Polish Chair

Polish Chair

Detailed History of the Permanent Chair of Polish Culture

The History was written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the existence of the Permanent Chair of Polish Culture at Canisius College, 1959-2009.  (Initial efforts can actually be traced to the year 1956 -- as noted in the History.)  I attempted to bring together in one clear, cogent and easily-accessible document all of the information which I had at my disposal from various (often scattered) sources.  These sources included the following materials: notes given to me many years ago by Bess Luchowski (now deceased) documenting the very early community and College efforts to establish the Polish Chair; my careful analysis of the information and resources in the Canisius College archives; notes from individuals active on the Polish Chair in the past; my own notes recorded during my years of service as the secretary of the Polish Chair.  I was first appointed to serve on the Board of the Polish Chair in the early 1970's by Judge Ann Mikoll.  Since then I have been reappointed as a Board member on several occasions and have served as secretary when elected to do so.  The Polish Chair continues to serve as my personal link to Canisius College, where I earned my MS Ed degree in 1959.  The composition and writing of the History represented my voluntary effort to preserve the work of numerous individuals who, as Board members during the past fifty years, attempted to highlight the Polish "spirit" and tradition as manifested in fields as diverse as art, music, religion, history, theatre, education.  
No doubt, the effort will continue.

Respecfully,
Edward R. Szemraj

A HISTORY OF THE PERMANENT CHAIR OF POLISH CULTURE AT CANISIUS COLLEGE
by Edward R. Szemraj, BA, MS, MLS

The seeds for the establishment of a Permanent Chair of Polish Culture at Canisius College were sown as early as 1956.  In a letter dated November 19, 1956 to Dr. Eugenia Fronczak-Bukowska and her husband Dr. Edward, the Very Rev. Philip E. Dobson, S.J., President of Canisius College, noted the establishment of the Lublin Lectureship of Polish Culture and Literature at Canisius.  This lectureship was made possible through the initiative and by the generosity of local businessman John F. Kopczynski.  Novelist, critic, and Warsaw Medal awardee Bohdan Pawlowicz was appointed Lublin Lecturer in Polish History for the 1956-1957 academic year.

On March 27, 1957 a Symposium in honor of the first centenary of the birth of the novelist Joseph Conrad (Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski) featured Canisius College faculty members Dr. Charles Brady, Bohdan Pawlowicz, Dr. Lawrence A. Michel, and Dr. Charles A. McCann.  The Symposium was followed by a radio program – “Salute to Joseph Conrad” – over Station WKBW on March 30, 1957.

A campaign was begun to reach out to the Polish-American community of Western New York, as well as to the community-at-large and beyond the immediate area, to solicit funds for the establishment of an endowed Permanent Chair at Canisius.  One of the highlights of that effort occurred on May 31,1959.  Fr. Dobson declared the date “Polish Chair Day.”   Jesuit Fathers from Canisius preached eloquently on behalf of the cause in at least 18 parishes with a large Polish membership.  A week earlier, on May 14, 1959, WBEN televised a Mass from St. John Kanty Church to bring the cause to the attention of the entire community.  A committee of Polish diocesan clergy, Jesuit Fathers, prominent professionals, businessmen, political figures, laymen and women increased its efforts to achieve the goal.  A substantial amount of funds was raised between July 1, 1956 and June 30, 1962.  Maximum returns were realized during the period of July 1, 1958 and June 30, 1959, the height of the fund-raising campaign.

The early executive committees of the Polish Chair envisioned an ambitious program:  an annual symposium  at Canisius that would highlight the rich heritage of Poland’s culture (her history, arts, literature, philosophy); a quarterly and scholarly publication in English that would underscore the Polish contribution to the formation of the American ethic; a Polish Room at Canisius College that would serve as a conservatory of objects of Polish culture; a distinguished and authoritative scholar who would plan and direct all activities.

The efforts of those early committees began on a very auspicious note.  The First National  Symposium was held at Canisius College on November 28, 1959.  It was formally opened by the Very Reverend James J. McGinley, Canisius President.  Its theme – “Poland as a Nation in History” – focused on the nation’s birth and development; its role and tragedy in two world wars; its contemporary status; its future promise.  Four outstanding scholars participated in the analysis: Dr. Bohdan Pawlowicz of Canisius; Dr. Oscar Halecki, Professor of History at Columbia & Fordham; Dr. Roman Debicki and Dr. Jan Karski, both Professors of Government at Georgetown.  (Dr. Jan Karski is probably best remembered today as the courier who tried to convince American and British authorities of Nazi atrocities and the horrors of the holocaust in the 1940’s).  This First National Symposium elicited both local and national recognition.  Vice President Richard M. Nixon sent a telegram extending his best wishes.  Buffalo Mayor Frank A. Sedita presented a key to the City to each speaker.

Subsequent executive committees attempted to focus on the lofty goals of their predecessors. Unfortunately, the endowment fund did not grow sufficiently enough over the years to realize the grand vision and dreams of its advocates. As a result, the establishment of a Permanent Chair, in the strictest definition of the term, was not to be realized.  However, The Permanent Chair of Polish Culture at Canisius College continued to survive – and survives to this day – albeit in a less auspicious context. It defined its role as a proponent of the ideas and ideals of the originators.  Over the years, the Polish Chair sponsored, supported, encouraged numerous lectures, recitals, concerts promoting Polish culture both on and off campus.  The following events are indicative of this continuous effort over the years.  They are among many cited here as the historical record of the Polish Chair’s aim to bring a knowledge of the Polish culture and experience to as wide an audience as possible.   

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former United States Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and Professor at Harvard and Columbia, was invited to lecture on two occasions.  On February 18, 1960, he addressed the topic “Some Current Problems in the Russian Satellite Countries.”  On April 20, 1969, he discussed “The Lessons of Czechoslovakia.”

Following the PAHA convention, a special concert of The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra commemorating the sesqui-centennial of the birth of Frederic Chopin and the centennial of the birth of Ignace Jan Paderewski and featuring piano soloist Ruth Slenczynski was sponsored by the Polish Chair on December 29, 1960.

Polish-American Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek, who spent 23 years as a Soviet prisoner while performing covert missionary work from 1941 to 1963, delivered two lectures in the Student Center on campus on September 23, 1964 under the auspices of the Polish Chair.  His chilling descriptions of life in exile attracted an audience exceeding 500 people.  He recorded his memoirs in the book With God in Russia.  Fr. Ciszek’s cause for possible beatification or canonization was begun in 1990.

Dr. Peter de Beauvoir Brock, Professor of History at the University of Toronto, focused on the topic “The Polish Identity” in a lecture on October 26,1967.

“Poland’s Romantic Bards” --- Mickiewicz, Slowacki, Krasinski --- was the featured lecture by Edmund I. Zawacki, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages at the University of Wisconsin, on  April 1, 1968.

Yale University Professor of History Piotr S. Wandycz analyzed “ Poland in International Relations” on October 20, 1968.

Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, visited Canisius College on September 17, 1969.  The cardinal was greeted during a coffee hour in the office of President Fr. Demske by many of the college’s faculty and administrators.  The Polish Chair was represented by Fr. Joseph J. Stelmach, its Chairman that year.

The musical pageant “I Cannot Come to You Today” (“Dzis do Ciebie Przyjsc Nie Moge”), based on guerilla songs of the German occupation of Poland, 1939-1945, presented by the Classical Theatre of Warsaw, played to large audiences on November 11-12, 1969, the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Polish Chair.  The Very Rev. James M. Demske, S.J., President, made a valiant effort to address the audience in Polish.

A company of Poland’s leading opera and stage stars presented a two-part program of Polish music and dance in the Canisius College Student Center on April 28-29, 1970.  The company performed the famed operetta “The Queen of Cardas” and the Polish musical “The Stand with Songs.”

