Saturday, May 25, 2019

Objects that Speak - Zither of a Compassionate Dreamer

PAHA Website includes a new section entitled "Objects that Speak" and curated by President Anna Muller.  In the introduction to the site Muller writes:

"In the collection of objects included on this site, PAHA hopes to engage with the history of Polish Americans, but also to reflect on the phenomenology of objects. The objects tell the stories of people who traveled across the Atlantic. Most of the objects were to help them fulfill their dreams of remaking their lives anew far away from home. While they symbolize the importance of the home left behind, they also testify to the Polish immigrants’/people’s efforts to imbue a new home with significance. One of the first stories that grabbed our hearts – the story that is included on the website – was the story of a photo from a grandfather’s passport – a terrific example of how some objects, with time, take on a separate life from the one that served their creation; and how many of them now play a role in the lives of future generations. The relationship between us and objects is fluid – they affect our lives, but we also change their purpose. The passport was a tool that helped the grandfather’s transition, but with time, for the younger generations, it became the symbol of that transition, and also a link to the past. Photos of objects send a message of the power of human agency, but also of an individual’s daily life – daily gestures of care that nourish the connection with the past for the future."

More information:

Below we reprint one of the posts from the site.

Zither of a Compassionate Dreamer

Taylor Lenze (with the help of Henrietta Nowakowski and Anna Muller)

The strummed notes of a zither are striking and clear, overlapping one another in harmony and vibrating in the wooden hollow of the soundbox. The curved, wooden, string instrument, somewhat like a gentler-sounding harpsichord with additional guitar strings, and the ability to play music on it has been vastly forgotten today. For Henrietta Nowakowski, however, the zither (cytra, she calls it) was always a touchstone of her life.

For Nowakowski, the zither was a part of her mother (Aniela Zapytowski’s) identity, a symbol of her dreams. It’s story began earlier though, tracing back beyond Nowakowski’s memory to her maternal grandparents, Aniela’s parents.

Nowakowski never met her grandparents. She knows that her mother’s father took care of horses on an estate. Being a younger son in a family of multiple children, he hadn't inherited land from his own father and instead had to travel with his trade. His wife, [Nowakowski's grandmother], who passed away when little Aniela was 10 or 11 years old, must have been a strong, knowledgeable woman because professionally she was a herbalist. People came from all over her region to be cured by her.

After Aniela’s mother’s death, her father remarried. Aniela’s youngest sister was most impacted by the changing circumstances and was mistreated by her new stepmother. Eventually she couldn’t bear it, and at 16, set out for on a journey in hopes of a new life in America, a monumental decision for a young person without question, but one which would have ripple effects throughout the entire family and future generations.

This determination and courage, shared by late mother and youngest daughter is also apparent in Aniela’s story. Aniela, a middle daughter in the five children, was also a strong professional woman, matriarchal, determined and independent. Trained in sewing, Aniela worked in Lwów for an Austrian family as a seamstress and governess. Her hard work and practicality didn’t signify a brevity of imagination, however. Aniela was a dreamer, always thinking of other places and possibilities. In 1913, she and her older sister decided to make a short visit to the youngest sister, traveling by ship in second-class from Bremerhaven to the US where the young woman now lived in Philadelphia. Traveling second (rather than third) class on the ship was a big deal, and only possible because of Aniela’s own efforts and work as a seamstress (Zakład Krawcowy in Lwów). Nowakowski recounts with pride that they paid their own way and must have saved for their passage. 


Aniela herself was only 26. The beautiful wooden zither was clearly one of her cherished possessions because she included it among her necessities. Apart from the instrument and some pictures, Nowakowski has just a few other momentos her from her mother's European life. "I also have a picture of dried edelweiss flowers, a souvenir of my mother’s visit to Austria, where she accompanied her Austrian employer," Nowakowski recalls. Aniela once recounted seeing the operetta “The Merry Widow” in the Burg Theatre in Vienna during this trip. Her daughter now deduces that "judging by the time period, it must have been just at the time that this work by Franz Lehar premiered. The card with the dried ‘szarotki’ had to have been important to my mother since I remember that in the late 1940’s, about 30 years later, she went to a lot of effort to have the card beautifully framed. It’s now in my living room." Slowly, by looking at the objects and by going deeper in her memories, Nowakowski begins to piece together the story.

