With the start of a fresh new year, 2019, I would like to share some New Year’s wishes expressed by officials of the Polish government. Stanislaw Karczewski, who who is the Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, in a New Year’s staement recently invited all those who feel any connection with their forefathers’ homeland, Poland, to feel welcome to visit Poland, keep abreast of what is happening there, and he wished all Poles, and those  with Polish roots, to nurture their cultural identity, so that in doing so we form a bonded community, which we can build on going into the future.

Just as his words appeared in the last edition of the Polish Weekly, 1-9-19, Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, in reflecting on the historically significant year past, 2018, and standing on the threshhold of the New Year of 2019, noted that with the 100th anniversary of Poland’s regaining independence, “It was a great celebration time of Polish freedom and national pride”… The feast of all of us”. He pointed out that as in 1918 “we gathered under the white and red flag” and thus he expressed hope that “there will always be a place for each of us under our flag”. He invited everyone that throughout the New Year there will continue to be significant historical occasions to commemorate, ” to once again take stock of our history of tenacious striving for freedom, independence, and peace”.

I would also like to share, in part and translation, New Year’s wishes expressed to the Polish nation, on January 1, 1919, by Marshal Jozef Pilsudski. He stated that these wishes were the first one’s expressed to a free Poland in over 123 years. He commented on the dramatic changes the Great War and its aftermath created, especially in Europe, bringing down powerful empires and armies, particularly those who held Poland hostage. He pleaded that despite threatening chaos surrounding Poland, that the nation join together to protect its borders and to work to ensure and to build a new and truly free and strong Polish republic. Though he realized that the task was a daunting one, it was absolutely necessary. He appealed to all to work together to rebuild the country and ensure its future.

What took place in Poland in the 20 years following her regaining of independence was that, despite 123 years of bondage and destruction during the war, the country produced a significantly patriotic generation. This was the generation, imbued with a strong sense of history, age old traditions and values, and a love of their country and nation, was prepared, and eventually made ready, to deal with the extreme and disruptive challenges of WWII, invasions and occupations by both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and then the near five decades of destructive communism rule, which many of these young patriotic Poles survived and eventually overcame, to ensure that Poland was once again free and independent.

I share these New Year’s wishes as in them I see a call, a summons even to us, those of Polish heritage, living in America. Most of us certainly enjoy a comfortable life, free to do as we please, free to steer our way as we see fit. We have many options available to us: what we want to address as important, what we want to spend our time on, what we think can make a difference in our lives, the lives of our families, and even our nationality group. Most of us are reasonably content and secure looking ahead to the future. I invite you however to consider and envision how much of what we enjoy and cherish will continue through its own accord into our future, the future of our children and grand children, the communities we live in? Who will we be or become in generations to come? What will continue of what we value without our attention and nurturing?

I speak of course from the perspective of our Polish heritage, the often fought for resplendent history we share that preceded us, the striving to protect, nurture, and pass on what many of us feel, and those before us felt, is a rich heritage, values and ideals that helped our forefathers, and even those more recent compatriots, to rise up and conquer unbelievable challenges. Are we doing anything to pass this on to our children, the next generation, informing others of what is good and valuable in our heritage? It seems to be a daunting task- just as Marshal Pilsudski described  the work that awaited the new Polish nation- but are we not responsible to do our share today?

To ensure success of any task takes a vision, commitment and  working together. The many Polish American organizations that were formed and worked through the years before us are an example of such efforts. Polish American Congress exists to bring these organizations and all individuals together for the purpose primarily of protecting Poland and Polonia’s existence and good name, promoting our heritage, serving and nurturing our communities, and strengthening our bond as a nationality group, even as we live in this country. Is not the legacy of the generations that came before us worth such protection, time investment, and a worthy gift to our children, grandchildren, and generations after us?

Just as President Duda addresses the importance of celebrating our brave history, Poland’s Senate Chief appeals to all to build on our shared identity, and Pilsudski summoned us to work and build together, we too can step up this year, with a renewed commitment to join in doing something to promote our heritage and strengthen our identity, even in America. As we live in today’s diversified world, we need ever more to feel that identity and pride in who we are, where we come from, not detracting from the country we live in or of which we are citizens. It is enriching and it is encumbant upon us not to break, but rather strengthen, the beautiful chain that links us to Poland and our Polishness.

This year Polish American Congress- Michigan celebrates 75 years as an organization. In March we will have elections. It is never too late to join as a member, to become more active, to commit  time in some way to ensure a better and lasting future for our community of Polonia. Following today’s appeal we hope to inform you more as to what we are doing, what plans we have, and how you can become involved. Our division office is in Hamtramck, 11333 Jos. Campau. You can reach us at 313-365-9400; on our website; or like us on Facebook.

Happy New Year!

Ann Bankowski, President

Polish American Congress, Michigan Division