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June 24, 2004 ...

Pulaski reinterment postponed

The City of Savannah, Georgia has determined that it must postpone the Brig. Gen. Casimir Pulaski reinterment and funeral, which was scheduled for October 2004, until 2005.
City officials have explained that the decision was necessitated by the fact that the White House determined that Savannah would be the host site for the G-8 media meeting this summer, an event that drew upwards of 5,000 people from throughout the globe. The event required heightened security at budget-busting costs that would leave limited funds for handling the Pulaski funeral this year.
A further circumstance necessitating the postponement is that DNA evidence to establish that the remains discovered in the Pulaski Monument are undeniably those of Pulaski will not be available until later this summer. A number of organizations have indicated that they will participate in the funeral only if the remains have been positively identified beforehand as Pulaski's.
There are, however, some very positive aspects as a result of the postponement. Thousands are expected to attend the Pulaski Funeral Mass. The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah holds but 1,000 congregants. For that reason, the original plans called for holding the Mass on a temporary stage in Fort Pulaski's Forsythe Park. Now, by waiting until 2005, participants will benefit from the city's $2 million expenditure for a new Sydney-like Opera Performing Stage in the pavilion at the fort. The new facilities will be inspiring and contribute significantly to the solemnity and significance of the event. Technical support systems will be in place, including optimum international and national broadcast capabilities.
During the intervening period, the city plans to commission a new portrait of Pulaski utilizing a cast of the skull scans and forensic sculptural techniques. The portrait will be displayed next to the casket during the wake at the cathedral. Plans also call for having Pulaski's officer uniform tailored and on display in replica during the wake, together with sword, boots and hat. The Georgia Historical Society is also working to facilitate an exhibit of the artifacts recovered from the Pulaski Monument Time Capsule.
While the Pulaski Funeral has been postponed to 2005, Savannah plans to celebrate the 225th Anniversary of the Battle of Savannah this upcoming Columbus Day Weekend 2004. The program calls for a grand procession, memorial wreath laying at the First Pulaski Monument, blessing of the casket on the Cathedral Plaza, and a dinner/ball.
The American Council for Polish Culture represents Polonia's interests on Savannah's Pulaski ID Committee by virtue of having three of its executive officers serving on that committee, namely, Deborah M. Majka, president; S. Paul Bosse, 1st vice president; and Peter Obst, webmaster. The council has played a prominent role in the planning, beginning with its initiative in the successful national funding drive to restore the Pulaski Monument in Savannah.
The elaborate plans for the historic reinterment and funeral are firmly established and will be even further enhanced given the additional time frame. Paul Bosse succeeded in obtaining the gift of a wooden casket, carved and handcrafted in Poland to hold Pulaski's remains and having it shipped to Savannah. He is also responsible for handling travel and accommodations reservations for scores of organizations and individuals.
Debbie Majka has secured the promise of the combined choruses of Polish Singers Alliance of America to perform in concert during the eventful weekend. Peter Obst has inspired hundreds of people in his public appearances in authentic Gen. Pulaski military attire while recounting the heroic role of Pulaski in fighting for our freedom during the American Revolutionary War.
Debbie Majka proclaimed, "Along with thousands of people here and abroad who are keenly excited about participating in an event of truly historic significance, we look upon this postponement as only a temporary set-back. We are firmly united in our determination that America will finally honor Brig. Gen. Casimir Pulaski with a proper funeral befitting a hero of two continents so that he may rest in peace in the land where he laid down his life in the cause of freedom. The Pulaski ID Committee of Savannah, the American Council for Polish Culture and all of Polonia will not rest until that day comes to pass!"
Individuals and organizations that had made travel plans to Savannah may consult with Paul Bosse (tel. 215-493-4169) about canceling reservations. Inquiries about plans for the Pulaski funeral in 2005 may be addressed to Debbie Majka at (215) 627-1391, Peter Obst, (215) 946-5723 or Paul Bosse (215-493-4169).

