A Year of MIlestones!

As the new year is only a few hours away, we here at The Polish MIssion have much to celebrate.  This truly has been a year of milestones!  Below you’ll find an article from the Orchard Lake Good News covering our honored guests from earlier this year.  Here’s to a new year in service of Polonia!

Our Honored Guests

Presient Lech Wałęsa

The falling of the Berlin Wall symbolized the end of an era that has a place in history books as one of the most politically oppressive regimes the world has ever known.When Berliners commemorated its 20th anniversary last year, they did so by toppling a long line of 8-foot tall dominoes along a section of the original wall near the Reichstag.There was never any question who should push the first one.The entire line was brought down by President Lech Wałęsa.

Known worldwide as a hero for his long-fought and hard won battles with communism, Wałęsa has become the most recognizable Polish icon of our time.He founded the Solidarność (Solidarity) trade union in defiance of soviet oppression, and from the union’s humble beginnings in Gdansk it grew to some 1.5 million members.As Poland first democratically-elected President since World War II, and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Wałęsa’s influence and popularity are like that of no other figure in modern history.  October 26 and 27, 2010 were great days for the Polish Mission at Orchard Lake and the Reuther Library at Wayne State University.After nearly a year of planning by Marcin Chumiecki, and Mike Smith, Director of the Reuther Library, the dream was realized – Lech Wałęsa came to town.

President Wałęsa began his formal activities on October 26 with a VIP luncheon at Wayne State University, which was hosted by Wayne State President Allan Gilmour.It was a fine event, attended by many important officials such as U.S. Senator Carl Levin, Congressman John Dingell, UAW President Bob King, Wanda Strozyk, President of Solidarność for Fiat in Poland, Piotr Cywiński, Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland, and President of the Polish Mission’s Board of Regents, Richard Walawender, as well as dignitaries from the University and Detroit communities.Consuls from Japan, Lebanon, Mexico and Macedonia also attended, but unfortunately, a spat of extremely poor weather grounded all flights out of the Chicago, so the Polish Consul could not attend.

After the luncheon, with great fanfare, President Walesa opened the Reuther Library’s SolidarnośćExhibition.Another VIP event, it was well attended and President Wałęsa gave an outstanding speech.This was after a moving introduction by Marcin Chumiecki, who noted that because of Wałęsa’s courage and actions, he (Chumiecki) had the freedom to move to the United States, make his way in the world, and raise his children as both Polish and American citizens.Wałęsa spoke for about 25 minutes, discussing his actions 30 years ago, which were commemorated in the Reuther’s exhibit.He spoke of historical events, with a good measure of humor and humility, and stated his hope that he would be the “last revolutionary,” that in the future the Polish people could live in peace and prosperity, so that there would be no need in the future for new revolutionaries like himself.After all this Wałęsa attended another VIP event; a dinner at the Pine Lake Country Club sponsored by Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, PLC.

Spending a full day at Orchard Lake on October 27th, Wałęsa attended Mass at our Shrine Chapel where he gave an inspiring speech to the students of St. Mary’s.With no seats to be found, staff and faculty packed every corner as he gave our students the experience of a lifetime.With an already busy schedule, the President made it a point to attend our Board of Regents meeting, and met with Edmund Cardinal Szoka before his afternoon departure.

Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński

“Preserving Auschwitz is notonly preserving the past, it ispreserving the future. With thistrust placed in us, each day wemust ask ourselves what morecan we do.”That quote from Dr. Cywiński rings in the minds of all who safeguard treasured pieces of the past.Leading the Aushwitz-Birkenau Sate Museum, Dr. Cywiński is at the cutting edge of a changing museum landscape in the 21st century, and at thirty-eight is the youngest person ever to have that responsibility.The start of our relationship began when Dr. Cywiński extended a huge gift of a private behind-the-scenes tour, of the Auschwitz-Birkenau grounds, led by his most esteemed historians, earlier this year during the Polish Mission’s trip to Poland.This tour was the most memorable and moving part of our entire trip, and for that we are deeply in his debt.As one of the most accomplished and respected scholars in Europe, our opportunity to host him represents the depth of our new international reputation.With a priceless collection of our own Holocaust –related artifacts and resources, Dr. Cywiński’s enthusiastic engagement of our holdings and outreach programs marks a new milestone in our history.It was our privilege to Sponsor Dr. Cywiński’s lectures at the University of Michigan as well as the Crees Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies, where he spoke to packed crowds on issues facing Holocaust memory in our modern age.

Invited by Stephen Goldman, executive director of the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Cywiński appeared there for a private tour with Marcin Chumiecki, and afterwards met with prominent leaders from the Jewish community.We are very thankful for the opportunity to have introduced our organization to an amazing group of culture-centered leaders and are excited to pursue and participate in future cross-cultural programs.

A particular high point of his visit was a small but very meaningful reception in our new Genealogy Center (Panorama room0, where Dr. Cywiński spoke with several Holocaust survivors and relatives of survivors and victims.Those in attendance were very excited to share their experiences and thoughts, and we were very proud to introduce them to the most prominent leader in the field.His visit to Orchard Lake was an unprecedented honor, the likes of which had never been bestowed on the Polish Mission.

Artur Patek and Zdzisław Pietrzyk Jagallonian University

If you look at to the core of our programs here, you’ll find that education is at the root of everything we do.This fuels our rapid networking within the academic world, and we could not be happier to host guests from one of the world’s oldest Universities, The Jagiellonian University in Krakow.Thanks to our 2009 lecture about Orchard Lake Schools and our follow-up meeting earlier this year in Kraków, we now have a draft proposal for close cooperation with Jagiellonian, the first part of which will be formal collaboration on our inventory and cataloging program. They were shocked at the size of our collections, and are very excited to engage our mission.It was a great privilege to meet with University leaders earlier this year, and we very thankful for the warm welcome by Professor Stanislaw Sroka when we Visited Kraków back in September.