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Tony Topolski and Charles Pliszka founded the Polish Cultural Association of Harrisburg in 1975. The two men met by coincidence in 1974 at the United Republic Life Insurance Building (Waypoint Bank Building in 2003) located atop the hill near the Harrisburg East Mall. Tony Topolski, who repaired office machines for IBM, engaged Pliszka in a conversation about their Polish heritage and the lack of an organized Polish presence in south-central Pennsylvania.
Neither was a native Pole. Topolski was from Shamokin and Pliszka grew up in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. They became friends. Their vision was to build a Polish center in Harrisburg to promote the knowledge of Polish culture. Topolski was particularly interested in developing a knowledge of Polonia among youth.
The idea that the association would purchase a plot of land and build a headquarters was agreed on. Frank Witkoski, an architect and an early member, would design the building for the language classes and social gatherings. Labor and materials would be donated. Charles Pliszka conceded that it might take a long time to build a hall in this way, but the club would have a home.
Tony Topolski called the Polish National Alliance in Chicago to inquire on how to get started. He inserted announcements in local newspapers to stimulate interest. Thirty individuals attended an introductory meeting at the Penn Harris Motor Inn on May 6, 1975. John Radzyminski, a director of the Polish National Alliance, was the speaker. Since the PNA was more interested in selling insurance policies than in helping Topolski and Pliszka realize their goal, the Harrisburg group decided not to affiliate with the PNA. Instead, the Harrisburgers became an independent organization.
They set four goals:
1. To cultivate, enhance, and promote the understanding of the Polish language, culture, and arts;
2. To project the accurate and true image of the Polish American;
3. To promote cordial and cooperative relations among the members and the community-at-large;
4. To be a non-sectarian and non-partisan organization in south-central Pennsylvania.
Tony Topolski became the first president of the Polish Cultural Association. His immediate need was a site for meetings. He approached the pastor at St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church in New Cumberland but was rebuffed because the association was not affiliated with the parish. Topolski received the opposite response from the minister at Christ Presbyterian Church in Lower Allen Township. Christ Presbyterian Church did not charge a fee for the use of the hall where language classes were held. Leonard Konikiewicz was the instructor. The membership roster peaked at 45 in 1975.
Although the Polish Cultural Association was independent, it did affiliate in 1976 with the American Council of Polish Cultural Clubs, a national organization with affiliates in Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre, Rochester, Detroit, and 40 other cities. As of July 1977, three dollars of the Harrisburg club’s $10.00 individual membership dues was sent to the national organization to subsidize the ACPCC quarterly newsletter, Polish Heritage. Quarterly issues of Polish Heritage were mailed in bulk to Josephine “Jo” Blake who distributed them at the club’s monthly meetings. The Harrisburg affiliation with the ACPCC was terminated on October 1, 1983 because the board questioned the benefit of affiliation with a national association.
By early 1976 the meeting place for the Polish Cultural Association was relocated to the United Republic Life Insurance Company building. Charles Pliszka, corporate secretary at United Republic, coordinated the meetings. He often included photographs of meetings held in the building’s atrium in the company annual reports.
Core members in the first five years of the organization were Henia Kania; Danuta Sheaffer and her daughter, Anna Krzywiec; Gene Urbanski, Rita Krantz, Frank and Romayne Witkowski, Nina and Leonard Konikiewicz, Penny Worsena, Rose Marie Bobroski, Florence Rettinger, Alan Kubarek, Paula and Stanley Barski, Barbara and Ralph Dula, and Connie and Walter Mattson. Helen Wachter and Irene Petrina from Hummelstown and Marcella Wall from Hershey joined in February 1977. This trio gave hundreds of hours of service to the organization in the ensuing 20 years.
