|Abstract:||The collection relates directly to the two positions held by A. A. Mazewski in the Polish American community over the years: presidency of the Polish National Alliance and of the Polish American Congress. The records cover, roughly, the period of Mazewski’s leadership of both organizations, that is the years from 1968 to his death in 1988.|
Donated by the Polish National Alliance of the United States of North America. Chicago, Illinois in October 1989. Processing work made possible by a grant from the PNA. Inventory compiled by Anna D. Jaroszynska-Kirchmann… With the Assistance of Timo Riippa and Halyna Myroniuk. In 2004, it was included in the IHRC Collections Database and prepared for encoding and display on the IHRC website by Lisa Stretz and Daniel Necas.
Aloysius A. Mazewski was born in North Chicago, Illinois, on January 5, 1916. His father, Felix, came to the United States when he was 14 years old. His mother, Harriet (nee Konieczny), was born in Chicago Heights. Mazewski began his education at St. Mary of the Angels School and then attended Lane Technical High School in Chicago. Already as a high school student, he became involved in Polonia’s youth activities, organizing Polish Clubs in several Chicago high schools, including his own. In 1932 he was also instumental in placing Polish language and culture instruction in the Lane Technical High School curriculum. He served as president of the Polish Students’ Club at Lane, the Chicago Polish Students Association, and the Polish American Junior League. Mazewski continued his education with pre-legal courses at the Central YMCA College and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. In 1940 he graduated from De Paul University College of Law with a J.D. degree. He also did some postgraduate work at John Marshall Law School. He entered the general private practice of law and was admitted to practice before the State of Illinois Federal Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. He also served as master in chancery, Circuit Court of Cook County; member of the Arbitration Board; vice-president and director of Metropolitan State Bank; and an attorney for the Cook County Treasurer. Mazewski practiced law from June 1940 through 1967, except for four years in military service. After the outbreak of World War II, Mazewski enlisted as a private in July of 1941. His military duties included service as an adjutant of Army and Navy General Hospital, Hot Springs, Arkansas; law member of General Courts Martial and trial judge advocate in General and Special Courts Martial; and Summary Court Officer. He received the Army Com-mendation Medal and was honorably discharged with the rank of major. When back in law practice, Mazewski became involved in local politics. He was precinct captain in the 41st ward and then president of the ward organization. Throughout his entire legal career, Mazewski actively participated in the life of the Polish American community. He was involved in the Polish National Alliance, the largest Polish fraternal in the United States, from his early years, when his father was a lodge leader. Mazewski himself began to play this role in Council 41 during the 1930s. In 1947 he was elected to the national Board of Directors of the PNA and won reelection to the board in 1951. Although he was defeated for a third term on the board in 1955, he stayed active in Alliance politics. As opposition to long-term president of the PNA and Polish American Congress (PAC) Charles Rozmarek formed within the ranks of Polonia activists, Mazewski supported anti-Rozmarek factions in the PNA. In 1963 Mazewski challenged Rozmarek for the PNA president’s office, but lost his bid. Four years later, in 1967, he was overwhelmingly elected the PNA president. A year later Mazewski replaced Rozmarek also in the post of Polist American Congress president, gathering in his hands two of the most powerful positions in American Polonia. As the PNA leader, Mazewski initiated a broad range of changes within the organization. Under his supervision, the fraternal’s insurance program was modernized and broadened. The PNA investment portfolio was restructured in order to establish solid financial foundations for the Alliance’s future. Internal organization of the PNA was revitalized by the influx of Mazewski’s supporters to the main offices. The Board of Directors, as well as the five-member Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, intensified their work, focusing on the needs of the national organization. Both PNA newspapers, Zgoda and Dziennik Zwiazkowy, were given a new direction and management by the new editors Joseph Wiewiora and Jan Krawiec, respectively. Major emphasis was placed on the activities of the chief sales representative. Some new positions were created too, such as director of fraternal activities and director of public relations. Between 1975 and 1977 Mazewski initiated “Project Scan and Renovate”, designed to evaluate systematically the activities and membership of local lodges all over the country. Its results were to give the Chicago home office a better orientation to the actual conditions of the grass roots units. Under Mazewski’s leadership, the PNA increased its membership as well as its insurance sales. It also put more emphasis on attracting youth into the fraternal by organizing various sport activities, holding youth jamborees on the Alliance College campus, and sponsoring education scholarships. The Alliance focused on the proper representation of Polonia in American society. Significant actions included moving the Third of May annual parade to the Chicago downtown area, transferring the Kosciuszko monument to more attractive surroundings by the Adler Planetarium, and moving the PNA home office to a new and modern building away from the declining district where it was previously located. Mazewski himself, as well, as his officers, traveled tirelessly around the county, visiting local groups and lodges and participating in