Polish American Congress Mourns
Passing of "Lion of the Senate" Edward M. Kennedy

Washington DC, August 28, 2009 -- The Polish American Congress, one of the country's largest umbrella groups of Polish American organizations, joins with millions of other Americans to mourn the passing of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a great statesman and a tireless advocate for human rights in the United States, Poland and around the world.

"The memories held by many Polish Americans of Senator Kennedy are cherished ones that span his life and our own," said PAC President Frank Spula in a statement released Friday in Washington.

When the new Pope, John Paul II, made his first papal journey to Boston in 1979, it was Senator Kennedy who led a joyous throng to meet him at the airport, Spula recalled.

"Later, when Senator Kennedy was denied a visa by Poland's communist regime before Christmas 1986, he persisted in his quest and just five months later was able to present awards to Zbigniew Bujak and Adam Michnik, organizers of the Solidarity movement, for their achievements in the spirit of his late brother Robert," Spula noted. "When he gave them the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, Edward Kennedy praised the pair for their willingness to 'speak truth to power.'"

"But on that trip Kennedy's own example of speaking truth to power came when, under surveillance by the communist regime, he took three of his children, three of his sisters, Robert Kennedy's widow Ethel, as well as several of their nieces and nephews to the grave of martyred Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, who was killed two and a half years earlier under marshal law," Spula recalled. "There he embraced Popieluszko's elderly parents, good people of the land with gnarled hands and stooped postures."

There, as the New York Times reported, Senator Kennedy remarked that, "Like Father Jerzy's mother and father, my mother and father lost sons to senseless violence. Like Father Jerzy's brothers and sisters, I and my sisters lost brothers to senseless violence. And I know that my brothers and sisters, like Father Jerzy, would want all of us to carry on their good work."

"Senator Kennedy did just that," Spula continued. "He fought hard for the rights of working men and women in the United States and across the globe; his name became synonymous with the fight for freedom and human rights."

"You saw that in how he fought for immigration reform and how his voice thundered a resounding 'yes' to Poland's accession to NATO. He was indeed the 'Lion of the Senate' in Washington, but he was also fierce in his pursuit of the betterment of the lives of millions of Poles and Polish Americans." (MEA)

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