., Hopkinton, NH, Gocłowski, John C., Hopkinton, NH, Gocłowski, Michael J., Hopkinton, NH, Gould, Linda Radulski, Bedford, NH, Jadaszewski, Eryk, Peterborough, NH, Kołodnicki, Stanley, Manchester, NH, Kowalik, Joseph J., Hookset, NH, Krasucki, Joseph F., Nashua, NH, Kujawski, Peter M., Bedford, NH, McColgan, Joseph T., Hopkinton, NH, Moore, Janet D., Bedford, NH, Pilat, Richard, Quincy, MA, Płaza, Carol E., Hudson, NH, Płaza, Nathaniel, Hudson, NH, Ptak, Maria, Manchester, NH, Ruszczyk, Leszek, Manchester, NH, Sobiechowski, Paul, Manchester, NH, Sokół, Mirosław, Bedford, NH, Stec, Alicja, Bedford, NH, Susalka, Roman, Nashua, NH, Szydlik, Piotr, Nashua, NH, Tomaszewski, Thaddeus, Chelsea, MA, Więckowska, Maria, Manchester, NH, Wolnicki, Diana E., Salem, NH, Wolnicki, Peter J., Salem, NH, Zuba, Andrew M., Nashua, NH.
3. VISA WAIVER FOR POLAND RESOLUTIONS IN STATE LEGISLATURES AND OTHER ACTIVITIES IN SUPPORT OF ENDING POLAND’S EXCLUSION FROM THE VISA WAIVER PROGRAM
Since the time of our last meeting in Pittsburgh in October 2011, two states, Illinois and Rhode Island, passed Visa Waiver for Poland Resolutions, Illinois for the second time since October 2007, and Rhode Island for the first time, thus increasing the HONOR ROLL OF STATE LEGISLATURES PASSING VISA WAIVER FOR POLAND RESOLUTIONS as follows:
Massachusetts (Joint Resolution: Poland, May 2004)
New Jersey (Joint Resolution: Poland, October 2004)
Vermont (Joint Resolution: Poland, January 2005)
Pennsylvania (Joint Resolution: Poland, April, 2005)
Connecticut (Senate Resolution: Poland, May 2005)
Maine (Joint Resolution: Poland, May 2005)
Nebraska (Unicameral Resolution: Poland, June 2005)
New York (Joint Resolution: Poland, June 2005)
Ohio (Joint Resolution: All NATO Members, June 2005)
Michigan (Joint Resolution: Poland, June 2006)
Arizona (Joint Resolution: Poland, April 2007)
Illinois (Joint Resolution: Poland, October 2007)
Massachusetts (Joint Resolution: Poland, July 2010)
Illinois (Senate Resolution: Poland: November 2011)
Rhode Island (Senate Resolution: Poland, March 2012)
Whereas I had no involvement with the second Illinois Resolution of November 2011, I had worked with John Mailloux, President of our Rhode Island Division, for passage of that state’s Resolution whose lead sponsor had been Senator William Walaska, a Lithuanian American. Similarly, I am working on the sponsorship and passage of Visa Waiver for Poland legislation in New Hampshire and Tennessee. With Ted Mirecki’s help, we might be able to find a VWP Resolution sponsor in Virginia’s legislature in 2013.
Over the years of my involvement with Visa Waiver for Poland Resolutions in state legislatures, I had hoped that all of our Divisions would engage in the campaign. Apart from those Honor Roll states referenced above, our Indiana Division to its credit did collect over 800 signatures on WVPR petitions for presentation to members of its state legislature, only to be confronted by disinterest among legislators.
Whether our activity is in state legislatures or with Congressional Delegations in Washington, DC in support of rapid-fire-submitted Congressional bills such as in 2011, H. 959 (Secure Travel and Counterterrorism Partnership Program), and in 2012 both H.R.3855 and S.2046 (Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act) and now S.2233 (Jobs Originated through Launching Travel Act), all federal and state legislative activity is a method by which to keep the problem of Poland’s exclusion from visa waiver “on the table” so that it will not be forgotten on Capitol Hill amidst our nation’s myriad, major pressing domestic and international problems, not the least of which involve our battered economy and the prospects for added theaters of war or peace in an ever more-dangerous world.