their various activities and celebrations. His hundreds of speeches were designed to honor the past of the PNA and encourage work for the future of the organization. While fulfilling all his duties as PNA President, Mazewski also devoted a considerable amount of time to his responsibilities as Polish American Congress leader. As much as he attempted to separate these two administrative functions, they often overlapped, since the PAC structure traditionally depended in large measure on PNA support. Immediately after his election in 1968, Mazewski initiated steps to revitalize activities of the Congress. The next national convention took place only two years later, in 1970, and introduced a number of statutory changes. One of the most significant achievements was the creation of eighteen special commissions designed to deal with specific problems faced by the Congress at that time. Among them were the Commisssion on Press, Radio and TV Programs; Commission on Polish Press in English Language; Industry, Commerce and Labor Commission; Commission on Civic and Political Activities; Commission on Polish Affairs; Polish Language Teaching Commission; Commission on Study of Polish American History and Culture; Commission on Polish American Fraternal Organizations; Commission on Teaching of Polish American History; and Commission on Veterans Affairs. One of the most active and effective commissions was the PAC Civic Alertness Commission, which was created in response to the upsurge of anti-Polish sentiment in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The so-called “Polish jokes” were finding their way in different forms both into American media and schools. The need to combat the blatant defamation and to upgrade the Polish image resulted in broad action by the PAC, led by Chicago attorney Thaddeus Kowalski and Connecticut judge Thaddeus Maliszewski. Official protests were directed toward TV networks and their sponsors, book publishers, actors, producers, as well as manufacturers and distributors of offensive objects. Guidelines on how to counteract derogatory humor in social or professional situations were propagated among members of the Polish American community. As a result of these and other actions, defamation decreased substantially by the late 1970s. A similarly difficult task confronted the Commission on Polish-Jewish relations, which faced a problem of mutual distrust and accusations between both groups in America. The PAC aimed at clearing up many misunderstandings and bad feelings and establishing better working relationships with the Jewish community in the United States. In 1980 Mazewski became one of the two Polish Americans whom President Carter appointed to serve on the sixty-one-member United States Holocaust Memorial Commission. The Congress also became involved on the interantional scene, acting often on behalf of the Polish nation still under Communist oppression. Mazewski was a member of the U.S. delegation to Brussels, Belgium, for briefing on NATO and the European Common Market in 1973. The PAC supported the Helsinki human rights agreement of 1975 and closely followed its implementation in relation to the Eastern European countries, and especially Poland. Mazewski personally participated in the U.S. delegation to the Geneva Conference on European Security in 1974 and the Madrid Human Rights Conference in 1980. Furthermore, President Nixon appointed him alternate representative of the United States to the 25th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in the fall of 1970. Mazewski became the first Polish American to serve as the U.S. delegate to the UN. In 1986 President Reagan appointed him a U.S. delegate to the Vienna Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The PAC under Mazewski’s leadership did not reverse its previous stance on the political situation in Poland, condemning the Communist regime in Poland and supporting the Polish nation’s struggle to regain its independence. In accordance with this position, the Congress boycotted official visits of Polish Communist Party representatives in the United States and voiced its protest against their acceptance by the American government. The regime’s diplomatic representatives were persona non grata with the Congress. The PAC lobbied on behalf of Radio Free Europe, the American station providing uncensored information in Polish from the territory of West Germany. The PAC condemned the 1970 and 1976 bloody suppression of the workers’ protests in Poland. After the 1980 creation of the Solidartiy trade union, the PAC fully supported the movement and its leader, Lech Walesa. It lobbied for economic assistance to Poland before the imposition of martial law in December of 1981, and after it, for economic sanctions. Lifting of sanctions was tied to political concessions on the part of the Communist regime. During that time Mazewski and other PAC leaders served as President Reagan’s advisers on the situation in Poland, being regularly consulted by the White House on some political decisions in this respect. Despite this harsh stand, the PAC drew a clear distinction between political reality and the needs of the Polish nation. As early as 1980, the PAC responded to an appeal of Lech Walesa to create a “medicine bank” and collect medical supplies unavailable in Poland. The PAC Charitable Foundation coordinated this action in the United States as well as in seventeen other countries involved in the effort. In 1981 the PAC initiated a Food for Poland campaign in order to bring relief to the most impoverished groups of Polish society during the harsh economic crises. The Relief Fund for Poland was established; and by the end of April 1983, total PAC-sponsored aid was estimated to exceed $33 million. A special immediate action of sending medical supplies and baby formula was organized in 1986 after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster, which affected vast territories of eastern and northern Poland. In each case the