A staff contributor to the Catholic liberal weekly “Tygodnik Powszechny,” a participator in the resistance movement during World War II, a prisoner of the Russians in Poland and the Germans in Norway, a Ford Foundation Fellow, a teacher at SUNY Albany and Columbia, an author – Leopold Tyrmand delivered a lecture “On Communist Civilizations: Reflections of a Polish Intellectual” on May 5, 1971.

Several months later, on November 11, 1971, Professor Zygmunt Nagorski, Jr. addressed “The Changing Scene in Eastern Europe.”

Departing temporarily from lecture-centered presentations and turning to the visual arts as the prime program in 1972, a Polish Film Festival was featured as the Polish Chair-sponsored attraction on October 5-6 of that year.

The year 1973 marked the 500th anniversary of the birth of the famed Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (Mikolaj Kopernik, 1473-1543).  The Permanent Chair of Polish Culture observed that event in grand style – in a manner unique to the campus of a Catholic college and exemplifying the faith-oriented nation and peoples from whom this world-renowned thinker sprung.  The Most Rev. Edward D. Head, Bishop of Buffalo, was invited to celebrate a special Mass which would capture the medieval atmosphere of Copernicus’ time.  Concelebrating with Bishop Head were the Very Rev. James M. Demske, S.J., President of Canisius College, and three priest members of the Polish Chair: The Rev. Cornelius Dende, OFM, Conv., Director of the Father Justin Rosary Hour;  the Rev. John R. Gabalski;  and Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph J. Stelmach. The homilist was the Very Rev. Walter J. Ziemba, Rector of SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan.  

The medieval spirit was achieved in the song and music that enhanced the liturgical service: selections from Desplanes, Elgar, Raff, Massenet, Palestrina (b. 1526), Duffay (d. 1474), Bach, Decius (d. 1526), Beethoven, Talis (b. circa 1505), Purcell.  The Rev. Nicholas J. Connolly, S.J. of Campus Ministry coordinated the liturgical service.  Participating in the liturgy were the following individuals and groups: Rev. Cyril O. Schommer, S.J., violin, and Miss Mary Louise Klice, organ; the Canisius College Glee Club (Mr. Robert Schulz, Director); The Handbell Choir from St. Joseph’s Church in North Tonawanda (Miss Patricia Bird, Director); The Canisius College ROTC Honor Guard; liturgical readers Edward R. Szemraj, Chairman of the Copernican Committee, and Edward H. Posluszny, Chairman of the Polish Chair .A dinner and program after Mass in the Student Center featured Dr. Eugene Kusielewicz, Associate Professor of History at St. John”s University and President of The Kosciuszko Foundation, who discussed the significance of Copernicus for our time. A one-day post office featuring a commemorative cancellation was opened in the Churchill Academic Tower on campus.  All of these events took place on November 4, 1973.

Further, as part of the observance, the Polish Chair featured a special exhibit of Copernicana in the Canisius College (Bouwhuis) Library.  The exhibit opened on October 15 and lasted until November 24, 1973.  The display included an impressive bust of Copernicus done in metal by the Polish sculptor Marian Owczarski, artist-in-residence at the Orchard Lake Schools in Orchard Lake, Michigan. Also included in the exhibit were works by Buffalo artist Henryk Jarosz and a pencil sketch of Kopernik by Miss Faith Ann Sikorski of Cheektowaga.

The years 1975, 1976, 1977 witnessed three annual community “Swieconkas” sponsored by the Polish Chair.   This traditional Polish Easter meal in the Student Center followed a Mass in Christ the King Chapel on campus.

America celebrated its 200th birthday in 1976. To commemorate our nation’s Bicentennial and to  honor the distinguished contributions of our Polish forebears to the cause of American independence the Polish Chair presented an impressive exhibit entitled “Polish Contribution to the American  Revolution” in the Wilcox Mansion on Delaware Avenue during the month of July 1976.   Featured during the exhibit were the works of local artist Henryk J. Jarosz, the paintings of the contemporary Polish historical artist Mieczyslaw Watorski, and a collection entitled “”Teczowa Droga.” 

Another scholar – Dr. Caroline Golab, Professor of History, Ethnic Awareness and Urban Planning at the University of Pennsylvania – visited the speaker’s podium on March 13, 1977 to analyze “Historical Perspectives on the Immigration and Migration Experience.”

Thanks to the generous support of the Polish Chair, ten students participated in a study trip to Poland during the Summer of 1977.

The Polish literary scholar Dr. Zygmunt Kubiak selected the topic “The Golden Age of Polish Culture” in a lecture at the Fireside Lounge in the Student Center on February 5, 1978.  Dr. Kubiak reflected on Polish life during the Renaissance and the Polish personalities of that age which helped to create it.

The Fireside Lounge was also the setting on April 30, 1978, when the Rev. Mr. Anthony Kuzniewski, S.J., PhD.  from the Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago presented a perspective on “The Wisconsin Experience – Poles in the Midwest.”

A cultural tour of Poland for high school students was sponsored by the Polish Chair in the Summer of 1978.

The election of Karol Cardinal Wojtyla to the Chair of St. Peter on October 16, 1978 was a source of unparalleled  pride to Poles worldwide.  Fr. Demske had intended to invite His Holiness to the 1979  commencement exercises, but the Vatican was unable to make a commitment to do so.  Perhaps it was no accident that the historic election of the first Polish pope would eventually express itself in the emergence in Poland of the first non-communist trade union in a communist nation.  The month of September 1980 witnessed the founding of NSZZ “Solidarnosc” (ISTU “Solidarity”) in the Gdansk shipyards.  Emboldened as it was to strive for the legitimate rights of citizens, Solidarity and the Polish nation-at-large were to experience a chain of ugly repressions  -- including the imposition of martial law on December 13, 1981 and the murder of Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko on October 30, 1984.

There was a response to the ideas and ideals of the Solidarity Movement throughout the world. The Permanent Chair of Polish Culture at Canisius College sponsored  approximately 30 lectures throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. – primarily under the guidance and with the dedication of Fr. Benjamin Fiore, S.J., of the Religious Studies Dept. During this time Fr. “Ben” worked closely with   The Solidarity and Human Rights Association Inc. among whose members were its officers Dr. Janice L. Schultz, PhD  of the Canisius Philosophy Dept.,  Mrs. Stanislawa Sorel, and Dr. Marek Zaleski, MD, PhD.

Outstanding speakers were brought to Buffalo by the Polish Chair and The Solidarity and Human Rights Association.  Some of the lectures, together with the speakers, included the following:

“Remarks on Martial Law in Poland” by Former (Resigned) Polish  Ambassador to Japan, Zdzislaw Rurarz, on February 21, 1982.
     
“Solidarity: a Vision Denied,” by Dr. Andre Blaszczynski and Mr. Zygmunt Staszewski, on November 8, 1982.

Latajacy Teatr Dokumentu I Poezji “Wyzwolenie” in Christ the King Chapel on the Canisius campus on May 28, 1983.  
    
“Polish Non-Violent Resistance: Its Strategy and Tactics,” by Jan Nowak, on November 19, 1983.

“Third Symposium on Polish-Jewish Relations,” by Henryk Grynberg and Jerzy Lerski, on March 10, 1984.

“Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical On Human Labor & and the International Free Trade Union Movement,” by Dr. Jerzy Milewski, Prof. Jose Prince, and Hon. John LaFalce on April 29, 1984.

“Free Trade Union Resistance against Repressive Regimes,” by Dr. Jerzy Milewski and Prof. Jose Prince, on April 30, 1984.

“Solidarity and the Polish People,” by Ambassador Richard Townsend Davies, on June 2, 1984.

“The Role of the Catholic Church in Poland in Preserving Polish Culture and National Identity,” by Jacek Kalabinski, on December 3, 1984.

