Timeline of the History of PAC, Part I: 1944-1980

Part I: 1944-1980

  • May 28-June 1, 1944: The Polish American Congress is founded at a massive rally in Buffalo, New York. Some 2,600 delegates from Polish American communities around the country take part in this significant event of World War II.
Ten thousand Polish Americans, over 2,600 delegates from 26 states and nearly 7,000 guests, attended the opening session of the first convention of the Polish American Congress in Buffalo, N. Y., in 1944.
  • 1945: Following President Franklin Roosevelt’s return from his conference at Yalta with British Prime Minister Churchill and Soviet leader Stalin, Charles Rozmarek, President of the PAC, and the other members are among the first in America to publicly denounce the Great Power agreements on Poland and Eastern Europe as a betrayal of the US reasons for participating in the World War
  • 1946: Rozmarek angrily denounces the handling of thousands of Polish displaced persons throughout western and central Europe by UN authorities and calls for immediate changes after observing the conditions in Germany and France. While in Paris, Rozmarek calls for free elections in Poland to determine the country’s future.
  • 1948: The PAC lobbies successfully for special Congressional legislation signed by President Harry Truman that leads to the admission of 140,000 Polish displaced persons, war victims and veterans of the Polish armed forces in Western Europe to settle permanently in the US.
  • 1949: The PAC backs the creation of Radio Free Europe as a voice of truth to the peoples of communist-enslaved Eastern Europe.
  • 1952: A special Committee of the U.S. Congress strongly endorsed by the PAC investigates the murder of more than 14,000 Polish Army officers at the beginning of World War II in the Soviet Union.
  • 1957: Following the collapse of the Stalinist regime in Poland in 1956 and its replacement by a new, seemingly reform-minded Communist regime headed by Wladyslaw Gomulka, the PAC backs a U.S. government foreign aid initiative aimed at weaning Gomulka away from Moscow’s authority. Immigration to the U.S. is renewed, enabling thousands of Polish families to be reunited in this country.
  • 1960: Eisenhower is the first U.S. President to speak at a meeting of the Polish American Congress when he addresses the fifth PAC convention in Chicago. Senator John Kennedy, the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, also speaks to the assembly. In later years, Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton will all address the Polish American Congress or its leaders on issues pertaining to PAC concerns.
President Dwight Eisenhower discusses the rapidly changing situation in Eastern Europe with Rozmarek on September 28, 1956. Within weeks, Poland’s Stalinist regime will be changed by one both committed to limited change and accepted in Moscow. In Hungary, reform efforts end in tragedy due to a bloody Soviet intervention.
  • 1964: The PAC endorses President Lyndon Johnson’s policy of “Building Bridges” to “peacefully engage” the peoples of Eastern Europe and to encourage the democratization and independence of the entire region, from Soviet domination.
  • 1969: The first formal dialogues between the PAC and leaders of the American Jewish community begin in an effort to create new understanding and communication between two peoples who lived together in Poland for seven centuries until the Nazi occupation and devastation of Poland and their ruthless annihilation of the Jewish people
  • 1975: The PAC endorses President Gerald Ford’s signing of the international treaty on security and cooperation in Europe in Helsinki, Finland. Among other things, the “Helsinki Accords” legitimize a set of human rights for the people living under Communist rule in the U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe. 
  • 1980: The forming of the Solidarity Trade Union Movement in Gdansk in August in a time of extreme economic and political crisis brings an immediate PAC endorsement for the union’s cause under the leadership of President Mazewski and Vice President Kazimierz Lukomski, a veteran observer of the Polish scene and a member of the World War II era Polish Combatants’ Association. The PAC, working in cooperation with Professor Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Advisor, urges the United States to pressure the Soviet Union against intervening in the crisis and calls on the Polish government to negotiate responsibly with Solidarity. The initial confrontation subsides.
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