Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Kościuszko Chair Intermarium Lecture Series 2018/2019

In the academic year 2018/2019, monthly lectures were given as a part of our Intermarium lecture series.

  1. Monte Rosa: Memoir of an Accidental Spy (book presentation)

Mr. Jaroslaw Martyniuk, a former energy economist with the IEA/OECD and a retired sociologist, presented a sweeping panorama of his life from the outbreak of WWII to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The narrative begins in Ukraine and ends in Paris where he coordinated the work of fifty undercover interviewers engaged in unorthodox research with Soviet visitors in Western Europe, a chapter of Cold War history never before revealed in such remarkable detail. The story includes the author’s narrow escape from Communism, an account of his extended family’s ordeal in the Soviet Gulag, life in post-war Bavaria, thirty years in Chicago and culminates with twelve years in France where he worked for the International Energy Agency and Radio Liberty.

  1. E Pluribus Unum in Ukraine? Reconciling Conflicting National Identity in the Borderland

Mr. James A. Rice, the Legislative Director for U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, discussed the historical roots of the east-west divide in Ukraine, currently being exploited by Putin’s Russia. It will describe the conflicting worldviews and mentalities of eastern and western Ukrainians and suggest how they can be reconciled going forward.

  1. Russian Military History

Mr. Geoffrey Seroka, a graduate student at The Institute of World Politics, has focused his graduate research on Russian/Eurassion affairs. In this lecture, he explored the military history of Russia, going back to pre-imperial times, in order to analyze the Russian Federation’s recent actions toward the United States, NATO, and Europe. Russia has historically viewed war in a different light than the West, and this historical context is vital to determining how to respond to recent belligerent actions.

  1. The League of Militant Godless

Ms. Helen Lamm, a graduate student in Statecraft and International Affairs at The Institute of World Politics specializing in American Foreign Policy has an interest in the politics of post-communism. She focuses on the interplay of religion and politics. She discussed the Soviet antireligious activism and propaganda, taking a look at the “volunteer” activism and analyzing the artistic renderings of religion in Bezbozhnik – the propaganda apparatus of the League of the Militant Godless.

  1. Suki w Zakone: A Criminal Key to Putin’s Russia

Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz discussed how the criminal underworld was coopted by the Bolshevik revolution, how it was tamed and broken by the Soviet state, how it coexisted with it and infiltrated it; how it became transformed in the post-Soviet realm; and how it became second nature of Putin’s system in Russia. Dr. Chodakiewicz stressed the historical continuities of Russia’s criminal underworld which have now infiltrated into the mainstream of its national life.

The lecture was preceded by the performance of Russian music on the prima/malaya domra by Mr. Charles Winkler. He was a Department of Defense analyst for more than 30 years, specializing in Soviet, Russian, East European, and Middle Eastern matters, and threat analysis. Now in retirement, he applies his national-security analyst’s perspective and research skills to matters of domestic and foreign affairs.

  1. The Future of the European Union

Mr. László Szabó, M.D. physician, businessman, politician, and diplomat, is the current Hungarian Ambassador. Ambassador Szabó practiced as a transplant surgeon, then shifted to the pharmaceutical industry and held several local and international leadership positions for more than 20 years. The Government of Hungary reached out to him to build the trade pillar of the Ministry until his appointment as Ambassador to the U.S. in July 2017. He presented the political and cultural vision of Central and Eastern Europe, and its implications to the region’s relations with the United States. He discussed the migration crisis, Brexit, and the rise of new political ideas that surround the debate on the future of the European integration.

  1. Belarus Under Putin’s Radar

Mr. Franak Viačorka, the Vice President of the Digital Communication Network, discussed how Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made it clear to Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenka that Minsk must take steps towards deeper integration between the two countries. Polls have shown that, following the rise of Russian media presence in Belarus, pro-Russian sentiment increased within the society. He explored the questions of what, exactly, the situation in Belarus is and what role Belarusian civil society, the EU, and the U.S. could play in the new paradigm.

