The Home of Polish Pride in Toledo     

This page is dedicated to how Poles have contributed to the greatness of America.

Ralph Modjeski
Not a ramblin' wreck
from Georgia Tech
But helluva engineer

Bleeding Heart Flower
Janet Gawle
Local Photograher
les objets ordinaires

This might look like a gator swamp on the bayou of southern Louisianna, but it's actually the srub swamp in Poland.

Pole before Columbus

Jan of Kolno, a Polish sea captain under the sponsorship of the King of Denmark reached Labrador and explored the Atlantic coast as far as Delaware in 1475. 17 years later Columbus finally got the Queen of Spain to bankroll his expedition. He stumbled across a couple of tiny islands in the Caribbean missing the large landmass, which is North America. So, maybe we should be calling the Capital of Ohio Jan instead of Columbus.

Sandusky Ohio Named After Pole

Next time you head out to Cedar Point for some thrills, think about this: Sandusky, Ohio, was named after the Polish-American adventurer James Anthony Sądowski. (Remember the Polish letter "a" with a tail is pronounced with a nasal "n" sound at the end) He was killed by Indians in Virginia. His two sons, James II and Joseph, distinguished themselves in the history of the state of Kentucky as companions of Daniel Boone. They were the first to enter the unknown lands. In 1774 the brothers sailed with about forty men down the Ohio and the Monongahela rivers and camped at the site of modern day Cincinnati, Ohio.

James Sądowski was the first white settler from the English colonies to have sailed the Mississippi to New Orleans, and from there to Baltimore. Another explorer Paul Mostowski of Warsaw in 1776 wanted to found New Poland in what are today the southern states. Instead of referring to that part of the country as Dixie as we do today, we might have been calling it Nowy Polska.

More on Sądowski

American Revolution Aid by Poles

"I came here, where freedom is being defended,
to serve it, and to live or die for it..."
-- Count Casimir Pulaski

Casimir Pułaski, regarded as "the father of the American cavalry," gave his life for our liberty in Savannah, GA where his monument is now located. Born on March 4, 1747, in Winiary,
some 40 miles outside of Warsaw, his family belonged to Polish nobility, and his ancestors fought with King Jan Sobieski banishing Islamic Turks trying to conquer and convert Christian Europe at the siege of Vienna in 1683.

On Washington's recommendation, the Continental Congress appointed Pułaski general of the cavalry in 1777. But even before his formal appointment, he demonstrated his value. At the battle of Brandywine Creek, where Washington's forces suffered a defeat, Pułaski led a counterattack that covered the retreat of the Americans and helped prevent a military disaster.

Pułaski's Grand Burial in Savannah 2005

Thaddeus Kosciuszko is recognized specifically as the father of American military engineering, generally the father of American artillery and probably should be credited with the founding of West Point. Thomas Jefferson called him, “The purest son of liberty I have ever known.”

Kosciuszko's came to aid the revolution just as New York fell to the British and Philadelphia was about to fall. His first assignment was to strengthen the Delaware River approaches to the Philadelphia. Congress recognized these initial services by appointing Kosciuszko Colonel of engineers.

He made three key contributions to the eventual success of the American cause. The most notable was his role in the decisive battle of Saratoga where his fortifications led to the first major victory for the Americans and assured them of open French support. The second was his assignment to erect a permanent barrier on the Hudson against British attempts to split the Colonies. This was successfully accomplished on the heights at West Point where the U.S. Military Academy was subsequently established, in part at Kosciuszko's recommendation. His third major contribution was The Academy's first manual on the use of mobile horse artillery.

Congress granted him $15,000 and 500 acres of land in Franklin County, Ohio. He appointed his friend Thomas Jefferson to sell the land and appropriate the money to finance the education of free blacks. Kosciuszko also stood up for the American Indians, and was given a peace pipe and tomahawk by Chief Little Turtle of the Miami Indian tribe.

New Biography of Kosciuszko

Polish Jew Finances Revolution

Haym Solomon a Polish-born Jewish immigrant to America played an important role in financing the Revolution.