4. ANOTHER METHOD I HAVE USED TO KEEP VISA WAIVER FOR POLAND “ON THE TABLE”
It is a very rare day indeed when our purely American national news services in the United States highlight a news event that sheds positive light on a subject that we Americans of Polish descent hold near and dear to our hearts, the subject being Poland. It happened during the era of Solidarity in Poland and John Paul II in the world when our spirits were buoyed with pride in our heritage, and by a tangible promise of a world-wide renaissance of interest in Poland’s history, culture, tradition, and growing prominence in modern European and world affairs. That pride’s increase to an as-yet-then-to-be-defined apogee was fueled subsequently by Poland’s admission to NATO and the European Union.
Yet in the United States no nation-wide recognition via Hollywood has ever been given by anyone, except for Poles in Poland, to portray Poland’s place in the modern world other than it having been the site on which to impose Germany’s vicious decision to initiate its heinous “Final Solution” by which European Jews would be made the objects of extermination from the face of the earth.
But now Polish Americans are on the verge of a major change provided we participate in achieving it.
In February 2012, the Foundation to Illuminate America’s Heroes, Inc., a 501(c)3 entity to which donations may be deducted from U.S. federal income tax, began working to produce a major Hollywood film via a real-life story that ties together Tadeusz Kościuszko, the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1919-1921, and the American volunteer fighter pilot Merian C. Cooper and his American fellow pilots who created the first-ever “Kościuszko Squadron” to fight — and in some cases — die alongside Poland’s fighter pilots of the Second Republic in its struggle against communist Boshevism of Russia in a war that not only saved Poland but also a post-World War I weakened Europe from Russian conquest. Think of it. An American, Merian C. Cooper (1893-1973), decorated by Józef Piłsudski with Poland’s Virtuti Militarii for his service to Poland. This story proposed by FIAH to be told in a major Hollywood film.
As an American of Polish descent, I have urged Polish Americans to consider contributing donations for funding this film, “Honor to You,” that once produced will be advertised and shown nationally to all Americans — not just Polish Americans — a pro-Poland initiative in terms of motion pictures never before matched in Hollywood, and a fitting tribute to America’s heroes and Poland’s heroes of 1919- 1921 who fought against the Bolshevik communists of Russia. When David C. Jamison of Dothan, Alabama, who is Executive Director of the Foundation to Honor America’s Heroes, approached me (how he came to do so is still a mystery to me), I seized the opportunity because it would provide me a way to relate Cooper with Kościuszko, Poland’s Second Republic, Bolshevism’s early threat to the world, and Visa Waiver.
5. AND STILL ANOTHER EXAMPLE IN 2007 THAT WAS THE FIRST VISA WAIVER FOR POLAND RESOLUTION ORIGINATING IN A CITY COUNCIL, THIS ONE BEING IN UTICA, NEW YORK WHERE I HAD BEEN INVITED TO SPEAK AT AN ANNUAL OBSERVANCE HONORING KAZIMIERZ PULASKI, THEREBY AFFORDING ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO SUGGEST THE IDEA TO ONE CITY COUNCILOR
Had it not been for our fellow-CND members Teresa K. Bunk, Zdzisław Karas, and Rev. Carl A. Urban of our NY Central District Division who invited me to speak at the Pulaski Monument ceremony and later at the related banquet, I would have not had the opportunity to suggest that the Common Council of Utica should issue its own Visa Waiver for Poland Resolution. Unfortunately, even though I recommended to CND members in 2008 that this was yet another avenue by which to approach raising public, rather than simply Polish American, sensitivity about Poland’s exclusion from the Visa Waiver Program, “no one picked up the ball” and ran with it at the time until February 2012 in Chicago as I have confirmed.
In view of the foot-dragging of the Obama administration in the matter, there is still time to have City Councils issue their own Visa Waiver for Poland Resolutions. Remember, each Resolution regardless of its origin serves to keep the matter of Poland’s exclusion from the program “on the table” and not forgotten. My fellow National Directors, I appeal to you to act similarly in other cities as well, especially in those PAC states where state legislatures have not yet passed Visa Waiver for Poland Resolutions.
Ted Mirecki (see page 4) volunteered to explore the possibility of a Visa Waiver for Poland Resolution being sponsored and passed in his home state, Virginia. Surely, others can identify likely cities as well. My spirit has also been lifted upon learning from Marty Cepielik recently that someone in California finally may travel to Sacramento in order to discuss Visa Waiver for Poland with State Assemblyman Bob Więckowski, who as far as I am aware, might be California’s first elected Polish American lawmaker.
