Professor Maciuszko and General Kościuszko

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.

In the interview Professor Maciuszko began his story on a positive note by painting for us a charming picture of his pre-war childhood in Warsaw. His mother, a woman full of warmth and loving care, has been a towering figure in his life.  As a piano teacher, she was the one who instilled in him everlasting love for classical music.  Professor Maciuszko made these happy memories even more striking by immediately contrasting them with the calamity of the outbreak of the most horrible war ever.   He recalled a battlefield in Pomorze as hell on earth, where most of his companions died instantly. Although he survived, he was taken as prisoner-of-war and spent five and a half terrible years in German POW camps. Occasionally he was allowed to write to his mother to let her know that he was still alive.  The end of the war did not bring liberation to Poland or happiness to the Polish prisoners of war.  After a dramatic escape from the „liberating” clutches of the Soviet army, Maciuszko joined the American Army and several years later moved to the United States.

David Barnett prepared this interview with great care.  The conversation is illustrated with Polish voices in the background and intertwined with well thought-out music.

Professor Maciuszko’s voice is strong and clear, his statements are precise and well articulated, his story is arresting and compelling.  In the conversation, Prof. Maciuszko also reveals that his autobiography will be published in the near future.  This book, together with the audio recording of the author’s moving discussion with David Barnett, will represent yet another authentic voice and excellent source of knowledge about the Polish experience in World War II and the history of Polonia in America.

In the same program immediately after the interview with Prof. Maciuszko author Alex Storozynski discussed his latest book, Peasant Prince and the Age of Revolution, that fills a gap in the popular knowledge about General Kosciuszko, the American Revolution, and its relation to the worldwide struggle for freedom.   In his presentation Storozynski also addressed the recent decision of the defense missile shield in Poland.  Although this decision was expected, it was carried out with a lack of sensitivity towards Poland since it was announced on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.  This type of diplomatic gaffe underscores the widespread lack of historical knowledge about the role the Soviet Union played in the outbreak of World War II and its aggressive policies towards Poland and other eastern European countries.

Both interviews can be found in the audio archives of the program Around Noon under the date September 28,  2009.  It is unfortunate that the entire program Around Noon that day was entitled “Guy Wolff, Jeffrey Siegel and WWII 70th anniversary,”  and was illustrated with a picture of the American potter Guy  Wolff, thereby deemphasizing the importance of the 70th anniversary of WWII.   However, Professor Maciuszko’s interview, together with his picture and extensive biographical article, was posted on a separate webpage under the heading “Witness to History” on the following website: http://www.wcpn.org/WCPN/news/28051/

Maria Szonert

Forum, 10/2009

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