The first major accomplishment of the fledgling organization was “Perspektywa Polska,” an exhibition that celebrated the millennium of Polish culture. The exhibition consisted of 52 three foot by four foot panels with sepia-colored photographs on cream-colored units with handwritten captions in sepia and red inks depicting art, sculpture, and historical sites. Chistianity, patriotism, and the struggle for freedom were the themes of the exhibit. After Tony Topolski read about the traveling exhibit in Polish American Journal, he called Blanka Rosenstiel at the American Institute of Polish Culture in Miami. She agreed to send the exhibit to Harrisburg if an appropriate venue could be found. Topolski asked Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission member Ferne Smith Hetrick if the William Penn Museum (later renamed the State Museum of Pennsylvania) was available. Commissioner Hetrick gave her approval, and Harrisburg became the fifteenth city to host the exhibit. Prior to the show’s arrival in Harrisburg, it had been on exhibit at Duke, Brandeis, Yale, and Arizona State University and in museums in Montreal, Buffalo, and Milwaukee. The exhibit opened on Sunday, May 30, 1976 at the William Penn Museum. The opening reception was held June 6, 1976. The show closed on June 30, 1976.
Ralph Dula’s tenure as president beginning in July 1976 brought several changes. The club’s mailing address was established at P.O. Box A81, Lemoyne, Pennsylvania 17043. Dula edited the newsletter and continued classes in the instruction of conversational Polish. The text was Pennsylvania State University professor Sigmund Birkenmeyer’s Introduction to the Polish Language purchased from the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York. Weekly classes were held at the United Republic building. Besides instruction for adults, Anna Krzywiec also taught Polish to the children.
A lending library was established. The first acquisition was Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim. The second acquisition was Jan Styczynski’s Vistula, a pictorial volume about a trip down the Vistula River. Alan Kubarek, who donated Vistula, was also responsible for obtaining five travelogue films from the Polish Travel Agency that were shown at a meeting in early 1977.
Gene Urbanski was elected president for a term that began in July 1977. The club had 42 dues paying members by October 1977, 49 by January 1978, 54 by March 1978, and 61 by April 1978. The membership year ended with 62 members. Urbanski led a drive with help from Jo Blake to aid disaster victims in Johnstown. Twenty-five bags of clothing and toiletries and a $25.00 contribution were given to Volunteers of America for flood victims. Historian John Bodnar spoke at the August meeting. Polish language tutors in 1977-1978 were Leonard Konikiewicz, George Kowalewski, Charles Pliszka, and Anna Krzywiec.
The monthly meeting on Wednesday, October 4, 1978 featured Sigmund Birkenmayer, Ph.D. of the Department of Slavic Languages at Pennsylvania State University. His topic was “After the Bicentennial: Reflections on Americans of Polish Descent.” Professor Birkenmayer was the guest of Frank and Romayne Witkowski during his visit in Harrisburg.
The United Republic Life Insurance building continued as the site for meetings on the first Wednesday of the month until October 1980. The building was sold to AMP, Inc. and later to Waypoint Bank. Among the topics presented during this period were Nina Konikiewicz on “Polish Literature and Art” on Wednesday, February 6, 1980 and Gene Urbanski’s book review of Theresita Polzin’s Polish Americans: Whence and Whither on Wednesday, June 4, 1980.
The location of monthly meetings moved to 4830 Londonderry Road in February 1981. Located five blocks from the Community General Osteopathic Hospital, this site was the office of doctors Bronstein, Jeffries, and Nipple. Lorraine Buchinski, who worked for the doctors, arranged the meeting site.
The most important topic on the association’s agenda in 1981 was the planning for the presentation of “The Polish Phoenix” at Hershey Junior High School on Sunday, April 5, 1981. “The Polish Phoenix,” a one hour multi-media presentation about the millennium of Polish culture, was produced by the University of Pittsburgh with grants from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation.
The program probed the Polish psyche through media unlike film or lectures. Shown on three screens simultaneously, “The Polish Phoenix” was an unusual production in the pre-Internet milieu. The program accompaniment was folk, classical, and contemporary music. Besides publicity releases in the local press, President Urbanski was interviewed on Harrisburg’s WHP580 am radio. The Friends of the Hershey Public Library co-sponsored “The Polish Phoenix”. There was no admission charge. Rita Krantz’s publicity blitz was the key ingredient in attendance of more than 200.