Given the coming reality of Obama – Romney Presidential Debates, we have to work to find a way to get the matter of Poland’s exclusion from the Visa Waiver Program included in the foreign policy questions asked by whoever the ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, etc. network moderators will be. In this regard, I ask for ideas that you may have about working to achieve this vitally-important objective.
Opportunities — whatever they may be concerned with — must never be passed up. That’s why, after inviting, on behalf of the American Association of the Friends of Kościuszko at West Point, former United States Ambassador (2004-2009) to Poland, Victor H. Ashe II, to be the keynote speaker for its April 29-30, 2011 Annual Kościuszko Conference and Observance at the United States Military Academy, I utilized the two days with the Ambassador, a true friend of Poland, to enlist his support in working with his many friends in Tennessee’s legislature for the passage of a Visa Waiver for Poland Joint Resolution. Given the fact that upon becoming a resident of New Hampshire, I founded the first-ever Division of the Polish American Congress in that state, and attracting three current members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives — Cebrowski, Kołodziej and Krasucki — to becoming dues-paying members of our latest Division, I have set the stage for sponsorship and passage of a Visa Waiver for Poland Joint Resolution in my new state. On May 3, 2012 at the State House in Concord, for the first time in the history of New Hampshire state government, we will celebrate Poland’s Constitution of May 3, 1791 at which Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, and Executive Council member Raymond J. Wieczorek, a Republican and once, long one-time Mayor of Manchester for whom a highway has been named, will speak in the Executive Council chamber, as will I, about the significance of that Constitution. Do you think that I will not utilize the opportunity of connecting Poland’s Constitution of May 3, 1791 to contemporary Poland’s exclusion from Visa Waiver? Of course I won’t. Will I suggest that the Executive Council should issue its own Visa Waiver for Poland Resolution? Of course I will. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
If given a choice, be dynamic rather than static. Don’t be timid, don’t be afraid to ask and propose.
There is, however, a down-side to overdoing anything, best described by the risk of falling to the danger of “going over the top” in matters concerning Poland, thus becoming one-dimensional in the view of American politicians whether on the federal of state levels.
CND members may recall that, as I reported beginning in Phoenix in 2007, several otherwise pro-Poland state legislators in Massachusetts, Polish American types included, confided to me that we Polish Americans generally never seem to seek their assistance or offer them advice or opinions unless it concerned Poland, although there were individual exceptions on occasion. In short, as American voters of Polish descent, they expect that as Americans first we should be at least as much concerned about the welfare of the United States as we are about Poland. Sorry to say, in their experiences at least, they hardly ever hear from Polish Americans on purely American issues.
Upon first becoming a member of the Polish American Congress in the early 1990s, I heard that it was not possible for the PAC to engage in purely American issues because it would inevitably split the unity of the PAC along Democrat and Republican lines. I responded that surely there are aspects of being an American citizen-voter that members of the Council of National Directors of the Polish American Congress can discuss without divisiveness that are in need of effective resolution for the current and future welfare of the United States. I offer the example of America’s current official de facto language, English. If reading is held to be basic, then reading, writing and communicating effectively in English should be among the highest priority matters for all of our nation’s diverse citizenry.
6. CONSENSUS ON WHAT IS TO BE THE OFFICIAL DE JURE LANGUAGE OF THE UNITED STATES?
It is generally understood worldwide that a sovereign nation is fully responsible for defining its official language. From the time of its founding as a free and independent nation, the language of the United States has been English. As our nation’s population expanded beyond its initial English-Scotch-Irish-Dutch-German base, the population of what we term the early American Republic in the first quarter of the 19th century had already gravitated toward the acceptance of English as America’s lingua franca. In the ensuing seven decades as immigration brought peoples from the Bay of Biscay through the Ural Mountains and from the eastern Mediterranean through the Atlas Mountains in the west, from Mexico and Québec, and from China and Japan as well, when there were absolutely no provisions for bi-lingual naturalization programs or education, of necessity all immigrants were forced to adapt to English usage.
Today, demographers predict that:
Upon the completion of the 21st century, Hispanic Americans will constitute nearly half of the population of the United States.
Spanish speakers, principally from Latin America rather than from Spain, therefore, might well be poised to outnumber our nation’s English speakers by the early 22nd century. That’s only 88 years from now for a Polish American infant born in 2012.
