Archive for the ‘Forum’ Category

Professor Maciuszko and General Kościuszko

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

September 28, 2009 marked the 70th anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet Friendship and Bounty Treaty also known as the second Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.  On that day David Barnett presented an extensive interview with Prof.  Jerzy Maciuszko in a radio program entitled ‘Around Noon’ on WCPN 90.3 FM.  As a soldier of the 50th Infantry Brigade of the Polish Army, Jerzy Maciuszko was one of the first who stood up against the invading Nazi army in the early days of September   1939.  At the outset of the war, his platoon came under intense German fire and suffered heavy losses.  Only a small number of the Polish soldiers survived. He was among the lucky ones.

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A Child’s View of the Warsaw Uprising

Monday, August 24th, 2009

As part of the European Union program, „Europe for Citizens”, the Museum of the City of Warsaw has published an anthology of writings in Polish, English, and German. Below is an abbreviated version of the story of an eleven-year-old girl.
Our family was intact at the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising (my parents must have known when it was about to begin). The first of August, at 5 pm. The sirens began, and the city began to come to life. Through the open window of our apartment on the first floor of 5 Grzybowska Street, the sounds of war came bursting in, growing louder. The residents began building a barricade at the beginning of the street, near the gate of the building. In several hours the barricade had grown high and wide and the soldiers of the Home Army felt safe behind it. Finally, Warsaw, tortured by the occupation, was attacking its enemy. (more…)

Treasures from the attic: Virtuti Militari

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

A ribbon of black and blue
Girdles a  silver cross
Virtuti Militari
What does it mean — do you know?

It stands for the virtues of the soldier
The noble ones dream of it
But to obtain  this cross
You must disdain death and blood

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When the dialogue is interrupted…

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

Suddenly, unexpectedly, speechless, in the very middle of an existential debate, we feel dissatisfaction and rebellion. So much still to be said, so much still to hear… Suddenly, there is no time for this discussion. And once again in life, in a moment of shock, when someone we have valued leaves us, we promise to ourselves that we will spend more time with our friends and acquaintances, those people who create our reality, whom we hurry to love before they leave… So, unexpectedly, ended our friendly dialogue with Jurek Perkitny. We want to scream, defenselessly: „this didn’t really happen! We still need you here!” There are moments in life when one can call out only in memory.

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Papa Convention of the Polish American Priest Association – Cleveland 2007

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

I am just recovering – in time to write this article – from the 18th  National Convention of the Polish American Priests’ Association which was held here in Cleveland for first time from April 16th  -20th , 2007. We had 78 priests, one cardinal, and eight bishops in attendance gathering from around the country and from Poland and Rome, as well.

Each year, one of the Chapters which make-up our national organization host the convention. This gives our members a chance to visit the various centers of Polonia across the country. A schedule of events which includes time for convention business, visits to various sites of interest, and presentations on pertinent topics is arranged by the host chapter to help our time together not only be an enjoyable gathering, but also worthwhile and enriching one, too.
This year’s convention began on Monday evening at our convention venue, the Marriott Hotel at the Key Center in downtown Cleveland, where our opening dinner was held. Bp. Robert Carlson of Saginaw, Michigan, powerfully addressed our membership on the important theme of cultivating a culture of vocations in our communities today as has been so successfully done by Polonia in the past. No one was left unmoved by his simple yet powerful words.

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APCC – American Council for Polish culture

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

The Spring Board Meeting of The American Council for Polish Culture (ACPC) was held in Cleveland, Ohio. Members were absolutely delighted by the extensive activities and food extravaganzas, which were hosted by Ben Stefanski, President of the Polish American Cultural Center- John Paul II. Contributions were also made by Thad Cooke, founder of the Jamestown Colony of Poles in Cleveland and George Sobieraj, President of the Cleveland Society of Poles.
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Gene Bak award celebration continued with the roar of a Tiger

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

After Eugene Bak was presented with the Knights Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland on April 20th, his two sons celebrated with him by taking him on a spring golf tour.  The festivities started with a day at Firestone Country Club on Sunday and then moved on Monday to Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh, the site of the 2007 U.S. Open Championship.  The event at Oakmont was sponsored by American Express and was set up to provide avid golfers with an opportunity to preview the 18 holes that contain more than 300 bunkers before the professionals arrive for the U.S. Open in June. After an enjoyable round, the group of 80 golfers settled in for a lunch.  During the lunch, a presentation was made by American Express and a number of celebrities were introduced.  First was Robin Roberts from Good Morning America and then Mike Tirico from ESPN and Monday Night Football.  Finally the President of American Express announced we were to experience a very special treat, and in walked Tiger Woods.  The very special treat was that Tiger was about to play a practice round at Oakmont and the 80 golfers attending the event were to walk the course with him.

