The Polish National Alliance
The Polish National Alliance of the United States of North America [Zwiazek
Narodowy Polski w Stanach Zjednoczonych Ameryki Polnocnej] is the
largest of all ethnically-based fraternal insurance societies. At
present the Alliance includes more than 250,000 members who belong to
nearly 1,000 lodges in thirty-six states. The PNA counts assets of more
then $275 million and insurance in force surpassing $630 million. (In
1880, when the Alliance became the first Polish fraternal to offer its
members a life insurance benefit, it counted 295 members and assets
amounting to $640!)
Polish National Alliance was formed in 1880 in Philadelphia and Chicago
by emigre patriots who sought to unite the then still small Polish
migration behind the causes of Poland's independence and the immigrant's
advancement into the mainstream of American life. In the years after,
the Alliance would play a major role in leading the rapidly growing
Polish community, today 10 million strong, in support of Poland's
freedom-both in the First and the Second World War eras and most
recently in the years after 1980. The PNA's efforts are thus well
reflected by its historic motto, "W jednosci sila, w zgodzie potega"
[In unity there is strength, in harmony power].
Among the PNA's current activities of particular note are its
sponsorship of two publications, its twice-monthly organ issued to its
members, ZGODA (Harmony) and its Chicago-orientated Polish language
daily, "Dziennik Zwiazkowy" [called the Polish Daily News
in English]. The Alliance also owns a radio station WPNA, which serves
the vast Chicago Polonia. In the educational field, the PNA offers more
than $100,000 annually in college scholarships to qualified members.
Indeed, from 1912 to 1987 the PNA operated its own institution of higher
education, Alliance College, in the state of Pennsylvania. Visitors to
Washington, D.C., Chicago, Cleveland and Milwaukee may note that great
monuments to Thaddeus Kosciuszko in those cities are the products of PNA
fund raising efforts that date back to the beginning of this century.
These statues epitomize for countless Polish Americans their abiding
faith in the democracy they have enjoyed in this country and wish for
their ancient homeland, Poland.
During the fifty years of the Polish American Congress, three men
have held the Presidency of the PAC. All, Charles Rozmarek, Aloysius
Mazewski and Edward Moskal, have at the same time been Presidents of the
Polish National Alliance, eloquent testimony to the PNA's central role
in the life and achievements of the PAC since 1944.
The Polish Women's Alliance
The Polish Women's Alliance (Zwiazek Polek) is the third
largest of all Polish American fraternal insurance societies and dates
back to 1898, when it was conceived in Chicago. Today the PWA in fact
enrolls men into its ranks and counts more than 60,000 members. Licensed
to operate in seventeen states, the PWA possess a net worth in excess of
$42 million and provides insurance coverage of more than $79 million to
PWA operates its own monthly publication for the benefit of its members,
Glos Polek [The Polish Women's Voice]. Its home office in the
Chicago suburban community of Park Ridge, Illinois is filled with many
pieces of Polish art and merits a serious visit.
The Polish Women's Alliance dates' its founding to a time when a
growing number of patriotically motivated female activists had grown
impatient with the reluctance of the existing Polonia organizations to
grant them and their sisters, mothers and daughters full membership
equality. At last they, with support from like-mined men in Polonia,
acted to create a new organization all their own, one directed by women
and concerned with causes of particular concern to women. These involved
the education of children in their heritage and language and
humanitarian service on Poland's behalf. The historic motto of the PWA
speaks to their principles--"Ideal kobiety to sila Narodu" [The
ideals of women are the strength of a nation].
Given their patriotic inclinations on behalf of Poland's freedom, the
PWA and its leaders understandably developed close ties with
similarly-minded Polonia fraternals, in particular the Polish National
Alliance. In both World Wars, the PWA took a leading role in collecting
funds and materials for Polish victims of the conflicts. Indeed, the PWA
continued its special interest in Poland's needs after World War II,
especially in its involvement in the work of the Rada Polonii
relief organization, the Polish American Congress Charitable Foundation
and several Roman Catholic charities.
Two civic actions in the United States have benefited from the
leadership of PWA activists operating through the Polish American
Congress in recent years. These have included the successful efforts to
raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the renovation of the Statue
of Liberty and more recently for the development of the Ellis Island
Immigration Museum in New York's harbor.
From the founding of the Polish American Congress in 1944, the
President of the Polish Women's Alliance have traditionally held the
office of PAC vice president. Individuals from Honorata Wolowska,
through Adele Lagodzinska, Helen Zielinski and Helen Wojcik, PWA's
former Presidents, as well as its current President, Virginia Sikora,
have all played inspired roles in representing the Polish Women's
Alliance's highest ideals by their service to the cause of the Congress.
The Polish Falcons of America
The Polish Falcons of America [Sokolstwo Polskie w Ameryce]
dates its origins to the creation of its first local group, or "nest" in
Chicago in 1887, its aim that of providing young persons and children
with regular opportunities to engage in physical fitness and gymnastic
exercises and to inculcate in them a deepened pride in their heritage.
In 1894 an "Alliance" of Polish Falcons nests was established that
eventually grew into a national movement. In 1928 the Falcons'
fraternalism assumed its present shape when the organizations adopted
its own insurance program.
the years the PFA has supplemented its original physical fitness
activities with baseball, basketball, soccer, swimming, bowling, golf
and scouting programs. Other freefalls have adopted similar programs but
in the Falcons' tradition athletics hold a special place of esteem. Thus
every four years a national athletic meet [zlot] is held in
conjunction with the Fraternal's convention. In this fashion the PFA
remains true to its historic motto, "W zdrowym ciele zdrowy duch!"
[A healthy spirit in a healthy body].
The Falcons' story is distinctive in that the PFA is the one Polish
American fraternal to owe its origins directly to Soko1 organizations
already active in Poland by the 1860s. Interestingly, in 1994 the
American branch of the movement is busy working with Falcons nests in
Poland, which have been reborn after nearly five decades of repression.
In the World War I era, the Falcons transformed their traditional
physical fitness programs into paramilitary training activities,
anticipating the creation of an army of Polish Americans traveling to
Europe to fight on behalf of the liberation of the homeland. In fact
approximately 9,000 Falcons saw military service in the War both in
France and later in Poland itself.
Today the Pittsburgh-based PFA is a dynamic fraternal. Licensed to
operate in eight states, the Falcons count nearly 30,000 members, $23
million in assets and $46 million in insurance in force. The Fraternal
maintains its own twice-monthly publication, fittingly named Sokol
Polski [The Polish Falcon] as well as impressive museum detailing
its rich and many-faceted story.
In 1944 the Polish Falcons of America, led by their legendary
President, Dr. Teofil Starzynski, played an important role in the
founding of the Polish American Congress. Under Starzynski's successors
the PFA has remained involved in all aspects of PAC life. Thus among
those Falcons who have served as the Congress' national secretary have
been Harriet Bielanski of Chicago, Bernard Rogalski of Jackson, Michigan
(PFA President between 1980 and 1988) and the PFA's former Presidents,
Lawrence Wujcikowski of Buffalo and Wallace Zielinski.