Marriages between Americans from differing ethnic, ancestral and racial origins thus will also continue to increase.
What are the implications for the future of Polonia in the United States? For starts, how about learning to say, “Mówimy po hiszpańsku.” But is this what Americans of any ethnicity, ancestry or race necessarily want? Where would our great American Republic be without an officially-declared de jure national language which we seem to take for granted?
Today, there is no official de jure language for the United States, although English — spoken by 80% of the population — is the official de facto language. Similarly, Spanish — spoken by 12% of the population — is the second most spoken de facto language in the United States. Given that there is no official de jure language in the United States, adherents of three persuasions concerning the matter have evolved:
Those who hold that English should become the official de jure language of the United States by force of law.
Those who hold that “multilingualism” should become the official de jure language of the United States by force of law, largely supported by anti-assimilation groups.
Those who support “multilingualism” temporarily but hold that Spanish inevitably will become the official de facto language of the United States by 2150, and thus poised by 2200 to become our nation’s official de jure language.
In all three persuasions, the parenthetical inclusion (on Capitol Hill) may be included after the word “Those.”
Today, many informed Americans are alarmed by the prospects of persuasions 2 and 3. They rightfully ask, “Why should English be abandoned as the lingua franca of the United States?” Today, 19 states (CT, DE, MA, MD, MI, MN, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, TX, VA, WA, WI and WV) have no official language statutes, and among them 13 are represented by Divisions of the Polish American Congress.
I personally believe that English should be declared the official de jure language of the United States. Making “multilingualism” the official de jure language of the United States invites chaos and a heavy economic burden related to compliance in all aspects of our society. Yet there are those on Capitol Hill who relentlessly promote “multilingualism.” Accepting the inevitability of Spanish becoming the official de jure language of the United States will not only require statutory compliance but by extension implies that all Americans in the relatively not-too-distant future will begin thinking and acting as ethnic Hispanics. Speaking any language implies a cultural adaptation and modification. In the arena of the aforementioned three possibilities, if and when Spanish becomes the official de jure language of the United States, will our great nation simply become just another integral component of Latin America?
Is this what Americans — Polish Americans included — want? The imagery of foreign embassies in Washington, DC preparing to speak to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and to the President in Spanish rather than English is not a matter of fiction but a matter of a potential future reality. Kolędy in Spanish?
Will the Québecois movement of Eastern Canada be encouraged to resurrect itself, thereby threatening the unity of our northern good neighbor, Canada? Will America’s unity over the matter of our official de jure language be threatened more than it is currently on the basis of the Republican – Democrat divide? These are but a few of the considerations.
If your Division is in CT, DE, MA, MD, MI, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, TX, VA or WI, are you concerned enough to let your state legislators and Congressional Delegation know what you think the official de jure language of the United States should be?
The problem of what our nation’s official de jure language should be is clearly a matter of fundamental importance for the future welfare of all Americans and our great Republic.
Are we National Directors of the Polish American Congress sufficiently concerned so as to declare our unified position in the matter? I suggest that we think about this carefully, and specifically as it relates to the pros and cons of the position we might take.
Voicing our collective opinion in the matter, for example, will begin to disprove that we are a one-dimensional entity. Taking a position that benefits sustaining the fundamental basis of holding together the myriad ethnic, national and racial components constituting the body politic of our great American Republic will signal that we are much more than one-dimensional, and in so doing, are likely to be better able to enlist support for Poland on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and in the executive and legislative branches of state government provided that we regularly and compellingly lobby all of them.
Another practical example of breaking from the externally perceived one-dimension stereotype of the Polish American Congress is vested in the exemplary work of our Eastern Pennsylvania Division, particularly as it relates to its “Buy American Made Products Campaign” and its “Polish American Social Services” program, both of which are well suited to attract the attention of municipal, state and federal level American governmental agencies. In this regard, PAC-Eastern PA is a substantive model, among others, of having one foot firmly based on the foundation of positive work for the welfare of all Americans while the other foot equally based, rests on the foundation of promoting and articulating issues of particular interest to Polish Americans and Poland.
The fact of the economy of the United States being hobbled by an extremely dangerous unfavorable balance of trade — where we import far more than we export — can also be used to educate the average American citizen that not only the outsourcing of American manufacturing overseas by corporations but also the rightful expectation of American workers for wages worthy of pursuit of the “American dream” are engaged in a symbiotically-conflicted relationship, whose solution is highly complicated.