We all embarked onto the first hole where Tiger displayed a completely different side of him.  Normally, all business, he portrayed a light hearted side, cracking jokes and interacting with the small gallery.  He started off with a 350 yard drive with a follow up comment “That will work”  Each hole was a mini-clinic, as Tiger explained his strategy from tee to green and how he intended to hit the next shot. It was amazing to see Tiger hit within five feet of his intended target on almost every hole.

When we reached Oakmont’s famous row of church-pew bunkers between the third and fourth fairways, someone asked if he would demonstrate how to hit a shot out of them. He refused. “Why bring negativity into your thoughts,” he said, adding he only practiced from places he intended to play.  Gene asked Tiger “How do you deal with the noise and distraction of the fans” to which Tiger responded “What noise.”
On the 484-yard final hole, into the wind, he hit his approach with a five-wood: “This is my senior club,” he said. “When you turn 30 you get a five-wood, when you turn 40 you get at seven-wood, when you turn 50 you get a nine-wood.”  Gene has taken this advice and is in search of an eleven-wood.

The evening culminated with an awards dinner, where Gene Bak received yet another award, second place in the net score competition.  Gene accepted his glass cup trophy and of course made sure his sons felt the humility of having the old guy beat them.

Although the Tiger appearance was icing on the celebratory cake, the opportunity to unite the Bak boys, who only get together about once per year, was the true gift to Gene.

Mark Bak

Celebration at the Center

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007 will go down in the history of the Polish American Cultural Center in Cleveland as a very special day.  Judging from the number of cars in the parking lots and on the street, as well as the huge the number of people who packed the Center to capacity, it was evident that something extraordinary was a foot.

All of this traffic and the tremendous number of people pouring into the Center were for none other than cofounder, former President and current executive Director of the Polish American Cultural Center, Eugene Bak.  This time Mr. Bak wasn’t able to remain in the background, or with his customary modesty, play down his role in the organization.  This time he was front and center, singled out for recognition for the hard work, dedication and leadership he had displayed through the years.  He was to receive directly from the hands of Mr. Krzystof Kasprzyk, Consul General of the Republic of Poland  an extremely high honor, the Knights Cross of the order of merit of the Republic of Poland.

There was no shortage of  leaders of the Polish American community and other ethnic organizations, officials from the City of Cleveland as well as from the U.S. Congress in attendance.  Members of the Hungarian American organization, the clergy, his family and of course, many friends and fellow members of the Polish American Cultural Center, all  understood the importance of this event, and were there to congratulate Mr. Bak and recognize his many achievements.

Bishop Ryszard Karpinski began the ceremony with prayer.  He recalled Mr. Bak’s early years  and his family’s  life during and after WWII,  a life rich with adventure, yet with no small measure of hardship and tragedy. Unexpected happy turns of  fate along with  the qualities of courage, faith, resolve and achievement  carried them through and shaped Eugene Bak. He spoke of Mr. Bak’s character and determination, his superb talents and strengths and how he used his gifts to promote Polish culture, to bring together and lead members of the Polish American community to channel their ideas and hard work into an important and effective civic organization.  One by one, the evening’s speakers came forward and testified to Mr. Bak’s accomplishments and qualities.

