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May 30, 2003 ...

Weimar Triangle or Bermuda Triangle?

by Agatha Glowacka
Immediately after the fall of communism in Central Europe, the European Union was busy focusing on its own changes and was disinterested in helping Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia rebuild and democratize. Applications by these countries to join the EU were repeatedly delayed and dismissed. This was met with huge disappointment by the three Visegrad countries and they all looked elsewhere for help. One common outlet was NATO. For Poland, however, the Weimar Triangle was established with it, France and Germany as a substitute for EU membership. The aim was to help Poland's democratization and facilitate future EU membership.
The Weimar Triangle was established as a symbolic gesture and it was structured around dialogue. The relationship was unequal, with France and Germany acting as the mentors for a Poland that was "catching up." When the Triangle was established, it was far from certain whether Poland would ever join the EU; ten years later, Poland is on the eve of finally joining. Thus, the Triangle seems to have fulfilled its original aim and now it remains to be seen whether the trilateral relationship will conform to the new situation or fade away.
Poland will no longer be an applicant country but a fellow EU member, and the role that it will play will largely determine its relations with France and Germany. Some in Poland hope that she will be able to attach to the traditional Franco-German "engine" of the EU, and have a role in really driving the agenda. These ambitions would be supported by transforming the old symbolic Weimar Triangle into something substantial and a forum for Poland to join the powerhouse of Germany and France.
These ambitions have suffered since the Iraqi crisis, however, as relations between the three countries have soured. Poland has been viewed as somewhat of a traitor by France and Germany after signing the "Letter of 8" and sending soldiers to participate in the Iraqi war. The recent news that Poland would be given a sector of Iraq to govern was not taken well either, especially since this offer was seen as a punishment for Germany and France and their initial objections to participating in the first place. Reactions were particularly brutal in newspaper editorials, in which Poland was ridiculed as "America's Trojan donkey" and her army as mercenaries for the US.
At the same time, Poland's bold steps at distinguishing her foreign policy have earned her respect on the international scene and raised her status. And, while they are ridiculing Poland, the German and French newspapers also acknowledge Poland's new significance on the world scene.
The Weimar countries different opinions regarding the Iraq issue has caused some critics to say that the end of the Triangle has come. The opposing opinions and foreign policies of France/Germany and Poland make a strong partnership impossible, they claim. Others take the opposite opinion and say that now is the time for the Triangle to develop and expand. Now that Poland is gaining ground and power on the international scene, she has the ability to voice her opinions and policies and can be seriously regarded by France and Germany.
The recent meeting of the three countries in Wroclaw, Poland on May 9 was a positive start towards repairing their relations. Danuta Hubner, Polish State Secretary for European Affairs, claims that the meeting of the Triangle showed that the Weimar partnership "worked" because this opportunity for dialogue served to repair the damaged relations that have existed since the beginning of the Iraqi conflict. At the Wroclaw meeting, she said concrete steps were taken that would increase the participation of the Weimar three, including regular meetings among them, and transform it from something symbolic in nature to more substantial.
There are signs that perhaps the Triangle might transform from a mentoring association led by France and Germany to a real trilateral partnership among three equals. But it is doubtful that France and Germany will be very willing to give up their monopoly on power in the EU and share it with Poland, especially considering Poland's close ties with the US.
A recent editorial in the Polish newspaper Polytika suggested that "France and Germany have to now take Poland more seriously, but also like us much less." It is important to remember, though, that in the sphere of international politics it is better to be respected than liked. Poland has been given the opportunity to earn such respect, but much depends on how the Iraq situation works out. With bruised egos, France and Germany will be closely watching Poland's performance in the governing of the Iraqi sector, as will America and the rest of the world.
Poland will have to show that she is capable and competent to play with the "big boys." Hopefully, she will be able to prove that her new significance and relevance are permanent, and slowly convince the Weimar and the rest of Europe to take her seriously.