7. WHO ARE WE? IS THERE AN EASY ANSWER TO THIS OSTENSIBLY SIMPLE QUESTION?
Consider as answers, Polish Americans, Polonians, Poles, Polish, Americans of Polish descent, Americans of Polish heritage, Americans, and because of marriage, Polish-Irish Americans, Polish-Italian Americans, Polish-Hispanic Americans, Polish-Greek Americans, Polish-French Americans, Polish-Irish-French Americans, Polish-Czech-Irish-Lithuanian Americans, and so on and so forth. Combinations are endless.
Among the first waves of Polish immigrants that began arriving in the United States in measurable recorded numbers as early as the 1830s were 235 Poles, exiled from Austria for participating in the November Uprising of 1830-1831, who landed in Baltimore. In 1839, the wife of one of those exiled Poles gave birth to a son, George Oscar Sokalski, who went on to graduate from the United States Military Academy in West Point, served in the Union Army during the Civil War, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and was deployed to Fort Laramie, Wyoming after the War where he died in 1867. Clearly, the language of Sokalski’s parents had been Polish as was his until he aspired as a child to become an officer in the United States Army by way of West Point. The relentless process of Americanization had begun in Sokalski’s case.
As a point of reference, consider the matter of generations. In the illustration that follows, I have used 25 years as a generational measure, fully realizing that some view that measure as less, others as more. However, 25 is likely the most appropriate for what is known generally as the “Old Immigration.” Consider particularly what happened once the initial measurable generational waves of Polish immigrants morphed into tsunami-like numbers from the 1880s through the “guns of August” that began World War I in 1914:
1830 – 1855 100% Polish-speaking
1855 – 1880
1880 – 1905
1905 – 1930 less than 100% Polish-speaking
1930 – 1955
1980 – 2005 less than 10% Polish-speaking (2000 US Census)
2005 – 2030
2030 – 2055
2055 – 2080 (yet unknown in a nation likely to be 50% Spanish-speaking)
Herein, I offer for your consideration the true story of Walter Zurkowsky, once a student of Business Administration at Northeastern University in Boston and a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico whose grandfather emigrated there with his family from Poland in the progressively-troubled, mid-1930s to escape cold weather by relocating to a warm climate. One day Walter came to my office and asked my secretary if he could speak to me. She informed me via intercom that he wanted to see me. Not knowing him, I routinely pulled up his academic record and found his academic progress quite satisfactory with every indication that he would graduate on schedule the following year. When he knocked on my open door, my stereotype of the typical Pole or Polish American was shattered. At six feet three with jet black, shiny hair and a slight olive complexion, he reminded me of a youthful Antonio Banderas of Madrid and Hollywood motion picture fame. As he related his life story, I asked, “Walter, what do you consider yourself to be?” Unhesitatingly, he answered (and I am certain that this wasn’t the first time):
“My nationality is Puerto Rican. My culture is Hispanic. “My ancestry is Polish.”
Just like that. A native Polish Puerto Rican whose surname ended with a ‘y’ rather than an ‘I’. Whose mother was an ethnic Puerto Rican whose family supported independence from the United States. He speaks no Polish whatsoever. I had never met a Polish Puerto Rican, especially one who said that he was proud of his Polish ancestry. I struggled to hold back tears from filling my eyes. This true story proves two inescapable points: for one, that there are always two sides to every story, and two, that the ethnic, nationality, and racial admixture at work in the United States and its territories is acting and will continue to act in a way that the Polish word Polonia might become unrecognizable in the 22nd century, unless the Walter Zurkowsky types are made to feel welcome along the lines of the old Polish song,”Jak Długo na Wawelu,” one of whose pertinent lines is “Jak długo w sercu naszym choć kropla polskiej krwi.” Half of Walter Zurkowsky’s blood was and is Polish, though he identifies his nationality as Puerto Rican. Though he is a Roman Catholic who spells his surname with a ‘y’ rather than an ‘I.’ Imagine that.
