KAZIMIERZ (KAZ) OLEJARCZYK, FEBRUARY 4, 2007
Recognizing a need and filling it is the mantra of success in the business world, and for Kazimierz (Kaz) Olejarczyk, it’s one that has seen him through countless phases of his eighty-seven years of life.
The specific purpose of our February 4, 2007 film session inside the PAC Credit Union, which Olejarczyk was instrumental in founding back in 1976, was to learn the story of the credit union—how it serves the needs of Polish Americans throughout metro Detroit who want to save or borrow at reasonable interest rates. Sixteen times elected president of the Michigan branch of the Polish American Congress (PAC), Olejarczyk has rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s greatest leaders, including Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II (the Pope, who had once cancelled all audiences for health reasons, made an exception when he found out that Olejarczyk was waiting!). But the Credit Union is one of his most notable successes during his tenure.
According to CEO, John Swidwinski, the PAC Federal Credit Union was chartered in 1976, thanks to the forward-looking efforts of a group of leaders (including Olejarczyk, then the Polish American Congress, Michigan division, President) of the Polish community in the Detroit area. Swidwinski recounts that the credit union’s initial capitalization was just $80, contributed by the Michigan PAC. “The PAC also provided office space, until the credit union purchased its own building two years later,” said Swidwinski. “We’ve grown and thrived since then, not only among our Polish Americans, but in the larger community as well.” Today the credit union operates three branches, serves almost 8,000 members, and has assets of nearly $80 million—an impressive growth from $80.
Born in New Jersey of Polish-born parents, Olejarczyk went to Poland as a baby with his parents, whose extreme patriotism made them long for their homeland once it had been re-established as a sovereign nation following World War I. Ultimately, economic hardships in the newly re-formed Poland forced his father back to the States for employment while Olejarczyk remained behind with his mother, not rejoining his father until 1940. Thus began a lifelong loyalty to two nations, and during World War II, prior to the United States’ involvement, he volunteered for the Polish Air Force in Canada to help in the liberation of Poland (‘Recognize a need and fill it’). The following year he transferred to the American Air Force and was assigned as a bombardier-navigator with the 586th Bomber Squadron, flying B26s in Europe.
After working many years as an analytical engineer for GM, Olejarczyk retired and devoted all of his time to the PAC following the 1981 Solidarity movement’s activities in Poland, when issues of Polish affairs faced by the organization became too absorbing for ‘part time’ attention. Thanks to his wife Bronia, whom he describes as ‘the love of his life’ (and who he met in kindergarten!), Olejarczyk is to this day a hallowed figure about the PAC Federal Credit Union, and who, regardless of age, is still identifying needs and filling them.