In Philadelphia, Nowakowski knows that the three sisters met up just as the war broke out. Though unexpected and probably not in line with Aniela’s plans for her life, she made the best of the compulsion to stay in the US and fell back on her sewing skills to support herself, finding work as a seamstress. A single woman forced to survive in a foreign country, Aniela could have become hardened and rough by the stress and work, but perhaps it was the zither and her music which allowed her to stay “soft hearted and tender” as Nowakowski remembers. Eventually Aniela moved to Pittsburg, becoming active in the Polish Falcons, a Polish paramilitary organization.

It was here that love struck. At the Pittsburgh Falcon Nest, Aniela met her husband and Henrietta's father, Ignacy Zapytowski. Also from the Lwów area, he had served in the Austrian army and first at age 24 immigrated to America (in 1907). In Pittsburg, he enlisted to go back to Europe and fight with the Polish Army in WWI. This decision stirred turmoil in his family because there was the potential the family would be fighting against itsself.

After his safe return to the US at the conclusion of the war, he and Aniela were married. Both remained very active in Polish military organizations, however. Ignacy’s work brought him to Detroit (where he could use his cabinetmaker skills as a wood model maker for future cars), Aniela assumed directorship of a woman’s group, headquartered in Detroit, which worked to help returning Polish veterans.

The couple had four children, two sons and two daughters. Though busy as a working mother, Aniela still tried to play the zither, actively seeking out sheet music for it, in addition to the ones she brought from Poland. Probably because it was such an uncommon, specific instrument, the only music she had was that which a piano tuner gave her. Assumedly she could not play by ear but relied on written notes.

By the mid 30s Aniela had stopped both working and playing the Zither. It was badly in need of tuning and fixing but there was no one with the necessary knowledge and skills to do the work. This may have been heartbreaking, a tangible severing of Aniela’s connection to her past, home and dreams of returning. But if so, she didn’t express this to her children nor allow it to break her soft spirit and love of music. Even though, from the earliest Nowakowski can remember, the Zither was hidden away out of sight, the house remained full of music and dreams. Nowakowski and her older sister both took piano lessons and practiced on the piano at home, continuing their mother’s tradition.

By this time, Aniela's dreams of returning to Poland were also lovingly put aside like her instrument. Though she and Ignacy had always wished to return home, the depression had wiped out their savings. Based on a copious amount of postcards and letters, it's assumed that Ignacy traveled frequently with work before marriage, but the family was never able to permanently relocate to Poland. Despite this too, Nowakowski recalls how her mother always remained a "very compassionate dreamer," full of softness and hope. Over and over again, Aniela’s strength and grace showed through as she adjusted to circumstances beyond her control and continued on ungrudgingly.

Unfortunately, the instrument hasn't held up as well to hardship. After being stored 15 years in a humid basement, the instrument's wood split beyond repair. Nowakowski recovered the instrument in the 90s when her sister moved to Alaska and has preserved and protected it ever since. Not able to play the Zither herself, she nevertheless cherishes the link it represents for her to her mother’s dreams and desires to learn.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Polish American Studies, Vol. 76, No. 1, Spring 2019

The Spring 2019 issue of the Polish American Studies has been published!  The Editor, Anna Jaroszynska-Kirchmann writes:

"We are glad to present to you the new issue of Polish American Studies (vol. 76, no. 1: Spring 2019)! This issue highlights two distinct themes in the research on Polonia in the Western Hemisphere.

The first theme pertains to the transformations within contemporary Polonia in one specific location: Greenpoint, NY. A group of distinguished sociologists and urban anthropologists share their research on this topic. Jerry Krase discusses how the media coverage coming both from print and internet sources created a changing image of the Polish Greenpoint. Judith DeSena comments on how economic changes and gentrification affected the housing market in Greenpoint. A group of researchers from NYU and CUNY (Karolina Lukasiewicz, Ewa Dzurak, Ewa Maliga, Izabela J. Barry, and Marta Pawlaczek) present a sociological study of the aging population of Polish residents in Greenpoint.