Reagan was a friend to the armed forces says Kogutek

by Glenn Gramigna
While all WNY Polish-Americans were moved by the death of President Ronald Reagan recently, former national commander of the American Legion, Michael Kogutek, has special memories of America's 40th president. In his role as Legion commander from August 1980 to August 1981, Kogutek, a Lackawanna resident, had the rare privilege of meeting President Reagan on several occasions.
Among Kogutek's more memorable meetings with President Reagan was at a Washington banquet for Congressional Medal of Honor recipients held on the eve of Reagan's Jan. 20, 1981 inauguration.
"It was a banquet for 250 living Medal of Honor winners that took place on the night when President-elect Reagan's inaugural balls were being held," Commander Kogutek recalls. "Yet, not only did he come, he made our banquet his first stop that evening. He came with Nancy and he said he wanted to be there because he wanted to honor all of these Medal of Honor winners. He and Nancy looked so radiant. They looked wonderful and President Reagan spoke so well about his appreciation for what these men had done. Of course, President Reagan was not only a veteran himself. He was a member of the American Legion."
In addition, Commander Kogutek heaps praise on the Reagan administration for increasing the size of the U.S. Armed Forces, including the expansion of the American Navy to 600 ships. Perhaps his most memorable encounter with the president occurred in early 1981 at a time when Commander Kogutek was involved in organizing an event to raise funds for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
"There were 250 Vietnam veterans on hand for this event and I got word from Elizabeth Dole, who is now a U.S. Senator but was the While House liaison at that time, that President Reagan wanted to see me at the White House," the commander recalls. "I told her I wouldn't go alone, that I wanted to bring some of the Vietnam veterans."
When word came back from Jim Brady, the presidential press secretary, that the invitation was only for him, Kogutek refused to go.
"Then they told me I could take four of the Vietnam veterans," Commander Kogutek remembers. "I ended up taking 12. President Reagan spent an hour with us. I made sure that each of the veterans had time to speak personally with the president. It was a wonderful time. President Reagan even shared some of the jelly beans he was famous for with some of the men."
Having risen from commander of the Matthew Glab post in 1961 to Erie County American Legion commander in '64 to state commander in 1968, Kogutek treasures many fine memories from his year as the head of the Legion.
Still, none is more precious to him than his talks with President Reagan.
"He was a great man and a great friend of our American Armed Forces," says Commander Kogutek. "It was an honor to meet him and I will remember our meetings always."

June 17, 2004 ...

PAC steps up drive to honor Matt Urban

News from the Polish American Congress
Who is America's most honored World War II hero? You may not be old enough to remember. But if you answered "Audie Murphy" you're right. Except you're only half right.
That question actually has two answers: Capt. Audie Murphy and Lt. Col. Matt Urban. And before shortening it, his full name was Matthew Louis Urbanowicz. He was a Polish American Catholic born in Buffalo, NY in 1919. Like Murphy, Urban received 29 decorations, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. He died and was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in 1995.
Murphy's military accomplishments were widely hailed after the war ended. Hollywood even made him a movie star who played himself in a film about his heroic exploits. While all this went on, hardly anyone even heard about Matt Urban. In the year 2001, the U.S. Postal Service further immortalized Murphy's legendary achievements with a commemorative stamp.
A World War II veteran from Toms River, NJ, John Merten, felt it only fair that the Service honor Urban the same way it did Murphy. The Polish American Congress subsequently expanded his petition campaign by forming a special committee headed by Anthony J. Bajdek, president of the PAC's Eastern Massachusetts Division. Bajdek is also associate dean at Northeastern University. The committee has already collected thousands of signatures from all over the U.S. in its drive to press the Service for a similar stamp.
As the current opening of the U.S. World War II Memorial in Washington turns the nation's attention to that extraordinary period in America?s history, the Polish American Congress is stepping up its signature gathering during the remaining months of 2004. Under current rules, the earliest the Postal Service considers someone eligible for a stamp is ten years after his or her death. That makes 2005 the target date for the Polish Americans.
Among Urban's 29 decorations are seven Purple Heart Medals for being wounded in action. The Germans he fought called him "The Ghost" because, no matter how many times they thought they had killed him, he always came back to fight them again in another place.
Copies of the petition form can be found at www.paceastern and click "Links."
They are also available at local Polish American Congress divisions and chapters. Completed petitions should be sent to Dean Anthony J. Bajdek at Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115 USA.

