Poles bring home 11 medals from Rio

By Robert Strybel, Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

For 16 days, Poland’s most avid sports fans went about groggy and bleary-eyed from watching live Olympic coverage that began each day around midnight due to the time difference. Others settled for rebroadcasts and wrap-ups later in the day. Despite periodic outbursts of Polish national pride, when it was all over, some felt unfulfilled.

Things got off to a good start when Polish cyclist Rafał Majka won a medal, bronze, on the first day of the Olympics. The first Olympic gold was captured by rowers, Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj, in women’s double sculls. Earlier, Maria Springwald, Joanna Leszczyńska, Monika Ciaciuch and Agnieszka Kobus captured bronze in the women’s quadruple sculls, and canoeist Marta Walczykiewicz added a silver medal to the collection.

But the unquestioned heroine of the Rio games was hammer-thrower Anita Włodarczyk, referred to by the Polish media as “Golden Anita.” She not only won the gold medal when she hurled her hammer an amazing 82.29 meters, but also broke her own world record by 1.21 meters. In addition, the two-time world champion and three-time European champion became the first woman in Olympic history to outdo the men’s hammer-throw champion – in Rio an athlete from Tajikistan who threw 78.68 meters.

One of the event’s biggest disappointments was Polish men’s hammer-thrower, two-time world champion Paweł Fajdek, who not only was sure of a gold medal but planned to break the 86.74 meter record set by a Russian in 1986. But, it turned out that Fajdek didn’t even make it through the elimination phase. The honor of Poland’s male hammer-throwers was defended by Wojciech Nowicki who won a bronze medal in the sport.

Oktawia Nowacka, a career soldier in the Polish Army, brought home the bronze in modern pentathlon, a sport combining fencing, free-style swimming, show jumping, pistol shooting and a 3,200-meter cross-country run. A bronze medal was also won by woman wrestler Monika Michalik.

Discus thrower Piotr Małachowski had his heart set on Olympic gold, but had to settle for silver. His claim to fame, however, transcended the strictly athletic realm, when he decided to auction off his medal to help a little Polish boy. Three-year-old Olek (Aleksander) Szymański has a rare eye cancer and stands to lose one of his eyes. The only hope for saving it is at a New York eye clinic where the necessary surgical procedure costs $264,000. Małachowski got the ball rolling, and others have been pitching in.

This year’s Polish Olympic team was not without its whiff of scandal. Brother weightlifters, Tomasz and Adrian Zieliński, were disqualified and sent home on doping charges. They hotly denied consciously ingesting any illegal substance, but the tests conducted by the anti-doping lab proved otherwise.

As the Rio Olympics were winding down, it appeared Poland might not end up with the 17 medals predicted by optimists, but with the same ten the country had won at the previous three 21st-century games: Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012). The balance was tipped by mountain biker Maja Włoszczowska who came in second over a grueling, curvy, hilly, obstacle-strewn course. A major disappointment was the Poles’ failure to win bronze in the handball finals where they lost to the Germans.

All told, Polish Olympians brought home 11 medals from Rio de Janeiro: two gold, three silver and six bronze. Of the participating 206 National Olympic Committees, in the final medal tally, Poland came 33rd. Although the Poles’ performance wasn’t quite as spectacular as expected, for what it’s worth, it cannot be denied these were Poland’s best Olympic games of the 21st century!

Roots Anchor Pride in Polonia

ORCHARD LAKE, Mich. (7-11-2016) – The Orchard Lake Schools made history on June 22, 2016 at Anno Domini 966, the U.S. celebration of 1,050 years of Christianity in Poland. When asked by a member of his Orchard Lake staff to explain the true significance of this historic event, here is what Monsignor Thomas C. Machalski, Jr., Chancellor-Rector, Orchard Lake Schools, had to say.

OLS: Anno Domini 966 signified history in the making in the United States. Why was this campus selected as the location for the celebration?

MSGR: The campus of the Orchard Lake Schools was chosen as the site of the celebration because Orchard Lake is the heart of Polonia. Since our founding in 1885, we have been and continue to be the place where all things Polish are honored, respected, preserved, cherished and held sacred.

OLS: Based on the homilies, in English by Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Florida, and in Polish by Bishop Mroziewski of Brooklyn, New York, what were the most important messages taken away from Mass?

MSGR: The most important message contained in the homilies of Archbishop Wenski and Bishop Mroziewski was that we should always remain connected to our roots and traditions. Even though we may be removed from Poland for a few generations, no matter where we are we will never stop being Polish nor, I may add, Catholic because our faith and culture are intimately connected. They are almost inseparable.

OLS: Your guests came from all over the United States to celebrate 1,050 years of Christianity in Poland. What were their responses to both the invitation and attendance at the Mass?

MSGR: The responses that I received were all very positive and complimentary. People really enjoyed the solemn celebration of Mass, Blessing and Dedication of the St. John Paul II Shrine by His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida, and the decree read by Archbishop Vigneron naming us the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. John Paul II (in the Archdiocese of Detroit).

OLS: The procession into the Mass was very meaningful. Can you share your feedback on all those who came together for the procession into the Chapel?

MSGR: The procession was magnificent! The young people in the colorful folk costumes of different regions of Poland, the Polish Scouts`, Polish Veterans — all make one realize that although we are in the United States, we have never stopped being Polish and we are proud of it. It is also wonderful to see the next generations taking part in such celebrations because they will be the ones to keep alive our heritage.

OLS: Tell us about the people who came to Mass and shared in the Grand Banquet with you and your guests – the Polish people, in particular. What kind of feedback did you hear, and how did it touch on the significance of the celebration?

