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December 30, 2003 ...


Polish spies helped U.S. in first Gulf War

Edward S. Wiater
Part 2 of 2
As United States forces, in the first incursion of Iraq, pressed their way northward after liberating Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's grasp, there was a wholesale northward retreat of Hussein's military as well as trapped foreign civilians while Iraqi's secret service began a crackdown on travel. The only foreigners allowed some freedom of movement were those working on Iraq projects. On these projects were thousands of Poles who knew their way around Iraq.
Six U.S. CIA agents were trapped and were among the most valuable to the United States. Their escape was vital. After the plans were worked out by Poland and the U.S., Warsaw sent its men into Baghdad where secretly they met the American agents kept hidden by Poles.
A reporter's story contained this quote of a Polish spy meeting with the lead CIA agent:
"When we met the chief, he was completely worn out. We told him we came as Polish officers to get him out of Iraq. We felt very proud. We, as officers of a small country, were coming to save an American chief. For him, it was real tension, life and death. For us it was just an operation."
Polish intelligence officials said that despite their past as Warsaw Pact spies, they felt comfortable helping their former enemy.
"Most of us weren't believers (communists), just professionals," a Polish intelligence officer was quoted as saying. "Besides, these guys were CIA guys. If they were caught, that's death. We said these guys were our colleagues. We had to help them."
Different plans were set up to get the American agents into Turkey but were never set into motion. Then on Aug. 18, a Polish technician guided a convoy of 13 busses with 430 people (Vietnamese, Filipinos, Germans, Poles and Americans) into Jordan. The bus driver was immediately summoned to help the escape of the American agents.
The technician said this operation was extremely difficult but agreed to help. Several weeks of wrangling went by with Washington during which time Washington canceled several escape starts. Then one day, the Poles notified Washington at 2 a.m. the escape operation was to begin at 5:30 a.m. At 5 a.m., Washington "advised" cancelling this move. The difficulty now was the Washington CIA office did not want the Polish officer who commanded the operation accompanying the Americans.
But, the Polish civilians involved refused to carry out the plan without the Polish officer's presence. So, the Poles chose to ignore the CIA "advice."
The Polish technician/driver's biggest worry was meeting Iraqis on the road who knew Polish. There were several hundred if not thousands who had been in Poland during the communist years and knew the Polish language. The CIA agents, on the other hand, couldn't even pronounce the names on their ID cards.
At a checkpoint north of Mosul, the technicians worst nightmare appeared ? a Polish speaking guard. Thinking quickly, the Pole jumped out of his vehicle with Polish greetings and in European style grabbed the guard and planted the normal three cheek kisses. A big bear hug followed with talk about the weather and family, all the time moving away from the vehicle carrying the CIA agents.
Away from earshot of the agents, the Pole suddenly pulled out the CIA agents' passports reminding the guard that these must be checked. The guard said, "No problem. You are friends. You can go."
Closer to the Iraq-Turkey border, the Polish technician knew there was the possibility of being stopped and discovered. Along a stretch of highway, the Pole stopped and pulled out his bottles of Johnny Walker Red. His reasoning was to get the CIA agents drunk and present six inebriated Slavic workers, a stereotyped picture known to Iraqis via propaganda.
This phase of the operation failed. When the group reached the Turkey border, the Johnny Walker Red was gone but the Americans were stone sober from the excitement. But, it didn't matter.
The driver told the agents that when they crossed the border to walk slowly toward the Polish officers waiting for them on the Turkish side. "Once across the border, they ran," the Pole told the reporters.
The agents were saved. How the United States reciprocated is not fully known. But, now that Poland was again a staunch friend of the United States and Britain, and Polish blood has been shed in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein has been caught, one wonders will Poland be rewarded for all its support and bravery. Or, will it be betrayed again as it was in World War II, a full story of which can be found in the book "A Question of Honor."