If we accept our own prognostications that Polish Americans number some 10,000,000, then the 2000 U.S. Census figures on the next page indicate that whereas 700,000 of us speak Polish as much as English in our daily lives, the reality is that 9,300,000 Polish Americans do not speak Polish. That being the case, use of the fundamental word Polonia is a word that most Polish Americans, who trace their roots to 19th century and pre-World War I immigrant ancestors, do not understand, unless they are old baseball fans who remember the Dominican-born baseball player, Luis Polonia, who played in Major League Baseball in the United States, and had been a left-fielder who made his début with the Oakland Athletics in 1987, eventually playing for the New York Yankees, California Angels, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, and Detroit Tigers as well, and ending with a lifetime batting average of .293 and 1,417 hits.
Could Luis Polonia’s ancestry be traced to a member of the ill-fated, republican-minded Legion of the Danube’s Vistula Lancers that was sent to its doom by Napoleon Bonaparte to fight rebellious African slaves in Haiti-Santo Domingo in the early 19th century? After all, Polonia in Spanish means “Poland.”
But that’s an entirely a different matter as far as we should be concerned.
Yet the implications of the question — “Who are we?” — may well become endless in the not-too-remote future. Consider, for example, the April 30, 2012 issue of TIME magazine which lists its annual “100 Most Influential People in the World,” one of whom is Freeman Hrabowski, Ph.D., age 66. For the past two decades he has served as President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which according to TIME is “one of the nation’s leading sources of Africa-Americans who get Ph.D.s in science and engineering.” Hrabowski is an African American who bears a Polish surname having its origin in the Polish word, hrabia, meaning count. Indeed, one might conclude that Freeman Hrabowski’s Polish surname underwent modification — either in Europe or in the United States — from the Polish word, hrabiowski (whose Polish definition is “należący do hrabiego, odnoszący się do hrabiego: Hrabiowski herb, tytuł. Hrabiowska korona.”) Clearly, his particular, now-American surname variant — Hrabowski — derives from the ancient Hrabiowski surname in Poland, thereby making Dr. Freeman Hrabowski an example of our American society’s relentless process of racial admixture. Can he be considered to be part of Polonia? Does he consider himself to be part of Polonia? Or perhaps a Polish African-American? Would we as a Council of National Directors consider inviting him to address us?
8. LIKELY SOCIOLOGICAL IMPEDIMENTS TO EXPANSIVE POLSKOŚĆ IN THE UNITED STATES
Career and livelihood
Civic engagement and obligations
Embarrassment about being Polish
Hispanization of American society
Inability to pronounce Polish surname correctly
Loss of ancestral faith
Loss of Polish
No fluency whatsoever in the Polish language
No understanding of Polish history
Prejudice against things Polish
Unawareness of Polish origins
Whereas we could devote many hours discussing any one of the many, but not infinite, factors noted here, let us consider just one. Surnames. To the credit of Polish immigrants who treasured the Polish spelling of their surnames, the unanticipated effect would be that Americans would pronounce them in an American fashion where, for example, Jankowski would be pronounced JAN (as in the English word January) – COW (as in the English word for the bovine that produces milk) – SKI. Others “misspelling” the same name as Yankovsky or Yankoffski more closely pronounce Jankowski in keeping with its Polish origin. That being the case, how do we expect that non-Polish speaking children 100 years or more removed from their immigrant ancestors will ever learn to pronounce Jarzembowski, Ustaszewski, Nagórski, Synowiecki, Majewski, Modzelewski, Krzyżewski, Szczepanek, etc., correctly?
Some may say that the solution to mispronunciation of Polish surnames may be solved simply by informing the media of the error of its way and then proceeding to pronounce the particular word as it should be pronounced in Polish. I have often heard that to be proposed as a solution. That would be fine if the media outlets in the United States were composed of one person. How to do it when tens of thousands or more radio, TV, internet, newspaper, weekly magazine, etc. personalities are involved? Until we Polish Americans can figure it out, we shouldn’t cringe when we hear Polish surnames involving as integral aspects BOW, CHOW, COW, DOW, KOW, LOW, MOW, NOW, POW, SOW, TOW, WOW, and ZOW — each pronounced in the style of American English speakers. In an ideal world, all Americans would pronounce our surnames correctly. Short of that, how do we deal with the matter of mispronunciation? Do we ignore it? Do we grin and bear it? Is it a problem worthy of solution? After all, our surnames are basic to our being.
