By Donald Pienkos
Distributed by the Polonia Media Network
Polish Americans are familiar with the saying: “Three Poles Four Political Parties.” This is an acknowledgment of our well known Polish individualism. At the same time it is often stated as a reproach over our seeming inability to agree on how to work together to deal with the issues we face.
With this saying in mind, it is refreshing to share the news about a recent event where not three Americans of Polish heritage, but more than twenty, got together to discuss, and agree on, a number of important, even critical, issues that we face today.
I am writing about the Polish American Leadership Summit meeting that took place on March 11-12, 2014, in Pittsburgh. This gathering was proposed in Chicago back in May, 2013, at the meeting of the Polish American Congress (PAC) Council of National Directors. The idea was to bring together the leaders of the major national organizations of Americans of Polish heritage for the purpose of their sitting down with each other to discuss the central issues we face today as a Polish American community and to adopt an action program that, if followed, will help respond to these issues.
The proposal to hold such a Summit was approved unanimously by the PAC leadership. A coordinating committee headed by Tim Kuzma, President of the Polish Falcons of America (PFA), and including Barbara Anderson of the Washington Office of the PAC and myself, Professor Emeritus Don Pienkos, then went to work to make the proposal a reality.
By December the committee had put together a letter of invitation setting forth the goals of the Summit. Soon the responses began coming in, all of them positive, including one from Poland’s Ambassador to the United States. By the end of February the leaders of nineteen national Polish American organizations had agreed to come, at their own expense, or to send their representative to the Summit. These fine individuals were from every sector of our community, from the fraternals, the educational and academic societies, the Church, from professional associations, cultural organizations, and from our media. They included the Polish-born and the American-born. A true and comprehensive gathering!
For two days the participants sat down together, talked, and listened to one another, all in an atmosphere suffused with a desire to identify the problems our community faces and to find ways to deal with them, together.
Five general themes came up for discussion. The first dealt with finding ways for Polish American organizations to energize the Polish American community and their own memberships by engaging them in our heritage and in so doing strengthening the organizations themselves. A second focused on reaching out more effectively to young people of Polish heritage. A third concerned building coalitions with like-minded people and organizations outside our Polish American community to advance shared interests and goals. A fourth involved finding ways for our community to more effectively work with Poland so as to advance the relationship between our two countries. Fifth, we looked at how our organizations might better “spread the word” in promoting wider awareness and interest in the activities, accomplishments, and causes that Polish Americans and Poland agree are important.
These broad themes all generated a good deal of discussion. As important, they led to the development of more than forty specific and practical resolutions that all agreed would enhance the role of our Polish American organizations in achieving both their particular and their more general aims, all for the good of our entire community. (For the list of these resolutions one is invited to e-mail this writer at
Taking part in the Summit were: Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf, Msgr. Thomas Machalski (Rector, Orchard Lake Seminary), Rev. Walter Ptak (President, Polish American Priests Association), Anna Sokolowska and James Robaczewski (Vice President and National Secretary, respectively, Polish Roman Catholic Union of America fraternal), Irene Jugan (President, Polish National Union of America fraternal), Sharon Zago (Vice President, Polish Women’s Alliance of America fraternal), Deborah Majka (Past President, American Council of Polish Culture), Gregory Fryc (President, Pangea Alliance), Mary Kay Pieski (Director, Kosciuszko Foundation of America), Alexander Fiedotjew (President, National Advocates Society), Thaddeus Radzilowski (Piast Institute and Polish American Historical Association), Ewa Koch (President, Polish Teachers Association), Dorota Andraka (President, Polish Supplementary School Council of America), Nick Sadowski (Vice President, Nowy Dziennik), Jan Saykiewicz (Director, Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America), James Kaczynski (Polish American Journal), Tim Kuzma (President, Polish Falcons of America fraternal), Bozena Kaminska and Anthony Bajdek (Vice Presidents, Polish American Congress), Barbara B. Anderson (Washington Office, PAC), and Don Pienkos (past director, Polish National Alliance fraternal. PNA/PAC President Spula was unable to attend due to circumstance arising at the last moment.
This story began with a Polish saying. Let’s finish with another: “Krakow wasn’t built in a day.”
Yes, what took place in Pittsburgh represented a great start. Now it’s up to everyone, those who participated in the Summit and those who are learning about what happened in Pittsburgh, to do their part to build on the solid foundation that was established just a few months ago.
Together we can do it!