  1. The Challenge of Counterintelligence Cultures: The Counterintelligence State from Tsarist Russia and the USSR, to Putin’s Russia, the PRC, Cuba & Venezuela, and Resurgent Militant Islam

Dr. Jack Dziak, a co-founder and President of Dziak Group, Inc. and an Adjunct Professor at the Institute of World Politics, discussed the concept of the counterintelligence state. From counterintelligence cum prevocational style of the Tsarist Okhrana’s near classic penetration operations against its indigenous Marxist revolutionary terrorists; through the long, ugly Soviet secret police period; to the counterintelligence continuities and refinements of former KGB Lt. Col. and now Russian President, Vladimir Putin. He also briefly discussed the PRC counterintelligence state, whose pedigree long antedates that of Russia, the highlight client counterintelligence state systems such as Cuba and Venezuela, and the unsurprising similarities between resurgent militant Islam and the Soviet/Russian counterintelligence state paradigm.

  1. A Journey to the Gulag: Experiencing History Through Virtual Reality

Mr. Štěpán Černoušek, a Fullbright scholar and the head of the Virtual Museum Gulag.Online and the Chairman of the Gulag.cz Association, spoke about the project documenting the Gulag camps and creating VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) experiences for the unique online Gulag museum. Around 20 million people went through the horrors of Soviet labor camps. At least 1.6 million of them died. Among the victims of Soviet repression were also people from European countries and the U.S. Currently, with the exception of the former Perm-36 project, there aren’t any museums in Russia of former Gulag camps from Stalin’s era. However, hundreds of abandoned camps are still hidden away in the Siberian taiga. A small group of enthusiasts visit and document these sites to virtually preserve them to make them accessible to the public through virtual and augmented reality. The lecture began with a documentary from Mr. Černoušek’s expeditions, “A Journey to the Gulag”, after which the presentation of the virtual museum followed.

Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters

by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz  |  April 7, 2016  |  ARTICLES

Without the multicultural demographic and ideological context, the holy warriors of the Caliphate would stand out like proverbial sore thumbs in the Western world. Currently, they enjoy a perfect environment. They will not let up until Dar al Islam dominates the world. Or at least they will keep trying. The West should oppose that.

In war, power relationships reflect selflessness and bravery, but also feed on greed and compulsion. The bellicose synergy of the Muslim overlords and their Christian dependents reflected tactical alliances, personal considerations, mercenary motives, and brazen slavery. A typical leftist newsmaker of Indian parentage, the son of a tenured UN bureaucrat and a liberal academic at New York University, Ishaan Tharoor disagrees. According to him, Muslims and Christians killed each other, but most often they killed others jointly. Throughout history Muslims fought in Christian armies and vice versa. To talk about the clash of civilizations or defense of Christendom from Islam is therefore nonsense. This is the essence of Ishaan Tharoor’s belief, or, to be more precise, his enthusiastic endorsement of Ian Almond’s deeply flawed relativist and multiculturalist argument in Two Faiths, One Banner: When Muslims Marched With Christians Across Europe’s Battlegrounds (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009).

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Dr. Chodakiewicz reviews “The Rise and Fall of Belarusian Nationalism, 1906-1931” by Per Anders Rudling

According to Professor Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, Per Anders Rudling’s The Rise and Fall of Belarusian Nationalism, 1906-1931 (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015) is seriously flawed both as far as its intellectual framework and understanding of subtle nature of the identity of the people inhabiting Belorussian lands. More in-depth research and less analytical bias stripped of leftist ideological prejudice should fix the problem. A version of the review was published as “Scholarship of Imagination,” East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies, vol. 2, no. 3 (2015), posted at http://www.ewjus.com/

The full review is also available here: Scholarship-of-Imagination-May2015

 

Bolesław Piasecki as the victim of post-modernist historical revisionism

SONY DSCAfter giving a lecture at the Kosciuszko Chair’s Fourth Annual Spring Symposium, Dr. Wojciech Jerzy Muszyński of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) in Warsaw, Poland, shared with the KC his paper entitled “Bolesław Piasecki as the victim of post-modernist historical revisionism.”

In the paper, he discusses Mikołaj S. Kunicki’s book entitled Between the Brown and the Red: Nationalism, Catholicism, and Communism In 20th-Century Poland – The Politics of Bolesław Piasecki (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2012).