Black Madonna replica dedicated at Corpus Christi

Edward S. Wiater
"His Holiness Pope John Paul II remembers Buffalo well and sends his greetings along with his blessed Our Lady of Czestochowa icon who you now have in this beautiful church."
Those were the words of Father General of the Pauline Order the Rev. Izydor Matuszewski who took part Sunday in the magnificent revival of an old Polish custom, the Mass and procession to four outdoor altars in celebration of Corpus Christi Sunday.
The icon to which Fr. Matuszewski was referring was the installation and dedication of a brilliant, painted replica of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the most revered icon in Polish history. The original painting attributed to St. Luke the Evangelist, is in the monastery chapel adjacent to the church on Bright Mountain (Jasna Gora) in Czestochowa, Poland.
This was Fr. Matuszewski's first visit to Buffalo and he said he was awed by the splendor of Corpus Christi Church.
"And, you have that enchanting painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa to inspire you at all times," he said.
Fr. Matuszewski said the picture took artist Anna Maria Torwird four months to paint in Torun, Italy. From Torun it was taken to Rome to be blessed by Pope John Paul II, a lifelong devotee to Our Blessed Mother Mary. From there it was flown to Warsaw and then to Chicago from where by car it was brought to Buffalo.
"Isn't it an enchanting painting?" Fr. Matuszewski said.
Enchanting? It is and much more in the eyes of many. It is a ray of hope for the poor and those afflicted with illness.
"She'll never let you down," Fr. Matuszewski added as he urged adoration and belief in the powers of our Lady of Czestochowa.
Fr. Matuszewski had just returned from a visit to the Pauline missions in Africa, a land ravaged by the AIDS virus, a land which Pope John Paul II for years has urged free nations such as the United States to help.
"Those poor in Africa are among the finest people we have met anywhere," Fr. Matuszewski said. "They are so kind and grateful for the help we have been giving them. And, as our Pope John Paul II has been saying right along, we in rich nations should extend ourself much more to help the poor and afflicted in Africa." The Paulines have 74 parishes on four continents.
Fr. Matuszewski gave great credit to the people of Buffalo who worked so hard to keep Corpus Christi from "dying." He had especially high praise for Msgr. Matthew Kopacz of St. Casimir's Church.
And, how was Pope John Paul II at their last meeting?
"He was fine," Fr. Matuszewski said. "He was sharp. Alert." Here Fr. Matuszewski said something which showed the strength of the man who so many want to see retired from his position as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
"After the audience hall was cleared, an aid came to help him out of his chair and with the help of this priest, he walked out of the hall."
Walked? "Well, let's say, he shuffled. Ailing he may be. An invalid, he is not. And, he remembers Buffalo in glowing terms."

Marcin Dylla wins international competition

by Steven Kroczynski
His performance wove itself seamlessly throughout the solo and accompaniment sections of Manuel Ponce' Conccierto del Sur. He was one with his guitar and the music. Marcin Dylla, the Polish guitarist from Katowice, Poland, amazed the 1,500 concert goers and treated them to an evening of classical guitar playing while winning the first JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo on Sun., June 13.
Three finalists in the first JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, took the stage Sunday evening, June 13, with BPO conductor JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
The highlight of the competition was Dylla's performance. He continued his heartfelt performance from the preliminary round held Wednesday evening where he and Pablo Garibay, Mexico, and Rene Izquierdo, United States advanced to the final round from a field of nine. Marcin's performance was mesmerizing. He was one with his guitar and the music.
While he played, it wasn't like a guest guitarist playing along with the orchestra, Marcin's performance was as if he was very much a part of the orchestra. His playing and performance level equaled that of the world class BPO. The audience agreed.
At the end of his performance the crowd erupted with applause, shouts and whistles in approval and appreciation of the graceful, and emotional performance they had just seen. Everyone was in agreement. Three awards were handed out that night, first the audience favorite award; second, the musicians in the orchestra award; and finally, the grand prize, the JoAnn Falletta award. Dylla won all three.
As he accepted the gold medal and crystal statue, the BPO brass players played the Polish national anthem, with the audience applauding enthusiastically.
The grand prize included a $5,000 cash prize, a record contract with Fleur de Son Classics, Ltd., and a return engagement with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Even after all the accolades and awards were handed out, all three guitarists agreed the best prize was that of having the opportunity to play with the world class BPO.
"Witamy" was the greeting from Peter Hall, master of ceremonies, on the evening of June 9 at the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall. Marcin Dylla stepped to the front of the stage, bowed, and listened intensely as the judges listed the pieces he was to perform as his part of the semifinal round of the first JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition.
Not only was his performance flawless, but he took it to the next level. All the guitarists who participated in the competition had the technical ability to become a world class musician, but the performance of Marcin Dylla, Wednesday evening was truly special.
The expressiveness and emotional range that he put forth, touched the audience there that night. It touched the audience to the point of commanding a standing ovation which lasted over 5 minutes.
A wide range of dynamics was very evident in his performance. Every harmonic plucked, every note played and every chord strummed was filled with passion, energy and love of the guitar.
After all the performances were complete, and a short intermission, all the guitarists were brought back out on stage, and each received a crystal trophy commemorating their accomplishment of reaching the semifinal round of competition.
While the judges tallied their votes, from the two night preliminary competition, Hall, from WNED-FM, asked questions of the guitarists. "Of all the prizes, which do you seek the most?" was asked of Marcin. His answer: "The opportunity to return and play again with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra," he said. "We are musicians and that is what we do - live performance."
It was then time for the judges decisions. JoAnn Falletta stepped to the podium and called the names of the three finalists. Rene Izquierdo, from the U.S., Pablo Garibay from Mexico, and Marcin Dylla from Poland.
Among the sponsors of the competition was New York State Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz.

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