Fate of Corpus Christi complex still uncertain

by Glenn Gramigna
There has been no shortage of meetings held or planned, letters written, and opinions offered recently in connection with the announced intention of the Franciscan Friars to leave Corpus Christi Church at the end of June. As of now there is no indication that the Friars' self imposed June 30 deadline for leaving will be changed. Also the Buffalo Diocese has not announced any plans to take over the church once the Maryland based Franciscan order leaves.
Perhaps the most vigorous attempt to keep Corpus Christi viable for future generations was undertaken by Buffalo councilmen Dave Franczyk and Joe Golombek. The pair held a two hour meeting at City Hall last week with Franciscan Vicar Provincial Rev. Donald Grzymski, the No. 2 administrator in the Franciscan Province that includes Corpus Christi.
"I asked Rev. Grzymski point blank if the Franciscans would stay after June 30," recalls Golombek, the vice president of the local chapter of the Polish American Congress. "He told me point blank that the Franciscans would be leaving on June 30."
Still the two Common Council members persisted, with Franczyk appealing to the Franciscans sense of responsibility to the neighborhood and city.
"I told him that what they planned to do would make things worse in Buffalo," the Fillmore District councilman recalls. "I told him that I felt that the Franciscans had a responsibility to work with people in poor neighborhoods. They work with African-Americans in Alabama. Why can't they do it here? I would like to see them keep it open for another two years until permanent arrangements can be made. Or possibly they could sell the property to the Diocese for $1. But, I'm not optimistic."
Franczyk reports there was a case of a Polish parish in Baltimore that was closed even though the pastor refused to leave.
"They closed it anyway but he refused to leave and stayed there for three years until he died from what I understand," said Franczyk. "I am also very concerned about what will happen if they just abandon the property. I don't want Corpus Christi being stripped by thieves. It's a serious problem. I'm working hard to find some alternative. But, right now I don't know what's going to happen."
Franczyk's efforts included writing a letter to Bishop Mansell dated April 29 which asked: "Is there any way I or the city can be helpful to you should you decide to retain a religious presence at the Clark St. site? Perhaps a Parish Administrator could be assigned? Surely, many older inner city parishes appear to be a success such as Jesuit run St. Ann's on Broadway."
On May 2, Bishop Mansell replied that, "We are conducting a process of consultation regarding the future of Corpus Christi and will explore whatever options are identified. The challenges are daunting, however. And more difficult than appear in the public attention given the issue so far."
Sources have told the Am-Pol Eagle that the Franciscan provincial met this week with Bishop Mansell.
All of this leaves Corpus Christi Pastor Rev. Karl Kolodziejski, a 27-year resident of the parish, still facing a June 30 deadline to leave his longtime home. As of now he reports that he has not been told where his next assignment will be.
"I'm just waiting to see what's going to happen with everyone else," he says.
"I know that a group of parishioners has asked for a meeting with the Provincial, Rev. Michael Kolodziej and I believe that is likely to take place on June 16 since he will be in town then."
Like Franczyk, Pastor Kolodziejski is concerned about what will happen to the property after he is gone. He notes that one or two caretakers who already work there have been asked to stay on. But, this would still leave no one in residence at the multi-building complex.
"People in the neighborhood have been very respectful of our property," he notes. "But, if there is no one here it's possible that people from the outside could come in and steal or destroy things."
Also taking an interest in the fate of Corpus Christi is Kim Harmon, of the community organization known as East Side Pride. She reports that she will lead a group of nine of her members, including some former parishioners to a June 2 meeting with Rev. Grzymski in Ellicott City, Maryland. The group will be in the area anyway for another meeting.
Included will be preservationists interested in maintaining the church as a tourist attraction. She also reports that her organization has reached an agreement with Adelphia to broadcast weekly Masses at Corpus Christi on Ch. 20.  
No "Final Mass"
Corpus Christi Pastor Karl Kolodziejski reports that there will be no "final Mass" at the church even if it does close on June 30 as planned. Instead, there will be a Mass of Celebration for the Franciscan Friars and the parishioners of Corpus Christi on Sun., June 15 at 11:30 a.m. which will take the form of a Polka Melody Mass. Franciscan Provincial Rev. Michael Kolodziej will be the primary celebrant.
There will also be an 11:30 Mass on Sun., June 22 on the Feast of Corpus Christi as well as a regular Sunday Mass on June 29, also at 11:30 a.m.