An abstract of the paper is below, and the full paper can be found here: Muszynski, Boleslaw Piasecki as the victom of post-modernist historical revisionism

Abstract

In the following review, Dr. Wojciech J. Muszyński offers a critical analysis of Mikołaj Kunicki’s book on Bolesław Piasecki. As an iron pragmatic who began his political career as a nationalist radical, and ended it as a communist collaborator, Piasecki fascinates his ideological enemies to this day. Furthermore, they mirror image and reduce him to the role of the antithesis of what they themselves are: liberal or leftist ideologues, usually of an internationalist bent. It is a striking phenomenon that Bolesław Piasecki – a politician of secondary importance who never exerted a decisive influence on Polish history – became the subject of two ostensibly comprehensive biographies in English. This is all the more amazing, since Poland and the great personages in her history – with perhaps the exceptions of Pope John Paul II in the 1990s, and Lech Wałęsa – are generally not of much interest to Western historians. Piasecki, however, became the subject of an English-language biography well before his death in the form of Lucjan Blit’s The Eastern Pretender (1965). More recently, in 2012, he became the antagonist of a second work in English: Mikołaj Stanisław Kunicki’s Between the Brown and the Red: Nationalism, Catholicism, and Communism in 20th-Century Poland: The Politics of Bolesław Piasecki. Blit’s publication, however, was a political pamphlet, which the author never denied; just as he did not deny his open, fierce antipathy toward Piasecki. Kunicki’s biography, on the other hand, is presented as a work of objective scholarship. In essence, the latter represents efforts by post-modernist, neo-Stalinist academics to depict Polish nationalists as communist collaborators, which serves to whitewash Marxism by pinning much of the blame for the crimes of communism on “nationalism.”

* * *

Bolesław Piasecki, an iron pragmatic who began his political career as a radical nationalist, continues to fascinate his ideological foes to this day. It is quite astonishing that this admittedly second-rate politician who did not play any significant role in Polish history, has already been the subject of two quite substantial biographical publications in English. This is all the more astounding given that famous personages in the history of Poland have not attracted much interest on the part of Western historians, except perhaps for Pope John Paul II during the 1990s and Lech Wałęsa. Upon investigating the shelves of American and British book stores, it is difficult to find any books on important Poles. Piasecki, however, became the subject of an English-language biography many years before his death, i.e. Lucjan Blit’s The Eastern Pretender: The Story of Bolesław Piasecki, which was published in 1965. In 2012, another work appeared: Mikołaj Stanisław Kunicki’s Between the Brown and the Red: Nationalism, Catholicism, and Communism In 20th-Century Poland – The Politics of Bolesław Piasecki. But whereas Blit’s publication was a political pamphlet—which the author did not really disguise, nor did he deny his sharp antipathy towards Piasecki—Kunicki’s biography is presented as an objective work of scholarship.

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Dr. Chodakiewicz’s “Intermarium” in the Slavic Review

Intermarium, by Mark ChodakiewiczThe Slavic Review, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Association of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), has reviewed Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz’s Intermarium: The Land between the Black and Baltic Seas (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2012). The review was published in Vol. 73, No. 1 (Spring 2014) of the Slavic Review on pages 163-164.

While generally critical of the book for ideological and political reasons, the reviewer recognizes that Intermarium was based on a “huge array of primary and secondary sources,” acknowledging that it “may be used in graduate seminars on the history of eastern Europe, nationalism, and the Cold War.” He also finds “convincing” Dr. Chodakiewicz’s analysis of the mechanisms of post-communist “transformation” whereby the communists reinvented themselves as social democrats, liberals, or ethno-nationalists.

However, the author of the review disagrees with Dr. Chodakiewicz regarding the geostrategic intentions of post-Soviet Russia. Accordingly, he depicts one of the book’s arguments-which calls for the necessity of stronger ties between the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (i.e. the Intermarium) and a close alliance with the United States-as a “Cold War project designed to forewarn readers of the dangers emanating from Russia” and to construct a pro-American “cordon sanitaire.” The review, downplaying the geopolitical threat from the Kremlin, was undoubtedly written before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

Please click here for the website of the Slavic Review.

Dr. Chodakiewicz reviews book on Belarusian nationalism

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, review of Jerzy Grzybowski, Pogoń między Orłem Białym, Swastyką i Czerwoną Gwiazdą: Białoruski ruch niepodległościowy w latach 19391956 [The Chase between the White Eagle, the Swastika, and the Red Star: The Belarusian pro-independence movement in 1939 – 1956] (Warsaw: Bel Studio, 2011), in Slavonic and East European Review, 92, 1, January 2014: 177-180.