The numbering of the newsletters beginning with number 1 in 1976 written by Ralph Dula continued until number 44 dated February 25, 1981. The club’s mailing address at P.O. Box A81, Lemoyne 17043 was discontinued by the summer 1982. President Jo Blake wrote in her final newsletter dated May 28, 1981 that when she joined the association in 1977, the club had $300 in its treasury. It had increased tenfold to more than $3,000 by May 1981. Blake said that she had visited the Italian club in Hershey recently. “I thought how nice it would be if the Polish people had a place they could be as proud of. Maybe someday we will.”
The main headline in newspapers around the world was the declaration of martial law in Poland on December 13, 1981 when General Wojciech Jaruzelski invoked emergency constitutional powers to impose a military government. Jaruzelski made the announcement in an emotional 23 minute speech over Warsaw radio.
One of the club’s members, Ray Bobinski, a management analyst for the Pennsylvania Dept. of General Services and World War II veteran, left for Poland on December 3 to visit relatives and research his family genealogy. Little did he know that martial law would be imposed during his visit. Bobinski was an eye-witness to a nation under siege. There was a curfew from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Shelves in food stores were bare and medicine was scarce. Telephone service was cut-off. Inter-city travel was prohibited. Gas was not for sale. Bobinski reported that churches were the only place where people gathered. Soldiers speaking Russian were posted at every corner in Warsaw. Tanks and armored vehicles were everywhere.
Bobinski arrived home at the Harrisburg International Airport on Friday evening, December 18, 1981 where he was greeted by his wife, Phyllis, two daughters, and television and newspaper reporters. Fifteen members of the Polish Cultural Association sang “Jeszcze Polska Nie Zginela”. His visit was reported in the York Daily Record, Saturday, December 19, 1981, page 8A; the Harrisburg edition of the Sunday Pennsylvanian, Sunday, December 27, 1981, p.1, and other newspapers. Bobinski spoke at the Mt. Rock Brethren in Christ Church near Shippensburg on March 7, 1982 and other venues about his experience.
The club expanded during the presidency of Ron Skubecz. His tenure coincided with the imposition of martial law in Poland and the arrival in Harrisburg of Polish refugees. Poland was in the news daily. The highlight of his tenure was the Aid to Poland rally in the Capitol rotunda on Saturday, February 6, 1982. The purpose of the rally was to promote and support relief and refugee resettlement efforts in south-central Pennsylvania.
Don Carroll was the master of ceremonies. Among the speakers were Governor Dick Thornburgh, Secretary of General Services Walter Baran, state Senator George Gekas, and state Representative Pete Wambach. Northampton County Representative Ed Sieminski was the keynote speaker. Polish Cultural Association member Maciej Pike-Biegunski spoke in English and Polish about the importance of freedom in Polish consciousness. The Hershey Chocolatetown Singers, one of whom was Bill Minsker, stood on the steps behind the speakers. The group finished the program with “Jeszcze Polska Nie Zginela,” the Polish national anthem.
President Skubecz presided over an association whose paid membership was reported at 98 in the newsletter dated March 8, 1982. He expressed his concern about the diverse nature of the organization and its effect on development efforts:
“Our organization is the product of many life experiences. There are members who were born in Poland and have lived here many years and members who have been in America for only a few years or, as we know, a few months or days. We also have members who are second- and third-generation Polish Americans who have little first-hand knowledge of the country of their origin and members who are not Polish at all but who share and enjoy the heritage represented by Poland’s 1000 year culture. On top of this, most of us who were born in America come from some place other than south-central Pennsylvania.”
Skubecz continued: “Because we have such a variety of experiences and interests bonded by common ancestry, it is sometimes difficult to know in which direction we should be headed. What should the Polish Cultural Association be, what should it do, and what should it represent are questions that must be asked continually. I would like to hear your ideas, suggestions, and viewpoints. We can be doing more but more of what is the question to be answered. Please give me your ideas.”