“Stolen Childhood: a Saga of Polish War Children,“  by Rev. Lucjan Krolikowski, OFM, Conv.

“Conference on the Implication of Poland’s Entry in the International Monetary Fund,” by Ambassador Richard Davies et al., on February 16, 1985.

Screening and discussion of the film “Shivers” (about the psychological effects of the Stalinist era in Poland), by director Wojciech Marczewski, on March 20, 1985.

“Poland Today: a Priest-Philosopher Looks at Social, Philosophical and Cultural Realities,” by *Rev. Jozef Tishner* on October 12, 1985.
  
(*Fr. Tischner, a priest from Krakow, analyzed the ethics of the Solidarity Movement in his book Etyka Solidarnosci.  This book was translated into English (The Spirit of Solidarity) by Dr. Marek Zaleski and Fr. Benjamin Fiore, S.J.).

“The Future of Poland and U.S. Policy,” by Jan Nowak, on March 6, 1986.

“The ‘Benefits’ of Censorship,” by  Polish film director Tomasz Pobog-Malinowski on April 26, 1986
 
“Poland and Afghanistan: Human Costs of Human Rights,” by Miroslaw Chojecki and Adam Winkler, on May 29 1986.

“Poetry Reading and Commentary,” by Nobel Prize Winner Czeslaw Milosz, on March 18 1987.

“Czeslaw Milosz: Poet of the Issa,” by Dr. Louis Iribarne.

“Underground Publications in Poland: Solidarity’s Lasting Achievement,”  by Jerzy Surdykowski, on February 26 1988. 

“Comparing the Polish and American Constitutions,” by Drs. Sarah Slavin and Marek Zaleski, on  May 12, 1988.

“Solidarity in Poland and Abroad: Success/Obstacles,” by Dr. Jerzy Milewski and Elizabeth Wasiutynski, October 1988.
      
“Wieczor Autorski,” by Jacek Federowicz, February 1989.

“Solidarity and Independence in Poland,” by Kerry Kennedy, Ewa Kulik, Marek Zaleski, Janice Schulz, March 1989.

“Early Religious History in Poland,” by Dr. Henry Lang, April 1989.

“Working to Regain Poland,” by Dziekania Club Members on September 17, 1989.

“The Round Table Negotiations and the Parliamentary Elections,” by Dr. Zofia Kuratowska.

“Poland in World War II,” by Dr. Walter Drzewieniecki, on November 4, 1989.

“Reclaiming Local Government: Poland’s Next Step to Freedom,” by Ludwik Bieganski, Marek Ciolek-Poniatowski, Dr. Marek Zaleski, on March 12, 1990.

“One Church, Two Experiences,” a discussion by seminarians Wesley Ziebacz and Leon Biernat on the Roman Catholic Church in Poland and the U.S.A., on March 22, 1990.

“Wieczor Autorski,” by Jacek Federowicz, on April 11, 1990. (encore presentation).

“The Polish Army of Gen. Haller in France, 1917-1919,” by Dr. Joseph Hapak, on May 12, 1990.

Other Events 1980-1990:

A Memorial Mass for Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko was offered in Christ the King Chapel at 7:00 PM on      November 10, 1984.  Memorial Masses in subsequent years were offered in the Chapel of Loyola Hall, the Jesuit residence on campus.

A videotape presentation on Czeslaw Milosz’s The Issa Valley was given in the Student Center Auditorium on November 9, 1985.

“Solidarity: Unextinguished Light of Freedom,” exhibit in Canisius College Bouwhuis Library, March 1 to April 3, 1989.  
      
“Independent Culture in Poland: An Exhibition,” prepared by Pawel Bakowski, former member of KOR and Solidarity promoter, co-sponsored by the Polish Chair in Erie Community College, Downtown, on March 15, 1989.

Solidarity and Human Rights Association receives the 1989 Am-Pol Eagle Award in the category of Community Organizations on Sunday, March 4, 1990.

“Icons: a Living Polish Tradition,” a display of icons hand painted in Poland, was featured in the Canisius College Bouwhuis Library, from March 6 to April 17, 1990  .

“Chopin and Friends in Paris,” a program of instrumental and vocal selections on April 29, 1990, featured the Kalina Singing Society, Maria Kurzawska (soprano), Michael Harris (bass), Steve Bianchi (piano).

On November 21, 1991, a distinguished guest from Poland --Prof. Dr. Andrzej Stelmachowski, president of Poland’s Senate – appeared in the Grupp Fireside Lounge, Student Center, and lectured on the “Traditions of Democracy in Poland.”  On that occasion, he was awarded the Canisius College President’s Medal.  The Citation for Conferral of the Medal, signed by Rev. James M. Demske, S.J., enumerated the details of Senator Stelmachowski’s remarkable career: as a soldier in the underground “Home Army,” he fought the German aggressor; as professor of law, he opposed the illegally imposed post-war government ; as expert adviser to the Provisional National Committee of the Solidarity Union, he aided the forces for freedom during Martial Law.

Prof. Stelmachowski was a graduate of the Law Department of Poznan University.  He taught law at Wroclaw University and Warsaw University.. He was chairman of the Warsaw Club of Catholic Intelligentsia, and a member of the Episcopate’s “Justitia et Pax” committee.  He was a member of  the committee for the Pastoral Care of Farmers and  renowned  internationally as an expert on agricultural law.  He was co-creator of the “Round Table” discussions between the government and Solidarity.   His election to the first freely-elected senate in post-war Poland and his selection as that body’s president were indicative of the faith and trust his countrymen and colleagues placed in his ability and service to the homeland.

Another prestigious award was conferred the following year upon Fr. Benjamin Fiore, S.J. The presentation was made by the Hon. Jerzy Surdykowski, Consul General of the Republic of Poland, New York Consulate.  Dated June 10, 1992, the Polish text of the citation reads as follows:   RZECZPOSPOLITA POLSKA  LEGITYMACJA  Nr 390-92-5, Warszawa, dnia 10 czerwca 1992 Postanowieniem z dnia 10 czerwca 1992 r.    o. jezuita FIORE Beniamin  odznaczony zostal ZLOTA OZNAKA ORDERU ZASLUGI  RZECZYPOSPOLITEJ  POLSKIEJ , Prezydent Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej.” As per the citation, Fr. “Ben” was the recipient of the “GOLDEN EMBLEM OF THE ORDER  OF MERIT OF THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND.”

As the decade of the 1990’s progressed, the Polish Chair continued its sponsorship of artistic, historical, theatrical, musical, literary, religious, and narrative programs.

On March 14, 1993 a concert of vocal and chamber music selections featuring soprano Adrienne Tworek-Gryta, pianist Joanne Schlegel, and the Rondo String Quartet was presented in the college’s Christ the King Chapel.

Noted Polish theatrical director Vladimir Herman lectured on  “The Place of Theater within the Totalitarian and Democratic Systems” in the college’s Propis Old Main Lounge on November 19, 1993. Herman’s credentials included a history degree from the University of Wroclaw and a director’s  diploma from the Warsaw Theater Academy.  Throughout his career, he directed plays both in Poland and in several European countries   --  Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark.

Professor Jerzy Kloczowski lectured on “The Warsaw Uprising as Viewed within the International Context” in the Grupp Fireside Lounge on March 4, 1994.  This Polish historian received his Ph.D. from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun.  He was a soldier in the Home Army and participated in the Warsaw Uprising, where he suffered the loss of his right hand.

Poland’s Constitution Day (May 3) was celebrated at Canisius College on May 6, 1994.  It began with an evening prayer service in the Loyola Hall Chapel and was followed by a film screening in the Horan-O’Donnell Science Building.  Two films were viewed:  Zegota – a documentary honoring those who created the Council to Aid the Jews during World War II; and The Other Side of Faith – the story of a Polish native who saved thirteen Jews from death camps.  This event was co-sponsored by the Polish Chair and the Solidarity & Human Rights Association.