The subject of Belarus—not to mention the topic of Belarusian nationalism—has received little scholarly attention and even less media publicity. If the Intermarium nation is mentioned at all, it is usually associated with its president, “the last dictator in Europe,” Aleksandr Lukashenka. However, although the post-Soviet republic may be ruled by a one-time KGB officer with nostalgia for the Bolshevik system, Belarus also has a nationalist movement that is pro-independence and pro-Western.

In the January 2014 issue of the Slavonic and East European Review (SEER), Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz reviewed Jerzy Grzybowski’s history of the Belarusian nationalist movement. The extremely well-researched Polish-language study (published in 2011) focuses on the years 1939 – 1956, a crucial—and nightmarish—period in the modern history of the Intermarium region, spanning the time from the German-Soviet invasion and partition of Poland (and the Sovietization of former Northeastern Poland, now Western Belarus), through the Nazi-Bolshevik total war in White Ruthenia, to the postwar Soviet reoccupation.

Dr. Chodakiewicz points out that an analysis of Belarusian nationalism may be applicable to many parts of the world in the present, and no doubt in the future as well:

“The monograph is essentially about nationalists without a nation. More precisely, there were very highly motivated nationalist activists, but there were only ethnographic denizens of Belarus, usually peasants, most of them devoid of any modern national consciousness. Instead, they usually identified with a locality (calling themselves tutejsi — people from here), and a religion (usually Christian Orthodoxy, but also the Uniate rite and, to a lesser extent, Roman Catholicism). The nationalists largely operated in a vacuum. Thus, they concluded that they needed an independent state to‘make peasants into Belorusians,’ to paraphrase Eugene Weber. Belorusian nationalists rejected the notion that nationalism is culture and, thus, it needs no state, as proved conclusively by 123 years of triumphant experience and the endurance of the partitioned Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Belarusian nationalists, alas, consciously rejected the legacy of the multi-national republic in favour of integral ethno-nationalism.”

A PDF version of the entire review may be accessed here:  Slavonic and East European Review, January 2014 Slav

Could America have saved Czechoslovakia from communism?

Such is the question posed by Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies researcher, Paweł Styrna, in his recent review of Igor Lukes’ On the Edge of the Cold War: American Diplomats and Spies in Postwar Prague (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Based on the scholarly study, Mr. Styrna concludes that a prudent and integrated American strategy could have certainly prevented the Sovietization of Czechoslovakia following the Second World War. He writes: “For American policy-makers and strategic planners, it is a case study in missed opportunities. Given a more determined and purposeful integrated strategy, Czechoslovakia might have been saved at a time when America still enjoyed a nuclear monopoly and the Soviet Union was internally weakened by the war it had itself helped spark. Czechoslovakia’s accession to the anti-communist, American-led coalition might not have averted the Cold War, but it would have certainly strengthened the Western alliance’s strategic position in Central Europe, thereby possibly hastening the end of the Cold War and the implosion of the Soviet Bloc.”

Mr. Styrna’s review was posted on the website of the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research (SFPPR) on 25 July 2013.

The Worst Enemy: A book review

The ongoing culture war in the West continues to hamper our efforts to defeat radical Islam. Such is the thesis of a recently published anthology, co-edited by Katherine C. Gorka and Patrick Sookhdeo, which was reviewed by Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz for the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research (SFPPR).

Fighting the Ideological War does not limit itself to pointing out the self-inflicted obstacles to winning the ideological war with Jihadist extremism, however. Its contributors-including IWP’s Founder and President, Dr. John Lenczowski-also demonstrate how lessons learned from our victorious struggle against Communism may be applied successfully in the battle against Islamism.

Dr. Chodakiewicz’s review follows below:

The Worst Enemy

Katherine C. Gorka and Patrick Sookhdeo, eds., Fighting the Ideological War: Winning Strategies from Communism Islamism (McLean, VA: The Westminster Institute and Isaack Publishing, 2012).