Echo Society plans for a comeback

by Glenn Gramigna
There is good news coming out of the Echo Society, long a mainstay of Polish-American culture in the City of Niagara Falls. Not only is the 200 strong group not selling its long time headquarters at 341 Portage Rd. in the Falls, it is eagerly looking forward to its 26th Annual Polish Festival scheduled for Sun., June 22 from noon to 7 p.m. at the headquarters.
"It's always been a lot of fun from the very first time we did it in 1978," said Diane Lopacki, the chairperson of the event who also serves as recording secretary of the group and is the wife of president Sigismund Lopacki Jr. "This year we're going to be serving a Polish dinner with sausage on a roll or a hot dog and coffee. Plus we're going to have Matt Piorkowski and his Classic Gold who really do an excellent job with the music. We ask for a $2 donation which goes to pay for the band and then you have to pay for your dinner. We?ll have a street blocked off and there will be dancing in the streets. We'll move the event inside if it rains, but we're hoping for a nice sunny day that we can all enjoy." Dinners are $7 and the event includes a baked goods sale and basket raffle.
As for the rumors related to selling the headquarters, Mrs. Lopacki admits that the Echo Society's active membership has dwindled somewhat in recent years.
"It's true that some of our members have been getting older," she acknowledges. "They're on medications. They don't get out as much as before. They don't dance anymore. Some of them can't eat the Polish foods anymore. It's a problem and we did consider selling the building. But, it didn't work out with the people we were considering selling it to so we decided to keep it and just keep doing what we always have done."
'This is a wonderful building with such a great history," Mrs. Lopacki points out. 'Just recently, American History Magazine approached me to write a history of the building which I intend to do. So we have decided to talk to some of our government officials here in Niagara Falls to see if we can get some kind of grant to keep it going."
"You know the Echo Society was founded in 1922 by my father-in-law Sigismund Lopacki Sr. and many others and it's kept going all these years, playing an important part in the life of Niagara Falls and of its strong Polish-American community," she adds. "So we want to keep it going and we hope that everyone will come to our Polish Festival because it's going to be fun and because the money we raise at the festival helps to keep the Echo Society going all year round."

Calasanctius mural finds new home

The magnificent sgraffito by Józef Slawinski, Calasanctius, has found a permanent public home at Buffalo State College on Elmwood Ave. to the pleasure of the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo.
Buffalo State College has agreed to provide a location for the public display of the mural on campus. The location will be announced at a press conference scheduled for Fri., May 30, 12:30 p.m. at the Butler Library on the Buffalo State College Campus, 1300 Elmwood Ave..
The mural was originally located at Graycliff, a summer residence designed by revered architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Because it was not original to Wright's design, the 12' X 18' mural was threatened with destruction as the restoration of the estate continued.
Józef Slawinski (born 1905, Poland; died, 1983, Buffalo) excelled in a variety of mural techniques and created work in wrought iron, hammered copper and sgraffito found throughout the United States. His favorite medium was sgrafitto and during his lifetime there was no other living artist as expert in the technique.
Sgraffito (Italian: "scratched") is an ancient art technique where a wall or other support is covered with two or more layers of plaster or concrete of a different color and, while the medium is still wet, the top layers are removed to create an image. Slawinski's works are found throughout the Buffalo Niagara region and include the sanctuary of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church, Buffalo; Buffalo City Hall; West Hertel Middle School, Buffalo; the lobby of the Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo, Villa Maria College in Cheektowaga, St. Stanislaus Church in Buffalo, and Daemen College in Amherst.
The Calasanctius artwork, about 12 feet by 18 feet, consists of three sections. The center one is a pictorial representation of St. Calasanctius with children, river, boats and buildings in Rome and the other two sections contain inscriptions describing the founding of the Piarist Order and the names of donors of the sgraffito.
The Polish Arts Club of Buffalo has led the effort to save the sgraffito, have it restored and moved to a public location.
Major funding for the project is coming from the State of New York through the efforts of Senators Maziarz and Volker, Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz and other members of the Western New York Assembly delegation, Erie County, the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, M&T Foundation, Bay Foundation - New York, Kosciuszko Foundation - New York, Key Bank, and the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo, Inc.

May 14, 2003 ...