The second theme focuses on the history of the Kashubs, a regional ethno-linguistic group originating from the northern part of Poland. In his article, Joshua C. Blank offers an insightful look into the culture of Kashub settlers in Ontario, Canada, and especially the traditions of imbibing. In "Varia" Anne Gurnack, Aleksandra Kurowska-Susdorf, and Janina Kurowska recall a forgotten story of the Kashub fishermen from Jones Island, WI, who became an object of the travelling exhibit on both sides of the ocean.

In Memoriam includes a tribute to Professor Thaddeus C. Radzilowski. Book Review section brings reviews of publications authored by Anna Mazurkiewicz, Sheldon Anderson, Waldemar Glinski, Thaddeus Gromada, and Katrina Shawver.

Last but not least, please note the cover: it is an image of a mural on the walls of the Polish National Home in Greenpoint, NY, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising of 1944. It had been unveiled in 2014. The mural was painted by artist Rafal pisarczyk and sponsored by the Pangea Network/Gram-X Promotions and by the Polish American Veterans Association Chapter 2 in New York City."


Polish American Studies, vol. 76, no. 1 (Spring 2019)

Thaddeus C. Radzilowski

by Anna D. Jaroszyńska-Kirchmann


  • Seeing Greenpoint Virtually and Actually Change: Polish Americans and Gentrification in
  • Brooklyn - By Jerome Krase
  • The Polish Community of Greenpoint, Brooklyn Then and Now: A View from the Street -  By Judith N. DeSena
  • Getting by or Making it? Polish Immigrants Aging in an Ethnic Enclave of Greenpoint - By Karolina Łukasiewicz, Ewa Dżurak, Ewa Maliga, Izabela J. Barry, and Marta Pawlaczek


  • Stills in the Hills: Moonshine Memories from Around Canada’s First Polish Kashub Community -  By Joshua C. Blank


  • The Saga of the Jones Island’s Kaszube Fishermen Returns Home to Poland in 2017 - By Anne M. Gurnack, Aleksandra Kurowska- Susdorf, Janina Kurowska


  • Anna Mazurkiewicz, Uchodźcy polityczni z Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej w amerykańskiej polityce zimnowojennej, 1948-1954 (Anna D. Jaroszyńska-Kirchmann)
  • Sheldon Anderson, The Forgotten Legacy of Stella Walsh: The Greatest Athlete of Her Time (Mary Patrice Erdmans)
  • Waldemar Gliński, ed. Polonia kanadyjska. Przeszłość i teraźniejszość (John M. Grondelski) 
  • Thaddeus V. Gromada, Tatra Highlander Folk Culture in Poland and America. Collected Essays from “The Tatra Eagle” (Marek Liszka)
  • Katrina Shawver. Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America (Sheldon Anderson)


Polish American Studies is the Polish American Historical Association's interdisciplinary double-blind refereed scholarly journal (ISSN 0032-2806; eISSN 2330-0833), which has been published continuously since 1944.  It appears biannually and is available world-wide through JSTOR, a database of full-text research journals. PAS is indexed in America: History and Life; American Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies; ATLA Catholic Periodical and Literature Index; Bibliographic Index; Current Abstracts; Historical Abstracts; MLA International Bibliography; PIO - Periodical Index Online; PubMed; TOC Premier and EBSCO.

To subscribe and for more information please go to

The editors welcome scholarship including articles, edited documents, bibliographies and related materials dealing with all aspects of the history and culture of Poles in the Western Hemisphere. They particularly welcome contributions that place the Polish experience in historical and comparative perspective as part of the larger Polish Diaspora, and by examining its relationship to other ethnic groups. Contributions from any discipline in the humanities and social sciences are welcome. The Swastek Prize is awarded annually for the best article published in a given volume of Polish American Studies.


Manuscripts or inquiries should be submitted in Microsoft Word via e-mail attachment to the Editor, Anna D. Jaroszyńska-Kirchmann, at or  Manuscripts should be no longer than 8,000 to 10,000 words plus notes, tables, etc. They should include an abstract of about 200 words, and a brief author’s biographical information, their affiliation, and email address. It is the author’s responsibility to obtain all copyright permissions for illustrations and images. Editors will not review works previously published in any form or ghost-written. Authors should follow The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. Contributors whose first language is not English should have their work reviewed for clarity and style prior to submission.