Ron Skubecz, a native of Linden, New Jersey, proposed a solution. His idea was to form special interest groups that would focus on areas such as traditional events, crafts, and Polish language. Membership steadily increased. Of May 8, 1982, the total paid membership was 104: 55 renewals and 49 new members.
A number of fundraisers for Polish relief were held during Skubecz’s two-year term as president. Among them were the “Aid to Poland” polka dance held at the Rutherford Heights Youth Club on Sunday, May 16, 1982. The “Polka Platers” from Steelton and the “Pennsylvania Good Times Orchestra” from Mahanoy City provided the entertainment. Tickets cost $6.00 in advance and $6.50 at the door. Attendance was 300. Ray Bobinski, Joe Ferrer, Mary Berdanier, and Lorraine Buchinski organized the fundraiser.
When Thomas Duszak became president in July 1983, the monthly meetings were moved to Market Square Presbyterian Church. Speakers included Shippensburg University’s George Snow, Ph.D. on Russian hegemony over Poland; Colonel Otto Chaney of the U.S. Army War College on the life of Marshal Zhukov; and Casimir Kowalski, Ed.D. on the role of Alliance College in American Polonia.
Denise Pike-Biegunski, married to a native Pole whom she had met while teaching English in Poland, arranged for the association to meet at Market Square Church. She also arranged a group discount at the concert given by violinist Wanda Wilkomirska on Wednesday, November 9, 1983. Dressed in her native costume, Denise presented Wilkomirska with a bouquet of roses after the performance.
Wilkomirska, a graduate of the State Conservatory in Lodz and the Academy of Music in Budapest, performed the Beethoven sonata in G major, opus 30, no.3, two mazurkas by Wieniawski, and a song and dance from the ballet “Harnaisie” by Karol Szymanowski. Andrzej Ratusinski accompanied Wilkomirska on piano. Thirty association members, led by Bozena Laszczak, sang songs of greeting and toasted the artist at the reception after the concert.
The tenth anniversary dinner of the Polish Cultural Association was celebrated on Saturday, February 25, 1984 with a dinner at the Embers, 1700 Carlisle Pike, Carlisle. Chet Comstock, partner in the engineering firm Modjeski and Masters, discussed the life of the firm’s founder, Ralph Modjeski (1861-1940), who designed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; the Rock Island bridge over the Mississippi River, and many others. In 1931, Governor Gifford Pinchot honored Ralph Modjeski for his contributions to bridge-building in Pennsylvania.
Although Ralph Modjeski visited Harrisburg numerous times in his adult life as an engineer, it is not known if he accompanied his mother, Helena Modjeska (1840-1909), during her visit to Harrisburg in November 1905. Madame Modjeska appeared in Friedrich Schiller’s masterpiece “Mary Stuart” at the Lyceum Theatre located at 208 Locust Street on Monday, November 6, 1905. The November 7, 1905 edition of the Harrisburg Star Independent reported that she had a thick Polish accent.
Besides the speech on Ralph Modjeski, Jim Zoll presented a talk on Kosciuszko and Gene Urbanski discussed the history of the association. John S. Kundrat was the master of ceremonies. Rita Krantz received the annual award at the 10th anniversary dinner. Krantz, who worked in public relations for Bell of Pennsylvania, was recognized for her steadfast efforts in gaining publicity and placing stories in the dailies Harrisburg Patriot and Evening News and the weeklies The Paxton Herald and The Guide.
At the monthly meeting held on Monday, April 16, 1984 at the Market Square Presbyterian Church, Tadeusz Arecki spoke on “King Jan Sobieski and the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Vienna: 1683-1983.”
In cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Polish-American Ethnic Committee of New City, New York, the association sponsored one performance of the Polish male choral group known as the Rorantists in the Rose Lehrman Arts Center Auditorium at the Harrisburg Area Community College on Wednesday, January 23, 1985. Conducted by Stanislaw Galonski, the eight singers performed music from 15th, 16th, and 17th century Poland. Leonard Konikiewicz served as the translator for the ensemble. Total attendance was 275.