Poles & U.S. Civil War

Our friend, Larry Adamski, now living in Sumpter, S.C. might attest to this: the first recorded victim of the Civil War, Ted Strawinski, was an eighteen year old Polish student, He perished during the attack on Fort Sumpter by the Confederate army. The first Union officer to fall on the field of battle was captain Constantine Biedowski on May 10, 1861.

President Abraham Lincoln's proclamation called for 75,000 volunteers in Washington, D.C. under General Vladimir Krzyzanowski, who distinguished himself in the battle of Bull Run; Krzyzanowski, one of the finest Union officers, was later honored by Congress and is regarded as the most distinguished Pole of the Civil War.

Others fought in the ranks of the Union. Major Raszkowski's two Polish companies of the 31st New York state militia fought in Polish uniforms and Krzyzanowski's the 58th was dubbed as the Polish Legion. Colonel Vincent Sulakowski from Texas organized an army of 30,000 exiles for the Confederacy but there were no funds available for transport.

During the Civil War, at least 5000 Poles, one hundred and sixty officers among them, served in the Union army, along with General Victor Kochanowski who distinguished himself at the Battle of Gettysburg. Over 500 Poles died to preserve the Union and over 100 for the Confederacy.

The Poles who were fighting in the Union and Confederate armies were men of high ideals. Their military experience was of much value since most were commissioned officers as well as veterans of wars for freedom of past decades.

Civil War annals cannot pass by names like Joseph Karze, who was considered one of the best cavalry officers, and became a general in the Union Army; Allin F. Schoepf, a brigadier general who defeated the Confederates at Rock Hills in 1861; and Major Gaspard Tochman and Colonel Valery Sulakowski of the Confederate army.

Civil War Polish Legions

The Polish & World War I

The first American soldier to fall during the Great War [WWI] in France was a Polish American and, of course, the great Polish American musician and patriot Ignace Jan Padarewski was nominated by the chief of state Jozef Pilsudski as the first prime minister of independent Poland created by the Treaty of Versailles in 1918 after 126 years of partitions.

The Polish & World War II

Lt. Col. Matt Urban - Most Decorated

Born to Polish immigrant parents in Buffalo, NY, on August 25, 1919, Lt. Col. Matt Louis Urban has been recognized as the "most decorated American combat soldier of World War II." Urban was awarded a total of 29 decorations, virtually every combat medal possible, including seven Purple Hearts and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Lt. Col. Urban was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Jimmy Carter on July 19, 1980, and was properly recognized for his outstanding service to his country. While awarding Urban the Medal of Honor, President Carter identified him as the "most decorated American combat soldier of World War II."

The U.S. Postal Service has been petitioned to recognize this brave Polish American by issuing a commemorative stamp in his honor in 2005.

Monument to Lt. Col. Matt Urban in Monroe, Michigan where he lived after WWII [Click Here]

USAF Greatest Ace - World War II

Colonel Francis S. Gabreski was the top American Air Ace in World War II (ETO) with 28 enemy fighters destroyed in aerial combat plus three (3) on the ground. Colonel Gabreski was also an Ace in the Korean War flying the Sabre jet fighter in aerial combat.

He was assigned to the 45th Fighter Squadron of the 15th fighter group in Hawaii. He was at Wheeler Field when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In November 1942, he was sent to England where he served as Liaison Officer to the Polish Air Force and flew Spitfires in 20 combat missions. In February 1943 he was assigned to the 56th Fighter Group based in England.

First to cross the Rhine

Local World War II hero Sergeant Alexander A. Drabik was inducted posthumously into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor in 2015. Drabik was the first soldier to cross the Remagen Bridge in Germany on March 7, 1945, which gave the Allies access to cross the Rhine River, then Germany’s largest defense barrier. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said the capture of the bridge shortened the war by six months possibly saved as many as 50,000 Allied lives. When Eisenhower became President of the United States, he invited Drabik and the 10 riflemen to the White House and told them he was forming the Society of the Remagen Bridgehead.