Dr. Kazimierz Braun’s two-act play American Dreams, performed in Polish and featuring the mother/daughter acting team of Maria Nowotarska and Agata Pilitowska, was presented in the Student Center  Auditorium on Friday evening, November 4, 1994. Dr. Braun is a distinguished member of the local Polonia and professor of theatre and directing at the State University New York at Buffalo.

Dr. Bozena Shallcross discussed “Polish Romantic Literature, Adam Mickiewicz, and the Art of Literary Improvisation” in the college’s Grupp Fireside Lounge on April 28 1995.  A professor of Slavic languages and literature at Indiana University, she has written about the relationship between literature and the visual arts.  A literary and art critic, Dr Shallcross has published in both Polish andEnglish.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Poland, the Polish Chair invited Dr. Piotr Wrobel, associate professor of Polish history at the University of Toronto, to deliver the first annual *Marek B. Zaleski* Memorial Lecture at Canisius College on October 26, 1995.  Dr. Wrobel’s lecture was aptly titled “1945: Poland at the end of World War II.”  He is the author of numerous articles and books and also taught at the University of Warsaw (Poland) and several American universities.
      *(Dr. Marek B. Zaleski died in December 1994.  He was a member of the Polish Chair’s Board and a professor of microbiology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He was known internationally for his support of the Solidarity movement and received Poland’s Cross of Merit in 1994)*

Today I Travelled Far to Visit,” was the title of a program of Polish poetry and music sponsored by the Polish Chair on the evening of October 12, 1995.  It featured the poetry of Juliusz Slowacki and Czeslaw Milosz, as interpreted by Maria Nowotarska and Agata Pilitowska.  Piano compositions of Fryderyk Chopin were rendered by Natalia Tiomkina.

A member of the School of Medicine at the State University of New York at Buffalo  -- Dr. Jack Kotlarz – delivered a lecture entitled “Bosnia: Perspectives from a Doctor’s Mission” in the Steffan  Faculty Dining Room in the Canisius College Student Center on March 26, 1996.  Dr. Kotlarz shared his experiences while on a medical mission to Bosnia in the fall of 1995.

Maria Nowotarska and Agata Pilitowska made their third Polish Chair appearance in a program entitled “A Salon Evening of Polish Music and Poetry” on September 20, 1996 in the Montante Cultural Center on the Canisius campus.   They interpreted the poetry of Maria Jasnorzewska-Pawlikowska. Vocalist  Malgorzata Drag performed compositions of Hanka Ordonowna.  Period piano selections were played by Natalia Tiomkina.

The Montante Cultural Center was also the setting of a program featuring noted Buffalo pianist Claudia Hoca on March 14, 1999.  An accomplished performer, Austrian-born, local Kenmore NY resident Claudia Hoca received numerous awards – among them, top prize in the Chopin Young  Pianist Competition, and second & third prizes in the Johann Sebastian Bach International  Competitions in Washington, D.C.  During the 1990’s she appeared on the Kleinhans Music Hall stage with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in more than 20 different concertos.

The advent of the 21st century witnessed a period of relevant calm that prevailed in Poland after almost two decades of internal turmoil.  The Polish Chair continued its mission and goal of promoting Polish culture as evidenced by events in the motherland, as well as by the expression of the talents and fervor of Polish-Americans and other devotees of the Polish ethic.

During the 2000-2001 academic year, the papal Academy of Philosophy in Krakow continued to receive three journals (“Human Development,” “Review of Religious Research,” “Psychology and Theology”) as gifts from the Polish Chair.

Buffalo resident Andrew Golebiowski received a stipend in support of his production of a documentary film on the life and work of Lackawanna sculptor Louis Dlugosz.  He was to receive a second stipend during the 2001-2002 academic year. Andrew presented a preliminary video document on Louis Dlugosz during the Polish Chair’s September 27, 2000 meeting.  Presentation of the final project is expected upon completion.

A Summer 2000 scholarship was awarded to Canisius College student Marguerite Rivard to attend the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun and the Catholic University in Lublin.  She gave an excellent report of her activities and thanked the Polish Chair during its September 27, 2000 meeting.

The Polish Chair took part in the preparation of a major Sister-Cities Photo Exhibition in Rzeszow, Poland during the Summer of 2000.  Photographer Keith H. Van Alstine took pictures of Buffalo, 16 of which were enlarged, prepared with background information and shipped to Poland.

The Polish Chair participated in the Buffalo visit of Bishop Kazimierz Gorny of Rzeszow, Poland,  for the October 22, 2000 Jubilee Mass in St. Adalbert’s Basilica.

On October 29, 2000, the Montante Cultural Center was the site of arias and art songs by Maria Knapik , soprano (Opera Lyra Ottawa) and Boguslaw Szynalski, baritone  (Great Theater Poznan).  It was co-sponsored with the Polish Arts Club, the Chopin Singing Society, the Polish Army Veterans Assoc. Post No. 1, the Polish Veterans of WW II, Post No. 33, the Polish Singers Alliance of America, District IX, other organizations, and Polish-American political representatives.  An artists’ reception for invited guests was held after the concert. This recital was a great success culturally and financially.

On November 19, 2000, the Grupp Fireside Lounge was the site for a reception and book signing to celebrate the publication of Krystyna Nasiukiewicz Drzewieniecki’s book (My Za Oeanem: Smak Ameryki) about recent immigrants from Poland to the U.S.A.  The Polish Chair also participated in a co-sponsorship of Krystyna’s photo exhibit of notable events in Buffalo’s Polonia in the last decade (“Preserving the Memory,” Ocalone od Zapomnienia, Polonia: 1995-2000).

The traditional Polish Wigilia was observed as a co-sponsored event with the Polish Students Association at Canisius College in Christ the King Chapel basement on November 29, 2000.

A Bouhwuis Library display in April 2001 featured a photo exhibit of Buffalo scenes which was displayed in Rzeszow (Poland), Buffalo’s Sister City.  Co-sponsored with the Buffalo-Rzeszow Sister Cities organization.

The (Tadeusz) Kosciuszko--(Martin Luther) King commemoration concert in the Montante Cultural Center was co-sponsored by the Polish Chair on May 12, 2001.

On June 3, 2001, Wanda Slawinska of the Buffalo State College Library staff was scheduled to present a slide lecture on artistic works in Rome with Polish themes or by Polish artists

On October 3, 2001 – Buffalo’s own Polish-American talent, bass vocalist Valerian Ruminski (of Kaisertown), appeared on the Montante Cultural Center stage on campus in a performance  of compositions by Persis Vehar, artist-in-residence at Canisius College.  Mr. Ruminski made his first vocal debut with the New York City Opera in 1999.  During the course of a continuing brilliant singing career, he was on stage with some of the great opera companies in the U.S.A. and  abroad.  He was the recipient of the Am-Pol Eagle Outstanding Polish Citizen in Music Award.

A benefit concert to rescue artist Joseph Slawinski’s sgraffito mural at Graycliffe was sponsored by the Polish Chair in conjunction with the Polish Arts Club of Western New York on November 4, 2001. It featured Arie Lipsky, former principal cellist of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and Rebecca Penneys, professor of piano at Eastman School of Music and chair of the Chautauqua Institution Piano Department.

Three other events were sponsored during the academic Fall/Winter 2001 semester: (a) a presentation by Fred Jablonski on the meat packing industry of Buffalo’s East Side. (b) a lecture by Dr. Kazimierz Braun on Ignace Jan Paderewski (c) a Mass honoring the memory of Fr.Jerzy Popieluszko.

The first event in 2002 was presented in the Montante Cultural Center on March 10.  With the joint sponsorship of the Chopin Singing Society of Buffalo, a concert entitled “Nieznane Glosy: a Concert of Polish Chamber Music” featured  the Chopin Chorus, its director Dr. Thomas Witakowski, soloist Andrew Kowtalo, the Buffalo State College Choir, Chamber Orchestra, and soloists.