Mrozek's eagle eye captures the beauty of nature and national attention

Glenn Gramigna
When the CBS Sunday Morning Show recently ended, as it usually does, with a several minute peek at the wonders of unspoiled nature, it turned out that the shots were filmed by Buffalo videographer Carl Mrozek.
A Lancaster native and graduate of St. Augustine's Elementary School and St. Mary's High School, Carl at first wanted to be a biologist. But, then he decided that he'd rather communicate the beauty of nature to the world at large rather than just study it himself.
"I became fascinated with nature when I was a boy scout because it's a whole different world that is all around us but which we usually don't even see," he explains. "It's a world of great beauty and fascination yet some people don't really want to co-exist with it."
Fortunately for the rest of us, Carl has made a career of letting us in on the aesthetic glories of the natural world for over 20 years through his work for the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, Marty Stouffer's Wild America on PBS, and the NHK Network in Japan as well as CBS.
After completing 12th grade at St. Mary's, Carl went on to the University of Buffalo where he majored in English with minors in both biology and medicine.
Later, he went on to Syracuse University where he continued his studies of both communications and wildlife on the way to earning a master's degree.
The result has been a self-created career in which Carl has educated the world about both the technical facts and the many splendors of the natural world he loves.
"I've done a film for the Discovery Channel about the wolves of North America," Carl recalls. "I've done a film about the return of the wolves to Yellowstone for NHK, which is a Japanese television network. I've done a number of things for the CBS Sunday Morning Show like the one I recently filmed in the Reinstein Nature Preserve of the deer during a light snow fall. It's a great career to have though it's not as ideal as it may seem. I probably spend more time at my computer doing research and answering e-mails at eagleye@localnet.com than I do out in the wild."
Dividing his time between his Buffalo home and his cabin in Barre, NY, north of Batavia, Carl Mrozek is known nationally as one of the best wildlife videographers around. As such he has some advice for the rest of us about living in harmony with our many four legged friends.
"If we take an attitude of living with nature, rather than trying to keep animals as far away from us as possible, we'll be better off and so will they," Carl cautions. "Actually, that's one of the reasons why I still choose to work out of Buffalo. Within an hour's drive, there is so much natural beauty close to us: the gorge in the lower Niagara River area, the forest in southern Erie County, the Tift Nature Preserve and the Reinstein Preserve. There is plenty of room for people to flourish here and wildlife too."


Dr. Gessner re-elected to PACB, three scholarships awarded

Dr. Peter K. Gessner, a member of the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo since 1981 and its president since 1993, was re-elected in this month's election. Dr. Gessner defeated Robert J. Fronckowiak and Stanley J. Nowak who split the majority of the vote.
Born in Warsaw, educated in Italy and England, Dr. Gessner is the author of 90+ scientific papers and is a professor at UB where he has held numerous leadership positions including: department chair, chair of UB?s Jagiellonian Exchange Committee, and director of UB?s Summer Program in Kraków. He is a member of the Ko?ciuszko Foundation?s National Advisory Council.
Currently UB?s director of Polish Studies, he is also the director of UB?s Polish Academic Information Center whose Info-Poland website is referred to as the most extensive English language resource about Poland on the Internet.
During Dr. Gessner's presidency, the Club has become recognized as a leading local cultural organization by Erie County, organizing numerous programs showcasing Polish culture, putting on a variety of social events, increasing its membership, and leading the effort to preserve the work of local Polish-American artists such as Eugene Dyczkowski and Józef S³awinski, securing, during the last year, over $125,000 in grants to that end.
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The Polish Arts Scholarship Foundation will award three $1000 scholarships this year. They are Chris J. Handley, Tara Laurie and Mary Beth Wróbel.
Handley of Elma, NY is enrolled at the SUNY Fredonia and plans to use his fine arts degree in musical theater to perform and choreograph professionally. In the future, he would like to own and run his own theater company. He has received numerous awards. Chris is a very talented actor, singer and producer.
Chris?s Polish roots run deep. Edward Konieczny of Lancaster was his grandfather and Joseph Malecki of Buffalo was his great grandfather.
The second scholarship went to Tara Laurie, a junior at Niagara University. She has been the recipient of several outstanding awards and scholarships, including Niagara University Presidential Academic Scholarship, and the Congressman LaFalace Talent Scholarship. Tara has been seen this past year performing at Art Park in Puccini?s opera Madame Butterfly as well as recently at the Lancaster Opera House. She impressed the selection committee with her wonderful voice. Tara?s maternal grandfather was the late Charles Miecznikowski, a long time member of the Polish Arts Club.
The third scholarship is awarded to Mary Beth Wrobel. Mary Beth is best known to many Western New Yorkers as the meteorologist on Channel ?4? and ?23?, however her talent as a great musical performer has been overshadowed by her work in television.
Mary Beth studied music and voice at the Community Music School of Buffalo, Greensboro Music Academy, and presently is attending postgraduate voice classes at the Rochester Eastman School of Music. She has appeared on numerous occasions with the Cheektowaga Symphony and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. She impressed the interview committee with her beautiful voice and as a strong advocate of carrying on Polish spirit, customs and culture.
Dr. Peter Gessner, president of the Polish Arts Club, will present the scholarship checks at the Installation Luncheon of the Club to be held on Jan. 11, 2004.
Polish Arts Scholarship Foundation awards are available to students of Polish background who are legal residents of New York State and are enrolled in an accredited college or university in the United States and pursuing a degree in the fine arts.
Applications for the 2004 awards will be available after Jan. 1, 2004 and may be obtained by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Mrs. Anne Flansburg, P.O. Box, 1362 Williamsville, NY 14231-1362 or Mrs. Irene Sikora, 100 Treehaven Lane, Elma, NY 14059-8902.
The Polish Arts Scholarship Foundation was founded in the 1980s by the late Frank and Wanda Winiarz of the Polish Arts Club, to support Polish-American students in the study of the fine arts.
The trustees of the Polish Arts Scholarship Foundation are Alice Kiedrowski, Honorable Judge Ann Mikoll and Leonard S. Sikora.
For more information on the Scholarship Program call Irene Sikora at 655-1823 or e-mail kmgregis(a).prodigv.net

