PILLARS OF THE 
POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS

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The Polish National Alliance

The Polish National Alliance of the United States of North America [Zwiazek Narodowy Polski w Stanach Zjednoczonych Ameryki Polnocnej] is the largest of all ethnically-based fraternal insurance societies. At present the Alliance includes more than 250,000 members who belong to nearly 1,000 lodges in thirty-six states. The PNA counts assets of more then $275 million and insurance in force surpassing $630 million. (In 1880, when the Alliance became the first Polish fraternal to offer its members a life insurance benefit, it counted 295 members and assets amounting to $640!)

PNA LogoThe Polish National Alliance was formed in 1880 in Philadelphia and Chicago by emigre patriots who sought to unite the then still small Polish migration behind the causes of Poland's independence and the immigrant's advancement into the mainstream of American life. In the years after, the Alliance would play a major role in leading the rapidly growing Polish community, today 10 million strong, in support of Poland's freedom-both in the First and the Second World War eras and most recently in the years after 1980. The PNA's efforts are thus well reflected by its historic motto, "W jednosci sila, w zgodzie potega" [In unity there is strength, in harmony power].

Among the PNA's current activities of particular note are its sponsorship of two publications, its twice-monthly organ issued to its members, ZGODA (Harmony) and its Chicago-orientated Polish language daily, "Dziennik Zwiazkowy" [called the Polish Daily News in English]. The Alliance also owns a radio station WPNA, which serves the vast Chicago Polonia. In the educational field, the PNA offers more than $100,000 annually in college scholarships to qualified members. Indeed, from 1912 to 1987 the PNA operated its own institution of higher education, Alliance College, in the state of Pennsylvania. Visitors to Washington, D.C., Chicago, Cleveland and Milwaukee may note that great monuments to Thaddeus Kosciuszko in those cities are the products of PNA fund raising efforts that date back to the beginning of this century.

These statues epitomize for countless Polish Americans their abiding faith in the democracy they have enjoyed in this country and wish for their ancient homeland, Poland.

During the fifty years of the Polish American Congress, three men have held the Presidency of the PAC. All, Charles Rozmarek, Aloysius Mazewski and Edward Moskal, have at the same time been Presidents of the Polish National Alliance, eloquent testimony to the PNA's central role in the life and achievements of the PAC since 1944.

The Polish Women's Alliance

The Polish Women's Alliance (Zwiazek Polek) is the third largest of all Polish American fraternal insurance societies and dates back to 1898, when it was conceived in Chicago. Today the PWA in fact enrolls men into its ranks and counts more than 60,000 members. Licensed to operate in seventeen states, the PWA possess a net worth in excess of $42 million and provides insurance coverage of more than $79 million to its members.

PWAA logoThe PWA operates its own monthly publication for the benefit of its members, Glos Polek [The Polish Women's Voice]. Its home office in the Chicago suburban community of Park Ridge, Illinois is filled with many pieces of Polish art and merits a serious visit.

The Polish Women's Alliance dates' its founding to a time when a growing number of patriotically motivated female activists had grown impatient with the reluctance of the existing Polonia organizations to grant them and their sisters, mothers and daughters full membership equality. At last they, with support from like-mined men in Polonia, acted to create a new organization all their own, one directed by women and concerned with causes of particular concern to women. These involved the education of children in their heritage and language and humanitarian service on Poland's behalf. The historic motto of the PWA speaks to their principles--"Ideal kobiety to sila Narodu" [The ideals of women are the strength of a nation].

Given their patriotic inclinations on behalf of Poland's freedom, the PWA and its leaders understandably developed close ties with similarly-minded Polonia fraternals, in particular the Polish National Alliance. In both World Wars, the PWA took a leading role in collecting funds and materials for Polish victims of the conflicts. Indeed, the PWA continued its special interest in Poland's needs after World War II, especially in its involvement in the work of the Rada Polonii relief organization, the Polish American Congress Charitable Foundation and several Roman Catholic charities.

Two civic actions in the United States have benefited from the leadership of PWA activists operating through the Polish American Congress in recent years. These have included the successful efforts to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the renovation of the Statue of Liberty and more recently for the development of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York's harbor.

From the founding of the Polish American Congress in 1944, the President of the Polish Women's Alliance have traditionally held the office of PAC vice president. Individuals from Honorata Wolowska, through Adele Lagodzinska, Helen Zielinski and Helen Wojcik, PWA's former Presidents, as well as its current President, Virginia Sikora, have all played inspired roles in representing the Polish Women's Alliance's highest ideals by their service to the cause of the Congress.

The Polish Falcons of America

The Polish Falcons of America [Sokolstwo Polskie w Ameryce] dates its origins to the creation of its first local group, or "nest" in Chicago in 1887, its aim that of providing young persons and children with regular opportunities to engage in physical fitness and gymnastic exercises and to inculcate in them a deepened pride in their heritage. In 1894 an "Alliance" of Polish Falcons nests was established that eventually grew into a national movement. In 1928 the Falcons' fraternalism assumed its present shape when the organizations adopted its own insurance program.

Polish Falcons logoOver the years the PFA has supplemented its original physical fitness activities with baseball, basketball, soccer, swimming, bowling, golf and scouting programs. Other freefalls have adopted similar programs but in the Falcons' tradition athletics hold a special place of esteem. Thus every four years a national athletic meet [zlot] is held in conjunction with the Fraternal's convention. In this fashion the PFA remains true to its historic motto, "W zdrowym ciele zdrowy duch!" [A healthy spirit in a healthy body].

The Falcons' story is distinctive in that the PFA is the one Polish American fraternal to owe its origins directly to Soko1 organizations already active in Poland by the 1860s. Interestingly, in 1994 the American branch of the movement is busy working with Falcons nests in Poland, which have been reborn after nearly five decades of repression.

In the World War I era, the Falcons transformed their traditional physical fitness programs into paramilitary training activities, anticipating the creation of an army of Polish Americans traveling to Europe to fight on behalf of the liberation of the homeland. In fact approximately 9,000 Falcons saw military service in the War both in France and later in Poland itself.

Today the Pittsburgh-based PFA is a dynamic fraternal. Licensed to operate in eight states, the Falcons count nearly 30,000 members, $23 million in assets and $46 million in insurance in force. The Fraternal maintains its own twice-monthly publication, fittingly named Sokol Polski [The Polish Falcon] as well as impressive museum detailing its rich and many-faceted story.

In 1944 the Polish Falcons of America, led by their legendary President, Dr. Teofil Starzynski, played an important role in the founding of the Polish American Congress. Under Starzynski's successors the PFA has remained involved in all aspects of PAC life. Thus among those Falcons who have served as the Congress' national secretary have been Harriet Bielanski of Chicago, Bernard Rogalski of Jackson, Michigan (PFA President between 1980 and 1988) and the PFA's former Presidents, Lawrence Wujcikowski of Buffalo and Wallace Zielinski.

 

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