The Polish American Congress celebrated its 75th anniversary during the annual PAC Council of National Directors Meeting held in Chicago, November 14-15, 2019.
Founded in May 1944 in Buffalo, New York, the Polish American Congress has been the leading umbrella organization for Polish Americans. Throughout its successful history, the PAC has advocated and fought for a free Poland.
Presiding over this historic meeting and welcoming National Directors was Frank Spula, PAC President.
Besides general organizational business on Thursday, several speakers gave presentations. John Cebrowski reviewed the progress being made at the Polish Heritage Center USA in Panna Maria, Texas. Cebrowski explained that the $14M project is nearly 60% completed with the interior now being finished. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor Emeritus Donald Pienkos gave a spirited speech on the important involvement of the Polish American Congress in securing Poland’s admission into NATO in 1999. Pienkos cited this event as the Polish American Congress most signature accomplishment in its 75 years. Purdue University North Central Professor James Pula provided important historical facts of Poles in 1608 Jamestown, Virginia. Effectively using PowerPoint, Pula cited research highlighting factual information on contributions of Poles in this early settlement in the New World. Finally, Dr. Joanna Wojdon, Associate Professor of History at the University of Wroclaw, Poland, gave insights from her book entitled, “White and Red Umbrella: The Polish American Congress in the Cold War Era, 1944-1988.” Wojdon discussed the internal and external factors that influenced the Congress during this important 20th century period.
Over 180 guests attended the Thursday evening banquet. The Master of Ceremonies was Jacek Niemczyk, General Manager of the WPNA 103.1 FM & 1490 AM Radio Stations. Special greetings were given by several dignitaries including The Honorable Piotr Janicki, Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago; Teresa Berezowski, President, World Polonia Council; and Hanna Galazka, Vice Chairman, “Wspolnota Polska” National Council. The keynote address was provided by Major General Michael Zerbonia, the Assistant Adjutant General-Army, Illinois National Guard.
Special thanks go to Mary Anselmo, PAC Vice President for Financial Development; Micheline Jaminski, PAC Treasurer; and Klara Wisniewska, PAC National Office Administrator, for their outstanding work in planning this special event. Also, the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America deserves recognition for the printing of the beautiful souvenir banquet program book.
Friday’s session included an extensive review of a recent electronic survey sent to PAC members. Facilitating the discussion were Tim Kuzma, PAC Secretary, and Mark Pienkos, PAC Vice President for Public Relations. Conclusions from the survey’s results were: 1) Revise the PAC Mission Statement; 2) Improve communications; and 3) Engage all State Divisions and PAC members, which is necessary to move the organization forward. Committees will be created to tackle these issues. Rick Pierchalski, PAC Vice President, reported on the subcommittee’s work he chaired regarding the PAC National Office in Washington, D.C. The Council of National Directors voted to maintain an office in our nation’s Capital. Orchard Lake Schools Chancellor, Very Reverend Miroslaw Krol, gave a spirited report on the progress being made at the seminary. Chancellor Krol spoke optimistically about the future of Orchard Lake Schools regarding vocations to the priesthood and facilities improvements. His remarks were warmly and enthusiastically received.
Finally, the next meeting of the Polish American Congress will be held in Washington, D.C. in May 2020.
(Throughout its 75 years, the PAC provided much humanitarian aid, particularly during the communist era. Following the historic visit of Pope St. John Paul II in 1979, and the advent of the Solidarity Movement in 1980, the PAC accelerated its efforts to support a free Poland. Free elections were first held in 1989. The PAC was at the forefront to include Poland’s admission into NATO in 1999. Long-sought admission into the Visa Waiver Program by Poland was achieved in 2019. These are just a few of the highlights celebrated during the 75th anniversary meeting.)
Dr. Mark Pienkos
PAC National Vice President for Public Relations