December 04, 2003 ...


Buffalo Music Hall of Fame inducts Krzeminski, Kohan

John Matyjas
The Buffalo Music Hall of Fame formally inducted Mark Kohan and the late “Big Steve” Krzeminski during a ceremony at the “Tralf” in downtown Buffalo on Nov. 13.
Many proud polka supporters were on hand to honor the induction of two premiere polka performers who have done so much not only to raise the standards in the polka music industry but also to preserve and promote their music and heritage.
Lynn Halter, Big Steve’s daughter, accepted the award on behalf of the family.
With many polka fans in attendance, there was loud applause for the two awardees, which exhibited their profound respect for the honorees accomplishments. The response sent a strong message to the Buffalo music world that the polka genre is legitimate and that it strongly supports its own.


Koteras-Elibol, Furtney embody leadership and cite its value

Glenn Gramigna
Leadership. It is a quality that is much admired by Polish Americans and much sought after in our community. So it was no surprise when two of the eight recipients of Leadership awards at the 2003 YWCA Leadership Luncheon turned out to be Polish-American women.
The honorees were Eileen Koteras-Elibol, a 22-year employee at WNED-TV- who has magically transformed her position as a graphic artist into the role of an all-purpose public ambassador for the station, and, Dorothy Furtney, a legislative assistant to New York State Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz, whom the YWCA describes as “a go-to person, who facilitates, gets involved, and most importantly gets results.”
Elibol was selected in the field of marketing while Furtney (mother’s maiden name, Switulski) was honored in the category of organization. They received their honors at a gala affair earlier this year in the Buffalo Convention Center, attended by 1,000 people and hosted by U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton.
Seeing the world with an artist’s eye, Elibol is an eloquent example of leadership through creative vision and commitment. Trained as a visual artist at Daemen College and UB, her primary job at WNED is to create effective marketing solutions and dynamic design statements for publications and studio sets.
But, she’s gone on to represent the station as an on the air host (of the popular “Plain and Fancy Cooking” show), fundraiser during pledge weeks, and highly active community ambassador. Among the many accolades she’s earned is the Bronze Award of the WNY Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America as well as the Am-Pol Eagle Citizen of the Year honor. She is also the mother of five step-children.
“I think leadership is keeping your eye on the big picture of getting the task or project done and then helping others to also keep their eyes on that prize, on that common goal, until it is completed,” she explains.
“The best leadership advice I could give young people is to get as involved as they can in things because that way they will learn and develop abilities they never knew they had before…The same thing goes for Polish organizations: The key to developing young people for leadership roles is to get them involved every step of the way so they can learn about responsibility and expand their ability to be leaders.”
A mother of three children who range in age from 15 to 22 months, Dorothy Furtney is a woman who definitely understands the part that both organization and leadership must play in any successful life. From her role as a longtime top aide to former County Executive Dennis Gorski, from his days in the NY State Assembly to his 12 years at Erie County Hall, Furtney has always cultivated the reputation of being someone who is willing to do “the unglamorous, strenuous, and essential work that lifts the lives of citizens,” as her YWCA citation points out.
“When I think of leadership, I think of it as a call to serve others,” she notes. “To be an effective leader is to serve. Remember what Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘When I am employed in serving others, I never think of myself as conferring favors but paying debts.’ That is my philosophy and that is also what leadership means to me.
"I have been very blessed, especially compared to what my immigrant parents had to go through at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. So my goal is to give something back to others and to the community.”
Furtney believes that the only way for the Polish community to develop young leaders and the only way for any leader to grow and mature is by grasping this simple yet highly powerful point.
“Working for Majority Leader Tokasz I have a great opportunity to help others through my leadership,” she adds. “But, service is the key. When you lose sight of that in my opinion, you are no longer an effective leader.”


