Events at the University of Michigan

Political Science and Music at the University of Michigan
By Raymond Rolak

ANN ARBOR– Two special events will be presented on the campus of the University of Michigan as part of the Center of Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies. On Tuesday, April 17, at 4 p.m., the former President of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and former Czech Prime Minister, Petr Pithart, will be speaking at the Rackham Auditorium. There will also be a panel dialogue and both will be on the dais addressing: “The European Crisis: A View from Warsaw and Prague.”

The special guests because of their insight and wealth of experiences will offer their own unique perspectives on recent events in Europe. Highlighted will be the challenges that become associated with political changes and successes in emerging democracies. The program is part of the continuing education series of the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies.

On Wednesday, April 18, 12:00 p.m.-1:30 P.M., CREES and the Center for International Studies will have a noontime concert and enrichment presentation on “Jewish Music in the Time of the Holocaust.” The music of Czech-Jewish composer Pavel Haas will be showcased. Haas managed to compose songs while interred at the Terezín concentration camp. Presenters will include: Timothy Cheek, associate professor of voice, Caroline Helton, assistant professor of voice, Kathryn Goodson, piano and Allen Schrott, bass-baritone.

In an unassociated coincidence of music and politics, 120 years ago, Ignace Jan Paderewski made his first of six visits to the University of Michigan campus to perform one of his renowned piano concerts. The beloved Polish patriot did a benefit performance for women’s sports on February 18, 1892.

The former Prime Minister of Poland in 1919 always was open to discuss and lobby for a free Poland. He amassed a large fortune through his musical enterprises, most of which he donated to the service of Poland and the benefit of needy musicians and Jewish refugees.

Posted in Arts, Education, Poland, Polish History, Polonia | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Events at the University of Michigan

Evan Lysacek names Sports Ambassador

U.S. State Department Names Lysacek as Sports Diplomat
By Raymond Rolak

The 2010 Olympic gold medalist in men’s figure skating, Evan Lysacek, has left for Europe to be a sports ambassador in association with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. He will visit Stockholm, Sweden, and Minsk, Belarus.

File photo

Lysacek won the gold medal in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games and was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Sportsman of the Year in 2010. That year he was also named the Amateur Athletic Union’s Sullivan Award winner, given to the most outstanding U.S. amateur athlete of the year. The prestigious honor is given for accomplishments, leadership skills, character and sportsmanship. Lysacek did not compete in the U.S. Nationals this year.

While in Sweden, Lysacek will hold ice skating clinics, organized in cooperation with the non-governmental organization, Sports Without Borders. He will conduct clinics with the Skating Union of Belarus in Minsk and speak with students at the University of Physical Culture about the importance of sports in society.

The trip to Sweden will give him a chance to visit old friend Natalia Lopatniuk-Brzezinski. They used to skate together in Chicago. Lopatniuk-Brezinski is the wife of new U.S. ambassador to Sweden, Mark Brzezinski. Mark Brzezinski wrote the 2000 book “The Struggle for Constitutionalism in Poland.”

Earlier this month, while in Boston, Lysacek spoke about his upcoming trip before the Skating Club of Boston’s Ice Chips show. Lysacek was the headliner at Harvard’s Bright Arena during the 100th Anniversary of the famed skating club’s showcase and extravaganza. Fittingly, the theme of this year’s production was ‘100 Years of Excellence’. “I’ve been checking the weather in Sweden and Belarus every day,” he said. One of the choreographers for the giant ice extravaganza was Tom Lescinski. Lysacek used New York based fashion designer Vera Wang for his costumes.

“As a figure skater, I have always been proud to represent the United States at competitions around the world,” Lysacek said. “I am honored to be named a Sports Envoy and look forward to supporting the goals set by Secretary (Hillary) Clinton through sports diplomacy.”

Spokesperson Shep Goldberg of Northville, Michigan said Lysacek had recently given clinics in Saudi Arabia to overwhelming crowds.

Lysacek has said in skating circles that the 2014 Olympics were his next big goal. The U.S. Figure Skating Association and Lysacek were recently at odds over endorsement contracts regarding product category sponsorships. He is scheduled to perform at Kim Yu-Na’s ice show in South Korea this May. Yu-Na was the women’s 2010 Olympic gold medalist and is a pivotal spokesperson for South Korea’s efforts in hosting the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.

Michele Kwan was the most recent figure skater who served as a public diplomacy ambassador for the State Department. Since 2005, the U.S. has sent more than 200 U.S. athletes to over 50 countries to participate as Sports Envoy’s in their Sports United programs.

Posted in Polonia | Tagged , | Comments Off on Evan Lysacek names Sports Ambassador

Ś+P Tadeusz Sawicz laid to rest

The Last ‘Battle of Britain’ Aviator Laid to Rest
By Raymond Rolak

TORONTO– Tadeusz Sawicz, a former Polish World War II Air Force Officer, was honored with full military ceremonies when his remains were flown to Warsaw, Poland from Toronto, Canada for a state burial recently.

Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak, Polish Air Force troops, and soldiers from Britain’s Royal Air Force attended the arrival. Siemoniak said with reverence, “General, welcome in Poland, we shall always remember what you have done for the Republic of Poland.”

The honor ceremonies were historical because Sawicz was the last surviving Polish aviator that flew combat in the “Battle of Britain.” Brig. Gen. Tadeusz Sawicz died October 19, at the age of 97. He had been confined to a suburban Ontario nursing home. His ashes arrived at the military airport near Warsaw and his remains were interred at the military Powazki cemetery. His widow Jadwiga and daughter Anna attended the solemn event. The memorial started with a Catholic Mass.

With the RAF Queen’s Color Squadron present, Polish military spokesperson Czeslaw Mroczek said that Sawicz gave us an example of “true patriotism.”

He got his wings at the Aviation Cadet School in Dęblin, Poland in 1935. At the start of World War II in 1939, Sawicz flew in Poland’s air protection against the invading German Nazis. He was a member of the famed “Pursuit Brigade” which defended Warsaw in September of 1939. After the formidable power of the German Luftwaffe collapsed Warsaw’s air defenses, he joined Polish pilots fighting in France. Shortly after, when Paris surrendered, he joined thousands of Polish airmen, soldiers and sailors who traveled to Britain to take up the fight once again.

In the summer of 1940, General Władysław Sikorski – the head of Poland’s Government in Exile in London – signed an agreement with the British Government to form a Polish Air Force in Britain.

Sawicz served with distinction in the Polish Air Force in Britain from the 1940 “Battle of Britain” until 1947, and was credited with shooting down three German aircraft. He had been awarded Poland’s highest military honor, the Order Wojenny Virtuti Militari in 1943 and numerous other British, U.S., and Netherland aviation medals.

During the “Battle of Britain” German bombers devastated England’s airfields, cities and ports in a bid to destroy its defenses in preparation for a planned invasion. The Nazi’s had hoped they could bomb Great Britain into submission for surrender or a favorable negotiated peace.

In preparation for the invasion, Adolph Hitler had written in his famous Directive #16, “The English air force must have been beaten down to such an extent morally and in fact that it can no longer muster any power of attack worth mentioning against the German crossing.”

During the “Battle of Britain” the highly trained and battle hardened Polish airmen had the highest kill rates of all the RAF pilots that took part in this specific window of WWII. They were credited with 203 confirmed airborne kills.

Sawicz had time with the famous 303 Polish Fighter Squadron and also the 315. The 316th Warsaw Squadron, which flew Hawker Hurricanes, was under his direction in 1941. He also served under the Polish-American ace Francis Gabreski in the 56th Air Group. Sawicz suffered injuries in a 1944 on ground airfield collision when another Spitfire ran into him. He then was Polish Wing Commander at Coltishall, England and later in France coordinating advanced bombing raids into Germany.

Gabreski had been assigned to the Polish Squadron right after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 in Hawaii. His mission was to learn the 303 Kosciusko Squadron tactics because of their high German kill rate. Aggression and Nazi hatred was the key to the Polish airmen’s success. They also had the faster Spitfire. The Spitfire was built for speed which allowed it to accomplish its mission so successfully against enemy aircraft. With its sleek elliptical wings which had a thin cross-section, it allowed for a higher top speed than other fighters of its time, including that of the Hawker Hurricane.

Gabreski, known famously as Gabby, stayed in the U.S. service and later commanded a wing of F-86 Sabres at Selfridge Air Force Base in Macomb County during the Korean conflict in 1950. The two would periodically rendezvous and last got together for a reunion and aviation art exhibit in Toronto in 2000. Gabreski passed in 2002.

Sawicz also commanded the 131 and 133 Polish Wings and was demobilized as a Major in 1947. He stayed on in England after the war because of Russian occupation of his home area. He emmigrated to Canada in 1957. He was both a gentleman farmer and had worked for a Regional Canadian Airline. In 2006 he was named an honorary Brigadier-General by Polish president Lech Kaczynski.

There is a dedicated Polish War Memorial monument in the London Borough of Hillingdon that honors the Polish Airmen that defended Britain. In 2010 the monument was refurbished for the 70th anniversary celebration honoring those that participated in the “Battle of Britain.”

The 145 Polish aviators honored in London in the official RAF Role of Honor that had flown in the ‘Battle of Britain’ are now known affectionately as the “The Few.” This is from a phrase made famous by a Winston Churchill speech. There is a special stained glass window in Westminster Abbey honoring them.

'Battle of Britain' memorial stained glass windows at Westminster Abbey in the Polish RAF Aviators alcove, London, England.

Posted in Freedom, Immigration, Poland, Polish History, Polonia | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Ś+P Tadeusz Sawicz laid to rest

Feel – American Tour Review

“Feel” Connects on American Tour
By Raymond Rolak

HAMTRAMCK– After a standing room only concert here at the PNA Concert Hall on Conant Avenue, the rock-pop band FEEL from Katowice, Poland had to rush off to play a gig in Chicago. The entourage took the train from Detroit to Chicago the next day to play The Club in Burbank, Illinois.