A Mass was offered in memory of Stanislawa Sorel, an active supporter of Polish causes and a  former member of the Polish Chair and the Solidarity and Human Rights Association.

Soprano Katherine Johnson, recognized as a “great singing actress,” included songs of Chopin and Szymanowski in a program entiled “The Art of Song” on the Montante Stage on April 28, 2002.  Her accompanist was William Hicks, who made his Metropolitan Opera state debut in 1996 as the Polish concert pianist, Lazinski, in Giordano’s FEDORA.

Canisius honor student Marguerite Rivard was awarded a Summer 2002 scholarship for study at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.  She was the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship in 2003.

A scholarship was also awarded to Konrad  Malkowski, a student from Szczecin Poland, for study at Canisius College during the 2002-2003 academic year.

The Chopin Singing Society in conjunction with the Polish Chair presented Chamber Series – Concert II.  Entitled “Polish Musical Gems,” the concert, under the baton of Dr. Thomas Witakowski, featured rarely performed choral and orchestral pieces by Polish composers.  It was performed in the Montante Cultural Center on October 6, 2002.

A young, prolific local performer -- bass-baritone Jesse Wicher of Lackawanna NY – appeared In Recital on October 11, 2002.  Accompanied by Ivan Docenko on piano, he sang selections from  Moniuszko, Faure, Vaughan-Williams, and U.S. Spirituals.  The Polish Arts Club of WNY was  co-sponsor of the event.

Wanda Slawinska, curator of The Fronczak Room at Buffalo State College, presented a slide collection with commentary on an unique topic -- the “Italian (Roman)-Polish Connection – in the Fall of 2002.

The year 2003 was ushered in with a discussion of plans for the publication of a book about famous Polish-American individuals from the Buffalo area under the sponsorship of the Polish Chair. Groundwork for the project was laid during the Board’s February 13, 2003 meeting.

The second video presentation of Polish-American Churches/ Shrines was unveiled in the Regis Room North of the Richard E. Winter Student Center on the Canisius campus on March 16, 2003.  Mary Lou Wyrobek and Fr. Ben Fiore served as presenters.  Narrators of the video documentary  were Geraldine Szemraj and Joseph Macielag.  (The first video presentation was produced in the  Fall of 1997. It was narrated by Michaeline Wyrobek and Dr. Thomas Witakowski).

On April 6, 2003 a concert (Chopin Chamber Series: Concert III) featuring music by Polish composers from the baroque and classical periods, as well as three pieces by Karol Szymanowski, was performed by the Chopin Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Thomas Witakowski.   The Buffalo State College Chamber Choir sang choral selections.

A second April 2003 concert, on the 13th of the month, featured pianist Nina Kuzma-Sapiejewska in a recital of Chopin and Szymanowski.  The Polish Arts Club of WNY was a co-sponsor.

“Soloists of the Polskie Slowiki,” the famous Poznan “Polish Nightingales” Boys’ Choir, under the  direction of W. Alexander Krolopp, appeared on the Montante Stage on May 11-12, 2003.  The performers included 5 boys (soprano and alto voices). The Polish Chair co-sponsored this event with the Polish Arts Club of WNY, Buffalo’s Operabuffs, and the Youth Choir Foundation of Boston.

The Polish Chair participated in the Polish Heritage Festival on May 16, 2003.  The festival took  place in the Creekside Banquet Facility in Cheektowaga NY. 

During its meeting of May 27, 2003, the Polish Chair responded to the appeal of Fr. Tadeusz Bocianowski in support of a fund intended to help finance a trip of approximately 30 youngsters (+ chaperones) from Poland (Silesia) whose fathers lost their lives in mining accidents.  

A recommendation to begin an effort to introduce a Polish language course to be offered for college  credit to Canisius  students and for its eventual inclusion as part of the curriculum of the Modern Foreign Language Department was strongly endorsed by the Polish Chair on May 27, 2003.

Soprano Mary Beth Wrobel, popular meteorologist with WIVB-TV, appeared as soloist in a program entitled “A Season of Song” on September 5, 2003.  The program featured contemporary opera,  theater music, Italian arias, Polish classical and folk songs, and sacred music.  Olivia Lyons  accompanied  Mary Beth on piano.

“Kino Polskie V” (September 6 to October 11, 2003) received financial support from the Polish  Chair.  This series of Polish films was sponsored by the Kosciuszko Foundation of WNY.  The films were screened in the Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center on Main Street.

A letter dated October 24, 2003 from Dr. Peter K. Gessner of the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo, Inc. complimented the Polish Chair in planning to bring out a book about several notable Polish  Americans.

The Polish Chair was a sponsor of the Polish American/Jewish American Council held throughout the day on Monday, October 27, 2003, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, in the Regis Room North of the Student Center Building.  Sponsorship entailed no financial expense on the part of the Polish Chair.

Melissa Thorburn, mezzo soprano, and Persis Vehar, piano, performed in a concert sponsored by  the Polish Chair on November 9, 2003.  An adjunct professor of fine arts at Canisius, Ms. Thorburn appeared professionally with symphony orchestras throughout the U.S.A.  Persis Vehar is artist-in- residence at Canisius.

A display in the Canisius Bouwhuis Library focusing on a theme intended to highlight Polish culture was featured early in 2004 (late January through February 27).  The exhibit of Polish handcrafted  items curated by Board member Dr. Margaret Stefanski included wood carvings, a leather chest, woven tapestries and paintings in a variety of media. Welcome contributions from other Board members enhanced the presentation.

On February 10, 2004 the Polish Chair (Board) discussed the status of the proposed Polish  language course scheduled to begin with the 2004-2005 academic year.  Dr. Margaret Stefanski, current instructor of Spanish at Canisius would also teach the Polish language. (It should be noted that Polish language courses were last taught at Canisius by Dr. Michael Burtniak in the 1960’s-70’s).

“The Life and Works of Paderewski,” a multimedia presentation by Dr. Kazimierz Braun in the  Montante Cultural Center on February 21, 2004 preceded a Piano Concert  by Igor Lipinski, a 17-year  old prodigy from Tarnow, Poland.  Mr. Lipinski was the recipient of the Grand Prix for Young Pianists  at the Paderewski Festival in Kasna, Poland in 1999 and in 2000. His debut at Canisius included works by Chopin, Liszt-Paganini, Mozart, Paderewski, Scarlatti and his own composition “A Letter to Love.”  This event was sponsored by the Polish Chair and the Polish Cultural Foundation, Inc.

On February 24, 2004 the names of the four individuals who would be the notable Polish American subjects in the book planned by the Polish Chair were the following:  Dr. Francis E. Fronczak,  physician; Joseph E. Fronczak, architect; Rev. Msgr. Jan Pitass, clergyman; Sr. Simplicita Nehring, Felician religious.

The Polish Chair supported the “Spring into Spring Variety Show” held on March 21, 2004 in the Villa Maria College Auditorium.   Proceeds would benefit the Buffalo-Rzeszow Sister Cities projects and humanitarian efforts, as well as the Polish Union of America cultural activities.  Support was also given toward the International Festival which took place in Canisius College in March 2004.

During its meeting of May 11, 2004, the Board announced the good news that the new Polish Language course (Polish 103) which the Polish Chair promoted and supported would become a part of the Canisius College curriculum commencing with the 2004-2005 academic year.  A total of 23 students enrolled.

Videos of the Polish Chair’s project dealing with churches of WNY were again available during Summer 2004 Polish Heritage Festival.

Support was given to the presentation of a program entitled “Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising,” sponsored by the Polish Cultural Foundation in the Montante Cultural Center on October 9, 2004.