Apart from the anecdotal stories of Luis Polonia and Freeman Hrabowski, given the fact that the typical non-Polish speaking Polish American does not possess a Polish-English dictionary, if a curious Polish American, adult or child, would be motivated to check our culture-defining word “Polonia” in an English language dictionary, what would he or she find? To answer that question, please note the following:
On Thursday, August 11, 2011, I visited the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in South Nashua, New Hampshire to review the latest English language dictionaries on sale. Of the 6 that I reviewed, only 2 included and defined Polonia, but 1 of the 2 was inaccurately defined. Therefore, if curious American schoolchildren of Polish descent, for example, have only a 16.7% chance of learning what the word Polonia means, and their parents don’t understand Polish, what does this portend for the future?
As for the six dictionaries on sale, here is a summary of my findings:
1. The Merriam-Webster’s Desk Dictionary, 1995 edition, did not include and define the word Polonia. However, it defined the word polonium as being a radioactive metallic element whose name derives from Polonia, the medieval Latin name for Poland.
2. The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “New Edition,” of 2005 in large paperback format did not include and define the word Polonia, but did include polonium’s origin as a word from the medieval Latin word for Poland (Polonia).
3. The Oxford College Dictionary of 2007 included on its book jacket’s front page the phrase “today’s most accurate and accessible college dictionary” but did not include and define Polonia, except to the extent that it served as the source of the word polonium. However, it included a definition of the Polish word, Polska, as meaning Poland.
4. The Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition of 2009, inaccurately defined Polonia solely as being “the Polish American community in a given place outside of Poland.” The word “American” should have been left out of the definition. However, it also identified the medieval Latin word for Poland as the source for the word polonium.
5. The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd Edition of 2010, did not include and define Polonia, but yet did identify the source of the word polonium and as well define the Polish word Polska as meaning Poland.
6. The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition of 2011, correctly identified Polonia as “people of Polish descent living outside of Poland.” It also included the origin of the word polonium.
A few long-serving members of the CND might recall that in the early 1990s as it related to this very same problem, I recommended as a new CND member that the PAC encourage boycotting those English-language dictionary publishers that failed to include a definition of the Polish word Polonia even though the word might also be familiar to those who are fluent in Italian, Spanish and Latin insofar as it means Poland in those three languages. Even today, in light of the above, a boycott seems appropriate.
8. YET OTHER INDICATIONS OF THE LESSENING OF TRADITIONAL LANGUAGE-BASED CONSCIOUSNESS OF POLSKOŚĆ IN THE UNITED STATES
The undeniable fact that the vast majority of Americans of Polish descent neither understand nor speak the Polish language is reflected in the fact of the nearly-corresponding progressive reduction in the number of Polish Roman Catholic parishes in the United States from the time when they reached their zenith of 600. Today, that number has been reduced by two-thirds and the downward progression continues relentlessly. The 600-declining-to-200 Polish Roman Catholic parishes in the United States was related to me in person in Pennsylvania by Archbishop Szczepan Wesoły of Rome, who had been John Paul II’s special envoy to English-speaking nations around the world for measuring the strength and future prospects of Polish parishes worldwide. In August 2011, both he and I were featured speakers (he very much more so than I) for the Second National Polish Apostolate Youth Leadership Conference that was sponsored by the National Polish Apostolate Committee of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. The Conference took place August 17-20 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. I had been invited to speak (why me, I will never understand) specifically on the matter of preserving Polish culture and tradition in the face of the likely-coming eventual disappearance of all Polish Roman Catholic parishes in the United States. According to Archbishop Wesoły, if Americans of European ancestry no longer are fluent in the Polish language, or for that matter in the Italian, French, Lithuanian and German languages, for example, why should the Church labor to identify, train and deploy priests fluent in any of those particular non-English languages who have no reason to use it because their congregants no longer speak or understand it?
Reverend Paul Sobiechowski, the newly-installed Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church, New England Diocese, whose church is located in Manchester, New Hampshire, who also has become a member of PAC-New Hampshire as related earlier in this report, had been born in Detroit, been a Pastor of parishes both in Chicago and in Davie, Florida. He speaks several languages fluently, one of which is Spanish. In Florida, some of his parishioners were Hispanic as he has related to me. In this day and age, not only out of the commendable Christian sense of universal brotherhood but also from the very practical consideration of the economics necessary for sustaining a parish, a pastor must welcome all congregants who are inclined to join the parish, regardless of their racial, ethnic or national origins.
