To History Index
MILESTONES IN THE STORY OF
THE POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS
The First Fifty Years:
1944 - 1994
Part 2: 1981 - 1994
In June, President Mazewski attends the funeral of
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski in Warsaw and later meets with the leader of
Solidarity, Lech Walesa.
Following Mazewski's return to America, PAC sponsored efforts begin
to raise money and materials to meet the needs of Poles suffering in an
economy near collapse. The PAC Charitable Foundation initiates its work
for Poland by delivering medical goods in short supply to Poland.
Eventually, a range of goods from infant foods and powdered milk to
clothing, shoes, books, farm equipment and seeds will be shipped to
Poland. By the early 1990s, more than $200 million in materials have
been distributed in Poland in cooperation with Polish Catholic Church
In the drive, many American businesses, foundations and charitable
agencies work with the PACCF and make the effort the greatest Polonia
action in history on Poland's behalf.
First Polish American Congress airlift of medical supplies to Poland (1981)
President Ronald Reagan meets with the Polish American Congress leaders in
the White House to discuss the developments in Poland (1981).
In December, after Poland's military suppresses Solidarity and
proclaims martial law, the PAC backs American sanctions against the
U.S.S.R. and the Polish state. Over the next seven years, Polish regime
efforts to regain a measure of control over a country in economic and
political turmoil repeatedly fail. Along with the Reagan Administration
in Washington, the PAC issues a series of appeals to bring about the
establishment of a new system of government based on popular consent.
These dovetail with the policies of a new Soviet leader, Mikhail
Gorbachev, who in 1989 will accept the loss of his government's hegemony
over Eastern Europe as the price of the reforms he seeks to implement in
A container ready for Poland, part of the "Solidarity Express"
train effort sponsored by PAC, in August 1982. In all, 427 tons of goods
are shipped to Poland in this effort.
1982: Mrs. Myra Lenard is appointed Director of the Washington, D.C.
Office of the Polish American Congress. Her predecessors in this key
post since 1944 have been: Karol Burke, Col. Casimir Lenard, Magda
Ratajska, Dana de Fredberg, Attorney Leonard Walentynowicz, and Zdzislaw
Serving in key responsibilities over the years in the Chicago office
of the PAC and its Charitable Foundation have been Frank Dziob, Jerzy
Przyluski, Eugene Rosypal and Pamela Komorowski.
The PAC in cooperation with Mr. Witold Plonski of Brooklyn wins
substantial funding from the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities
for its proposal to create a national "Consortium for Humanities
and Arts Programming". Over the next five years, Plonski's Polish
American Committee in the Humanities sponsors several hundred lectures,
conferences and cultural exhibitions around the United States dealing
with the Polish and Polish American experience. This is the most
successful effort in history to enlighten the American public and Polish
Americans about Poland's past, its culture and political experience.
1984: President Reagan meets with PAC leaders at the White House on
the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.
There he reaffirms his administration's support for the policy known
as the National Endowment for Democracy and endorses the creation of a
Polish agricultural foundation proposed by the Catholic Church.
1985: President Mazewski heads a major PAC protest in New York when
Polish regime leaders attend the 40th anniversary of the United Nations.
1987: The PAC wins Reagan administration termination of economic
sanctions against Poland, a position in accord with the thinking of Pope
John Paul II and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.
Edward Dykla, Helen Zielinski
and Aloysius Mazewski meet in Rome with Pope John Paul II, November 2,
President Ronald Reagan and a PAC delegation headed by President
Mazewski at the White House as the U.S. announces an end to economic
sanctions against Poland, February 19, 1987. Also visible: Congressman
Daniel Rostenkowski (to Reagan's right) and Chief U. S. Strategic Arms
negotiator, Gen. Edward Rowny (looking on behind Reagan).
1988 Edward Moskal, newly elected President of the Polish National
Alliance, succeeds Aloysius Mazewski as President of the Polish American
Congress following Mazewski's death.
1989 Following historic "round table" talks beginning in
January between Polish communist leaders, representatives of the
Solidarity movement and the Roman Catholic Church about the country's
future, special elections to Poland's Parliament are held in June.
these, Solidarity gains a sweeping and complete victory. In August,
Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki is named Prime Minister, making
Poland the first Eastern European country to have a non-communist
government in more than forty years. Mazowiecki and his top economic
advisor Leszek Balcerowicz move aggressively to make radical economic
reforms to deal with the country's economic crisis and to lay the
foundations of a democratic system.
In April, President George Bush delivers a major speech in Hamtramck,
Michigan where he offers a new and supportive U.S. policy toward Poland,
anticipating the approval of the round table accords. President Moskal
is in attendance.
|In October, President Moskal heads a PAC delegation to Poland that
includes Vice Presidents Helen Wojcik, Roman Pucinski and Treasurer
Edward Dykla in order to assert Polish American support for the
objectives of the new Solidarity government. In November, the PAC greets
Lech Walesa in Chicago where he receives a hero's welcome. (In early
1990 Prime Minister Mazowiecki is enthusiastically received in America
by the PAC).