In an eloquent and stirring speech, Dr. Jerzy Macziuszko expressed his regard and admiration for a man who did so much towards realizing a dream that had been an almost poetic vision:  a bridge between the Polonia of the past and Polonia of the future.  Mr. Ben Stefanski, the current President of the Polish American Cultural Center also paid tribute and gave thanks for Mr. Bak’s efforts, describing the Center’s achievements and many exciting plans for the future.  Sincere and moving tributes to Mr. Bak’s dedication and hard work recalling the early days of the Center were presented by Jolanta Stepien, Vice President and Bernadette Zubel, Director of the Polish Language School.  Dorota Sobieski,  Director of  the highly regarded Opera Circle which she runs with her husband, Jacek Sobieski, Ray Vargas, Director of the Polish dance troupe  “Syrena”, Stanislaw Kwiatkowski Editor in Chief of the Center’s monthly publication“Forum”,  thanked Mr. Bak for his support, leadership and dedication to their work.   Lukasz Waszczuk representing young Polonia, spoke of Mr. Bak’s openness, energy and positive outlook on life which aroused a storm of enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Mr. Bak’s son Marc paid homage to his dad in a moving speech, recalling times from his youth and life with his father.  An expression his dad often used became Marc’s motto in his own life :  “Don’t think about what you’ve done, think about what you’re going to do.”

The highlight of the evening was of course, the presentation of the medal:   the Knights Cross by Mr. Kasprzyk, Consul General of the Republic of Poland, and his speech recognizing Mr. Bak’s dedication and achievements as well as his wishes for a successful future.

Finally, Mr. Bak had an opportunity to speak.  I must confess I had been secretly observing him during all of the speeches made that evening.  I saw him laughing delightedly at the funny anecdotes and his eyes lighting up when the subject or person was dear to his heart.   But most of all, I saw about him an air of modesty that surrounds people of character who have lived well and achieved much.  At times it appeared that he hadn’t quite absorbed that all of this was about him and for him, and that perhaps he might have been thinking “why is everyone fussing about me?  What’s the big deal?”

Mr. Bak’s speech was humble, filled with gratitude to all who had volunteered so much time and effort to build the Center, and who upon this occasion honoring him, deserved just as much recognition and thanks.  He thanked his wife Barbara for her unflagging support, enthusiasm and efforts.  “Behind every successful man there is always a very smart wife”  he concluded with a warm smile.

Additionally I must mention the excellent musical program prepared and performed by Jacek and Dorota Sobieski as well as Agnieszka Bieniek, which gave the evening a special celebratory and elegant tone.
Also, the ladies of the Center’s kitchen, already known in the Polish American community for the excellence of the Sunday afternoon dinners at the Center, displayed their virtuosity once again with an amazing buffet of hors d’oeuvres  and desserts enjoyed by hundreds of attendees.

As I walked about the room, I could overhear the conversations of groups of people standing about enjoying the evening.  I heard the observations and opinions of the attendees and the dominant theme seemed to be one of happiness, pride and satisfaction that they witnessed an occasion of great significance for the Polish American community in Cleveland, honoring such a well liked and respected man.  Many were surprised to learn that Mr. Bak had such a remarkable past and so many accomplishments to his credit.

This occasion serves as an example of how important and beneficial  events such as this are to the Polish community.  They inspire pride and encourage cooperation and unity among its members.  No doubt, there is unity in strength.   Mr.  Bak recognized that essential truth long ago, and knowing him, he already has new ideas and new plans for tomorrow.

Malgorzata Oleksy

Transleted by Zofia Wisniewski

Forum, 5/2007

Gaetano Donizetti & his Linda

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

Whenever I set out to describe a work presented by Opera Circle, I feel somewhat anxious. I doubt if I will be able to accomplish the task, whether I will sufficiently represent the composer and his work, whether I will grant enough credit to the tremendous dedication of the Sobieski family in such an endeavor…

My preference would be to share a brief commentary along with a colorful DVD, since it is truly impossible to express in words the entire artistic aura created by the sets, the costumes, the soloists, the choir, and, of course, the music as performed by the orchestra. (more…)

Why Eugene Bak?

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

The government of the Republic of Poland has honored Eugene Bak, cofounder and long time President and Executive Director of the Polish-American Cultural Center in Cleveland, with the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. We can read the following about such orders and distinctions in a law of the Sejm from October 16, 1992:

„Article 13. The Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland is an award for distinguished merit in the field of cooperation between nations. The Order is presented to a foreigner or Polish citizen living abroad whose activities have made a significant contribution to international cooperation and cooperation linking Poland with other states and nations.” (more…)