WASHINGTON, D.C. // It's a very old Polish tradition to sing "Sto Lat" - ‘May You Live 100 Years' to someone at birthday parties, on name days, and at other special occasions. But due to the short life spans in the old days almost no one ever achieved the unattainable century mark. Even today with all the vast modern medical and scientific improvements it's still something of a rarity for a person to achieve centenarian status by living 36,500 days. But the ever remarkable Walter Zachariasiewicz did just that recently on November 7, 2011.
100th Birthday Party Held at Polish Embassy. Walter Zachariasiewicz is shown above addressing his well-wishers after extinguishing the numerals 1-0-0 on his birthday cake, and being serenaded with a robust singing of Sto Lat. At center is Ambassador Robert Kupiecki, his wife Malgorzata and daughter Magdalena.
Ambassador Robert Kupiecki hosted a gala black tie birthday celebration for acclaimed Renaissance man Walter Zachariasiewicz here on November 19, 2011 at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland. Approximately 130 guests were in attendance. The event, conducted in Polish, featured a slide show of photos depicting Walters amazing life, narrated by maestro Jerzy Sapieyevski playing at Paderewski's piano. This was followed by a very entertaining 1930s style cabaret show by a troupe of local Polish performers during which Walter was humorously scripted into the program.
Among the many gifts Walter received was a commemorative officer's sword from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which complimented his announced promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Polish Army. Many congratulatory letters were presented from the highest officials of the Polish government. Medals and awards too numerous to mention have already been bestowed upon Walter. Chief among them is Knight Commander in the Order of St. Gregory by Pope John Paul II in 1991, and Commander in the order of Polonia Restituta by President Lech Walesa in 1995, and most recently Poland's Bene Merito.
After being born in 1911 in Krakow, partitioned-Poland, Walter's life was never dull and involved suffering and sacrifice for the independence of Poland. He graduated from Krakow's acclaimed Jagiellonian University. During WWII he was arrested and deported to a gulag by the Russians. He was later released in 1942 and worked in the newly established Polish Embassy in Kujbyszew, Russia, and later served with Gen. Anders Polish Army that fought with the allies against Nazi-Germany.
Upon emigrating to American 1948, Walter worked as a Group Director for the Democratic Party, as well as an Assistant Postmaster General. He became very active and a major leader in Polish American organizations, as well as an effective and recognized lobbyist for the Polonia and Poland agendas on the national level. And thankfully, he still maintains a presence today.
It was pleasingly obvious that Walter is only closing out one century in order to start another when Ambassador Kupiecki said that since Mr. Zachariasiewicz has already lived "sto lat" - perhaps we should wish him another 100 years ... to which Walter replied with his usual quick, wry wit ... "why not"?
Richard P. Poremski
Polish American Journal
Washington, DC Bureau
December 12, 2011