Joseph Poslinski, a concentration camp victim in an Austrian prison, gave a lecture on his experiences in the Grupp Fireside Lounge on November 9, 2004 with the sponsorship of the Polish Chair .

Work relative to the publication of the book on notable Polish Americans of the Western New York area continued through the end of 2004.  Authors of each article that would comprise the  contents of the book were the following individuals:  Dr. Robert Farkas (Msgr. Jan Pitass); Wanda Slawinska (Dr. Francis E. Fronczak); Edward R. Szemraj (Joseph E. Fronczak); and Sr. Mary Joanne Suranni, CSSF (Mother Mary Simplicita Nehring).  The task of editing fell upon Edward Szemraj and Wanda Slawinska. Target date for final publication: early 2005.

The goal of completing the book was successfully met in early 2005.  The title of the book would   be The Polonian Legacy of Western New York.  The book would be dedicated to the Rev. Benjamin Fiore.  Mary Lou Wyrobek would compose the Dedication.  Edward Szemraj would prepare the  Preface, which would be a general overview of the history of the Polish Chair at Canisius.

The young Polish prodigy, pianist  Igor Lipinski, celebrated the life and music of Ignace Jan  Paderewski and other virtuosos in “Igor Lipinski in Concert: a Paderewski Remembrance,” presented on February 20, 2005 in the Montante Cultural Center.  The Polish Chair joined the Polish Cultural Foundation in sponsoring the event.

A Mass was offered by the Polish Chair and the Polish Students Association at Canisius for the  repose of the soul of Pope John Paul II on April 8, 2005 in Christ the King Chapel on campus. 

The Montante Cultural Center was the site of the concert “George Sand…and Chopin?” on April 8, 2005.  The one-act opera, composed by Canisius College Composer-in-Residence Persis Vehar, featured 19th century French novelist  George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin)  and Frederick Chopin.  Participants included  Sharon Mabry,PhD, mezzo soprano, Thomas King, PhD, tenor, and Persis Vehar, piano. 

The lecture format continued in 2005 as a vehicle for the presentation of topics by representatives of various disciplines.  The Polish Chair sponsored a power-point analysis in the Student Center on April 19, 2005 on the topic “Post-Communist and Communist Education in Poland.”  The lecturer was Prof. Tomasz Herzog.  Dr. Herzog’s appearance was sponsored in conjunction with the Department  of Education at Canisius, represented by Dr. Astiz.  The lecture was aimed at students of education who comprised most of the audience.

On April 23, 2005, the Polish Chair sponsored a farewell reception in honor of the Rev. Benjamin Fiore, S.J.  It was announced that Fr. “Ben” would be leaving Canisius College on July 1, 2005 after more than 25 years of service to become president of Campion College in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.   The dedication of the book The Polonian Legacy of Western New York to Fr. “Ben” was the  means by which the Polish Chair found it appropriate to express its recognition of and gratitude for his years of tireless service (since 1980) to the Chair.  Several speakers offered solicitous remarks: the Rev. Vincent M. Cooke, S.J., president of Canisius College; Mary Lou Wyrobek; Dr. Joseph  Bieron; Dr. Kazimierz Braun; Fr. Tadeusz Bocianowski; Dr. Margaret Stefanski.  The book presentation – made by co-editors Edward Szemraj and Wanda Slawinska – was a well-hidden and total surprise to the honoree.

The Polish Chair’s  participation in the annual Polish Heritage Festival, held at the Hamburg  Fairgrounds on May 21-22, 2005, resulted in the sale of 22 copies of The Polonian Legacy of  Western New York, as well as 9 sets of the video presentation of Polish Churches and Shrines. 

Four Canisius College students received stipends, courtesy of the Polish Chair, toward their  Summer 2005 teaching English trip to Poland, per a grant from the Kosciuszko Foundation.

The Polish Chair participated in a Book Donation Event in the Bouwhuis Library Conference Room on September 29, 2005.  The Kosciuszko Foundation of WNY presented a copy of “Warsaw Uprising  1944” to the Canisius College Library.

The Polish Chair welcomed pianist Slawomir P. Dobrzanski, D.M.A. to perform in concert on October 14, 2005 in the Montante Cultural Center.  Prof. Dobrzanski is a native of Wroclaw, Poland, and guest artist at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston.  He has performed in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and West Palm.  He is a graduate of the Chopin Academy of Music and holds a Doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Connecticut.

Polish Culture Week was an event sponsored by the Polish Chair together with the Polish Students Association.  The program (November 1-6, 2005) included a Polish Mass (Swieto Zmarlych) on November 2nd; a Polish Movie Night , featuring the film The Life of the Pope, made in Italy; a report by the students sent to Poland to teach English in the summer of 2005; the Mickiewicz performance on November 6th; a photo exhibit by Wojtek Wieteska.

Renowned Polish film director, director of photography, and photographer Wojtek Wieteska presented an art exhibit and sale from October 31 through November 10, 2005 in the Montante Cultural Center at the invitation of the Polish Chair.  Wieteska’s photographic projects were inspired by his world travels to Australia, North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Japan and the United States.  His Canisius exhibit was entitled “Poland 1986-2005.”

The 150th anniversary of the death of Poland’s greatest poet Adam Mickiewicz was celebrated  on November 6, 2005 in the Montante Cultural Center in an impressive bi-lingual program entitled “Poetry and Prophecy: A Remembrance of Adam Mickiewicz” (Poezja I Proroctw Wspomnienie O Adamie Mickiewiczu).  The program, written and directed by Dr. Kazimierz Braun, was organized by  the Polish Cultural Foundation in co-operation with the Chopin Singing Society and the Buffalo State College Chamber Choir and Ensemble, under  the direction of Dr. Thomas Witakowski.  The Polish Chair and M&T Bank were major sponsors.

Book sales of The Polonian Legacy of Western New York were held in Downtown Buffalo’s Main Place Mall on December 1, 2005, and in the Galleria Mall on December 21-22, 2005.  Authors of the articles were on hand to autograph purchasers’ copies.

In a repeat performance, two Polish soloists – soprano Maria Knapik from Carnegie Hall, New York, and baritone Boguslaw Synalski from the opera of Poznan and Wroclaw, Poland -- sang  several  duets and arias from La Boheme, Carmen, La Traviata, Rigoletto and Moniuszko’s Straszny Dwor  (The Haunted Manor) in a performance billed as “Opera Singers in Concert,” sponsored by the  Polish Chair  in the Montante Cultural Center on March 11, 2006.

Igor Lipinski appeared in yet another piano performance on March 18, 2006 in the Montante Cultural Center.  His program included selections by Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Fryderyk Chopin, as well as Ignace Jan Paderewski.

The Polish Chair presented renowned Polish film director Krzysztof Krauze and screenwriter Joanna Kos-Krauze on March 31, 2006 at the SUNYAB Center for the Arts, North Campus,  where a screening of Krauze’s latest movie, Moj Nikifor, was held.  The film received several prestigious awards (Gold Hugo Award in 2005; Crystal Globe at the Karlove Vary International Film Festival, 2005).  Moj Nikifor was based on a true story set in mid-20th century Poland.  Krauze is recognized internationally as an outstanding Polish director.  He and Joanna were present at the screening and available for comments and questions from the audience. 

Copies of the Polish Chair’s book The Polonian Legacy of Western New York and the DVD on Polish-American Churches and Shrines were offered for purchase by people attending the Polish-American Heritage Festival during the Summer of 2006 in the Hamburg Fairgrounds facility. 

Canisius students Sheri Labenski and Kimberly Majewski were awarded scholarships for study in Poland.

A display on Pope John Paul II, suggested by Wanda Slawinska, and featuring memorabilia, books, photos contributed and arranged by Edward and Geraldine Szemraj, Mary Lou Wyrobek, and Wanda, was on exhibit in the Canisius College Bouwhuis Library during the month of October 2006. 