Dr. Anna D. Jaroszyńska-Kirchmann
Editor, Polish American Studies
Eastern Connecticut State University,
Department of History, Webb Hall 333
83 Windham Street, Willimantic, CT 06226


Books for review should be sent to Mary Patrice Erdmans (English language) or Joanna Wojdon (Polish language) at the addresses below. Books may be submitted by publishers or authors. Submission is no guarantee that books will be reviewed and books will not be returned.

Mary Patrice Erdmans
Book Review Editor
Polish American Studies
Department of Sociology
10900 Euclid Avenue
Case Western Reserve University                 
Cleveland, OH 44106                                       

Joanna Wojdon
Book Review Editor for Poland
Polish American Studies
University of Wroclaw
Faculty of History
Szewska 49, 50-139
Wrocław, Poland


Editor: Anna D. Jaroszyńska-Kirchmann, Eastern Connecticut State University, or

Book Review Editor: Mary Patrice Erdmans, Case Western Reserve University, or

Book Review Editor for Poland: Joanna Wojdon, University of Wroclaw, Poland,


M. B. Biskupski, Central Connecticut State University
Tobias Brinkmann, Pennsylvania State University
John J. Bukowczyk, Wayne State University
Silvia Dapia, John Jay College, CUNY
William J. Galush, Loyola University Chicago
Ann Hetzel Gunkel, Columbia College Chicago
Grażyna Kozaczka, Cazenovia College
Karen Majewski, University of Michigan
Anna Mazurkiewicz, University of Gdansk, Poland
Thomas J. Napierkowski, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Neal Pease, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Angela Pienkos, Polish Center Wisconsin
James S. Pula, Purdue University
John Radziłowski, University of Alaska - Southeast
Francis D. Raška, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Suzanne R. Sinke, Florida State University
Dariusz Stola, Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, Poland
Adam Walaszek, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland

Monday, May 6, 2019

Prof. Dominic Pacyga - Vice-Marshall in Chicago's 127th Constitution Day Parade

Dr. Pacyga among officials of  the Parade. Students present the banner
with the motto of the 2019 parade. Photo by Andrew Mikolajczyk. Used by Permission

Dr. Dominic Pacyga, a highly respected historian of Polonia and an expert on the history of Chicago served as Vice-Marshall in the 2019 Constitution Day Parade in Chicago.  He commented: "Being Vice- Marshall of the Polish Constitution Day Parade in Chicago was one of the high points of my professional life. I was surprised and honored to be nominated by the Dziennik Związkowy and grateful for their endorsement of my work. The parade was wonderful. It was a delight to see so many young people and children involved. I was especially happy to see the widespread support of Polonia for the event. It proves the staying power of Polskość and that the Chicago area’s Polonia remains a vital force in the social, economic, cultural, and political life of the city and suburbs."

Dominic Pacyga getting ready for the parade. Photo by George Woznicka

Dominic A. Pacyga is Professor Emeritus of the Columbia College in Chicago. For three decades, he taught  in the Liberal Education Department at the college. He earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1981 and has wide ranging interests in urban development, labor history, immigration, and racial and ethnic relations.   He worked with museums including the Chicago Historical Society, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Field Museum in Chicago on a variety of public history projects. Pacyga has also worked with numerous neighborhood organizations as well as ethnic, labor, and fraternal groups to preserve and exhibit their histories. Pacyga acted as guest curator of a major exhibit, "The Chicago Bungalow" at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and co-edited The Chicago Bungalow (Arcadia Press 2001), a companion volume to the exhibit.

St. Maksymilian Kolbe Polish School and youth in Lowicz costumes 
at the 2019 Parade. Photo by Andrew Mikolajczyk

Dr. Pacyga won the Oscar Halecki Award from the Polish American Historical Association for his book, Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago (1991) and the Catholic Book Award for Chicago: City of Neighborhoods (1986). Dr. Pacyga served on PAHA Board in 2016-2018. During the 75th Anniversary  Conference of PAHA (at Loyola University Chicago, September 2018), Dr. Pacyga took the participants on a tour of Polish Chicago; and a summary was posted on this blog:

The Parade in 1999. Photo by Belissarius. Wikimedia Commons.