In effect, all of the foregoing described throughout this report illustrates that times have changed significantly and will continue to change along the same and ever newer, not yet fully-defined lines as well, with regard to what it means to be an American of Polish descent, Polish American or whatever we choose to define ourselves as. Add to that the reduction in immigration from Poland to the United States, which further reduces the number of Polish Americans who use the Polish language in their everyday lives, reveals an unmistakable “writing on the wall” that cannot be ignored.
Witness the facts.
Whereas not long ago Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish in South Boston had been used by the Honorary Consul for New England as the site of many years for voting in Poland’s elections, it no longer can meet the requirement of attracting at least 200 Polish citizens to justify holding elections there, this in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where the 2000 U.S. Census reported 323,310 Polish Americans.
9. DOES CONSIDERATION OF FACTORS THAT UNITE THE POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS PERMANENTLY OUTWEIGH CONSIDERATION OF WHAT MIGHT DIVIDE US OCCASIONALLY?
This is not an easy question to answer. Yet, for me at least, defining the answer relates to part 2 of this report, precisely as it concerns choosing to be a dynamic rather than static national Polish American organization. To me the choice is simple because being anything less than dynamic is a waste of my time and money. Moreover, is it better to be dynamic in a dynamic organization than to be dynamic in a static organization? Hopefully, you know by now what my choice in the matter is. Forget being static.
Despite the problem of what has produced divisiveness in the Polish American Congress in recent times, what looms as a fundamentally much greater problem for us in the United States is the matter of the survival and vitality of our “Polishness” (Polskość) because without its survival and vitality, there will be nothing to compel a Pacific-focused, Latin American-focused, and Islamic world-focused United States government from losing sight of our nation’s ancestral European homeland — of which Poland was and is an integral part — from which it derived its origins. In short, will American Polonia, defined in modern terms, survive if its broader European homeland is relegated to secondary importance, and doesn’t survive, Poland included, along with the cultural traditions that have constituted Western civilization?
The above work — “Koniec Polonii w Ameryce?” (The End of Polonia in America?) — a 1996 publication of Jagiellonian University and co-copyrighted with its author, Professor Emil Orzechowski, conveniently raises the same question asked one way or another throughout this report. The answer to that question remains to be seen, and will depend to a great degree on our ability to adjust to modern changing times — in a process that never ends, de rerum natura — because that is the nature of things to constantly evolve not only now but also into the distant, unknown future. That process, intelligently understood and exploited, will likely sustain our venerable organization, for one, as an energetic, dynamic, focused, purposeful, unified and disciplined entity, provided we work for that objective. That’s how we will be of service to our American homeland, the United States of America, and by extension, to Poland, our ancestral homeland, no matter how we define ourselves to be. Of equal importance will be how we relate to the likes of Walter Zurkowsky and Freeman Hrabowski in our ever-changing world.
In the matter of working for the interests and welfare of our American homeland, how do we respond to the likes of a bill in our United States Congress — H. Con Res. 8 — that would make it ultimately make it illegal to declare English as the official de jure language of the United States? In summary, it:
“Declares that the U.S. government should pursue English-plus policies that: (1) encourage all residents of this country to become fully proficient in English by expanding educational opportunities and access to information technologies; (2) conserve and develop the nation’s linguistic resources by encouraging all residents of this country to learn or maintain skills in languages other than English; (3) assist Native Americans, Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians, and other peoples indigenous to the United States in their efforts to prevent the extinction of their languages and cultures; (4) continue to provide services in languages other than English as needed to facilitate access to essential functions of government, promote public health and safety, ensure due process, promote equal educational opportunity, and protect fundamental rights; and (5) recognize the importance of multilingualism to vital American interests and individual rights, and oppose English-only measures and other restrictionist language measures.”
Are we Polish Americans to remain silent during this persistent and clever attack on the English language? How can we stand united as a nation if the anti-assimilation proponents succeed in Congressional passage of a law making it illegal to declare English as the official language of the United States statutorily?
Whereas the United States fought a Civil War from 1861 to 1865 that exacted the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans killed in action in order to preserve the Union from the Confederacy’s slavery-based secessionists, are Americans today willing to struggle for preserving the Union from destruction by our nation’s anti-assimilationist proponents who seek to make English no more important in a legal sense than the other 311 languages spoken in the United States?
The universal implication of the expression, “United we stand, divided we fall,” constitutes an appropriate end to this report.