Do you really think Harvard was 1st?

A Pole named Dr. Alexander Charles Kurcyusz [Curtius] founded the first institution of higher learning in New York City [New Amsterdam] in 1659.

A Full Page on Benda

[W. T. Benda]
One of America's Greatest Illustrators

Mieczysław Bekker
Made possible taking a ride on the Moon

The Warsaw Technical University locomotion wiz, born in Strzyzow, (now Ukraine since border shifts post-WWII), in 1905, was a leading specialist in theory and design of military and off-the-road locomotion vehicles, and an originator of a new engineering discipline called "terramechanics".

In 1961 he joined General Motors to work on the lunar vehicle project. Bekker authored the general idea and contributed significantly to the design and construction of the Lunar Roving Vehicle used by missions Apollo 15 - 17 on the Moon. He wrote prolifically on the subject of off-road vehicles, including those for extraterrestrial use.

[More at Wiki]

Panna Maria

Panna Maria is Polish for Virgin Mary. It is the oldest permanent entirely Polish settlement in the entire United States.

Father Leo Moczygemba, a Polish missionary, began preaching to scattered immigrants around Bandera Texas in the 1840s after Texas Declaired Independence from Mexico, but before it was annixed into the United States in 1845. After witnessing the successes of his German parishioners, he decided that his fellow Poles would thrive in Texas as well.

In 1854, the first group of immigrants arrived - including Father Leo's four brothers. The trip from Poland via Germany took a harrowing three-months. On Christmas Eve, 1854 the Poles huddled together in the cold and Mass was held under the Live Oak trees that stand today in the Panna Maria churchyard.

Today the town has a population of only 96. However, the number of Polish-Americans in Houston, Austin and other Texas cities is amazingly large. [Click Here] for the Houston Polonia Website.


Poles Preceed the Mayflower

Early Polish Settlers in Jamestown
The first known Polish settlers date to Jamestown. They reached the Virginia Colony 1607-08, at least twelve years before the Mayflower.

The early American Poles were artisans, responsible for the first strike in America. The occasion arose in 1619 when the House of Burgesses in Jamestown refused the right to vote to all those who were not of English stock; the Poles were accorded the same rights after a successful work stoppage. According to the Court Book of the Virginia Company of London on July 31, 1619, it was decided that "Upon some dispute of the Polonian residents in Virginia it was now agreed that they shall be enfranchised and made as free as any inhabitant there whatsoever."

Very Special, Special Forces

Just prior to the onset of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, who was sent in to rescue a number of American CIA agents from Iraq? In Polish Army nomenclature, it is called JW 2305 (JW stands for Jednostka Wojskowa — Military Unit). But, you can call them by their common name GROM (In Polish: Grupa Reagowania Operacyjno-Manewrowego "Operational Mobile Reaction Group"; the acronym itself means "thunderbolt").

They are the primary special forces unit of the Polish Land Forces. It was officially activated on July 8, 1990. It can be and is deployed in a variety of special operations and unconventional warfare roles, including anti-terrorist actions and projection of power behind enemy lines.

During the start of the Iraq War in 2003, it was GROM that had the task of securing oil platforms and terminals off the shores of Basra. Living up to their acronym, their lightning speed made possible a quick and decisive victory.

In 1989, many Jews were allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union to Israel. For fear of Islamic extremists opposed to any increased immigration to Israel, many western European countries opted not to assist in the transportation of the civilians to Israel. Poland, however, was one of the handful of countries that did indeed provide aid in the form of organization for the operation, later dubbed Operation Bridge (Operacja Most). After two Polish diplomats were shot in Beirut, Lt. Col. Slawomir Petelicki was sent to Lebanon to secure the transfer of civilians and the Polish diplomatic outposts.

Upon his return to Poland, he presented his plan for the creation of a special military unit to the Ministry of Defense, a force that would be trained in special operations to be deployed in the defense of Polish citizens in situations similar to the one in Lebanon. Petelicki's ideas were well-received, and, on July 8, 1990, GROM was formally established.