The Polish Constitution Day Parade in Chicago was held for the first time in 1892 in Humboldt Park, and after World War II it was moved to downtown, currently being held in Grant Park, from Buckingham Fountain to the bridge.  The event honors Poland's May 3rd Constitution, the first democratic constitution of Europe, adopted by the Polish Seym in 1791, after four years of debating. It is the second constitution of its kind, following the Constitution of the United States Constitution.

Women in Highlander Costumes. Photo by Andrew Mikolajczyk

The 2019 Parade Marshall was Józef Cikowski, president of Polish Highlanders Alliance of North America, an organization gathering former residents of the Tatra Mountains and their foothills, who emigrated to Chicago in large numbers mostly prior to World War I. The election of the Marshall was held in March, with interviews of the top candidates w ho presented their achievements on behalf of Polonia.

St. Urszula Ledochowska Polish School. Photo by Andrew Mikolajczyk

More than 100 Polonia organizations participated in the parade, including schools, culture clubs, Polish student clubs, Polish scouts (Harcerstwo), businesses, and fraternal and social organizations. The parade was watched by about 200,000 viewers. All Polish language schools their students to the parade, and about 10,000 students participated in the parade, marching with their teachers, carrying flags and banners.

 Photo by Andrew Mikolajczyk

Photo by Andrew Mikolajczyk

Casimir Pulaski Polish School. Photo by Andrew Mikolajczyk

Polish American Student Alliance from Northwestern University.
Photo by Andrew Mikolajczyk

Photo by Andrew Mikolajczyk

Monday, April 15, 2019

Nominations for PAHA Awards Due in June and July 2019


Nominations are sought for the following awards that will be presented by PAHA at its 77th Annual Meeting, in January 2020. The following award nominations must be received by July 30, 2019, via email to Chair of the Awards Committee, PAHA's Second Vice President, Dr. Marta Cieslak, at

  • Mieczyslaw Haiman Award is offered annually to an American scholar for sustained contribution to the study of Polish Americans.
  • Oskar Halecki Prize recognizes an important book or monograph on the Polish experience in the United States. Eligibility is limited to works of historical and/or cultural interest, including those in the social sciences or humanities, published in the two years prior to the year of the award.
  • Skalny Civic Achievement Award honors individuals or groups who advance PAHA's goals of promoting research and awareness of the Polish-American experience and/or have made significant contributions to Polish or Polish-American community and culture.
  • Amicus Poloniae Award recognizes significant contributions enhancing knowledge of Polish and Polish-American heritage by individuals not belonging to the Polish-American community.
  • James Pula Distinguished Service Award is given occasionally to a member of PAHA who has rendered valuable and sustained service to the organization. Since 2017, this award honors Prof. James Pula, PAHA's past president, current treasurer, and a long-time editor of the Polish American Studies.
  • Creative Arts Prize recognizes the contributions in the field of creative arts by individuals or groups who have promoted an awareness of the Polish experience in the Americas.
  • Established in 2018, the Joseph W. Zurawski Prize will be awarded for the best article or book published on the topic of Polish American screen images in films or television presented to audiences in the United States and released by American companies. To be eligible, works must have been published within the past three years. Nominations should be sent to the Awards Committee, Polish American Historical Association. Although there is no deadline, for the fullest annual consideration nominations should be made by June 1 each year. Awards will be presented at the awards ceremony during the annual PAHA conference in January.


The Polish American Historical Association is pleased to announce creation of the Joseph W. Zurawski Prize. Consisting of a $500 award and a plaque, the  prize will be awarded for the best article or book published  on the topic of Polish American screen images in films or  television presented to audiences in the  United States  and released by American companies. To be eligible, works  must have been published within the past three years. Nominations should be sent to the Awards Committee, Polish  American Historical Association, Chair, Dr. Marta Cieslak, at Although there is no deadline, for the fullest  annual consideration nominations should be made by June 1  each year. Awards will be presented at the awards ceremony  during the annual PAHA conference in  January.