On October 20, 2006 the award-winning  White Eagle Polish Song and Dance Ensemble (Bialy Orzel)  of Toronto, Ontario, Canada presented a colorful tour of Poland’s diverse culture and history  through song and dance in the Montante Cultural Center.  The group has traveled and performed extensively for audiences throughout Canada, the United States,  Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Puerto Rico,  Portugal, Poland and China.

The Polish Student Association at Canisius College received support from the Polish Chair for its Fall 2006 activities.

The first Annual Polish Film Showcase, featuring films from Poland, was presented in the Market  Arcade Film & Arts Center in Downtown Buffalo from November 9 -12, 2006.  Prof. Marek Haltof,  PhD., associate professor at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, was on hand on opening  night to discuss  “The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski: Variations on Destiny and Chance: Polish National Cinema.”  This event was co-sponsored by the Polish Chair, the Kosciuszko Foundation, and  the Polish Arts Club.

On December 5, 2006, two Canisius College students – Anna Bolbotowski and Erin Wright – made  an oral presentation, with video enhancement, regarding a project that would take them (and 7 other students) to Poland during the Summer of 2007 on a 2-week Service-Immersion trip, the focus of  which would be an orphanage in Zmiaca, near Cracow (Krakow).  They would be helping a young Polish Jesuit priest in a facility housing 140 children ranging from 2-11 years of age.  Campus Ministry at Canisius coordinates the project.  A campus minister – Fr. John Bucki, S.J. – would accompany the nine students.  The Polish Chair was being asked  to co-sponsor and support the event.

The arrival of the year 2007 saw Jacek Muzyk, a native of Poland and principal French horn player with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, as feature artist in “A French Horn Recital” on March 11,  2007 in the Montante Cultural Center.  He was accompanied on the piano by Igor Lipinski, a second- year student at the Eastman School of Music at the time. The program featured selections by Bozza, Bach, Poulenc, Schubert, Dukas, Gluck, Shaw, and  Arba.  All proceeds from this concert were to be  used to defray the costs of the Summer 2007 Canisius College Student Service Trip to the orphanagein Zmiaca, Poland.

The Polish Chair lent its support to Canisius College’s participation as host to the 20th Conference Anniversary of the Euro-Sim on April 2-15, 2007.  Euro-Sim is the international, intercollegiate  simulation of the European Union.  It is sponsored by the Trans-Atlantic Consortium for European Studies and Simulations.  The theme for this Euro-Sim 2007 conference was “European Union Energy Policy.”  Canisius College was one of 18 participating institutions in the conference.  Faculty advisor was John Occhipinti.  A university from Poland – the University of Lower Silesia (Wroclaw) – also participated.  Its faculty advisor was Jadwiga Dobrowolska-Dyrcz.

A concert of sacred and classical music in Christ the King Chapel on April 22, 2007 featured three generations of local Polish artists:  Matthew Tworek, retired first violinist of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; his daughter Adrienne Tworek-Gryta, well-known soloist and teacher at the Villa Maria College Institute of Music; her niece and Matthew’s granddaughter Emily Tworek-Helenbrook,  12-year old coloratura soprano.  Emily is a student of her aunt and Patricia Alexander. Dr. David Bond was the accompanist. This concert was co-sponsored by the Polish Chair and the Buffalo-Rzeszow Sister Cities, Inc.

The Polish Chair continued its yearly participation in the Polish Heritage Festival, which was held on June 8-10, 2007 on the Hamburg Fairgrounds.

Three Canisius College students were awarded Summer 2007 Scholarships for academic work and study in Poland, courtesy of the Polish Chair.  The recipients were Alixandra Krzemien, who would be teaching English; and Amy DeLuca and Janelle Tryjankowski  -- both recipients of full scholarships in conjunction with a Kosciuszko Foundation Award.

The Summer 2007 Canisius College Student Service Trip to the orphanage in Zmiaca, Poland, was beneficiary of a substantial donation of the proceeds of the “French Horn Recital” held on March 11, 2007.  This Polish Service-Immersion Trip is coordinated by Campus Ministry at Canisius.

“The Achievement of John Paul the Great” was the title of a stimulating lecture by the Pope’s official biographer George Weigel.  The lecture, co-sponsored by the Polish Chair and the Global Study of Religion, was a part of the “Conversations and Christ Lecture Series” at Canisius   George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.  He is one of America’s  leading commentators on issues of religion and public life, the author of 18 books, and a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News.  His biography of John Paul II  -- Witness to Hope – is highly  regarded as the major study of the pontiff’s life and thoughts.  The lecture was held at the Montante Cultural Center on September 27, 2007.  An exhibit on Pope John Paul II and his Papacy was  featured in the College (Bouwhuis) Library during September 2007 in conjunction with this event. 

On October 3, 2007, the performance of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra  (“The BPO on  Campus”) featuring Persis Vehar on piano was co-sponsored by the Polish Chair with ArtsCanisius. Ms. Vehar, Canisius College’s Composer-in-Residence, offered Frederic Chopin’s “Fantasy on Polish Airs” during the concert.

“A Life in the Service of Citizens,” a power-point presentation by Wanda Slawinska of the Butler Library staff at Buffalo State College, focused on Ignacio Domeyko, Polish émigré to Chile.  This Polish Chair-sponsored lecture took place on October 11, 2007 in the Canisius College Student  Center, Regis North Room.

The second annual Polish Film Showcase was featured on November 8-11, 2007 in the Market Arcade Theater.  The seven Polish films were augmented with English subtitles.  Polish film director Wieslaw Saniewski was present for an informal talk.  A gala reception was held in the Bijou Grill, Downtown, on November 9, 2007.  As she did last year, Margaret Stefanski coordinated this annual event.  This project was supported by The Kosciuszko Foundation. 

Early in 2008, an interactive discussion on the influence and universal message of novelist Joseph Conrad (Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski) took place on February 28 in the Regis Room South of the Richard E. Winter ’42 Student Center on campus.  Melvin W. Schroeder, PhD, associate professor of English, and Kenneth M. Sroka, PhD, professor of English, led the discussion.  Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Youth, and Secret Agent were the foci of the analysis.  The Polish-born English novelist, who influenced writers such as Ernest Hemingway and D.H. Lawrence, is regarded a precursor of modernist literature.  Joseph Conrad was the subject of the first  (pre-“Polish Chair Day”} presentation  50+ years ago on March 27, 1957 at Canisius – a Symposium in honor of the first centenary of the writer’s birth. This 2008 event was meant to mark the sesquicentennial.

A moving interactive theatrical presentation entitled Life in a Jar was given on  March 29,2008 in the Montante Cultural Center.  It related the remarkable story of Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who worked throughout the Nazi occupation in Poland during World War II to save Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. The title of the play derives from Irena’s practice of keeping lists of the children’s real names in jars which she buried in a garden.  The children, who were adopted by Polish families,  would one day learn their true identities when the contents of the jars were opened.  Life in a Jar was the product of a group of high school students from Uniontown, Kansas.  They researched the heroic life of Irena Sendler in 1999 as a class project, which culminated in their production of this poignant play. Students from Kansas were the principal performers in this Canisius presentation.  This event was co-sponsored by the Polish Chair, the Holocaust Resource Center, and the Conversations in Christ & Culture Lecture and Performance Series at Canisius College.

The film Zegota  -- tragically related to the Irena Sendler story – was screened in the Canisius College Student Center on April 6, 2008.  This viewing was the second such presentation sponsored by the Polish Chair -- the first having occurred 14 years earlier on May 6, 1994.  The unfathomable and catastrophic act of genocide perpetrated by the Nazi occupation forces in Poland against the Jewish people is graphically retold in this documentary.  It honors the memory of those heroic individuals who risked their lives in their attempt to save some of the Jewish population.  