Block Watch Concept -
from the mind of a Polish-American

Fighting the enemy within: a modern Pol-Am hero

If you lived through the late part of the 1970's when street crime had politicians talking about "Law & Order," but in their typical fashion didn't do squat like most politicians do, then you probably remember the name Curtis Sliwa the founder of the Guardian Angels.

Sliwa's driving force was motivated by his unadulterated intention to better his community. As night manager of the local McDonald's, Curtis instituted a community clean-up program supported and blessed by the company. Local volunteers dubbed the "Rock Brigade," painted over graffiti, cleaned up vacant lots, boarded up vacant buildings and planted trees and gardens in the Fordham neighborhood.

In the late 70s, determined to take back the community, Curtis expanded his neighborhood program to patrol the Number 4 Train, one of the worst subway lines in New York City, then known as the "Mugger's Express."

Curtis armed these forerunners of The Guardian Angels with nothing more than common sense, self-control and martial arts training. He inspired communities to take responsibility, which resulted in the formation of what we now call Neighborhood Watch Groups.

As his original thirteen grew to be hundreds, a more organized structure was needed, resulting in the birth of The Guardian Angels in February 1979. The Guardian Angels has grown to 25 chapters throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Brazil and Japan.

The red beret, first worn to symbolize courage, has become a worldwide icon for safety education. Curtis is recognized as one of the most effective and respected grass roots leaders and activists of the past quarter century.

John Gotti Jr. tried two hits on Sliwa. Curtis pulled through. Untouched the first time, serious wounds the second. Sliwa is now the Morning Talk Host on legendary WABC Radio in NYC.

Polish - American family carves
world’s largest sculpture

Crazy Horse Memorial, the world's largest sculpture, now in progress, is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota just 17 miles from Mount Rushmore. Korczak Ziolkowski began the project in 1948 sheltered in nothing more than a surplus army tent. Although Korczak died in 1982, his widow Ruth and their family continue the project which will take another generation to complete.

Could anyone but a Pole truly appreciate the plight of the Native American enough to dedicate his life and his legacy to create a monument of such grandeur and enormity that it will dwarf in size the four great U.S. Presidents residing nearby? All without taking a single penny of federal or other public money.

The very foundation of the Polish Philosophy is based on freedom, liberty and the innate dignity of man the very things Native Americans were rarely afforded in the fulfillment of "manifest destiny."

When completed the Crazy Horse mountain carving will be nearly 40 percent higher than the Owens-Illinois skyscraper located in downtown Toledo rising more than 560 feet.

Hollywood and Its Poles

One of the most prolific Hollywood directors was 6 time Oscar winner Billy WIlder - born on June 22, 1906, in the town of Sucha in Galicia, Poland (Austrian occupied at the time). Here is a short list of his greatest films:

  • "A Foreign Affair," with Marlene Dietrich
  • "Sunset Blvd." starring Gloria Swanson
  • "Ace in the Hole" with Kirk Douglas
  • "Stalag 17" with William Holden
  • "Sabrina" with Audrey Hepburn
  • "Some Like It Hot" with Marilyn Monroe
  • "The 7 Year Itch" with Marilyn Monroe
  • "Witness for the Prosecution"
  • "The Spirit of St. Louis."
  • "The Apartment" with Jack Lemon
  • "Irma la Douce" with Jack Lemon

Hollywood has been filled with people of Polish descent including Samual Goldwyn (the "G" in MGM) Lauren Becal, Gloria Swanson, Stephanie Powers, Roman Polanski, Lee Lee Soblewski and others, but none as celebrated as Billy Wilder who died in 2002 at the age of 95.

The Magnificent Modjeski
He was one of the many illustrious men that were born in Poland and helped to build America.

The greatest bridge builder America has ever known was the son of famous Polish actress Helena Modrzejewska (Madame Modjeska). Ralph Modjeski (Rudolf Modrzejewski) was born on January 27,1861 in Galicja (Austrian partitioned Poland).