Reviewed by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
April 26, 2013

We are the worst enemy of the West. Or, to put it a bit differently, the most serious adversary is born and bred within the gates of the West. Thus, the battle against mortal danger to our civilization ranges among the denizens of our cultural and political sphere and it must be won here before we can proceed to victory outside. This is a phenomenon which James Burnham called “Suicide of the West” as reflected in the inability of liberal intelligentsia to comprehend the evil of Communism. A neat illustration of the civil culture war can be the sustained leftist campaign of hatred and ostracism against Yale’s Professor G. Warren Nutter who, in the 1950s, dared to suggest that the Soviet economy was inefficient. He thus violated the obligatory Sovietophilia of America’s chattering classes and their socialist prejudices.

Now seven distinguished experts, including two who are my friends and colleagues, Brits and Yanks, demonstrate in Fighting the Ideological War: Winning Strategies from Communism to Islamism, how the culture war phenomenon has survived to cripple our response to the radical Muslim challenge. “The result is an unwillingness to engage in the battle of ideas and a widespread confusion, even doublespeak, in the way policymakers talk about Islam.” But take heart. The experts also show, plain and simple, how Communism was overcome and propose to apply the same strategy and tactics to Islamism. They give us trenchant definitions, vivid analysis, and bold solutions to lead us to victory.

To continue reading the review, please visit the SFPPR Book Review section.

Dr. Chodakiewicz reviews book on the Polish-American veteran experience

Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, the holder of the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies at IWP, has published a review of Teofil Lachowicz’s book on the Polish-American veteran experience in The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 91, No. 2, April 2013: 357-360.

The review may be accessed via the JSTOR academic database or viewed as a PDF here: PAVA in Battle and Fraternity. The longer version can be found below:

PAVA in Battle and Fraternity

Teofil Lachowicz, Polish Freedom Fighters on American Soil: Polish Veterans in America from the Revolutionary War to 1939, trans. by Albert Juszczak (Minneapolis, MN: Two Harbors Press, 2011). It is a translation of Weterani polscy w Ameryce do 1939 roku (Warszawa: Rytm, 2000).

Anyone expecting an opus contextualizing, comparing, theorizing, and pondering the “Otherness” of Polish veterans in America should look elsewhere. Instead, Teofil Lachowicz has given us an indispensable, if hermetic almanac of the Polish ex-combatant experience in the United States. His Polish Freedom Fighters on American Soil is divided into two chronological parts: first, the period between the War for Independence and the First World War; second, the interwar years. Tellingly, given his Polish perspective, Lachowicz ends his monograph in 1939 rather than in 1941, the latter standard American periodization because of Pearl Harbor.

The first part of the narrative is based almost exclusively on secondary sources, some of them rather hard to find. The second part draws on a wealth of primary sources chiefly from a single, if exhaustive collection – that of the Polish Army Veterans Association of America (PAVA), Orchard Lake, MI, but also with some documents from the Piłsudski Institute in New York; the Hoover Institution at Stanford, CA; and the Archive of New Records in Warsaw. The monograph sadly fails to include any English language primary sources and hardly any non-Polish secondary ones. Its first part concerns veteran personalities; the second one describes an organization of the veterans.

To set up the story, the author briefly recounts the exploits of the likes of Tadeusz Kościuszko and Kazimierz Pułaski during the War for Independence and Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski and Kasper Tochman during the War Between the States. Many others, often obscure and forgotten, surface in the author’s chronological laundry list of personalities. Most get an honorary mention. A few merit a mini biography. Lachowicz also mentions here a number of Polonian organizations set up by the veterans of Poland’s martial catastrophes: the Confederacy of Bar (1768–1772); Kościuszko Insurrection (1794), Napoleonic Wars (1795-1815), November Rising (1830–1831), and January Rising (1863–1865).

The losers were virtually the first Poles on these shores since the Jamestown Polish crew in the early seventeenth century. Perhaps a few thousand Polish veterans had settled in the U.S. by the 1880s. Lachowicz’s numbers are regrettably scattered and inconclusive. Most of them came voluntarily, but several hundred were forcibly deported here by the Habsburg authorities in the mid-nineteenth century. Only a few returned to the Old Country, or, at least, Europe, to fight again or to retire at home. The remainder stayed behind and sampled the whole gamut of the American experience.

