Polish Independence Day
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In league with the patriotic occasion, everyone entering the Embassy of the Republic of Poland here on November 7, 2014 was pinned with a round red and white rosette, mirroring the national colors of Poland. Even the statue of Ignacy Jan Paderewski in front of the Embassy proudly sported one. The gala event being celebrated was the 96th Anniversary of Polish Independence on November 11, 1918.
Photo: Crucial Insistence of U.S. President Wilson Cited. Pictured on right, speaking to the audience in the Polish Embassy’s Blue Salon, is former Prime Minister of Poland Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, flanked by Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf. In his remarks, Minister Bielecki pointedly recalled that President Woodrow Wilson insisted upon … and achieved … the formal reestablishment of a sovereign Polish nation at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, following the Armistice of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.
At the invitation of Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf the Embassy was filled with approximately 250 guests from the Polish-American diaspora, Polish military veterans, and friends of Poland from the official Washington community – civilian, military, and political. Warsaw was represented by former Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki – now Chairman of the Economic Council of the Prime Minister, and Jacek Junosza-Kisielewski – Director of the Department for Cooperation with Polonia and Poles Abroad, a standing committee of the Polish Senate.
After the singing of the Polish and American national anthems by baritone Josef Surowiec, Ambassador Schnepf addressed the assembly and introduced all the special guests, especially the nimble Walter Zachariasiewicz today on his 103rd birthday. The ambassador recounted the major milestones during this past year: the 25th Anniversary of Free Elections in 1989 after the ouster of the communists, 15 years in NATO, 10 years in the European Union, the Warsaw Rising 70 years ago, and the 100th birthday remembrance of Jan Karski. Schnepf also commented on the profound changes in Poland since 1989, and concluded with thanking the American Polonia for its support and engagement over the years.
Minister-Chairman Bielecki delivered the keynote speech. He remembered and saluted all persons, big and small, who contributed to Polish independence. He was very appreciative of America and its Polonia during his remarks. Special mention was made of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who presented and propelled his “Fourteen Points” agenda at the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended World War I. Point Thirteen insisted upon the resurrection of the nation of Poland after being partitioned off the map of Europe by Austria, Prussia and Russia for the previous 128 years. Wilson was greatly influenced in this by world renowned pianist and zealous patriot Jan Ignacy Paderewski, who then became Prime Minister of the newly independent Poland, at the urging of Marshal Josef Pilsudski. Referencing the “Star Spangled Banner” previously sung, “My country is now the land of the free and home of the brave,” said Bielecki in conclusion of his speech, which was greeted with knowing smiles and enthusiastic applause.
For contributions to Poland, democracy, freedom and culture, Ambassador Schnepf decorated the following personages: Stephen Heintz – Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and James Dean – Heritage Foundation Diplomatic Program, both the Officers Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland; Jackson Diehl – The Washington Post newspaper, the Knights Cross; Izabela Rutkowska – Polish Library in Washington, the Gold Cross of Merit. All honorees were very proud of the medals bestowed upon them by Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski.
In a tradition he started last year, Ambassador Schnepf led everyone in a rousing singing of “My, Pierwsza Brygada” (‘We, The First Brigade’) – undoubtedly one of the most beloved patriotic songs of the Polish nation. It proved to be a most fitting way to end the day’s official ceremonies. Everyone then retired to the lavish and groaning buffet tables to enjoy the remainder of the evening in old country comradery.
Article & Photo by Richard Poremski
– Richard P. Poremski – Polish American Journal
Washington, DC Bureau – December 3, 2014