On Monday, September 18, 1989 the monthly meeting at the Villa Teresa Nursing Home featured Theodora Rapp Graham, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University Harrisburg campus, who read Polish poems in English translation. Other meetings in 1989 featured Al Kwiatek’s discussion of his trip to Poland. The year ended with a guest appearance of Lieutenant Governor Mark Singel at the meeting held October 16, 1989.
Stanley and Paula Barski and several volunteers decorated a Christmas tree with homemade ornaments by Paula Barski in 1989 and 1991. The tree was on display in Strawberry Square until after Christmas. The Barski’s were the driving force behind the decoration of the Polish tree in the 1980s and 1990s.
The monthly meeting held Monday, February 19, 1990 at Villa Teresa Nursing Home featured iconographer, John Barns, who discussed the icons of Our Lady of Czestochowa. In the autumn 1991 Suzanne Simoni and her father, Jack Winieski, discussed their trip to Poland at the monthly meeting. In another activity, Tom Duszak organized a display at a meeting of the United States Soil Conservation Service in Harrisburg.
On Wednesday, February 5, 1992, the photo of Bill Minsker and Bozena Blazel appeared on the front page of the Hummelstown Sun.
Blazel, professor at the Polish National Academy in Wroclaw, replaced Minsker at Lower Dauphin High School located near Hershey for the semester during an educational exchange program. Vice-president Al Kwiatek’s letter to the editor of the Harrisburg Patriot discussed the significance of Tadeusz Kosciuszko’s freeing of his slaves in Afro-American history.
On June 3, 1992 the budget committee made up of Al Kwiatek, Lorraine Buchinski, and Ernie Blake presented a balanced budget of $2,829.80. The committee report stated:
If we proceed with the expenditures noted, there will be an anticipated shortfall of $369.80 income which can and should be made up from the treasurer’s account designated … as “building fund.” It was agreed that the building fund is a misnomer since our group can hardly support such an enterprise now or in the future.
Librarian Thais Gardy discussed Nobel Laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz’s trilogy at the monthly meeting in St. Joseph Hall at Villa Teresa Nursing Home on June 22, 1992. On Tuesday, February 23, 1993, state senator Buzz Andrezeski (D-Erie) discussed immigration and Anna Stodolak discussed Polish sheep dogs at the monthly meeting at the Knights of Columbus in Middletown.
On August 11, 1993, Helen Wachter presented a demonstration of wycinanki at the International Festival of Culture at Shippensburg University. On Thursday, August 12, 1993, Al Kwiatek’s letter to the editor of the Harrisburg Patriot criticized of U.S. immigration policy.
On September 2, 1993, the name of the association was changed to Polish American Association of Harrisburg, Inc. The name change was registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State Corporation Bureau. The name change originally discussed at the board meeting at Al Kwiatek’s home on July 28, 1993.
Michael Dymkowski discussed “The Rebirth of the Polish Military, 1915-1920” at the June 5, 1994 meeting in the church hall at Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Church. Dymkowski, a social studies teacher in the Mechanicsburg School District, displayed artifacts from his personal collection of uniforms, medals, and swords during his presentation. Attendance was 25. Dymkowski’s and Al Kwiatek’s photo appeared in Lebanon Daily News on Wednesday, June 22, 1994.
Three examples of the association’s community outreach are cited. On June 10, 1995, president Thomas Duszak’s letter to the editor of the Harrisburg Patriot extended condolences to the Jewish community on the death of Rabbi Jeffrey Weisblatt.
On December 30, 1995, the association received a letter from Pastor Reginald MacRae, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, thanking the association for the donation to rebuild his church, formerly located at North Sixth and Herr streets, that had been destroyed by arson. On March 23, 1996, Lorraine Buchinski represented the association at the 75th anniversary of the American Association of University Women at Harrisburg Area Community College.