Joseph W. Zurawski has remained active in the Polish American community since writing his graduate thesis on Poland in 1960. He reviewed books on the Polish American community for several newspapers, was editor for Narod Polski, president of the Polish Museum of America, member of the Boards of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America and the Polish Museum of America, and taught Polish American history and culture at Wright and Triton Colleges. He was an archivist of historical records for Saint Mary of Nazareth Hospital (known as "The Polish Hospital”), wrote several books including Polish American History and Culture: An Annotated Bibliography and, most recently, The Polish Presence in American Screen Images. Among the awards he received are: Outstanding Young Man of America, Chamber of Commerce (1963); Distinguished Service Certificate, Copernicus Quincentennial Commission (1973); the American Catholic Who’s Who (1976), Kosciuszko Medal, Kosciuszko Foundation (1977); Civic Achievement Award, Polish American Historical  Association (2002); “Wybitny Polak” (Outstanding Pole, culture category), Foundation of Polish Promotion, Chicago presentation a Chicago’s Polish Consulate, Warsaw culmination at Grand Theater and Polish National Opera (2017). He has been a proud member of the Polish American Historical Association for over 50 years.


PAHA encourages graduate students and emerging scholars (up to three years after graduation) to apply for a Travel Grant. Two such grants of $500.00 each will be awarded to offset travel costs to attend the 2020 PAHA Annual Meeting in New York. The grants will be awarded by the Program Committee for two best conference proposals dealing with the Polish American experience in any historical epoch, scholarly field, or aspect submitted by junior scholars.

To apply please submit the following documents to Chair of Awards Committee, PAHA's Second Vice President, Dr. Marta Cieslak, via email to
  • your paper proposal (as required by the general CFP)
  • a brief letter of application (no template will be provided)
  • a complete CV
  • one letter of recommendation from a senior scholar (e.g. thesis advisor).
In order to receive the travel grant it is mandatory to present the paper at the conference in person. Awardees will receive remuneration during the Awards Ceremony at the Annual Meeting. Failure to present the paper in person at the annual meeting shall result in the immediate cancellation of the grant.

The deadline for application, to be submitted with the paper proposal, is JULY 30, 2019.

Please send your application packets by email to chair of the Awards Committee, Dr. Marta Cieslak, at, with the subject line "Graduate Student Travel Grant."

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Anna Mazurkiewicz Receives OAH'S 2019 Willi Paul Adams Award for her Book

Barbara Kalabińska, author of index, and Prof. Mazurkiewicz with her award

During its annual meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) presented Prof. Anna Mazurkiewicz, University of Gdańsk, with their prestigious 2019 Willi Paul Adams Award, which is given every two years for the best book on American history published in a language other than English.

The book, Uchodźcy polityczni z Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej w amerykańskiej polityce zimnowojennej, 1948–1954 [Political Exiles from East Central Europe in American Cold War Politics, 1948–1954] was published by the Institute of National Remembrance and University of Gdańsk. This is an impressively detailed study of the origins and dynamics of U.S. involvement on behalf of East Central European exiles in the early years of the Cold War. Based on transatlantic archival work and covering exile groups such as Albanians, Romanians, Hungarians, Poles, and Slovaks, the book’s signal contribution is to join the literature of U.S. Cold War policy and propaganda formation with the literature on exile politics in these important but understudied regions of the Soviet bloc.

Prof. Earl Lewis, OAH President presents the award to Prof. Anna Mazurkiewicz

Mazurkiewicz presents a nuanced analysis of the two-way relationship between East Central European exiles and U.S. Cold War policy makers, especially through formation of the Free Europe Committee, an anticommunist Central Intelligence Agency–supported organization that established Radio Free Europe and served American propaganda interests. Documents from exiles and interviews with them demonstrate the compromises involved in becoming tethered to the U.S. propaganda mission and give voice to their complex and often-equivocal response to the partnership. The author concludes that the East Central Europeans’ integration in the Free Europe Committee became a model for U.S. relations with anticommunist exile groups from other regions of the world. Because exile and refugee politics are often tied to U.S. policy makers’ interest in regime change elsewhere, Mazurkiewicz’s history will remain a meaningful reference point for the present.