U.S. lets down "New Europe"

Mark Brzezinski
and Mario Nicolini
The following article appeared in the International Herald Tribune and is reprinted with permission of the author.
WASHINGTON (11/19/03): Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have proven staunch allies in meeting America’s challenges abroad, often in the face of public opposition. But their sense of solidarity with America is being replaced with cynicism caused by unmet expectations.
During the war with Iraq, Polish special forces fought alongside U.S. and British forces, and Czech, Slovak and Ukrainian weapons specialists were on standby in Kuwait in case of chemical attack. In September, soldiers deployed by Central European states, among others, and commanded by Poland, replaced 10,000 U.S. Marines stationed in Iraq’s south central region. Today, soldiers from nine of NATO’s newest members patrol five provinces south of Baghdad. On Nov. 6, the first soldier from “New Europe” serving alongside American forces in Iraq, Major Hieronim Kupczyk of Poland, was killed in action.
Central European leaders felt that in supporting America, they were standing up to predominantly antiwar European powers at their peril. President Jacques Chirac of France even hinted that countries that joined with America could find their bids for European Union membership blocked.
Before and after the war, high-level meetings between top U.S. and Central European officials indicated a level of engagement that many Central European leaders presumed would carry over into the postwar reconstruction phase. Central European officials state categorically that real expectations were created.
In early March, the State Department invited representatives of more than 30 countries to discuss postwar reconstruction of Iraq. The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, said he had conveyed to Secretary of State Colin Powell on that occasion his country’s interest in participating in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq. On April 15, the spokesman for the Slovak president stated that Commerce Secretary Don Evans had given the Slovak minister of economy a list of sectors pertaining to Iraqi reconstruction in which Slovak companies could participate. The expectations of Central European leaders were clear.
Central European states’ longtime links with Iraq have given them knowledge that could contribute to the country’s reconstruction. During the cold war, much of Iraq’s infrastructure, including power plants, airports and bridges, was built with the help of engineers from Poland, Hungary and Ukraine. But since the end of the war, not a single reconstruction contract has been awarded to a company from Central Europe, while the large American corporations Bechtel and Halliburton have been awarded contracts amounting to more than $3 billion.
There is growing skepticism among Central European publics regarding the participation of their troops in this foray. According to one public opinion poll, at the beginning of October nearly 60 percent of Poles surveyed stated they were against continuing a Polish military presence in Iraq. When the Slovak Ministry of Defense dispatched soldiers to Iraq in March, only 25 percent of the Slovak public approved.
Engaging Central European companies in the rebuilding effort would be an act of political responsibility and would be tactically smart. It would draw these nations, soon to be members of the European Union and joint framers of its security policy, closer to America’s vision for European security. Today’s other postwar theaters, Afghanistan and the Balkans, show that European involvement in hot spots is likely to provide substantial burden-sharing and yield longer staying power than the United States may be willing or able to sustain.
America is not only losing traditional allies, it is now losing the support of new allies. High expectations created by the Bush administration have resulted in the feeling that the United States is not keeping its end of the deal. This reduces the prospect that the states of “New Europe” will join the United States in future military ventures. When America solicits the help of its friends and allies, attending to their interests, in addition to its own, is crucial to maintaining their allegiance and support in the long run.
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Mark Brzezinski served as director for Southeast Europe on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. Mario Nicolini is a former senior adviser to Slovakia’s ambassador to the United States.


