I would like to share with you my Editor’s message for this’s issue of The Forum of the Chicago Society, which is timely, considering two important anniversaries in September in the history of Poland.
I am aware that many of our members are aware of this history of Poland. In fact, I know many of our members have experienced first-hand many of the events noted here. To them, I apologize for taking up your time, and “pochylam czoło “ for what you have gone through. However, this should be read by those who may not have knowledge of this history of Poland.
“A date which will live in infamy.” That is how President Franklin Roosevelt described Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, prompting the US to declare war on Japan and enter World War II in Asia and Europe. Poland’s “day of infamy,” however, was Sept. 1, 1939. On that date, Nazi troops attacked Poland by air, by land, and by sea at Westerplatte. On Sept. 3, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany, and World War II began. On September 17, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. The invasion ended on October 6, 1939, with the division and annexing of the whole of the Second Polish Republic by Germany and the Soviet Union. The President of Poland, Ignacy Mościcki, transferred his power and appointed Władysław Raczkiewicz President of the Republic of Poland (in exile), which was housed initially in Paris, then located to London, where it remained until the return of a free and independent Poland in 1990.
Even though WWI was known as “the war to end all wars,” WWII was truly a world war, fought on many theatres throughout the world. At the insistence of Joseph Stalin, the Yalta Conference of 1945 sanctioned the formation of a new Polish pro-Communist government in Moscow, which ignored the Polish government-in-exile based in London. Upon achieving victory in 1945, the occupying Soviet authorities organized an election which constituted nothing more than a sham and was ultimately used to claim the ‘legitimacy’ of Soviet. hegemony over Polish affairs. The Soviet Union instituted a new communist government in Poland, similar to much of the rest of the Eastern Block. And Poland again lost her independence. Poland found herself under the paws of the Soviets until the fall of communism in 1990, when the independent III Republic of Poland was formed.
Due to her unfortunate geographic location, Poland has for centuries been a pawn in the face of Europe. She now enjoys a prominent place in Europe, a member of both NATO and the European Union, with the strongest economy of all countries in the EU. It is important, however, for all those of Polish descent to remember those dark days in Poland’s history and to appreciate the struggles the Poles endured to finally enjoy independence. Members, please make sure your children and grandchildren are taught the history of your and their country. We owe this to all those who so gallantly fought on all fronts for a free and independent Poland.
Coincidentally, I came upon this wonderful, short (only 4 min) animated film about Poland’s fights for freedom over the 50 years in the period 1939-1989, which ties in with my Message. Please watch it and share it with your family and friends.
Written by PACIL Corresponding Secretary Tadek Wiecek