The award was presented on April 5 by OAH’s 2018–19 President Earl Lewis and 2019–20 President Joanne Meyerowitz. For more information, visit or call 812.855.7311.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Polish Camps in England after WWII: Polish Resettlement Bill and Beyond – by Agata Błaszczyk

Maja Trochimczyk, Agata Blaszczyk and Andrew Klees after their session, January 5, 2019, Chicago.

This is a brief summary of Agata Błaszczyk’s paper “The Foundations of the Polish Diaspora in Exile after World War II: Cultural Identity and Loyalty of the Polish Emigres in Resettlement” presented at the 76th Meeting of PAHA in Chicago in January 2019. Dr. Błaszczyk represents Polish University Abroad in London (PUNO), Polish Emigration Research Unit. The session also included papers: "For Us Americans of Polish Descent, War Broke out on September 1st, 1939": The Divided Loyalties of the Sienkiewicz Youth Circle - Andrew Kless, University of Rochester and "Defining Poland through Music: American Musical Celebrations of the Centennial of Poland’s Regained Independence" - Maja Trochimczyk, Moonrise Press, Los Angeles. An overview about musical celebrations of independence was posted on this blog last November:

Agata Blaszczyk
The subject of my research is Polish immigration to post-War Britain and overseas. It portrays the Polish community’s rehabilitation in exile and the British government’s creation of a model migrant settlement policy for Polish refugees after 1946. It explains how Poles successfully integrated into mainstream British society and highlights the importance of education as their route to civic integration.

Ashby-Folville Manor and Nissen Huts

I investigate the question of national identity, national loyalty, cultivating national traditions, and retaining “Polishness” through the prism of resettlement. My study examines the political implications of the passage of the Polish Resettlement Bill in March 1947 (the first ever British legislation dealing with mass immigration) and how the original refugees formed much of the Polish community as it exists today.

A slide from Dr. Blaszczyk's presentation.

A good deal of the work linked to the Bill involved education as provided for by the Committee for the Education of Poles, a body brought into being on 1 April 1947. The Committee’s principal aim was stressed in its memorandum: ‘To fit them (Poles) for absorption into British schools and British careers whilst still maintaining provision for their natural desire for the maintenance of Polish culture and the knowledge of Polish History and Literature.”  The National Assistance Board was to provide accommodation for Polish refugees in camps, hostels or other establishments. The Board took charge of the Polish Resettlement Camps. Former army and air force camps were utilized as temporary accommodation throughout the country for over 250,000 Polish troops and their families. 

School grounds in Bottisham, classrooms and dormitories.

For many years these camps were seen as remote places packed with Nissen huts or poor quality dwellings occupied by more than one family per hut. They were located in rural areas or outside the cities, heated by slow combustion stoves, but with poor natural ventilation and light. There were severe shortages in many aspects of everyday life in the camps. However, for the first generation of Poles they became a symbol of stability; for the second, much Most camps were eventually closed in the 1950’s and late1960’s. Northwick Park Camp (Gloucestershire) was closed in 1968, though according to local (British) residents the last Polish families only moved out in 1973. Based on interviews with local residents who lived close to the Northwick Park Estates in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Ashby Folville Camp (Leicestershire) was closed in 1958; Babdown (Gloucestershire) in 1959; Daglingworth (Gloucestershire) in 1961; Melton Mowbray (Leicestershire) in 1962; Kelvedon (Essex) in 1959.younger generation, the camps would always remain in their memory as happy places, full of freedom.

A group of camp residents, Nissen huts in the background.

In due course, the Poles emerged as dedicated contributors to the rebuilt British and many other post-war economies. Children of Polish descent, who were born, brought up and educated in the reality of the resettlement camps have engaged in professional careers and made their Polish names visible not only in a rapidly diversifying British society, but in other cultures on different continents in the post war times. The classes of ’46 and ’47 (in particular) demonstrates the successful implementation of the principles adopted by the Committee for the Education of Poles. These children of Polish descent were born, brought up and educated in the reality of the Committee’s camps or hostels. After obtaining a basic education, they engaged in professional careers and made their Polish names recognizable in a rapidly diversifying British society.