A few lucky ones did very well for themselves. Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, for example, married rich, which freed him from the mundane obligations of life. Józef Truskolaski enjoyed the patronage of James Fenimore Cooper who sponsored his engineering education. Chopin’s manager and friend Julian Fontana embarked on his own successful career as a composer and a concert pianist. Wawrzyniec Gębicki excelled at knife making and built up a successful company. Most impressively, Erazm Józef Jerzmianowski became a multi-millionaire through his own effort. Virtually all of the fortunate ones assisted generously their fellow Poles and the cause of Poland’s freedom.

Most ex-soldiers, however, had a tough time making it in America. They generally experienced indifference from federal and state authorities, who sometimes limited themselves to declarations of sympathy, exceptionally backed by political resolutions that, in theory, aimed at relieving the hardship of the Polish veterans but, in practice, failed to deliver, like the unrealistic congressional Ohio land grant project for the Poles of 1834.

The Polish encounters with the denizens of the United States usually reflected the latter’s utter ignorance of Poland and its plight. Public celebrations of high profile emigrants or guests were few and far between and lasted but fleetingly. The Poles could count only on a few Americans, WASPs from the highest echelons of the society, to advocate for them: for instance, Dr. Paul Fitzsimmons Eve, who fought in the November Rising, or Major Cedric Fauntleroy, who fought in the Polish-Bolshevik War.

On the other hand, why should the American people have catered to the Poles? Self-help was the American way. The former military men were usually ill-equipped to take advantage of America’s individualistic freedom. They found themselves at the bottom of the social ladder. They complained that the blacks enjoyed status superior to them because of their lack of command of the English language: “We are worse than the Negroes, under whom we work in domestic service situations.  We are placed under their supervision because they know the native language” (p. 15). The Poles performed the most menial jobs and suffered hunger and hardship: “aside from deepest desperation I feel like laughing when I recall Olszański, who keeps being pushed around now by the servants in the house, now by the Negroes. This one tells him to shine shoes, that one tells him to empty the urinals. Or when I see old Morawski removing rubble in a wheelbarrow out onto the street and then when I see the kids peeing in his wheelbarrow, or Komar carrying a huge pipe across town and behind him several hundred boys shouting Pole! Pole!” (p. 16). All this was hard to swallow for intrepid freedom fighters, many of whom were noblemen.

After a while, the veterans set up a number of organizations, most of them ephemeral, like the Polish Committee in New York. Some veterans were also active in setting up major fraternals, including the Polish National Alliance (PNA) and the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA), which eventually laid framework for the PAVA. But most ex-military Poles remained unorganized. Many intermarried with the locals and quickly assimilated, as there was a dearth of Polish women. A number wandered around the continent, settling as far west as California, for instance Korwin Piotrowski, the inspiration for Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Zagłoba.

The fate of the wanderers was checkered. Some experienced kindness from native Americans in Ohio in 1834; others died at the Indian hands, like the band of Polish ex-military brothers who left Louisiana for Texas in 1835; still others fought them, for example during the Seminole wars between 1834 and 1842. Overall, only a few Poles joined the U.S. military in the nineteenth century. The exception was the Civil War when the volunteering of the Polish warriors markedly increased. Yet, they fought in every American conflict and often paid the highest price, for example, the Petrussewicz brothers killed by Mexicans at Fort Goliad in 1836 or Gustaw Szulc who was hanged by the British following his participation in the ill-fated American military incursion into Canada in 1838.  The first casualty on the Confederate side was reportedly an American Pole: Tadeusz A. Strawiński, who died accidentally at Fort Moultrie, SC, on January 25, 1861.

Statistically, after 1863, Polish veterans were not representative of the American Polonia. Following the 1870s at the latest, most arrivals from Poland in the United States were economic migrants, mostly peasants. Military and political figures were exceptional. However, those peasants and their offspring (and here the author unfortunately fails to include any references to the superb work on Polish-American consciousness by Thaddeus and John Radziłowski) became Poles in America and, thus, about 20,000 of them, spurred by patriotism, resolved to fight for Poland during the Great War and its aftermath in the “Blue Army” under General Józef Haller. In addition, nearly 40,000 American Poles joined the U.S. armed forces to struggle for the same aim.