Advocates Club honors judges

At its Spring Reception on Wed., May 7 at The Mansion, The Advocates Club, Polish-American attorneys in the Buffalo area, presented 2003 Distinguished Leadership Awards to Associate Justice of the Appellate Division Jerome C. Gorski, Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia and Family Court Judge Margaret O. Szczur, announced Vice President Thomas G. Kobus.
Supreme Court Justice Barbara Howe received The Advocates Club's first ever 2003 Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her extraordinary work over many years on behalf of the entire community.
Supreme Court Justice Barbara Howe, the endorsed Democratic, Republican, Independence and Conservative Party candidate for Erie County Surrogate Judge, was the featured speaker.
Kobus remarked, "Judge Barbara Howe's background in the law, her academic training and her tireless work in the community make her exceptionally well qualified to serve the people of Erie County as their Surrogate Judge."
Family Court Judge Szczur is a candidate for re-election this November.

Children spark Sister Cities celebration

by Edward S. Wiater
More than 200 adults observed the 6th annual Buffalo Sister Cities dinner-cabaret but, as in previous years, it was the little ones who again stole the entertainment show. Last Friday in the St. Anthony's Church Social Center at 106 Court St. it was the Ukraine dancers from the Ukrainian Dance School who got the applause from an appreciative audience.
The audience included officers and members of Sister City representatives of Rzeszów, Poland; Lille, France; Drohobych, Ukraine; Dortmund, Germany; Siena, Italy; Kanazawa, Japan and Tver, Russia.
Presidents of each Sister City organization traced a bit of the organization?s achievements.
George Miecyjak, president of the Buffalo-Rzeszów contingent, gave an impressive resume of the great help the local organization gave to orphans, troubled youth and unwed mothers. He especially thanked the Pomost unit of this area for the backing it has given programs affecting orphans and troubled youth.
Polish food for the event was prepared by Alfreda Miecyjak, Marcia Miecyjak and John Medwid.

Nightingales soar at Montante Center

by Edward S. Wiater
Five boys came from Poznan, Poland, representing a group called Polskie Slowiki (The Polish Nightingales). In the Montante Cultural Center they put on a program of song and Mozart opera that can be best described as simply magnificent. However, less than 100 people heard the Saturday evening performance. The Sunday afternoon performance drew slightly more than 100.
The youths 11, 13 and 14 years of age performed for the most part in soprano and alto voices. They included Marcin Gadalinski, Mateusz Eckert, Lukasz Wasilewski, Adam Kutny and Marcin Zbierski. Pianist was Malgorzata Gruszczynska. The group is under the direction of W. Alexander Krolopp. Voice teachers are Maria Wleklinska and Maciej Dawidowski.
It?s a bit unfair to single out one singer for praise out of this talented quintet but soprano Marcin Gadalinski somewhat stole the show. He took on the garb of Bastienne, a shepherdess in Mozart's one-act "Bastien and Bastienne" opera (believed to have been written when Mozart was 12 years old).
Compared to what passes as modern day singers, Marcin, a small, slender youth, stands head and shoulders above in voice control and stage presence. Marcin is the son of Grzegosz and Lydia Gadalinski. It took him a year of practice with the taller and huskier Mateusz Eckert (Bastien, who in the opera loves Bastienne) to learn the opera which was sung in German.
Poznan, which is in the western half of Poland near Germany stresses the German language along with English. One need not know German to know that these singers were a talented group. Even their name "Slowiki" itself has a lovely sound.
Inasmuch as young boys who sing soprano and alto don't continue with those voices as puberty strikes, the faces of "Polskie Slowiki" change frequently. Director Krolopp said there are around 25 singers who audition annually because of the loss of aging young singers.
The first half of the program, more than an hour long, consisted of only the opera. The second half included solos, duets and at times four and all five voices. Among the most appreciated selections were Gioacchino Rossini's "The Cats," Jules Benedict's easily recognizable "Carnival of Venice," Frederic Chopin's "Wish" and the program concluded with "Krakowiak" the traditional folksong arranged by Jerzy Kurczewski the founder of "Polskie Slowiki."
A demand for more brought the Slowiki for another rendition of "Carnival of Venice."

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