Slawomir Jozefowicz, PhD, the Kosciuszko Foundation scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo and professor of political science at the University of Warsaw, Poland, was invited to speak on “Poland’s Relations with the European Union and the United States – Priorities of the New Government.”  The lecture took place on April 7, 2008 in the Horan O’Donnell Science Building, Room 107. It was co-sponsored by the Polish Chair and the Department of European Studies at Canisius College.

“A Performance of Classical, Sacred, and Polish Folk Music” featuring popular soprano Mary Beth Wrobel with pianist Rasa Stalygiene was staged on April 27, 2008 in the Montante Cultural Center. Selections by Chopin, Mozart, Lauridsen and Moniuszko represented the classical offerings on the program. The sacred songs included  Webber’s Pie Jesu, Caccini’s Ave Maria, and Sager & Foster’s “The Prayer.”  Popular tunes by Hammerstein II (“It’s a Grand Night for Singing”), Wildhorn’s (I Never Knew His Name”) and  Sartori, Quarantotto & Peterson’s  (“Time to Say Goodbye” –Con Te Partiro) rounded out a delightful Sunday afternoon of vocal renditions by the fresh and ebullient voice of a local favorite soloist.  Added as a special feature of the program were two instrumental duets by Mary Beth ‘s Lithuanian-born  accompanist Rasa Stalygiene, together with her husband Jonas on the bass fiddle. In an unexpected encore, Mary Beth revealed her penchant for a musical form not hitherto featured in her Montante Center appearances – that of jazz music.  She offered spirited renditions of “Fever,” and “Bye Bye, Blackbird.”  All of the proceeds from this concert were offered to help defray some of the expenses of 10 Canisius College students who would spend a part of the Summer 2008. working with orphaned, abandoned and abused children in an orphanage in Zmiaca, Poland.

An impressive exhibit dedicated to former U.S. President Herbert Hoover was on display at the  Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum , 453 Porter Avenue, near the Kleinhan Music Hall, from June 14 through September 30, 2008.  The Polish Chair was one of the sponsors of this event.  The exhibit featured photos, documents, posters and banners  from Poland’s National Archives and those of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.  President Herbert Hoover managed a massive relief effort for the Polish people after World War I – a fact not well-known by many people.  There are, no doubt, some immigrants from Poland of that era living in the Buffalo area today who were recipients of the food offered to the people of the beleaguered nation in its time of need.  The Polish nation has remained exceedingly grateful for this act of American generosity.  Credit is given to Dr. Peter Gessner who was responsible for managing to bring the exhibit to Buffalo.

Another concert, the proceeds of which would again benefit the Canisius College Ministry trip to Zmiaca, Poland, was presented on September 21, 2008 in the Montante Cultural Center under the sponsorship of the Polish Chair.  On this occasion, Mary Beth Wrobel was joined by Emily Tworek- Helenbrook and Brittany Mruczek in a performance billed as “Three Polish Sopranos.”  Once again, the three-fold theme revolved around the classical, sacred, and Polish folk music genres.  Recognizing the talents of three young, poised,  local Polish-American “rising stars,” the Polish Chair proudly presents this trio of damsels to the Western New York audience.   

Radical Gratitude is the title of a book which records the experiences of the family of Andy Bienkowsi, deported from Poland to Siberia during World War II.  Co-authored with Mary L. Akers, the chronicle presents a vivid account of the impact Bienkowski’s childhood had upon his philosophy of life and subsequently upon his work as a clinical therapist.  Radical Gratitude was the subject of a lecture and discussion, followed by a book-signing, in the Grupp Fireside Lounge in the Student Center sponsored by the Polish Chair on October 8, 2008.

Several venues provided the screening of the seven Polish films highlighted during the Polish Chair’s third annual Polish Film Showcase from November 6 to November 9, 2008.  The Regis Room in the Richard E. Winter ’42 Student Center was the site on November 6 for the presentation of two Krzysztof Kopczynski films Kamienna Cisza (“Stone Silence”)  and Pierwszy Dzien (“First Day”).  Jerzy Stuhr’s Korowod (“Twist of Fate”) and Tomasz Konecki’s Lejdis (“Ladies”) were also screened in the Regis Room on the following day, November 7.  The remaining three films were showcased off campus, in the community.  The famed Polish film maker’s – Andrzej Wajda’s – production of Katyn (“Katyn Forest Massacre”) played to a sold-out audience in the Palace Theatre, 31 Buffalo Street, in Hamburg NY on November 8.  Of all of the Polish films shown during the three years of the Polish Chair’s sponsorship of the film festival, Katyn was perhaps the most provocative, the most sensitive, the most striking.  It evoked memories and feelings of many in the audience who knew of, or actually identified with, this monumental tragedy.  The final two films were offered on November 9 in the Adam Mickiewicz Library, 612 Fillmore Ave., on Buffalo’s East Side.  Audiences viewed “52%,” directed by Rafal Skalski,  and Stara Basn (“When the Sun Was a God”) directed by Jerzy Hoffman.  All of the films were in Polish with English subtitles.  They represent some of outstanding efforts in the film medium in today’s Poland.

The advent of the year 2009 would mark a significant milestone in the history of the Polish Chair – its 50th anniversary.  The first program of the year featured a lecture which emphasized the unique  relationship between  Pope John Paul II and the Jewish people – Jewish-Catholic Dialogue and the Legacy of John Paul II.  It was given in the Regis Room of the Student Center on February 1, 2009 by a distinguished scholar – Rabbi David Novak, holder of the J.Richard and Dorothy Shift Chair of Jewish Studies at  the University of Toronto. Dr. Novak reinforced the monumental role – both philosophical and personal -- which the beloved Polish Pope played in establishing a positive  openness between two of the world’s major faiths.  At one point in his presentation Rabbi Novak quipped that if the Catholic Church failed to canonize John Paul II,  the Jewish people certainly would. He addressed the sensitive issue of the recent rescinding of the excommunication of Bishop Richard  Williamson and fielded a variety of questions from the audience ranging from the Holocaust to the role played by some of the major religious and political figures who were the major participants  in the dreadful events that marked World War II. Dr. Novak’s appearance was co-sponsored by the Conversations in Christ & Culture Lecture and Performance Series at Canisius College.

The official event which marked the Golden Jubilee of the Polish Chair’s existence occurred on  March 27, 2009 in the Montante Cultural Center before a near-capacity audience.  The local and very popular ArsNova Musicians Chamber Orchestra, under the masterful baton of Marylouise Nanna, its music director and conductor, performed in concert.  Featured were works by five Polish composers (Moszkowski, Moniuszko, Paderewski, Chopin and Bacewicz);  two other European artists (Grieg and Haydn); and a local musical arranger (Robert Nowak), now residing in New York City. Fourteen-year-old coloratura soprano Emily Tworek-Helenbrook and Buffalo Philharmonic’s principal horn, French horn player Jacek Muzyk, were featured soloists.  A moving grand-finale included Robert Nowak’s “Prelude for Strings on Serdeczna Matko,” followed by a communal rendition of the well-known, sacred hymn between Tworek-Helenbrook and the audience.

The Polish Chair’s observance of its 50th anniversary will continue throughout 2009 and into the following year, when an exhibit entitled “A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People” will be presented in the Karpeles Library Museum from April to June 2010.

(N.B.}  Overlooked in this narrative was the donation of a Polish Bible to Canisius College via the Polish Chair by Mrs. Anne (Szczepanek)  McColl on July 1, 1977.

ALSO –

On October 3, 2007, the performance of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra  (“The BPO on  Campus”) featuring Persis Vehar on piano was co-sponsored by the Polish Chair with ArtsCanisius. Ms. Vehar, Canisius College’s Composer-in-Residence, offered Frederic Chopin’s “Fantasy on Polish Airs” during the concert.