supplies were distributed solely through private channels with the help of the Catholic Church networks in Poland. Throughout the entire period of Mazewski’s presidency, the Congress kept close working relations with the Catholic Church. In 1969 Mazewski visited Rome, where he met Pope Paul VI and presented him with a memorandum on ethnic parish life among Polonia in the United States as well as on the absence of Polish Americans in the Roman Catholic hierarchy. In 1978 Mazewski attended Pope John Paul II’s installation in Rome as a U.S. delegate for investiture of the pope and subsequently met him during the pope’s visits to America. In 1981 Mazewski visited Poland for the first (and last) time, as a member of the U.S. official delegation to the funeral of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, Polish primate and archbishop. As the leader of American Polonia, Mazewski was also appointed to the Volunteer Action Committee and the Federal Ethnic Studies Commission. He developed a program of promoting outstanding Polish Americans to the higher administrative positions in the American government and successfully suported many of them to their new offices. In 1976 President Gerald Ford signed the Polish Veterans’ Act, which provided medical benefits to the Polish veterans of world wars living in the United States. Mazewski was also instrumental in the passage in December 1987 of the legislation providing permanent residence status to Polish refugees, until then on a temporary extended voluntary departure basis. As a result, a large number of Polish immigrants who entered this country before the Polish martial law and refugees of the 1980s were able to remain in the United States. Mazewski also urged President Reagan to double current ceilings on refugee admission from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, which was authorized by a presidential act in March 1988. Mazewski represented American Polonia to the larger Polish immigrant diaspora. He participated in numerous conferences and meetings of the representatives of Polish communities in different countries. He became one of the sponsors of the Polonia Conference of the Free World in 1975, which initiated closer cooperation of Polish communities in various parts of the world, led by the Free World Polonia Coordinating Council. During the Mazewski years, ties with the Canadian Polish Congress were also strengthened and developed into effective and friendly cooperation in many areas. In 1982 Mazewski was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Daemen College in Amherst, New York. He also received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the College of Saint Rose, Albany, New York in 1987. Other honors included being named “Man of the Year” by the Polish Daily News in 1968: “Man of the Year” by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans in 1973; and “Veteran of the Year” by Combined Veterans in 1980. He was the recipient of the “Cross of Fighting Poland”, awarded by the Polish Army Veterans Association in 1976; the “Millennium of Poland Medicua Gold Medal” awarded by the Polish American Medical Society in 1976; and the “Award of Merit”, presented by the Advocates Society in 1983. In 1985 Mazewski received the “Medal of Recognition” of the Kosciuśzko Foundation and in 1986, the “Ellis Island Medal of Honor”. Aloysius A. Mazewski died on August 3, 1988. His funeral in Chicago turned into an impressive Polonia demonstration of support for the politics and person of the long-time leader of the Polish American community. 1) Although hardly any scholarly discussion of the Alliance’s history in this period exists, Donald E. Pienkos’ PNA: A Centennial History of the Polish National Alliance of North America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984) provides the most data on Mazewski’s presidency up to 1982-83. Interested researchers should also consult numberous PNA publications, and expecially Dziennik Zwiazkowy and Zgoda. 2) See Donald E. Pienkos, For Your Freedom Through Ours: Polish American Efforts on Poland’s Behalf, 1863-1991 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991). 3) For more detailed information on the various activities of the PAC in this and previous periods, see Donald E. Pienkos, “The Polish American Congress – An Appraisal”, Polish American Studies 36, no. 2 (Autumn 1979): 5-43; idem, PNA: Centennial History, 187-206; 279-297; idem, For Your Freedom, passim; PAC Newsletter; Dziennik Zwiazkowy; miscellaneous materials in the IHRC manuscript collection. 4) Biography of Aloysius A. Mazewski, Polish American Congress Newsletter Special Edition, August 4, 1988.
The collection of A. A. Mazewski’s papers includes the following series of records: I. PNA Organizational Records. boxes 1-12 II. PNA Financial Records boxes 12-14 III. Alliance Printers and Publishers boxes 15-21 IV. Alliance College boxes 21-32 V. PNA Activities boxes 32-38 VI. PNA/PAC General Correspondence boxes 39-61 VII. PNA/PAC Correspondence with Other Organizations boxes 62-76 VIII. PNA/PAC Correspondence with Individuals boxes 77-91 IX. PNA/PAC Activities and Events boxes 92-101 X. PAC Organizational Records boxes 102-115 XI. PAC Correspondence with State Divisions boxes 116-123 XII. PAC Anti-Defamation Action boxes 124-128 XIII. PAC Charitable Foundation and the Relief boxes129-136 Fund for Poland XIV. PAC/PNA International Involvement boxes 137-149 XV. PAC Miscellaneous Records and Newspaper Clippings boxes 150-157
The Mazewski, Aloysius collection is available for public research.
The Mazewski, Aloysius collection is the physical property of the Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota.
For further information regarding the copyright, please contact the IHRC.
The Mazewski, Aloysius Papers, Polish American Collection, Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota
|Polish National Alliance of the United States of North America|
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