Polish American Congress History

Origins of the Polish American Congress
The Polish American Congress (PAC, or Kongres Polonii Amerykanskiej, KPA) was established at a massive gathering in Buffalo, New York at the end of May 1944 in what proved to be the last year of the Second War. (The great Allied invasion of Normandy occurred just five days after the Congress adjourned.)

In Buffalo more than 2,500 elected representatives of the Polish community across the United States spoke in one voice to express their total support for the victory of the United States over Nazi Germany and imperial Japan in the conflict and for the restoration of a free and sovereign Poland once the War was won.  Read more

Creation of the PAC and 65-Year Overview

Part 1 — 1944-1980
Founding of the Polish American Congress at a massive rally in Buffalo, New York, May 28-June 1, 1944. Some 2,600 delegates from Polish American communities around the country take part in this significant event of World War II.

At their first Congress, the delegates resolve to underscore American Polonia’s patriotic commitment to the U.S. war effort against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Further, they call on the U.S. government to support the freedom and sovereignty of Poland, a wartime ally of our country, once the War is over. Read more

Part 2 — 1981-1994
In June, President Mazewski attends the funeral of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski in Warsaw and later meets with the leader of Solidarity, Lech Walesa.

Following Mazewski’s return to America, PAC sponsored efforts begin to raise money and materials to meet the needs of Poles suffering in an economy near collapse. The PAC Charitable Foundation initiates its work for Poland by delivering medical goods in short supply to Poland.  Read more

Part 3 — 1995-2009
The PAC backs voter registration efforts in the Polish American community and responds to a tragic fire in Gdansk, Poland by sending special supplies to the many burn victims.

1996: During the presidential campaign the PAC strongly urges the candidates to support Poland’s entry into NATO and immigration reform, and affirming America’s commitment to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. A major ally is Congressman William Lipinski of Illinois.

1997: President Clinton moves forward Poland’s admission into NATO; the PAC acts effectively on behalf of Polish flood victims and on immigration reform.  Read more

Historic Role of PAC in U.S. - Polish Relations
by Col. Casimir I. Lenard,

In order to understand the reason why the Polish American Congress was founded and the actions taken to bring Poland into NATO and to return it into the family of Western nations — one must go back to the tragic events that molded Poland’s history during the 20th Century.

On September 1, 1939 Poland was invaded by the Nazis, and on September 17 the Soviets attacked from the East, ripping Poland apart and sending millions of its citizens into forced labor, concentration camps and to the methodic killing of the Polish elite.

During World War II, the Polish military forces fought valiantly on the side of the Allies, on all fronts, while the Polish Home Army and the Polish Underground continued the struggle in the Polish territories. Read more

Pillars of the Polish American Congress
The Polish National Alliance of the United States of North America (Związek Narodowy Polski w Stanach Zjednoczonych Ameryki Północnej) 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!)

The 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. Read more

Major Accomplishments

Role of PAC in NATO Enlargement
The United States Senate ratified the Protocols of Accession to the NATO Treaty on April 30, 1998 — granting membership to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The three new members were officially inducted to NATO at the time of the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Founding of NATO in April, 1999, in Washington, DC. Read more
Slave Labor Compensation
Following the September 1998 elections in Germany, Gerhard Schroder’s coalition of Social Democrats and Greens pledged in their governing agreement to provide justice for slave and forced laborers, an issue no post-war Chancellor had been willing to confront because of its political sensitivity.

Historians have estimated that during World War II, Nazi Germany forcibly deported and employed about 12 million as slave laborers in concentration camps, forced laborers in industry and in agriculture.

On February 16, 1999, at a press conference, Schroder and 16 German business leaders announced a ‘German Initiative’ to compensate wartime laborers through a new Foundation (initially to be financed by German companies) – to counter class-action lawsuits in the US for attaining legal peace. Read more

Addresses by Major Politicians

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Oct. 15 1992
Mr. President, Mayor Daley, Congressman Machrowicz, Congressman Pucinski, members of your organization, ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my appreciation to all of you for your generous invitation to be here today. I hope I can, in the words of the oldtime orators, claim kinship here. I am not of Polish extraction, but I have been interested in Poland and the people of Polish extraction for many years, stretching all the way back to 1939, when I visited Warsaw and Danzig, and spent nearly a month of late July and early August in the summer of 1939, traveling through Poland. On that occasion, I came to have the greatest possible respect for those who, faced with threats east and west, were nevertheless willing to stand up for their country and to die for it, if necessary.

That interest built then was stimulated some years later when I read a book written about the Polish Army in exile, which had been captained by General Anders originally, and which had, of course, fought in the Middle East and Italy. After the war, I visited the Polish cemetery in Italy. Some of you who have been there may recall that at the cemetery are written the words, “These Polish soldiers for your freedom and theirs have given their bodies to the soil of Italy, their hearts to Poland, and their souls to God.” Read more

Pres. Candidate John F. Kennedy, Oct. 1 1960
Mr. President, Mayor Daley, Congressman Machrowicz, Congressman Pucinski, members of your organization, ladies and gentlemen, I want to express my appreciation to all of you for your generous invitation to be here today. I hope I can, in the words of the oldtime orators, claim kinship here. I am not of Polish extraction, but I have been interested in Poland and the people of Polish extraction for many years, stretching all the way back to 1939, when I visited Warsaw and Danzig, and spent nearly a month of late July and early August in the summer of 1939, traveling through Poland. On that occasion, I came to have the greatest possible respect for those who, faced with threats east and west, were nevertheless willing to stand up for their country and to die for it, if necessary.

That interest built then was stimulated some years later when I read a book written about the Polish Army in exile, which had been captained by General Anders originally, and which had, of course, fought in the Middle East and Italy. After the war, I visited the Polish cemetery in Italy. Some of you who have been there may recall that at the cemetery are written the words, “These Polish soldiers for your freedom and theirs have given their bodies to the soil of Italy, their hearts to Poland, and their souls to God.” Read more

President Eisenhower, Sep. 30 1960
Mr. Rozmarek, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans:

First of all, I must thank you personally, Mr. Rozmarek, for the very generous terms in which you have introduced me.

I want to say, first, that I am especially delighted to have a chance to meet briefly with the Polish-American Congress. This is not a mere formality, because from time immemorial, the people of Poland have shown such a fierce dedication to the conception of liberty and personal freedom, that they have been an example for all the world.

We must remember that spirit is, after all, the major force that animates all human action. Material strength we have, and we are fortunate in having it; we have economic strength and intellectual strength but what is in the heart of the human is, after all, the thing we must seek when we say he is our friend or our ally, or our brother in the convictions and beliefs that we hold.

So, from the days of Kosciuszko (and here I must pause for a moment, because once in Poland they used that name quite often, and it was a whole day before I knew what they were saying, but my pronunciation is Kosciuszko) from the day he came to help in our struggle for independence in this country, there has never been a time when the Polish people and Polish fortunes have been absent from the hearts and minds of the American people. Read more