Letter to the Editor: The Eastern European Cultural Society
As we enter a new year 2019, I would like to recap the successful efforts of the Eastern European Cultural Society and the disappointments of 2018.
Finally I had time to write a chronology of our 2017 trip; most area papers published the 14 part series. We received many good comments for our efforts. Copies were sent to the public library in Lublin, Poland. They always want to know what we are doing up here in Wisconsin and set up the American corner at the Library in 2009. We received a very nice, cordial response from the White House written on January 4 to letters sent in 2015, 2016, and 2017. I am hopeful the lingering problems carried over from the previous administration will eventually be resolved.
In February 2018 I received an invite from Vice Consul, Piotr Semeniuk to a meeting at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Chicago with the governor of Lublin, Poland and Polish business leaders. I was unable to attend due to health concerns.
On March 3 several members participated in the Taylor County Cultural Fair held at the Medford High School with an exhibit on Lublin, Wisconsin and Poland.
In May I received an invitation from the Consul General, the Honorable Mariusz Gibjorczyk, to attend a meeting with President Andrzej Duda and Poland’s first lady in Chicago. I wanted to attend but due to more health concerns was unable to make the trip. The former Emily (Zaborowski) Zdrojkowska from Lublin Wisconsin, who passed away at just shy of 102 years old a few years ago, had Duda relatives in her family tree.
Once again we were busy with events for Lublin Days in July honoring 100 years of the ending of WWI, remembering the brave service members of that era, and 100 years of the formation of the second Republic of Poland. An exhibit honoring Polish women of independence was set up at the Roosevelt Town Hall. Many events took place throughout the weekend. Again, Polish dignitaries were present, as were Polish singers and dancers. We had a Polka mass on Sunday morning and a traditional breaking of bread ceremony with a special large, round loaf of bread and a harvest wreath that was flown in from Poland overnight. The president of the Lublin Club of Chicago, Stanislaw Kowalik; Polish American Congress of Chicago chapter president, Stasia Rawicka; Chicago parade Grand Marshal, Tomasz Startek; the Polish Heritage Club of Necedah; Polish Clubs of Chicago president, Jan Kopec and wife, Rzepicha; Theater president Alina Szymczyk and group; Thorp, Owen, Lublin, Gilman, Boyd and Stanley veterans; former State Senator Dave Zien; State Senator Jerry Petrowski; our district’s representative, Jimmy Edming; and Kenneth Skowronski, Representative of the 82nd Assembly District of Milwaukee; Fr. Bob; and numerous citizens were on hand for the planting of our white oak freedom tree. Besides the Lublin Legion post 547 there were veterans from Thorp, Owen, Gilman, Boyd and Stanley for the Bandor memorial. Earlier in the year we had sent an official letter to Governor Scott Walker inviting him to the annual Lublin Days festivities but his scheduler, Matthias Censky, and other advisors did not think Lublin was important enough to be graced with the Governor’s presence. This was the third invite sent in as many years to Governor Walker. Just as in my response to the no show in 2015 for our centennial when I wrote to Alicia Bork and Alison Thompson that the road to the presidency runs through Lublin, I wrote to Mr.Censky that the road to the governor’s mansion runs through Lublin and that if we were not valuable enough for an unannounced short visit we would have a new governor. I suggested that Mr. Censky and advisors re read my letter following the election November 6, 2018 concerning my prognostication. I truly believe that had Scott Walker come to Lublin he would still be our governor!
In August I received notification of an invitation to participate in the Polish American Congress and Business Conference hosted by Governor Przemyslaw Czarnek of the Lublin, Poland Voivodship. I missed the informational gathering in September in Milwaukee due to an emergency but still managed to prepare for the conference and the flight that was departing in the evening on October 9. Accompanying me was Mrs. Regina Syryczuk, our EECS historian. We left Chicago on our nine hour transcontinental flight, arriving in Warsaw, Poland on the 10th. The conference was scheduled October 11-14. The conference schedule was full of many topics. Of particular interest to Mrs. Syryczuk was the health care forum. Regina participates on the Taylor County Health Care Advisory Board. Lublin, Poland has a world-renowned medical university and research hospital where many doctors practicing in Wisconsin have studied. Lublin, Poland’s Co Med was one of the conference sponsors. There were numerous business and investment presentations with national heads of state, intellectuals, developers, entrepreneurs, educators, and financial sector representatives. There were specific events coordinated and day trips planned visiting state of the art meat, food processing, manufacturing, and dairy facilities, etc. In all there were about 30 business people just from Wisconsin and Illinois at the conference. There were study groups and hands-on workshops in different fields at the universities.
