WASHINGTON, D.C. Ambassador Janus Reiter officiated at Poland's Independence Day celebration here at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland on November 14, 2006 (the official date is November 11th). The large gathering consisted mainly of Poles, Polonia and a delegation of visiting military officers led by Brigadier General Marek Witczak. The ceremonies were conducted exclusively in Polish due to the uniqueness of the evening's coupling of the anniversary of Poland's independence with the special guest speaker and the introduction of his related, fascinating book, written and printed in Polish.
Ambassador Reiter's address focused on the independence that Poland enjoys today and how it was obtained over the long years of struggle: Some of the patriots fought with weapons and others waged a war of thoughts, ideas and words, each equal to his own ability and purpose. Both forms of the struggle were critically needed and mutually supportive of one another. He said that tonight's program was dedicated to the long, successful fight of the American Polonia and their brother Poles-in-exile, who sheltered here, for the independence of Poland today.
Wladyslaw (Walter) Zachariasiewicz took the podium and he spoke of his book that was being debuted this very evening: "Etos Niepodleglosciowy Polonii Amerykanskiej" ('The Independent Ethos of American Polonia'). It is a very insightful tome about the numerous and myriad Polish and Polish-American organizations that rallied in support of a partitioned-Poland, a fighting Poland, a defeated Poland, an enslaved Poland...and finally... a free Poland. They nurtured and grew the "Polish raison d'etre" here, especially when it was forbidden and persecuted in the oppressed homeland of Poland. And now, even as some of the first to organize are beginning to wane, the many Polish-American cultural and fraternal organizations proudly continue to carry the torch for Poland.
The book's honor roll of the organizations profiled is quite long, but to mention just a few: American Relief for Poland, Polish Army Veterans Association (SWAP), Polish Combatants Association (SPK), Polish American Congress, Polish Library in Washington, Kosciuszko Foundation, The Polish Museum in America, Polish Association of Former Political Prisoners of German and Soviet Concentration Camps, Copernicus Foundation in Philadelphia, Legion of Young Polish Women, Polish American Priests Association, National Committee of Americans of Polish Decent, American Council of Polish Cultural Clubs, Polish Falcons of America, Lira Ensemble in Chicago, et cetera, et cetera.
The author, Walter Zachariasiewicz, at 95, had the privilege of fighting for Poland on both fronts: With bullets and words. His personal contributions began with the September, 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and have never ceased. Unable to return to communist dominated Poland after World War II ended in 1945, he emigrated to America and continued his labors and leadership for Poland's cause while establishing a new life in a free country. His accomplishments and successes were many. Along the way he received numerous awards, honors and decorations that include The Commander's Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great with Star, bestowed by Pope John Paul II, and the Commander's Cross with Star of the Order "Polonia Resttiuta" from the Third Polish Republic.
Walter said that many people encouraged him to write this book because the many heroes among us who participated in the fight for Polish independence are now fading away, and they should not be forgotten. Many were just ordinary people who worked for their families during the day and then rushed to an evening meeting of a Polish organization so as to continue the fight for Poland's freedom after their bitter exile.
Not to worry, since as a key participant and expert witness, Walter - with his excellent book, well illustrated with historical photographs - has insured that history will not forget those who contributed greatly to finally make a free and independent Poland the reality of their dreams.