The freedom fighters of 1914–1921were inspired by the Polish veterans of 1830 and 1863 as well as by their patriotic priests. They were crucial against the Ukrainians and they contributed mightily to the victory against the Bolsheviks, even though Józef Piłsudski treated them rather shabbily throughout. This was in response to the solid support of the Polish Americans for Roman Dmowski and Ignacy Paderewski, which reflected not only their preference for nationalism over socialism but also, primarily, the logical embrace of the Entente over the Central Powers, which was in congruence with the war-time policy of the United States. The American Poles insisted on remaining patriots for both the U.S. and Poland.

Parenthetically, the blood of the “Blue Army” was not the only contribution of the Polonia to the cause of the Old Country’s freedom. “The Polish American community… gave Poland $5,939,419.34 from October 12, 1914 to December 31, 1920…. In this way the Polish American community realized its and its ancestors’ dreams and longings” (p. 96).  That is $68,878,094.79 in today’s U.S. money. The generosity is simply mind-boggling, particularly in light of recent history and contemporary times.

After the victory, most of the veterans returned home to America; a few stayed behind or re-emigrated afterwards. Although designated as “Americans” in Poland, and evacuated home by the White House in 1921, the soldiers of the “Blue Army” were denied veteran status in the United States. This was on spurious grounds that Poland had not yet existed as an allied state when they volunteered. Thus, they received no U.S. government help whatsoever. For example, unlike, say, the Belgian veterans resident in the U.S., the Polish ex-combatants had no right to federal health care. Never mind that they went into action as allied units in France already in 1917 and the political leadership of the “Blue Army” was uniformly recognized by the heads of the Entente, including President Woodrow Wilson, as a de facto Polish government. Having arrived back home, the Polish Americans had to fend for themselves and reestablish their lives after the military interlude on behalf of Poland. Most challenges were economic: how to re-integrate the former warriors into the civilian life during a severe post-war recession.

Neither America nor the Polonia was prepared for the influx of the “Blue Army” ex-combatants.  There was only one exception. “It ought to be noted that thanks to the provident care and the strong hand of Father [Lucjan] Bójnowski the Polonia in New Britain was the only Polish American center that was properly prepared for the return of its soldiers from war, in line with the assurances that had been given during recruitment for the Polish Army in France” (p. 122). In most places, the veterans had to fend for themselves.

To maintain the spirit of camaraderie from the trenches and to assist each other, the freedom fighters created the PAVA.  This was a fraternal par excellance. Its main objective was to look after the welfare of the members. Further, it participated in cultural, educational, and political events. That included speaking up in defense of Poland and America in print and deed: “to repel anti-U.S. and anti-Poland propaganda,” as their by-laws of 1937 reiterated. Accordingly, for example in October 1923 in Detroit the “Blue Army” veterans routed the rampant Communist and other leftist sympathizers who, while fomenting unrest and anarchy in an American city, first had besmirched the Old Country’s reputation in the press and then physically had lashed out at the Polish-American freedom fighters (p. 281).

Incidentally, although the PAVA members were Polish nationalists, they were not National Democrats. As Americans, they remained committed to parliamentary democracy and they felt much more comfortable with Haller’s Christian democracy than with Roman Dmowski’s emerging corporatist “Third Way.” For the same reason, the PAVA failed to embrace Piłsudskis coup’d etat. Yet, from the early 1930s, the Polish American veterans also endeavored to achieve reconciliation with the Piłsudskites. It was not only because the latter were in power and could dispense largesse from public coffers, but primarily because the followers of the Marshal represented the independent Polish State. And they were a military lot, which appealed to the PAVA much more readily than the civilians of the National Democracy. With the Nazi and Soviet danger looming menacingly, by 1939 the former Polish army soldiers in America stood squarely behind the Polish government.