Lech Walesa and President Moskal in Chicago, November, 1989.
The PAC goes on record in lobbying for economic assistance proposals
to Poland advanced by President Bush and the U.S. Congress. The first
result of these efforts is passage of the "Support East European
Democracy Act of 1989" which commits more than $800 million to help
Poland in its transformation into a democratically governed society with
a free market based economy.
By the end of 1989, Soviet-sponsored Eastern European regimes in
Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia have collapsed and
Romania has undergone a bloody overthrow of its Stalinist dictatorship.
In the Soviet Union the Baltic states are moving toward full
President Bush meets for a White House working session with President
Moskal, March 1990.
|1990: President Moskal successfully lobbies President Bush for full
U.S. support to international confirmation of the permanence of Poland's
western border with the reunited Germany, something that is crucial to
the future stability of central Europe. On this issue as in numerous
instances during the previous year, the PAC efforts win expressions of
appreciation from the Polish government.
|The PAC under the leadership of Vice President Wojcik plays an
important role in raising nearly $600,000 to restore this significant
institution. (In the mid-1980s, her predecessor Helen Zielinska chaired
a similarly successful PAC drive to raise funds for the restoration of
the Statue of Liberty.)
Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki is greeted by President Moskal, March
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum opens to the public (September).
1991: The disintegration of the Soviet Union follows upon a failed
last-ditch attempt in August by old guard Communist leaders to reverse
Gorbachev's reforms, although Gorbachev himself is soon swept aside by
Russia's elected President, Boris Yeltsin. Poland, the vast Solidarity
movement, and the Roman Catholic Church all played major roles in
helping bring about this incredible international development. In the
U.S., the Polish American Congress was ever faithful to the cause of a
Poland restored to full freedom and sovereignty and therefore played its
own part in the end of Soviet communism. At the same time, PAC concerns
over Poland were always founded on its members' belief that a strong,
free and independent Poland friendly to America was and remains
essential to peace in Europe.
1992: The PAC plays a leading role in the activities of an historic
congress of Poles from more than fifty countries (including the states
of the former Soviet Union) that takes place in Krakow, Poland under the
auspices of the Wspolnota Polska association. The congress is among
other things, a great family reunion occurring in a Poland at last free
and independent. President Lech Walesa, Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka
and Cardinal Jozef Glemp are among the Polish dignitaries who address
An "American Agenda" is unanimously approved by the
delegates to the eleventh national PAC convention in Washington in
October. Accordingly, the Congress commits itself to giving renewed and
vigorous attention to building broad knowledge and respect for Poland's
history and culture in this country and the advancement of worthy Polish
American nominees to every level of government responsibility in
America. The task before the PAC is to put this agenda into effect.
New national officers include National Executive Director Leszek
Kuczynski and Vice President Zbigniew Kruszewski.
"Round table" of the East and Central European
organizations in the U.S., Milwaukee, WI., January, 1994.
1994: President Moskal, Vice President Wojcik, Treasurer Dykla and a
delegation of Polish American Congress leaders play key roles in two
meetings of Americans of Polish, Czech, Hungarian and Slovak heritage
that are held with the top leaders of the United States government
including President Bill Clinton and Vice President Albert Gore. The
meetings held in Milwaukee and in Washington, D.C. are themselves the
direct result of a massive and unprecedented PAC campaign aimed at
mobilizing Polish Americans and their friends to pressure the
Administration to back NATO membership for Poland, the Czech Republic,
Hungary and Slovakia. More than 100,000 letters and post-cards and
countless thousands of telephone calls and telegrams deluge the White
House in an unprecedented display of PAC strength and resolve.
In Milwaukee and Washington, Moskal and his colleagues present strong
arguments in favor of NATO membership for the four new East Central
European democracies. In neither discussion is the Administration
successful in justifying the logic of its opposition to NATO membership
for the four East Central European democracies in favor of its
"Partnership for Peace" proposal.
Charitable donation from the PNA members through the PAC Charitable
Foundation, for the benefit of the handicapped children center of Lomza.
In June 9993 President Lech Walesa awarded PAC President Edward Moskal
the Commander's Cross with Star of Merit, acknowledging the long efforts
of the PAC for Poland's causes.
Fifty years after its birth, as the PAC prepares to gather once more
in Buffalo to celebrate the Congress' golden anniversary, some facts are
clear--through all these often very difficult years the Polish American
Congress has remained faithful to its founding principles and has seen
those ideals triumph, for the good of Poland and the United States.
by Donald E. Pienkos