Friday, September 22, 2006

Central Citizen's Committee, Part 2 of 3

Continuing with series Poles in Michigan Vol. 1, we have....

Central Citizen’s Committee

...from a speech by Clara Swieczkowski, continued from September 15, 2006

The Women’s Relief Committee had branches in every parish whose members knitted sweaters and wristlets for the soldiers. The ladies also sponsored parties to obtain funds for yarn, cigarettes and sandwiches. The most active of these parochial groups was at St. Stanislaus Parish, which was headed by Mrs. S. Glinska.

The Women’s Relief Committee assisted in bidding farewell to about 2000 recruits. In addition it initiated a First Aid course for Polish Americans - perhaps the first in the United States. It was conducted by Dr. F. Cyman and Dr. F. Osowski. Tn 1918, the Committee helped in organizing a local chapter of Gray Samaritans, some of whom went to work in restored Poland after the war ended. Mrs. Helena Paderewska, the wife of the great pianist was the national president of the Gray Samaritans.

When the war came to an end, Detroit was the center of two important gatherings in which the Citizen’s Committee took active part. In 1918, the city hosted the first Polish American Congress; in 1925, Detroit welcomed the Polish National Committee. That year Mr. John Lesinski, who later achieved fame as a congressman, became chairman of the Citizen’s Committee, holding the post until 1932, when he was elected to Congress.

The postwar years brought the Citizens Committee new activities: the official reception of the first Polish consul from independent Poland, the welcoming of Gen. Joseph Haller, commander of the Polish American Blue Army, and particularly the greeting of Archbishop John Cieplak who visited the United States in 1925, shortly after his liberation from Bolshevik imprisonment.

One of the most important achievements of the Citizens Committee occured after 1926. It concerned the establishment of the chair of Polish at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. A special committee headed by Rev. F. Gzella, secured $30,000.00 to establish the chair. Miss Helen Lorkowska served as secretary of the committee.

In 1932, the Citizens Committee celebrated the Democratic victory at the polls with a victory banquet. Mr. John Barc, now deceased, assumed the presidency of the Committee with the departure of John Lesinski for Washington. Others who followed Barc as presidents of the Committee were: Judge Frank Schemanske, Anthony Rathnaw, John Okray, Chester Kozdroj,
Roman Ceglowski, Roman Andrzejewski, Sylvester Czerwinski and Benjamin Stanczyk. Mr. Z. Dworkowski served as secretary during of the thirties and forties.

Others who served with distinction on the Citizens Committee included A. Brzezinski, Dr. R. Sadowski, A. Pasterz, J. Gibasiewicz, Dr. H. Pawlowski, J. Kania, P. Paradzinski, F. Dziob, S. Rozycki, Rev. V. Borkowicz, M. Felcyn, V. Felcyn, M. Witkowski, F. Jarecki, J. Sporny, J. Sobieski, S. Siwanowicz, P. Bieszke, J. Bieszke, E. Dolewczynski, A. Rosowicz, W. Ambrozy, E. Wojcinska, Judge Arthur Koscinski.

Prominent in the Women’s Relief Committee were Mrs. F. Gromacka, S. Zielinska, M. Nadolska, F. Seracka, A. Romanowska, M. Czarnecka, W. Vogt, J. Jozefiak, J. Wasik, M. Mentlikowska, F. Makowska and P. Brzezinska.

These ladies and many others too numerous to mention continued the splendid work of the Women’s Relief Committee started during the war. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, the Committee devoted itself to the reception and rehabilitation of returning veterans. They waited for hours at the Railroad Station and Dom Polski for the troop trains to arrive, to supply the soldiers with warm food, to provide them with accommodations, and to help them in finding employment. Shelter for some was found at Ann’s Community House. These varied activities of the Relief Committee gave rise to the Polish Activities League. During the difficult years of the great depression, the League helped, with the aid of Mr. Alex Groesbeck, to establish the Polish Army Veterans Home at Wanda Park, in Utica, Michigan.

Before closing these reminiscences, let me make one final remark. In the course of the years, many of the former workers associatated with the Citizens Committee have removed themselves from active participation to give younger persons an opportunity for civic service. But our hearts have always remained with the Committee and its aims. When both these aims and the integrity of the Committee were threatened by subversive or un-American infiltration during the Second World War, we rose to the defense. When a group of women appealed to certain members of the Committee for support and failed to obtain decisive action, the ladies undertook the defense by themselves.