Bronislaus Trzyzewski dies

There was an old Polonian saying used when the community needed something done or an arcane question needed answering: "Call Brownie."
That "Brownie," Bronislaus R. Trzyzewski, advocate for Polish-Americans and their causes, and a former pharmacist, died Nov. 29. He was 82.
Trzyzewski was the "go to" man not because of any title he had or position he held, but because he had an answer, could find the answer (most likely in his basement archives) or would point you in the right direction. And, more importantly, he did so without any personal or political agenda. He just wanted to help and get the job done like the true Boy Scout he was.
Robert J. Fronckowiak recalled, "As scoutmaster of Troop 1, St. Stanislaus Parish, Brownie inspired his kids to reach ever-higher goals. The back room of Trzyzewski's Soby’s Pharmacy became an extension of the scout room where we were challenged to think, to discuss, and to write articles for the troop newspaper."
"Adopting the scout troop at the Immaculate Heart of Mary home was Brownie’s way of making us aware of those less fortunate. He gathered a group of his former scouts, then young adults, and spearheaded the drive to establish B-FAC, an acronym for the Broadway-Fillmore Area Council. Many of his former scouts donated their time and talent to run the first evening schoolhouse program that was created."
Trzyzewski's interests were expansive. He had a love of gardening, music, history, photography and art and was more than willing to share what he knew. Even while ill, he continued reading new books on Polish topics.
Trzyzewski of Cheektowaga began his interest in medicine and pharmacy while serving in the 22nd General Army Hospital in World War II in England. He was a graduate of the SUNY at Buffalo Pharmacy School.
He returned to the U.S. and owned his own establishment Soby’s Pharmacy on William Street.
In the 1970s, he took on the establishment at the University of Buffalo. The Am-Pol Eagle honored him as its 1975 Heritage Citizen of the Year stating, “It was also through Mr. Trzyzewski’s efforts that the Polish language course was retained at the State University at Buffalo, a goal attained only after an energetic campaign had been waged with UB administrators.”
For nearly three decades he fostered understanding, education, unity and promoted the image of Polish Americans in Western New York. He was a resource for leaders of many Polonian organizations. Polish American Congress President Joseph Maciel¹g called Mr. Trzyzewski “one of our most prized assets” and said he, “exemplified the Polish motto: Bog, Honor i Ojczyzna” which means: God, Honor and Country.
Trzyzewski also worked at the International Institute as a devoted case worker for the resettlement of Polish refugees. And, he was an interpreter for Polish-language interviews, news conferences, scientific meetings, cultural events and clients at the Neighborhood Information Center. He translated Polish texts including Zofia Kossak’s Rok Polski, the Polish Year which appeared in this newspaper.
Although he was never employed as a teacher Trzyzewski was always a teacher. He put together numerous cultural-education programs in local schools and community centers. His work included organizing a cultural festival at the Buffalo Convention Center.
He was also a valuable resource for the local media as he provided contributions of background information and made guest appearances on radio and television programs.
Trzyzewski served on the board of the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo and the Polish Chair at Canisius College. He was a member of the Professional and Businessmen’s Assn., and the Erie County Pharmaceutical Assn. He provided guidance and support to the SUNY at Buffalo Student Polish Culture Club and the Polish Room at UB. His involvements included the Buffalo Museum of Science and the United Way.
Trzyzewski was honored in 1998 by the Polish American Congress for his service to the community and for “fostering Poland and Polonia.” He was also honored by the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo in 1996 when he retired from its board of directors.
"Growing up on the East Side of Buffalo was made more memorable because of my association with Brownie Trzyzewski," said Fronckowiak.
"His inviting leadership style encouraged us to expand our horizons and to think about perceived problems as challenges to be overcome. He continued to act as mentor and helper for many. He leaves behind a living legacy in the lives of those he touched. We will miss him," Fronckowiak added.
During his funeral at St. Josaphat's, Trzyzewski's son Richard read from a list. On it were one-word descriptions mourners had written and placed in a box at the wake. The list was long and varied and summed up by the word "gentleman."
Trzyzewski leaves behind two sons, Richard of East Aurora and William of Rockville, MD; a brother, Henry of West Seneca; and three grandchildren. His wife, the former Anne Szlachtun, died in 1992.


Advocates Club to honor Federal Judge Skretny and Supreme Court Judges Michalek and Cosgrove

At its Mon., Dec. 15 Christmas cocktail reception, The Advocates Club, the professional organization of Polish-American attorneys in Western New York, will present 2003 Distinguished Leadership Awards to Federal District Court Judge William M. Skretny and Supreme Court Justices John A. Michalek and Nelson H. Cosgrove.
The Advocates Christmas party will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 15 at The Creekside Banquet Hall, located at 2669 Union Road at William Street in Cheektowaga.
“The Advocates Club is delighted to honor and pay tribute to three outstanding Polish-American jurists in Western New York,” said Thomas G. Kobus, The Advocates Club vice president and program chairman.
At The Advocates Club spring reception at The Mansion, Appellate Division Justice Jerome C. Gorski, Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia and Family Court Judge Margaret O. Szczur also received 2003 Distinguished Leadership Awards.
Erie County Surrogate Judge-elect 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.
The cost of the Christmas reception is $35 per person.
Reservations can be made by contacting the law office of Advocates Club President John L. Michalski at 675-1066.

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