A ceremony was held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin honoring 100 years of Polish independence following WWI and the Blue Army comprised of Polish descendants from throughout the world who aided in the defeat of the Bolshevik socialist communists. After the speeches, at the wreath laying ceremony, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki; U.S. Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher, assisted by John Armstrong; Lublin Governor Przemyslaw Czarnek; Wisconsin Senator Daniel Feyen; and Representatives Peter Barca, Cody Horlacher and Kenneth Skowronski were honored with the laying of the wreath, culminating with a 21-gun salute ending the ceremony. The following day, at the Governors Center, a ceremony was held unveiling two bronze plaques honoring Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan for their efforts in ensuring the survival of the second Republic of Poland. A large crowd was on hand, with the finest detachments of Polish military present for the singing and playing of the Polish and American national anthems. Tours were conducted to visit business establishments and operations at Lukow, Biala Podlaska, Radzyn Podlaski, Lubartow, Miedzyrzec, Chelm and at Zamosc for a wreath laying ceremony honoring the soldiers and people who fought against annihilation by their good neighbors, Germany and Russia, during the wars. I missed some of the activities as I had other meetings scheduled. On those occasions Mrs. Syryczuk represented the EECS on my behalf. One that I wanted to see but missed was the Pszczolka Candy Factory. My sweet tooth was in mourning, as I heard there were lots of samples given out! There was a tour of the Majdanek concentration camp and the laying of flowers respecting the victims who died there, which we both attended. There was a free day tour to Kazimierz Dolny, an artist’s paradise along the Vistula River. Returning to Lublin we made a special stop at the Naleczow health spa’s world renowned Ice cream parlor and confectionery. We indulged in among the best treats in Europe. There we could unwind and contemplate all we had learned and experienced before returning back to the U.S. on the 17th, having spent two extra days in this both ancient and modern city. Prior to departure from Warsaw we were informed to stop at the Embassy in Chicago to take part at a Kosciuszko foundation gathering for a presentation by the president from New York. We had to rush from the airport to make the meeting with a $50.00 cab ride! Returning to the North Country on the 18th we made a stop at Necedah on the way home where our friends Zofia and Wanda treated us to an exquisite lunch at JB Polish Deli before continuing on to Lublin escorted by Joe Tarka from Elgin, Ilinois. Jet lag recovery took a couple weeks.
We were invited to the Polish Heritage and Culture Center at JB Deli in Necedah in November. Several members went to participate in honoring the100-year independence of the second Republic. PHD Mr. Tadeusz Jaroszczyk, from Baraboo, presented a very concise outline of Polish history. Members of the Polish choir from Chicago did poetic readings and patriotic songs. It was at the end of the evening that the Heritage Club president, Zofia Puszynski, invited us for a traditional Polish Wigilija (Christmas Eve) celebration in early December, which was well attended. The food, baked goods, and confectionery creations were simply divine!
Via electronic consultations in December it was decided that we should drop our SCI membership, as the costs are ever increasing and no benefits were being derived from our 18-year membership. All the programs we participated in had inherent costs and we had been running our own cultural outreach programs such as our citizen ambassadors’ exchange since 2000.
As I have agreed to postpone my stepping down as EECS president until August of this year, after 19 years I am sad to say it is time. I would like to thank all our loyal, committed officers, members, and supporters through the years from throughout this great nation. It was for you that I strove to carry on during difficult times to keep the memory of our culture and heritage alive in respect of all the Slavic culture settlers who helped in building this great country, Wisconsin, and our nation’s first settlement at Jamestown, Virginia in 1609. What hardy souls they were, steadfastly following their dreams and worshiping their creator. To think that so many people today do not value the sacrifices they made, the freedom they gave us, and the work ethic they strove to teach others through perseverance. My, how times have changed! Today some would rather kneel in protest, stomp on our flag, and shout obscenities rather than praise God! They will riot, steal and deface public and private property without impunity rather than work!
Finally, I was asked in October 2018 to lead one final EECS Heritage tour to Poland. It is scheduled to depart July 28. It will be 12 nights and 13 days with an interesting itinerary. Those wishing to participate need to contact me before February 28 and need to have passports valid through March 2020.
President, Eastern European Cultural Society