On behalf of former members and the National Board of Federation of Polish Americans, Inc., (FPA), we express our deeply regret at the passing of Marilyn Piurek. This is a tragedy. For our part, we recall with pride and warmth her contributions in the Polish American community in the period of 1995-2000. Marilyn was very helpful to the FPA in our program to gain admission of Poland to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization/NATO alliance, an effort that played out on Capitol Hill, in our communities and at the White House. It was in the last connection, however, that Marilyn’s access inside the Clinton Administration was an important contributing factor to the decision by the United States that Poland be admitted into NATO. Her role in pushing ‘Poland-to-NATO’ ‘from the inside’ resulted directly in high level contacts by the FPA at the White House, and the President directing his National Security Advisor to meet with Polish Americans, led by the FPA, thus raising the public profile of the issue in the 1996 general election. This resulted in President Clinton’s October 1996 Detroit speech which cast the die for the formal start of the 18 month process of U.S. Senate ratification — irreversibly committing the President to the proposition. Poland’s admission followed the subsequent April 1998 vote. Today’s news reports from Central/Eastern Europe only reinforce the meaning and weight of that decision by the United States to defend Poland. Our troops are there. For this reason, Marilyn was among those FPA members awarded the Polish Armed Forces Medal by Poland’s Government in 2016.
Perhaps Marilyn’s most enduring contribution here in the Polish American community was her introduction of the FPA to the Democratic Party-sponsored Ancestry Working Group. The resulting broad-based (mainly European heritage) public outreach campaign to retain ancestry-ethnic heritage enumeration in the Census, which was crucially boosted by FPA intervention, once again connected community activism with Marilyn’s Washington contacts in a way not seen before or since. But for Marilyn’s initiative in 1997, we would not have been in the fight. By 1999, after a huge 2-year grassroots mobilization which we initiated and which extended far beyond the Polish American community, we saw that the Ancestry question would be saved once again. The result found in Census 2000 was that there were over 8.9 million Americans of Polish descent. These facts are indelibly part of Marilyn’s epitaph.
Federation of Polish Americans, Inc. (FPA)
The FPA and FPA Political Action Committee have been active politically since 1995. FPA National Directors in 1996 testified before the United States House of Representatives International Relations Committee on behalf of Poland’s inclusion in NATO and had meetings with National Security Advisor Anthony Lake. The President Clinton subsequent campaign speech (October 1996) led directly the following year to introduction into the U.S. Senate of the treaty enlargement protocol.
The FPA has issued various press releases in support of the defense missile shield in Poland.
MARILYN J. PIUREK
CONNECTICUT – Marilyn Jean Piurek, 73, of Old Saybrook, died at home on Monday evening, March 27, 2017. She was the daughter of the late John “Whitey” Piurek and the late Marion Premo Piurek, of West Haven. She is survived by her husband of 40 years, Christopher “Kip” Bergstrom, and her children, Elizabeth Bauzá and Ramon Bauzá, from her first marriage to the late Ramon Bauzá Higuera, of San Juan, Puerto Rico. She is also survived by her brother, John Piurek, and her three granddaughters, Dylan Bauzá, Lilly Bauzá and Serena Bauzá.
Marilyn died after a valiant 10-year battle with a rare form of cancer, for which she was one of the longest living survivors and a pioneer and partner in her treatment with the team at the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven.
Marilyn earned a BA in Urban Studies from the State University of New York at Buffalo with an honors thesis, Ethnicity: Locus of Political Culture, that foreshadowed a lifetime of engagement with ethnic politics. In 1974, she became a member of the first democratically-elected Board of Education in Buffalo, New York and, in 1975, was appointed by Secretary of State Mario M. Cuomo as the lead local government liaison for western New York State.
Marilyn returned to Connecticut in 1978 and, over the course of her near 20-year tenure with the City of Hartford, worked as Director of Health Planning and Development, Director of Human Service Planning and Development and Director of Hartford Public Schools Grants and Development. In her last role, she won for Hartford the highest level of federal grants of any mid-sized city in the U.S.
After leaving government, Marilyn set up a consulting business to provide strategic planning and grants acquisition assistance to non-profit organizations, with a focus on educational innovation and community and organizational development. Marilyn is probably best known for her work in politics and efforts in democracy building, which she pursued as a volunteer in parallel with her work career.
Marilyn served as the liaison between the administrations of President Clinton and President Obama and the Polish American community, where she was instrumental in the admission of Poland to NATO. She served as an elected Delegate to the Democratic National Committee, and Co-Chair of the National Democratic Ethnic Coordinating Council. She was the organizer of many national ethnic leadership committees, including the American Polish Advisory Council and Polish Americans for Obama. She was also a founding member of the White House Conference on Ethnicity and Pluralism in the 21st Century and a Delegate to Vital Voices: Women in Democracy in Vienna, Austria.
Perhaps even exceeding her passion for politics was her love of dogs, most notably the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, the breed which she introduced into the U.S. She established the first club in the U.S. dedicated to the breed and her efforts helped popularize the breed throughout the country and abroad.
In addition to the family members who survive her, her canine family of five Podengos-Bucky, Izzy, Brisa, Happy and Money Pit–survive her and will miss her sorely.
A celebration of Marilyn’s life took place on Saturday, April 1, 2017 at the Polish National Home, 60 Charter Oak Ave., Hartford. Those who wish to honor her memory are encouraged to contribute to the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven or The Potter League. – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hartfordcourant/obituary.aspx?pid=184773059#sthash.fAlea4w5.dpuf