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Jul 14, 2024

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Why Do They Exclude Professor Chodakiewicz?

Why was Professor Marek Jan Chodakiewicz first invited and then disinvited to speak at the QUO VADIS conference, which was held 2-4 August 2013, in Connecticut?  Who fears Professor Chodakiewicz’s message?  Does this incident imply that certain of our leaders give priority to political correctness rather than to academic freedom and freedom of speech?

Professor Chodakiewicz is the author of many scholarly books and articles which present the truth about modern and contemporary Polish history.  The professor’s work challenges two manifestly false, but fashionable, interpretations of recent Polish history:  the Stalinist “black legend”, and the “propaganda of success”.  To the great detriment of Poland and the Poles, these two false views now prevail both in the academic world and in public opinion.  Two kinds of contemporary political consequences are rooted in these two historical falsehoods.

First, the continuing credibility of the Stalinist “black legend” legitimates pressure by the United States and other countries on today’s Poles to tax themselves to pay lump-sum compensation for crimes against private property perpetrated by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union on conquered Polish territory during the World War II era.  Measured by money, the lump-sum compensation issue is the top contentious issue in state-to-state relations between Poland and the United States.

Second, the “propaganda of success”, the view that all is well after communism collapsed, Poland acceded to NATO and the European Union (EU), and Russia became a democracy, attenuates the progress of the Polish-Swedish Eastern Partnership Initiative(EaP).  This initiative suggests that all is not well in Eastern Europe and that the Kremlin’s resurgent imperialism must be stopped.    Before the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008, Poland and Sweden proposed the EaP for the purpose of drawing Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova in Europe, and Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia in the Caucasus, closer to European Union economic and social procedures, and to safeguard the sovereignty of these newly independent countries, EaP involved setting up a European Defense Force independent of NATO.  Though the United States is not a member of the EU, EaP promotes both American interests and values in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus  and EaP well merits American support.

Professor Chodakiewicz’s careful research refutes the Stalinist “black legend”, still believed to be true in the West.  The “black legend” was concocted by Stalin and his henchmen to discredit Poland, a loyal ally of Great Britain and America, by duping public opinion in the United Kingdom and the United States.  According to the Stalinist “black legend”, toward the end of World War II Poland needed to be restrained by Stalin’s Soviet Union from continuing the mass murder of European Jewry which Hitler’s Germany began.  The “black legend” justified before Western public opinion the conquest of Poland, a loyal United Nations Ally, by the Soviet Union.

Today, the “black legend” is doing double service.  Worldwide politically organized Jewry still uses the Stalinist “black legend” to mobilize world public opinion against Poland for the purpose of pressuring the Polish Government to enact lump-sum compensation for private property on conquered Polish territory formerly owned by Jews that first was despoiled by Nazi Germany and then nationalized by the communists during the World War II era.

American academics prefer NOT to challenge the Stalinist “black legend” precisely because this falsehood underpins the ongoing effort of politically organized Jewry to use the Congressional Caucus on Poland, the United States Helsinki Commission, and the State Department’s Office of Holocaust Issues to bully Poland into paying lump-sum compensation, approximately $50 billion.  Poland’s GDP is approximately $550 billion. If non-Jewish claimants are compensated at the rate requested by Jewish organizations, then this will amount to approximately $250 billion charged to Polish taxpayers. Approximately 20% of the private property at issue was formerly owned by Jews.  The Polish Government announced on 17 March 2011 that it suspended work on drafting lump-sum compensation legislation and encouraged claimants to take their cases to the Polish courts.  Because his articles and books show that the Stalinist ‘black legend” is false, the Polish Government should, but does not, support Professor Chodakiewicz by contributing to the Kosciuszko Chair at IWP.  Readers recall that the Polish Government contributed approximately $2 million to endow the $3 million Polish Studies Chair at Columbia University.

Professor Chodakiewicz also persuasively challenges the politically correct, but false, view that communism collapsed in Poland and that all is well now that Poland has acceded to NATO and the European Union.  According to Professor Chodakiewicz, there was no transition from communism to democracy in Poland from 1988-1992.  Instead, during this period in Poland there was transformation based on continuity of personnel, WITHOUT LUSTRATION of former upper level communist bureaucrats, who became businessmen and who continue to rule Poland today through  politicians they control.  This view is anything but congenial to the present Polish Government.  The mainstream politically correct view in American academia is that communism collapsed in Europe and that Russia has made its transition to democracy, and that enlarging NATO was not a good idea.

Today, Professor Chodakiewicz is the first incumbent and present holder of the Kosciuszko Chair in Polish Studies at the Institute of World Politics (IWP) in Washington, DC.  IWP has been the home of the Kosciuszko Chair since 2008.  Established in 1990 as an independent graduate school of statecraft and national security affairs by a distinguished Polish American, Professor John Lenczowski, an expert on the world communist movement and Russia, who served on President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council, IWP with its Kosciuszko Chair has (after Alliance College, established in 1912 by the Polish National Alliance, was forced to close its doors in 1987), become de facto Polish America’s top institution of higher education.  Nevertheless, the QUO VADIS conference considers the holder of the Kosciuszko Chair to be Professor non grata.

“Quo vadis Domine?” is Latin for “Where are you going, Lord?”  QUO VADIS is also the collective name for a series of conferences for Polish speaking university students and young professionals, our future leaders, who live in Poland, the U.K., the United States, Canada, and Australia.  The first QUO VADIS conference took place in Ottawa, Canada in 2009.