The association was also acknowledged for its gifts to local libraries. On December 28, 1995, Catherine Alloway of Hershey Public Library wrote to thank the association for the donation of The Forgotten Few: The Polish Air Force in the Second World War. In February 1996, Hal Shill, library director, Heindel Library, Pennsylvania State University, Middletown, wrote to acknowledge the donation of two books, Poland’s Jewish Heritage and The Forgotten Few: The Polish Air Force in the Second World War, and one video, Rozmowy Kontrolowane, a comedy set in Solidarity era Poland. This video had been shown at the association’s film festival at Harrisburg Area Community College on May 13, 1995.
On Sunday afternoon, June 9, 1996, the association sponsored a testimonial brunch in honor of retired U.S. Navy noncommissioned officer Ernie Blake, long-time association treasurer and board member, at the Ramada Inn, South 2nd and Chestnut streets, across the street from Harrisburg Hospital. The guest speaker was Ellen Kolodziej, television news reporter on WHTM, channel 27. The attendance of 31 included Bozena Laszczak, Anna Matejko Tulli, and Lorraine Buchinski.
At the monthly meeting held on Wednesday, July 31, 1996, at the East Shore Library, Stefan Klosowski discussed his fourmonth stay in Siberia. The photo of Stefan and his mother, Hilda Klosowski, and Angela and Stan Norkiewicz appeared in The Paxton Herald on July 17, 1996.
The beginning of the tenure of Tony Miscavige as president coincided with the brutal assault of a tourist in Harrisburg. On Monday, July 29, 1996. Krystyna Chomicz-Jung, age 48, was savagely beaten, robbed, and left for dead inside Market Square Presbyterian Church. She was on a bus stopover en route from New York to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. President Miscavige established the “Krystyna Fund” that raised more than $10,000 to assist in paying the victim’s medical bills and living expenses. The story received national coverage in the Polish American press, including a front page article in Straz on August 15, 1996.
President Tony Miscavige drew on his network of support of Polonia in Mount Carmel and Hazleton to strengthen the Polish American Association of Harrisburg. He edited the newsletters and developed a computer database of the membership. He also established a personal rapport with the Ridge administration’s Secretary of Agriculture Sam Hayes who spoke at the Pulaski Day Dinner at the Arches on Saturday, October 11, 1997. Secretary Hayes hosted many Polish students who were studying in Pennsylvania in the 1990s. Miscavige organized bus trips to Reading, Pennsylvania on January 24, 1997 for the Mazowsze performance and to the Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Doylestown on September 6, 1997.
Bill Boshinski learned about the association from an article about Easter customs in the April 3, 1996 issue of the Harrisburg Patriot. Thirty months later he was president. One of his first tasks was to preside at the Pulaski Day Dinner held at the Arches on Tuesday, October 13, 1998. The main speaker was Boguslaw Majewski, minister at the embassy for the Republic of Poland in Washington, D.C. Bill and Deb Boshinski, Tony Miscavige, and Joanna Kmieciak attended the dinner in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the Polish Embassy which honored Jan Karski and Zbigniew Brzezinski. The year 1998 ended with the Wigilia held at the Zion Lutheran Church. The annual Wigilia continued as one of the most successful events sponsored by the association.
In 1999 there was another semester of formal instruction in the Polish language. Joanna Kmieciak continued the long line of instructors from the association. In 1998-1999, the course was offered at Harrisburg Area Community College.
The association’s 25th anniversary was held at the Arches on April 17, 1999. Founder Tony Topolski and his wife, residentsof the state of Maryland, attended. On Saturday, May 22, 1999, Boshinski organized a bus trip of 49 to visit the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Bogumila “Bo” Mangam began her term as president at the summer picnic held at the Klosowski residence on Sunday, August 13, 2000. Her greatest accomplishment was organizing the exhibit celebrating the fall of communism and the 20th anniversary of Solidarity in the Pennsylvania state Capitol on April 4-28, 2001.
Working with her contacts at the Embassy of Poland in Washington, D.C., Mangam and past president Bill Boshinski and their committee collaborated on the exhibit which had been shown in Warsaw, Paris, Rome, Washington, D.C., and Chicago prior to its arrival in Harrisburg.
