2003-06-25 / Editorials

Protests Democratic Treatment

Protests Democratic Treatment

The American Polish community in the United States is over 10 million strong. Cohesively united by their common heritage, this vast Polish–American constituency has strong ties to their ancestral land.

Unlike the conditions Eastern and Western European nations experienced during World War II, Poland was attacked on September 1, 1939 by Nazi armies from the west and Communist forces from the east. Over 6 million lives were lost. General [Dwight] Eisenhower commented, after a visit to Poland, that it was the most devastated country in Europe. The capital city of Warsaw was totally destroyed. Over 50 years of existence under two evil and rapacious powers left the land of Poland completely debilitated, raped, exhausted and economically paralyzed. The Yalta Agreement, approved by a Democratic president and congress gave the Soviet Union 55 percent of pre-World War II Polish territory. This agreement also provided for a complete takeover by the Soviets. There has been no restitution for damage done by the Soviet government. Polish slave laborers and others who suffered through the ravages of war benefited little from the post WWII German government and none whatsoever from the Soviet Union.

Today with Poland’s economy in a rapid downslide, suffering a 20 percent unemployment rate the Polish government has to overcome insurmountable odds in rehabilitating its infrastructure. Not having a Marshall Plan—that benefited only Western European nations—Poland faced the overwhelming challenge of restructuring the economy on its own. Poland is still paying off the $30 billion loan it received in 1970. There was no forgiveness from the USA or its former allies.

The current observation of Poland’s economy is of a very dismal nature. Poland’s membership in the European Union has been recently endorsed in a public referendum. Polish–American voters holding Polish passports were eligible to vote. Yet there are no fairyland story solutions when Poland accepts this dubious honor.

The Democratic Party has, in some respect, alienated the Polish community. American Poles residing in New York state feel that some of the Democratic legislators have taken positions inimical to the interest of its one million or more American Polish citizens.

Senator [Hillary] Clinton heads a group of legislators prominent in New York state who work to promote the interests of Holocaust victims and their relatives seeking restitution of properties destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. Senator Clinton’s asking President [George] Bush to intercede with the Polish government on behalf of the senator’s Jewish constituents without understanding the economic struggles of the Polish community, or the nature of the Holocaust, precipitated adverse reaction within the Polish community. The Polish government is attempting to do the best it can to satisfy some of those claims. However, the dismal conditions of economic recovery make any attempts to repay so called ambiguous claims for property restitution from relatives of the claimants may be a chimerical notion. A nation practically bankrupt from Nazi and Communist devastation would soon cease to exist should a blanket policy to restitute properties and moneys to Holocaust victims and their heirs take place.

Statements made by Senator Clinton and some of her colleagues have resulted peripherally in perpetuating stereotypical images of the Polish people as being anti-Semitic and stupid (e.g. the Polish joke syndrome). During one such Holocaust Commission being chaired by the Democratic Speaker of the New York State Assembly, my brother, the PAC chair of the Downstate Division of the Polish– American Congress was in attendance. He witnessed the participants calling the Polish people killers, murderers and stupid. Not once did the Democratic leader of the state Assembly admonish any of the speakers on their use of demeaning, denigrating and vile language leveled at the Poles. The perception was that all Polish people were guilty of being anti-Semitic. After my brother addressed this hearing denying charges of anti-Semitism and decrying the use of stereotypical images as a concomitant of this hearing, one of the Holocaust victims made this comment about my brother’s presentation. "You are one in a million. All the other ‘Polacks’ are guilty of murder." Small wonder then that Polish–American voters are deserting the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party must also face the reality of developing an overall concern in recognizing the needs and aspirations of Poland and its fellow members of the Central and East Coalition (CEEC). This organizational body has issues of mutual concern which must be recognized and addressed by the Democrat members of the House and Senate. One must wonder why the Democratic National Committee seems to give unquestionable support in recognizing the needs of one body of ethnic voters and not the others.

All Polish–Americans are looking for an unbiased political champion. They have millions of votes to cast. The Democratic party could very well be the recipient of this vast united electorate. Information and direction should be offered those legislators who, unwittingly and unknowingly traverse the obstacle-laden path of political expediency.


John Szarejko

Tall Timbers, Maryland

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