Chances are you've been across one of his bridges. The great Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit with Windsor, Ontario - yep, that's one of his spans. Oh, you want a longer one? Drive over the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Its twice as long as the Golden Gate. And, the next time you're in the City of Brotherly Love try the Ben Franklin bridge on for size. He is noted for for the number, variety, and innovative character of his projects.

Here's a little know fact about Ralph's mom: she was such a great international star of the theater she often found herself invited to dinner parties thrown by the filthy rich. At one such dinner in New York City, she brought the entire room to tears dramatically reciting the Polish alphabet, which they mistook for some passage of a classic tragedy.

Marie Zakrzewska - Medicine Woman

In 1862, Marie Zakrzewska, M.D., opened doors to women physicians who were excluded from clinical training opportunities at male-run hospitals, by establishing the first hospital in Boston and the second hospital in America run by women, the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

Marie Zakrzewska immigrated to New York in March 1853. During her first year in America she found little support for a career in medicine among the male practitioners she met. She enrolled at a traditionally all-male medical school, Cleveland's Western Reserve College, in 1854. She was one of only six women admitted to the school during the 1850s.

Tadeusz Sendzimir
Galvanizing the Steal Industry Worldwide

Born in 1894 in what was then Lwow, Poland (now Lviv Ukraine)Tadeusz Sendzimir, invented the process of cold rolling and galvanizing steel called the "Sendzimir process", and is used world-wide. The Lwow Technical University graduate held positions around the world advancing the processes of steal production. His first industrial sized galvinizing unit was built in 1931 when he returned to Poland.

In 1936 he built a galvanizing line using his process at the Armco steel mill in Butler, Pennsylvania. In 1938, he formed a partnership with Armco Steel to market his technology world-wide.

The year World War II broke out, he moved from Paris to Middletown. Ohio and became a U.S. citizen in 1946. He died in Jupiter, Florida in 1989. His family continues to operate T. Sendzimir, Inc, that was established by him in Waterbury, CT, in 1960, to design steel mill equipment and service over 100 patents through licensees all over the world.

[More at Wiki]

Sunny Catalina 1st Named for Pole

There is, today, a fairly large community of Polish-Americans in both the Los Angeles and San Francisco area. But, more than 150 years ago, Sunny Catalina Island 17 miles off the Port of Los Angeles was known buy a different name.

In California, 19th Century Spanish authorities were extremely apprehensive and resentful of strangers entering their land. Consequently, if a ship was forced to undergo repairs on their shores, it was immediately captured along with the cargo. American sailors, therefore, became cautious and welcomed sites that were isolated and peaceful to repair their ships. So it happened that William Shaler and Richard Cleveland, merchant-adventurers of New England, discovered a site on Catalina Island where they could safely make rush repairs. This area was yet unnamed. Hence, Shaler and Cleveland christened it Port Rouissillon. Who or what was Rouissillon?

Rouissillon was said to have been a member of an "ancient noble family of Poland," a strong believer in individual liberty who rejected the disciplined life of his native land. He became acquainted with Shaler and Cleveland in Hamburg, Germany.

Although his name is not even mentioned in the geography of California, it has been assumed that he was a Polish count living incognito. With this disguise, so to speak, he was able to avoid any encounters that might have occurred with enemies. California attracted many Poles during the 1840's and 1850's. Earlier settlers were immigrant veterans from Polish uprisings, while the period of the gold rush "became the spark which released the great influx of the Polish Peasant or economic immigration to this country."

Today the waters around Catalina Island are filled with a variety of sail boats and luxurious yachts.

World War II

Polish Contibutions in winning World War II

Battle of Britain

Polish Squadron - Highest kill rate in the RAF

Highest Concentration
of Poles

The town of Sharon, Wisconsin - ranked No. 1 in the country with residents reporting some Polish blood in their families, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Census figures show 1,978 people live in the village and 64 percent reported some Polish heritage. The area is rolling countryside of corn and potato fields, woods, dairy farms and scattered rural homes.

Ignacy Paderewski
[Click Here]

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