Meanwhile, the erstwhile freedom fighters never forsook the mundane. The main function of the PAVA was self-aid, after all. Most of its funds, collected from the dues and generous contributions of supporters, most notably Ignacy Paderewski and some of the clergy (“among the larger donors the names of priests predominated” p. 193), went to sustain widows, orphans, war invalids, and down-on-their-luck veterans. Some of the accounts of their plight are truly harrowing. There were even several deaths by starvation and suicide among homeless veterans, for example Piotr Malinowski in 1922. The Great Depression caused more victims. “About 45 persons” died thus in the interwar period, all of them unaffiliated veterans (p. 190). In distinction, the PAVA took care of its members and often extended free membership to the needy who turned to the fellow freedom fighters for help. The PAVA Women’s Auxiliary Corps under Agnieszka Wisła distinguished itself enormously in this endeavor. Substantial subsidies went to the Polish American veterans who settled in Poland, including a few ill fated enterprises, most notably several economically unsustainable retirement houses and work farms in the Old Country (which, confiscated by the Nazis and Communists, should now be returned to the rightful owners).

Generally, in the interwar period, the PAVA played an important, albeit ancillary role in the Polonia. It was a relatively small outfit, roughly 4,500 members by 1939, as most veterans failed to enroll (p. 146). Also, the PAVA could not compete with more universal organizations like the PNA and the PRCU. However, there was a great deal of overlap with those and other Polish-American institutions, in particular the Falcons, which had been the main source of recruitment for the “Blue Army.” Rather than competing, the PAVA complemented others.

Teofil Lachowicz has unequivocally succeeded in demonstrating, even if it was not his intention, that the Polonia was at its most powerful in the United States before 1921, when it unabashedly invoked the greatness of the Commonwealth in general and the Polish armed struggle for freedom in particular as its universal source of inspiration; when it brazenly advertised its Polish ethnicity; when it sustained itself by its Christian religion; and, last but not least, when it drew leaders among the priests, businessmen, and professionals, and other practitioners, rather than intellectuals. Lachowicz has also shown that, inspired by the spirit of nationalism and camaraderie, the American Poles not only fought for Poland gallantly and greatly contributed to its resurrection, but they also were able to take care of their own with their own means when the victorious troops returned home. That is truly admirable and shines proudly throughout Teofil Lachowicz’s equally proud account of the efforts of the Polish American freedom fighters. Take careful note of that.

There are a few problems with the translation, many with copy editing, and a plethora with the computer lay out, including some text missing and incorrectly broken up paragraphs. But that is immaterial, for the information assembled by Teofil Lachowicz is well worth such inconveniences.

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Washington, DC, 11 November 2011
http://www.iwp.edu

The current historiography on the Intermarium: Hetherington, Kunicki, Applebaum

During the Wednesday, 13 February, Intermarium lecture, Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz discussed and compared three recent works on twentieth-century Polish history:

Hetherington’s book is a labor of love by a geologist-turned-amateur-historian. Kunicki’s book on Bolesław Piasecki is just the opposite. The object of Hetherington’s admiration is interwar Poland’s strongman, Józef Piłsudski. Originally a patriotic socialist revolutionary with an eighteenth-century Grand Duchy of Lithuanian noble mentality, Piłsudski moved somewhat to the right after seizing power in Warsaw in a coup (May 1926).

Kunicki’s “whipping boy,” in turn, was a radical nationalist leader in interwar Poland and an anti-Nazi, anti-Soviet underground resistance commander during the war. Following his arrest by the newly-imposed communist regime, Piasecki chose to collaborate with his captors. Until his death, he ran a “progressive Catholic” organization/publishing house known as PAX.

Hetherington is sometimes apologetic towards his hero and unfair towards Piłsudski’s detractors, but his book is generally useful, particularly for the English-speaking audience. Kunicki’s work, on the other hand, was originally written as a doctoral dissertation almost a decade ago and hasn’t been updated by the author since. It contains no original scholarship and falls into the category of the “blame nationalism for communism’s sins” genre.

Like Hetherington’s biography, Anne Applebaum’s study of the Sovietization of Central and Eastern Europe after the Second World War is a step in the right direction. Unlike many postmodern scholars in the world of academia, who deny that communism was totalitarian, Applebaum has no qualms about calling a spade a spade. Overall, she understands that the entry of the Red Army into Central Europe in the wake of the retreating Wehrmacht was by no means a “liberation,” but a swap of occupations. She is also fair to usually vilified segments of the Polish anti-communist underground. Applebaum also emphasizes that communism destroyed the spirit of cooperation and charity.

It is a pathetic reflection of the state of the historical profession in the era of postmodernism that a journalist and a geologist are capable of more insightful and objective work on the history of Poland than a professional historian.