Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Poland's sorrows deeply felt in Chicago, too

Among the dignitaries who perished with Polish President Lech Kaczynski in the plane crash earlier this month was Chicago artist Wojciech Seweryn.

Seweryn created a monument to the victims of the Katyn Massacre at St. Adalbert Cemetery in Niles, Illinois, just northwest of Chicago. (Seweryn's own father was among the roughly 22,000 victims of the Soviet purge, in 1940, of Poland's best and brightest.) That monument became a focal point for the real outpouring of grief by Chicago's Polish community.

You will sometimes hear it said that Chicago is the second largest Polish city in the world -- only Warsaw may have more Poles than Chicago -- but what does that mean?

In the past 10 days I've seen more Polish flags -- flags flying from houses and cars alike. One day last week, driving home, I do believe there were more cars with Polish flags than without. Many of the flags, like this one pictured at right, had mourning ribbons tied to the top. Then again, I live on Chicago's Northwest Side, where many Poles put down roots.

I rather doubt that this tremendous display of sympathy and, yes, solidarity with the Polish nation in this latest moment of tragedy was repeated in other parts of the country. Or am I mistaken?

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Historical footnote: The Russians have more or less acknowledged, finally, responsibility for the Katyn Massacre. In fact, President Kaczynski and the others on the doomed plane were en route to a service commemorating the 70th anniversary of the murders and there had been other ceremonies this year in which both Polish and Russian leaders participated.

The massacre was first called to the world's attention by the Nazis, in 1943. The Soviets insisted that the Nazis themselves were responsible and, inasmuch as "Uncle Joe" Stalin was our glorious ally during World War II, the American government accepted the Soviet explanation -- despite reports from our own military which showed the Soviets were responsible. Those reports were suppressed.

During the 1950s, although relations with the Soviet Union had soured, the American government was still not at all eager to admit that it had lied to save Soviet face -- particularly when so many of those in government were being attacked for 'delivering' Poland and other Eastern European countries to Soviet clutches at the end of the war. The Wikipedia article, linked above, talks about how a 1951-52 Congressional inquiry finally fixed official blame on the Soviet regime. Tom Roeser explains how this inquiry came about in his post yesterday, "Personal Aside: How a Chicago Irishman Pinned Blame for Katyn on the Soviets—Where it Belonged."

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The first two photos in this post were obtained from the Niles Herald Spectator, a Pioneer (Sun-Times) paper.

2 comments:

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

d#1 said that too and more...

smiles, bee
tyvc

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I was unaware there were so many Poles in Chicago.