Polish American Museum and Center for Military Studies hosted event to recognize 125th year of Polish independence
On the 12th of November the Polish American Museum and the Center for Military Studies hosted an event which was timed to recognize the 125th year of Polish independence since it’s rebirth at the end of WWI. Key to that rebirth were the sacrifices of Polish Americans of the “Blue Army” and the famous Kosciuszko Squadron of American volunteers. Poland celebrates her Independence Day and America celebrates Veterans Day on the 11 th of November which was the day that both ended WWI and enabled the Poles to reclaim their homeland. One hundred and twenty five years later, V Corps the major U.S. Army Headquarters for the defense of Eastern Europe is aiding Poland defend against a Russian aggression that has already consumed Eastern Ukraine.
The Museum and Center already commemorates the Blue Army and Kosciuszko Squadron’s effective defense of Poland in 1920 with several exhibits. It is particularly fitting that a new exhibit on the V Corps commanded by Polish-American LTG John Kolasheski (which has its forward headquarters outside of Poznan, Poland) was dedicated. Among the items featured in the new display are uniforms of Lieutenant General John Kolasheski and Polish Major General Adam Joks who was Deputy Commander of the Corps. The appointment of MG Joks marked the first time that a Pole had been in the Deputy role for a Corps sized unit of the U.S. Army.
Prior to the dedication, our director, Gerald Kochan initiated the event with a welcome to all the guests, and led the assembly through the U.S. and Polish national anthems, prior to introducing the guest speakers.
Colonel Richard Jung (ret.) provided a concise but thorough powerpoint presentation covering the history and evolution of V Corps to it’s present role. He was followed by Dr. Krzystof Szczerski, Poland’s Ambassador to the United Nations who addressed the impact of having V Corps in Poland. He explained how the first American soldiers stationed in Poland and Camp Kosciuszko came about from Poland’s military and political initiatives in response to Russian aggression.
Mr. Ken Dombroski, Central Region V.P. for Delve Underground provided a welcome sidebar with his presentation providing Polish accomplishments of a civil nature. He gave an interesting powerpoint discourse on famous Polish American engineers. It was especially interesting for many in the audience to discover that the genius behind many of America’s most spectacular bridges was a first generation Polish American (hint, his mother was Poland’s most world renowned actress and confidante of author H. Sienkiewicz).
After the presentations concluded, Mr. Gerald Kochan presented tokens of our esteem to the guest speakers and recognized other special guests including the President of the Museum Board, Mrs. Barbara Szydlowski, Deputy Ambassador Mateusz Sakowicz of the Polish Mission to the UN and the Polish Military Attaches, Colonel Krzystof Stec and Lieutenant Colonel Ewa Arciszewska. The event concluded with everyone leaving the great hall and heading to the gallery where the formal unveiling of the display took place. Ambassador Szczerski and Director Kochan placed MG Joks uniform on display aside LTG Kolasheski’s uniform amidst other items and placards which informed the visitor about V Corps triumphant past history and crucial present role.
New Exhibit Unveiling Event
The Polish American Museum and Center for Military Studies invites you to join us Sunday, November 12th, @ 2p.m. for an event recognizing the Fifth Corps and for the reveal of a new exhibit documenting their efforts!
Celebrating the Past, Looking to the Future (March-April News)
By Magdalena Kochan (Also published in the Polish American Journal and the Am-Pol Eagle)
Port Washington, NY – On March 25, the Polish American Museum in Port Washington hosted an awards ceremony and exhibit opening. In association with the Center for Military Studies, the museum celebrated its 2022 accomplishments and highlighted distinguished individuals from the community who contributed to a greater understanding of the unique Polish and American relationship, now and historically, over the past year. The event was organized and led by Museum Director, Gerald Kochan, Colonel (ret.). Reflecting the global nature of the museum’s mission, many guests traveled from out of state to be in attendance.
Greeting the attendees in Polish, Mr. Kochan switched to English after some brief remarks, joking “it would be both for [his] and the listeners benefit.” After a few more remarks outlining the itinerary for the afternoon, Mr. Kochan set the stage for the Ambassador to the UN for Poland, Krzysztof Szczerski, to speak.
The Ambassador spoke at length regarding Poland’s unique position in today’s international political climate, and how it changed with the start of the current conflict in Ukraine. He also touched on Poland’s strengthened bonds with Ukraine and the United States of America, and the essential role Poland plays providing humanitarian relief in the region. After his prepared speech, the Ambassador opened the floor for audience questions.
Several audience members took that opportunity to ask on matters close to their hearts, such as the preservation of Polish artifacts located in Ukraine. Mr. Kochan thanked the Ambassador for his remarks, and transitioned to the awards ceremony portion of the event. Two commendations were jointly awarded by the Polish American Museum and Center for Military Studies that day.
Lieutenant General John S. Kolasheski, commanding general of the V Corps, received the Distinguished Achievement Award. In attendance at an activation ceremony in Poland dedicating the first permanent garrison in Poland for US soldiers, Lt. Gen. Kolasheski was unable to attend, but sent a video message. In the video, he “Extend[s] my heartfelt thanks for the award” and explained the unique role the V Corps plays in Europe. “Poland hosts the V corps headquarters at Camp Kosciuszko in Poznan, Poland,” and the American presence “signals US commitment to European security.” He received this award for the example he has set in greatly furthering joint Polish and American military operations.
Also being recognized was president of the museum board, Barbara Szydlowski, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her years of dedicated service and devoted care of the museum. Visibly surprised at the recognition, Mrs. Szydlowski was ushered to the front of the room to be presented with her award.
Mr. Kochan then led guests on a brief tour of the museum, highlighting new displays, including the exhibits on notable WW2 veterans Cpt. Jerzy Z. Fijalkowski-Bereda and Cadet Officer Bartek Mazur. Both individuals were the subjects of recently published biographies, From Saddle to Parachute and Five Prisons to Arnhem, also being featured at the event. Guests were able to see the personal effects of these valiant individuals on display and go home with copies of their stories.
Museum Director Kochan is the author of From Saddle to Parachute, a narrative of Cpt. Jerzy Bereda’s WW2 meritorious service. It is illustrated in large part by the personal albums he kept from his service in the war. Five Prisons to Arnhem details Bartek Mazur’s grand odyssey to join the Para Brigade after the start of WW2.
Five Prisons to Arnhem is told through the contents of Mazur’s personal journals, edited by his daughter, Edina Alavi, after his death. Guests returned to the hall for a presentation by Edina Alavi, editor of Five Prisons to Arnhem, who passionately recounted some of the defining moments from Bartek Mazur’s journals.
Concluding on a high note, museum patron, Pierre Duclos, presented two original oil paintings relating to Polish history as a donation to the museum. The paintings are entitled “Morning Watch,” and “Remember Me,” and will be featured at the museum going forward. The paintings were very warmly received.
Ms. Alavi and Mr. Kochan were both available for book signings after the event, as was the Ambassador for further individual discussions.
Gerald Kochan Receives Polish Gold Cross of Merit
He received the medal for work alongside the Polish Army while serving as a US Army officer in Iraq and other locations. Gerald Kochan was also commended for his work in making Polish History both more accessible to the North American continent through documentaries, exhibits and multimedia projects and his work directing CMS and PAM.
Among the well wishers attending the ceremony were President of the Board of the Polish American Museum, Ms. Barbara Szydlowski and Colonel Richard Jung, who serves on the board of the Center for Military Studies.