Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Polish Consulate Observes Independence Day - NYC

by Staś Kmieć

The National Independence Day of the Republic of Poland (Narodowe Święto Niepodległości) was celebrated at the Polish Consulate in New York. The commemorative event began with the national anthems of Poland and the United States of America - Mazurek Dąbrowskiego and The Star Spangled Banner sung a cappella by mezzo-soprano Marta Wryk.

“Since the gloomy days of November begin to mark the end of the year, we traditionally use our National Independence Day for the reflection of the time-passing and the joy of where we came to and what we achieved,” said Consul General Krzysztof W. Kasprzyk. “2009 has been truly significant year. In Berlin our Polish living legend of Solidarity, Mr. Lech Wałęsa, pushed the first brick of a domino taking us twenty years back to the unforgettable moments of happy crowds demolishing the Berlin Wall. But the fall of that infamous wall started half a year before, with the Round Table negotiations in Poland which led to the first free elections in the Soviet bloc and forming the first non-communist government within the Soviet bloc.”

Independence Day is a public holiday in Poland celebrated on 11th November to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Poland's independence in 1918. After 123 years of partitions, Poland reappeared on the map of Europe as a sovereign democratic state. The Independence Day is strongly connected with General Józef Piłsudski. Ninety-one years ago the Regency Council appointed Piłsudski Commander in Chief of Polish forces entrusting him with the task of creating a national government for the newly independent country.

“We face the same challenges as entire global community but we look into the future with self-confidence and our collective pride of the unprecedented achievements of the past 20 years of freedom and progress,” said Kasprzyk.

The Consul General recalled the seventy year anniversary of the horrific event of November 6, when the Nazi Gestapo entered Collegium Novum of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Aimed as an extermination of the Polish intellectual elite, 144 distinguished professors and scholars were deported to the concentration camps of Dachau and Sachsenhausen. A small exhibit was on a display in the main foyer.

State distinctions from the President of Poland were bestowed upon a Polish American and two Americans. The Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland was awarded to Vincent Brunhard Jr. – founder and owner of “Polonaise Terrace” restaurant and banquet hall and founder/operator of the former movie house – the Chopin Theater in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Brunhard worked as a lobbyist to gain Poland’s entry into NATO and is Executive Vice-President of Downstate Division of the Polish American Congress.

Gold Crosses of Merit were awarded to Eric and Suzanne Klara Walther – members of the Board of Directors of the New York Dance and Arts Innovations; they are co-organizers and co-sponsors of the annual “Chopin and Friends” Festival. In the past, both were editors of Magazine Art.

A sculpture exhibit - The Spirit of Polonia – a Legacy to Mankind the work of artist and sculptor Tracy H. Sugg was unveiled. These pillars of Poland’s national identity, heritage and culture included Kopernik, Kościuszko, Pułaski, Chopin, Madame Sklodowska–Curie, Sienkiewicz, Modrzejewska, Plater, Mickiewicz, Paderewski, Queen Jadwiga, King Sobieski, and the beloved Pope John Paul II.With a lifesize statue tribute to Kościuszko for the Redbud Springs Park in Kosciusko, Mississippi, Sugg (who is not of Polish descent) began a passionate fascination with Polish historical figures and research. Alex Storozynski, President of the Kosciuszko Foundation noted that the pieces would be for purchase at the Foundation.

Kasprzyk displayed to the audience the original copy of the invitation that the pioneering Consul General of Poland sent out in 1919, when the Consulate of the re-born Poland opened in New York.

Polish American pianist Violetta Koss played classical selections, while theinvited guest were treated to fine Polish cuisine prepared by the chefs employed by the Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Among the distinguished guests were Andrzej Towpik, Ambassador of Poland to the United Nations and Honorable Consuls General from several countries.

In Poland, officials remembered 91 years after regaining independence during a ceremony at the Piłsudski Square in Warsaw, the streets in Poland’s capital city hosted the reenactment of events which took place in 1918 with historical army formations marching along the Royal Route, jazz artists performing “Marsz Pierwszej Brygady” (“We of the First Brigade”), one of the best-known songs of the Polish Legions. The Museum of Polish Army held a large event entitled Touch Independence.

Clockwise from Top left: -- Consul General Krzysztof W. Kasprzyk; Mezzo-soprano Marta Wryk; Pianist Violetta Koss; the guests; Paul T. Sosnowski, Executive Vice President Polish & Slavic Credit Union, Consul General Krzysztof W. Kasprzyk, Rep.Michael McMahon, and Counsel Carmen J. Cognetta; Tracy H. Sugg; Kasprzyk honoring Suzanne Klara and Eric Walther; Vincent Brunhard Jr. in the background