Post concert, FEEL was gracious after their Detroit performance and signed CD’s and posters and mingled with their supporters. With a few piwa’s to re-hydrate, after concert talk was primarily in Polish and the band members all knew that Techno-Music had its roots and history founded in Detroit.

The PNA Concert Hall in Hamtramck rocked as lead vocalist Piotr Kupicha wowed with an over two hour set and energized his audience while interfacing with the crowd. It was obvious that his on-stage presence connected with an all-age audience as “Feel” went through their repertoire of Polish hit songs.

The evening was a Polish musical showcase as local Polish-American rapper Dzejo started with a warm-up set and then Magda Kaminski got things really moving along. Kaminski did a few numbers from her CD, “This is Me.” The venue lent a good platform as Marcin Kindla showed off his warm but powerful vocals with some softer stylings. He also really connected with the primarily Polish crowd that rushed in to be front and center of the stage.

The presentations started late so the audience was ready. Emcee Rafal Nowakowski kept everyone informed so the attendance was anxious and anticipating the main attraction. “Feel” worked without a break and Kupicha had the audience wanting more as he did a couple of interaction numbers. The group sang all their popular Polish radio hits with two encores.

Before the concert Kupicha told me music was in his in his heritage as his grandfather, also Piotr, was a professional musician in Silesia. “Dzia-Dzia was a violinist,” he said in broken English. “So strings are in my bloodline,” he added smiling. He laughed even more with my broken Polish and the band members giggled with halting sign language augmentations. There was no barrier with communication though and we talked a bit about the international language of music. “Music is the global ambassador, I agree,” added the talented songwriter. Polish native Anya Nowakowski helped with the tougher translations and in depth questions. She was laughing with enthusiasm also. Idioms don’t get translated well sometimes.

While relaxing in the ready room Kupicha had questions about the Detroit Red Wings as most of the group knew about the local long time NHL ice-hockey success of this area. Group spokesman, Wojtek Grzesiok, told of the time a few years ago that former Polish hockey star Mariusz Czerkawski got Kupicha to play in a celebrity ice-hockey game in Poland. “No one expected Piotr to be so fast,” added Grzesiok. “Just like on the guitar, Piotr skated fast.”

In one of Kupicha’s songs he reached the audience with a soft staccato feel, “Listen-Listen,” he sang in Polish. It was colorful and touching to the audience. Offerings from their new CD “Feel-3” were front and center throughout the sets. An old favorite, “And When the Dusk Comes” got the crowd really moving (A gdy jest już ciemno).

Grzesiok said they had been looking forward to the Detroit date as it was the first time for “Feel” to play in this area. After this performance it won’t be the last. The only wrinkle in the evening was that the very popular Sebastian Riedel popped a disk in his back and was trying to recuperate at the band’s hotel. He wasn’t able to perform in Chicago either.

Local music promoters from Telewizja-Detroit and Kozi Vodka had the small concert ballroom set just right. Co-producer Tomasz Czuprynski said, “This is a great location and with this response we will do it again here.”

Hamtramck sausage provider Srodek’s was popular with the band and their post concert smoked sausage and pierogi offerings were well received. On this tour, “Feel” had previously played in New Britain, Connecticut, Brooklyn, New York and Passaic, New Jersey.

FEEL- Piotr Kupicha– Lead Vocals and Guitar, Łukasz Kożuch– Keyboard, Michał Nowak– Bass, Michał Opaliński– Percussion, Paweł Pawłowski- Guitar

"Feel" the pop-rockers from Katowice, Poland did a two hour plus performance at the PNA Concert Hall in Hamtramck and lead singer Piotr Kupicha wowed at the standing-room-only event. The concert was promoted by Telewizja-Detroit. Photo courtesy of the ROLCO SPORTS NETWORK

Posted in Arts, Polonia | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Feel – American Tour Review

Polish American Historical Association Call for Nominations

The Polish American Historical Association (PAHA) has issued a call for nominations for various awards and a young scholar grant. All nominations should be sent to the Chair of the Awards Committee, Dr. Stephen Leahy (Shantou University, China).

Young scholar award nominations must be received by May 1, 2012.

Graduate Student Research Paper Award recognizes a substantial original research paper on Polish-American history and culture produced by a young scholar in the humanities or social sciences. This award includes a $500 travel grant to present the paper at PAHA’s 2013 Annual Meeting. The candidate for the award must be a graduate student at the time of the application or nomination.

The following award nominations must be received by July 15, 2012.

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.

Skainy 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.

Distinguished Service Award is given occasionally to a member of PAHA who has rendered valuable and sustained service to the organization.

Kulczycki Prize recognizes outstanding scholarship in a dissertation about the Polish experience in America. The Award includes a subvention to help the winner publish their work.

Creative Arts Award 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.

Kulczycki Prize recognizes an important dissertation on the Polish experience in the United States offered to a graduate student or younger scholar within the first five years after awarding of the doctorate degree to assist in the publication of a book or monograph.

Posted in Announcements, Polonia | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Polish American Historical Association Call for Nominations