The opening reception in the main rotunda was held on Thursday, April 5, 2001 at 5:00 p.m. Dignitaries from the embassy and Pennsylvania state officials, including Secretary of Agriculture Sam Hayes and Representative John Wozniak, were present at the opening. Also in attendance was an eye-witness to the tumult of martial law in the Gdansk shipyards in the early 1980s.
Jerzy Lisek, who moved to the United States in 1992, was a shipyard manager near the Baltic Sea. Lisek, who resides in Mount Joy in Lancaster County in the year 2000, recalled Walesa riding through the shipyards visiting workers. Families outside the gates cheered him. Lisek said Walesa was a credible leader because he himself was a worker who wanted to improve the standard-of-living for other workers. Lisek said the Poles loved the charismatic Walesa. The opening of the Solidarity exhibit was featured in the Patriot News on April 12, 2001.
The eighty photographs in the Capitol rotunda exhibit traced the conditions leading to the formation of Solidarity and the struggle against communism. The photos depicted crowds protesting the lack of food, funeral processions for labor leaders assasinated by secret service thugs, and demonstrations against martial law. Jerzy Lisek was one of the few Harrisburg Poles who saw Lech Walesa in person in Poland and the United States.
On Friday, November 2, 2001 Jerzy Lisek and his wife attended Lech Walesa’s lecture entitled “Democracy: The Never-Ending Battle” at Messiah College. President Bo Mangam negotiated a group discount for tickets for association members. Besides Lisek, Secretary Joseph L. Zazyczny and 30 members attended the lecture in Brubaker Auditorium located 15 miles south of Harrisburg.
The first event of 2002 was a pre-Lenten Carnival Ball held on January 19. Wojciech and Halina Wyczalkowski coordinated the ball with help from Jadzia Moffett, Margaret Clark, Grazyna Jeker, Ula Rogoszewska, Ewa Rzadkowska, Ania Myslinska, Jurek and Lena Wrzos, and Zbigniew amd Danuta Huber.
The program for the monthly meeting on May 17, 2002 at the Hampden Township Building was entitled “Americans View Contemporary Poland”. August Pfeifer and Nancy Coleman Miller discussed their experiences in Poland. Pfeifer works for ASF Keystone, a company which purchases castings, forgings, and elastomer pads in Poland for use on freight trains. He has visited Poland as a tourist and businessman. Miller is a retired elementary school teacher who taught for two years in Wroclaw. She has traveled throughout Poland on her own as a tourist.
On Wednesday, July 17, 2002, President Bush met President Alexander Kwasniewski in Washington, D.C. Two days later, on Friday, July 19, 2002, association president Bo Mangam attended a breakfast meeting at the United States Dept. of Commerce with Kwasniewski. The alumni were able to speak for several minutes reminiscing about their student days at the University of Gdansk.
Following the breakfast, the Chamber of Commerce of Poland and the Chamber of Commerce of the United States signed a formal agreement to assist qualified Polish enterprises to form partnerships with their counterparts in the United States.
Headed by board member Norman Kee, the association sponsored a bus trip to the Polish festival at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on June 8, 2002. The group enjoyed the performances of Jan Lewan and his orchestra and the Polish American Folk Dance Company.
Krzysztof Dabrowski, trade commissioner in the Economic and Commercial Dept. at the embassy of the Republic of Poland in New York, was the guest speaker at the membership meeting on March 28, 2003 held at the Dauphin County Library System’s East Shore Library. Dabrowski discussed economic and political integration with the European Union. Membership for Poland in the EU means reduced tariffs for goods and services, participation in talks for a constitution, and regional and global security.
The highlight of summer 2003 was the association’s sponsorship of a tour of two buses to Washington, D.C. for 70 Polish students who had worked at Hershey Park. Coordinator Phil Wysocki reported that the group visited the Vietnam Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian’s Aerospace Museum, U.S. Treasury, Arlington National Cemetery, and the U.S. Capitol.
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