A Nissen hut in Northwick Park

Two prominent examples must suffice. Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, a Polish-British physician and immunologist is currently the 345th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Sir Leszek’s parents arrived in the Britain in 1947 and settled in Wales, where he was born and brought up in a small, Polish-speaking community. He was knighted in 2001.  Then there is Waldemar Januszczak, the well-known British art critic and broadcaster. He also was a child of Polish refugees, and tragically lost his father in a train accident when he was one-year old. Today, the Polish minority constitutes one of the largest and the most prosperous ethnic groups in the UK and in America. 

Nissen hut today, with added entrance porch. Northwick Park (Gloucestershire)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Calls for Papers from PAHA and PIASA - Proposals Due in the Spring 2019

Saswat Nanda's photo of Manhattan from Staten Island Ferry. Wikimedia Commons.

Two Polish American scholarly organizations issued calls for papers for their annual conferences, the Polish American Historical Association, due by 15 April 2019 and the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences, due by March 15, 2019.

The previous issue of this blog contained detailed Call for Papers for PAHA's 77th Annual Meeting in New York, held  as part of the 134th yearly meeting of the American Historical Association from January 3–6, 2020. Abstracts for papers and panel proposals are now being accepted and should be submitted to Anna Muller at

Gdansk, Dlugie Pobrzeze, from


The Polish Institute of Arts & Sciences of America is pleased to invite proposals for the Seventh World Congress on Polish Studies to be held at the University of Gdańsk, Poland, June 14-16, 2019.

Proposals are solicited for complete sessions or individual papers in any of the disciplines in the liberal arts, sciences, or business/economics. The general theme of the conference is “Anniversaries,” which, because 2019 lends itself to the remembrance of so many varied historical moments, should be interpreted as any formative event. Papers do not necessarily have to address the conference theme. Since the Institute values comparative sessions that place the Polish and East Central European experience in context, individual papers need not focus specifically on Poland or the Polish diaspora, but may include papers on a central topic that focus on other national or regional experiences. Similarly, sessions including presenters from more than one country are encouraged.

Each session is scheduled for 90 minutes to accommodate three papers or 20 minutes per paper. The conference language is English, although complete sessions in Polish will also be accepted (sessions must contain either all English or all Polish presentations). All conference rooms will be equipped with AV for the use of PowerPoint and CD/DVD presentations. Presenters are invited to submit their conference papers for possible publication in The Polish Review subsequent to the conference.

To submit a paper or complete session, please send the name, e-mail address, institutional affiliation, a tentative paper title and a brief one-paragraph abstract for all presenters to program chair James Pula at The deadline for proposals is March 15, 2019. All participants are expected to pay the conference registration fee.

The University of Gdańsk is located along the sandy shores of the Baltic Sea. Its eleven faculties, with almost 28,000 students, are concentrated in the three cities of Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot that boast an efficient transportation system, an international airport, fast train connections to Warsaw and Kraków, and ferry connections to Scandinavia.

The Tri-City area is one of the most beautiful places in Poland. The charming location on the coast, as well as its many outstanding theatres, concert halls and restaurants constitute an attractive asset for conference participants. The attractions of historic Gdańsk include numerous museums of the city’s fascinating past (—Maritime Museum, National Museum, World War II Museum, Westerplatte where the first shots of the Second World War in Europe were fired, as well as the European Solidarity Center located on the grounds of the former Lenin shipyard where the workers’ strike of 1980 initiated a process that led to the crumbling of Communism in East Central Europe.

The attractions of the modern city of Gdynia—“the city of sea and dreams”—includes the new Emigration Museum as well as museums of the Polish Navy and of the city itself. All of them are located on the shores of the bay. Sopot, the pearl of the Baltic Sea on the very coast itself, each year draws thousands of tourists to its charming beaches and cafes. Less than an hour away from Gdańsk, in Malbork, there is the 13th century Teutonic Knights castle, a world renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site.