The second QUO VADIS conference held in the United States took place 2-4 August 2013 in Connecticut.  The QUO VADIS conference began with Opening Exercises in Hartford, the state capital.  The conference’s work sessions took place at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in New Britain, Connecticut.

The principal sponsor of all QUO VADIS conferences is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of the Republic of Poland, which partners with Polish organizations/institutions based in the city where the conference takes place.  This August the MFA partnered with the Polish-American Foundation of New Britain, Connecticut and the Polish and Polish-American Studies Chair at CCSU whose incumbent is Professor M.B. Biskupski, who also serves as president of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America (PIASA).

According to Liz Wasiutynski, member of the Board of Directors of the Polish-American Foundation of Connecticut, she and her colleagues decided that Professor Chodakiewicz would be a superb choice as guest speaker at QUO VADIS, which is the biggest platform outside Poland for young Poles and people of Polish descent.  After all, the principal purpose of the QUO VADIS conferences is: ” … to preserve Polish national identity abroad in a way that meets the expectations of twenty-first century

people.”  Those who attend the QUO VADIS conferences network with each other and discuss how to set up kin country lobbies for Poland in the countries where they live.  Professor Chodakiewicz seemed an outstanding speaker who could motivate young Poles to achieve the goals espoused by QUO VADIS.  That is why the president of the Polish-American Foundation, Professor Andrzej Błaszczyński, invited Professor Chodakiewicz who not only is the holder of the Kosciuszko Chair at IWP, but who also was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2005 to serve on the Council of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

Then Professor Chodakiewicz was disinvited.  Liz Wasiutynski explained that officials representing two of the three partnering organizations for the QUO VADIS conference in New Britain, Professor M.B. Biskupski for the Polish and Polish-American Studies Chair at CCSU and Consul General Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka for the MFA objected to having Professor Chodakiewicz speak at the QUO VADIS conference.  According to Wasiutynski, both Biskupski and Junczyk-Ziomecka declined to give their reasons for not wanting Chodakiewicz to participate in the conference.  Therefore, the Polish-American Foundation was out-voted.  This is how Professor Chodakiewicz was disinvited.

It is unclear why Professor Chodakiewicz was disinvited.  Consul General Junczyk-Ziomecka issued a written denial that the Polish Government wanted Professor Chodakiewicz disinvited.  To date Professor Biskupski has not answered any questions put to him about Professor Chodakiewicz’s disinvitation.

Moreover,  the QUO VADIS conference is not the only organization that has excluded Professor Chodakiewicz in the recent past.    This writer asked Professor Jan Tomasz Gross, at the “International Conference on Poland and the Holocaust”, at Princeton University, 29-30 October 2010, why Professor Chodakiewicz and Professor Ewa Kurek were not invited to participate.  Professor Gross said:  “We do not want them!”  And that was all he had to say. Now Professor M.B. Biskupski, a scholar with solid achievements to his credit, is joining the anti-IWP camp along with the post-modernist Professor Jan Tomasz Gross.  Both  refuse to specify why they do not want Professor Chodakiewicz at events which involve them.  A frank admission of differences could well be the beginning of reconciliation among our scholarly and intellectual organizations, which are committed to searching for the truth through free debate.  After all,  Professor Chodakiewicz did present a research paper on aspects of Nazi German and Soviet occupation policies in Jedwabne during the World War II era at  PIASA  in 2005.  A commitment to free debate of contentious issues past and present can and should bring us together.

Mass membership Polish American organizations follow the lead of the Adam M. Bak Foundation and support IWP.  They disregard the politically correct, but negative attitude toward IWP displayed by the leadership of PIASA and Professor Gross.  For example, young Pawel Styrna, Research Assistant to the Kościuszko Chair at IWP, delivered a well received lecture on the importance of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s legacy for the present political organization of Eastern Europe at the Polish Heritage Festival in Holmdel, New Jersey.  This outdoor event attracted approximately  9,000 Polish Americans.

PIASA is an academic, educational and cultural organization, ostensibly devoted to free competition in the market place of ideas. Yet PIASA’S president Professor Biskupski excludes Professor Marek Jan Chodakiewicz.

Professor Chodakiewicz suspects that he was disinvited by the QUO VADIS conference because he is a traditional historian.  This writer agrees, and adds that Professor Chodakiewicz challenges the “propaganda of success” which PIASA  propagates.  Moreover, unlike the post-modernist publications of Professor Jan Tomasz Gross, Professor Chodakiewicz’s books and articles are marked by adherence to traditional standards: intellectual honesty, presentation of documentation for and against the thesis which the historian is investigating/testing, and verification of facts.

IWP’s Kosciuszko Chair and Professor Chodakiewicz are precious assets for Polonia and well merit our unstinting support.  The Polish people know this and support Professor Chodakiewicz even though many politically correct Polish intellectuals do not think that the Polish people should know the truth about their own history which Professor Chodakiewicz brings them.  Readers recall that Lady Blanka A. Rosenstiel’s American Institute of Polish Culture, Miami, Florida, donated $1 million to the $2 million Kościuszko Chair.  The Adam M. Bak Foundation’s generous leadership gifts contributed a substantial part of the remaining $1 million which must be raised to complete the endowment of the $2 million Kościuszko Chair.  Visit IWP’s web site to see how you can help to complete the Kościuszko Chair’s endowment and to learn about the achievements of Professor Chodakiewicz.

 By John Czop