MSGR: People came from all over Michigan as well as from Ohio, Florida, New York, Texas, Illinois, South Carolina and even from across the border to our north — from Canada for the celebration. People were genuinely grateful that they had an opportunity to mark such a momentous occasion. Of those who were born in Poland, many left there years ago, and others not that long ago, so this celebration allowed them to rejoice in the faith and culture even though far they were from their homeland. Both those born in Poland and those born here of Polish descent were filled with joy!

OLS: How did this celebration mark the beginning of the next 50 to 1,050 years and beyond?

MSGR: I believe that it instilled in the participants a renewed desire to do all that we can to share our beautiful customs, traditions and 1,050-year-old faith with the younger generation and with the larger community. Our beautiful faith, traditions, language, culture and customs will continue if each of us does his/her part to propagate them.

OLS: What is the single most important thing you gained from planning and celebrating the 1,050th anniversary?

MSGR: Like all things that are good, it took a lot of hard work on the part of many people to make this day memorable. However, I would say that, as a fourth generation Polish-American, whose great-grandparents left Poland before World War I and when Poland was portioned and, therefore, not even on the map, it renewed my sense of pride in my roots and gives me the impetus to continue proclaiming to all the beauty of our 1,050-year-old faith and our heritage.

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VP Trish: Scholarship Appreciation Event

Teofil Starzynski, a Pittsburgh Doctor of medicine was President from 1912-1952.

Teofil Starzynski, a Pittsburgh Doctor of medicine was President from 1912-1952.

For quite some time, we have discussed having a gathering of scholarship recipients. It sounds like a great idea but logistically, it simply didn’t make sense. Well, the upcoming National Convention is providing the opportunity for us to gather, celebrate and cultivate the Dr. T. A. Starzynski Scholarship Program.

On Friday, July 15, there will be such a gathering at Nest 4 (MR) on the corner of Bendix and Keller Streets. The evening will begin with dinner being served from 7:00-8:30. Tickets are available for the cost of $25 per person which includes dinner and an evening of fun! (Winner need not be present.) Nest 4 will provide refreshments for a minimal cost. Vegas games will begin at 7:30.

Bus transportation from the hotel begins at 6:30.

This sounds like a perfect evening to me. One gets to support the Scholarship Program, possibly win a bit, socialize with Members, and support the local Nest! What could be better!?!

Show your alumni status proudly; wear some type of garment from your college. It may be a shirt, hat, cheerleading outfit, football uniform, wrestling singlet, or bring your pom-poms.

All are invited! This event is open to everyone, not just Convention Delegates. It would be nice to see former recipients attend.

The first grant of the scholarship program was issued in 1962 to James Sopata of Nest 8, Pittsburgh and Joanne Zielski of Nest 401 Enfield, Conn.; each received $250! Since that time, the PFA has awarded over $720,500 to more than 11,000 Falcon Members!

Chairing the Scholarship Committees is something I enjoy and embrace. There have been many improvements made to the program. There are now three categories-Achievement receives $1,500, Involvement receives $1,000 and General receives $750. The Mary Kus grant of $3,000 is chosen from the Achievement Category. The deadline is February 15 of each year; the application is available online the beginning of December.

Our website has a list of all recipients, take a look!

As always, if interested in making a donation, please send your check to my attention to: Polish Falcons of America, 381 Mansfield Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15220. The program is funded exclusively from donations. We need a few more Genevieves, Pats and Matthews!

Looking forward to seeing you in South Bend!

Czolem!

President Kuzma: Spring Travels

On Monday, May 9, I had the honor of attending ceremonies at the Polish cemetery at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Polish President Andrzej Duda laid a wreath in the cemetery in honor of the young Polish men who died while in training for the Polish Army during World War I. A Polish Falcons Honor Guard led by Druh Steve Flor, a Member of Nest 52, Rochester, N.Y., helped welcome President Duda. It was a great honor to briefly meet President Duda.

At the ceremony at the Polish cemetery in Niagara-on-the Lake is PFA National President Timothy Kuzma and his wife Patti with members of the Polish Falcons Honor Guard. On the far left is Rick Mazella, National Vice President Membership Development of the Polish American Congress.

At the ceremony at the Polish cemetery in Niagara-on-the Lake is PFA National President Timothy Kuzma and his wife Patti with members of the Polish Falcons Honor Guard. On the far left is Rick Mazella, National Vice President Membership Development of the Polish American Congress.

Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland, lays a wreath in honor of the Polish cemetery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland, lays a wreath in honor of the Polish cemetery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

As part of a trip to District I in May, I had the opportunity to visit the Nest 946 Polish School in Somerville, N.J. This impressive School was started 31 years ago by Frank and Regina Grodzki, longtime Members of Nest 946. There are 185 students, many of them Falcon Members, enrolled in the school this year. I had the pleasure of watching some of the 11-year students take their final oral examination (Matura in Polish). They did a great job and I was most impressed. I also talked with the director of the school, Lucyna Lis, as well as two of the instructors.

Nest 946 Polish School

Nest 946 Polish School

Also in May I attended the Executive Summit meeting of the American Fraternal Alliance in Toronto, Canada. The highlight of this meeting was the presentation of a potential new branding campaign that can be used by all fraternal organizations. In very broad terms, think of the milk industry and its “Got Milk” campaign that has been so successful. If the concept is eventually adopted and implemented, PFA can use the program to establish awareness about who we are and what we do. I will certainly keep a close eye on this idea as it develops.

I wish you all a wonderful and safe summer, and I look forward to seeing those of you at the Convention.