POLISH ARMY VETRANS, POST 78, FEBRUARY 12, 2007-02-13
On Sunday, February 12, 2007, the Visionalist crew returned to Detroit to interview Polsih Army veterans during their monthly meeting and to share a wonderful spread of Polish food prepared by the Ladies Auxialiary, among whom we found a wealth of stories, too.
Take, for example, Justina Szyszko, who still comes to the monthly meetings to help prepare the repast along with her daughters, even though her husband—a former member—passed away many years ago. This is the sort of dedication and compassion that in many ways defines Post 78, under the command of Chester J. Szczotka. Szyszko herself survived the World War II onslaught in Siberia, where she lost one of her children to disease while her husband fought at Montecasino—a horrific series of battles in 1944 that took place between January 17 and May 18 with a loss of over 54,000 Allied and 20,000 German soldiers. The Polish Army played a vital role in this conflict.
A history of Post 78 has been generously provided by Commander Szcotka:
The Polish Army Veterans Association, PAVA, Post 78 began its organizational activity at the Polish Home known as “Dom Polski” on Junction Street near Michigan Avenue, in Detroit, Michigan. The first meeting of the Blue Army, “Halerczyki” was held on May 6, 1921. At that time, the name of the Post was declared as “Blue Army Club No. 2, “Klub Halerczyków Nr. 2”. Later the name was changed to “Joseph Pilsudski Blue Army Settlement, “Kolonia Halerczyków, im, Józefa Pi³sudzkiego”. In 1925 Post 78 was officially admitted and became associated with the Polish Army Veterans Association of America, and known as “Polish Army Veterans’ Association, Marshal Joseph Pilsudski Post 78”.
In 1934 Post 78 acquired property at 3801 Martin Street in Detroit, Michigan. In December 1940, Post made additional purchase of the property at 4959-63 Martin Street, which was their “home” until July 1994, when due to declining membership and financial problems, the property was sold. Today the Post is still active and holds its monthly meetings at the Polish League of American Veterans (PLAV) hall, located on Central Street just north of Michigan Avenue, Detroit, Michigan.
When World War II ended in 1945, many veterans that fought within the Polish Armed Forces were not able to return to Poland since it was occupied by the Soviet Union. Their return to Poland would have put them in great danger for them and members of their family. Thus many of them opted to migrate to the United States. In 1946, at the National Convention, the Polish Army Veterans Association Constitution and By-Laws was amended to accept those who had served actively during the World War II as full members of the organization. In light of the above constitutional changes, the membership of the organization got a big boost. The World War II veterans were joining the organization in masses, and the organization, again, became lively and vibrant, working hard on behalf it’s invalid comrades.
Post 78 is represented by its delegates in various organizations: Polish Army Veterans Association District 6, Polish American Congress, Central Citizens Committee and Allied Veterans Council. It was very active in the life of many Polonia organizations. Honorable tribute is given to the deceased veterans of the Association in May, on Memorial Day. Arrangements are made for attending Holly Mass at a local Catholic Church, and visiting gravesites of our veterans at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery and Mount Elliott Cemetery.
In the past, Post 78 had hosted several honorary guests, such as: Blue Army’s Commanding General Joseph Haller, Commander of the “Pomorze Army” General Walter Bortnowski, Delegate Representatives of the Ladies Auxiliary of Women’s Polish Army, linguist and professor from the University of Warsaw Colonel Walter Onacewicz and Lieutenant Jan Karski of the Polish Home Army. The Polish Home Army mission was to organize and operate Polish secret underground resistance operations against Germans after their attack of Poland on September 1, 1939. It was comprised of both military and civilian units.
Post 78, since its early days, donated considerable sums of money and manual labor to District 6 of the Polish Army Veterans’ Association to maintain and operate “Veterans’ Home” at Wanda Park in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Wanda Park property consists of over thirty acres of land where in addition to the Veterans’ Home there is a nice picnic area and open fields where games of soccer are played. Veterans’ Home contains thirty resident rooms, kitchen, dining facility and a large family room. Its residents are needy veterans, both Polish and American, who are paying minimum sick benefits which at times must be augmented by Post donations. Post 78 also makes regular contributions to the Polish American Congress, Polish Daily News, Polish Youth Organizations, Polish Scouts, Polish Sports Club and other social, national and charitable organization within USA and abroad.
In 1967, on the 50th Anniversary of the existence of the Association, Post 78 had 150 members and its Ladies Auxiliary had 140 members. Here, great recognition and gratitude must be given to our ladies for their work and dedication. These ladies work eagerly and with devotion to the cause and understanding of the needs of the veterans.
Today the ranks of all posts within the Association are, unfortunately, diminishing. In order to build-up the membership, The Polish Army Veterans’ Association By-Laws were amended to accept as full member children of World War I and World War II veterans, who had served in the military, either in Polish Armed Forces or American Armed forces. However this is still not sufficient to make-up for continuing losses. Thus, another change to the By-Laws was made at the National Convention in 2006: “To accept, as full members, descendants of “old” veterans, regardless of their sex and whether or not they served in any military organizations”. It will be interesting to see how many of these folks will join us.
As long as Post 78, will have sufficient members to enable it to function and meet its original goals for the welfare of the organization it will continue to exist. Our goal is to promote brotherhood among each other, and this, with God’s help, we will do. In January 2007, Post 78 had 17 veteran members and 15 ladies in Ladies Auxiliary. What will be our membership one year later depends on our effort to attract new members.
Chester J. Szczotka
Post 78 Commander