The Polish Mission and the Polish American Numismatic Society join forces to promote Polish culture and education
For most people enchanted by history, the objects that witnessed a time and place in the past are meaningful mementos of a personal fascination of bygone years. Small tokens that witnessed history are not only revered reminders of the past, but actual witnesses to history. We at The Polish Mission salute those who have taken the time to preserve and curate their own collections of artifacts! Protecting the relics of the past is a job that isn’t reserved just for the museums and big institutions, but rather, it falls on each of us, as private individuals, to ensure the protection of those collections long into the future.
It was only a few short years ago that we at The Polish Mission received an outstanding lifelong numismatic collection from a most generous benefactor. Because of that, we’re proud to own one of America’s most comprehensive collections of Polish, and Vatican coins. After numerous evaluations, careful photographic documentation, and meticulous organizing, we’re excited to plan a one-of-a-kind educational exhibition documenting Poland’s history through coins at our soon-to-be-renovated and expanded Galeria. Having the opportunity to create this unique and innovative exhibit is a privilege for which we’re most thankful for our benefactor, because were it not for him, this program would never happen. It was only through the very personal dedication of a single person that we’ll be able to have a most meaningful educational program. It goes without saying that being in our position is a real privilege, to be able to harness the emotional and educational power of collections like these, but the point is, that we couldn’t do it without the people who gathered them together in the first place.
The reason for bringing this seemingly obvious point to the front is to draw attention to the contributions we as individuals can make toward the future. Most people have collections of their own, and thanks to the gathering and organizing of them, our descendants will have great resources to learn about our history.
That’s why we’re so very happy to be connected to P.A.N.S., the Polish American Numismatic Society. Thanks to our unique friendship, fostered over our substantial coin collections, we’ve been able to get in-depth consultation from experts like President Les Rosik and Treasurer Brett Irick. Since our coin collection is fully documented in photographs, it was easy to share, so Messrs. Rosik and Irick were able to get up to speed quickly by looking through the group at the swipe of a finger. Over the last couple months, we couldn’t be happier with their consultations on everything coin-related, from storage solutions, to valuation, and everything in-between!
Thanks to this newfound partnership, Messrs. Rosik and Irick invited us to be featured exhibitors at the annual PANS/HVNS (Huron Valley Numismatic Society, of Highland, Michigan) Polish coin show, held on Sunday August 27. For such an opportunity, it was all hands on deck, and I was joined by Polish Mission Director Marcin Chumiecki, and Polish Language Coordinator Marzanna Owinski to put on and manage a very special display.
The show itself was a sight to behold. The entire Polish Cultural center in Troy was filled with seemingly endless rows of tables, each bearing hundreds of coins and other artifacts. The gold and silver coins from all over the world glimmered under bright lights, where dealers and eager guests seemed to spend at least half their time bent at the waist to inspect the finest details in the little treasures that were admired, and bought & sold. Some dealers came with cases upon cases of złoty, silver dollars, ducats and shillings, while others brought only a few fine pieces from their collections. Common collectible coins could be bought by the handful for a few dollars, but other tables contained priceless mementos like Mr. Rosik’s “Jadwiga Denar.” Queen Jadwiga (who was canonized a saint in 1997) was Poland’s first female monarch, reigning from 1384 to her death in 1399. A coin (denar) of that vintage marked it as one of the oldest Polish coins in the entire show. Mr. Rosik drew attention to it, as well as another coin from the reign of King Jan Kazimierz (John II Casimir Vasa), the last king of Poland with a blood connection to the Jagiellonian dynasty. His reign from 1648-68 was plagued by strife as Henryk Sienkiewicz so famously described in The Deluge, which was an important factor on the desirability and rarity of Mr. Rosik’s early złoty, a type issued between 1663-66.
It was our utmost honor to bring some special artifacts there for display alongside all the other ancient and modern treasures, including our silver and crystal crucifix attributed to Queen Bona Sforza (1494-1557), the Italian wife of Polish King Sigismund I (the Old), and two original letters sent by Queen Bona, each of which bear her signature. Guests happily browsed through the digital slideshow of our coin collection while admiring the artifacts, which were kept safely locked under glass in cases generously provided by our friends at PANS. Only a few guests were familiar with the reign of Bona Regina, so we were proud to share some Polish history alongside the beautiful (and very rare) artifacts.
The opportunity to share some of our very best artifacts was matched by the opportunity to promote our efforts in Polish language education. All in all, the show was a great way to introduce (and re-introduce) our organization to a community of passionate individuals. Our entire Polish Mission team spent the day at the show, each of us sharing our mission with the guests who came to our tables, and enjoying the great company of some old and new friends, including Wikiera Foundation Board Member Mr. Mike Obloy & his wife Jo, and Polish Mission board member Mrs. Genia Gorecki & her husband Ted.
The most special moment of the show was near the end. After we had secured our artifacts and packed our equipment for the journey home, we paid a visit to a new friend, Mr. Miroslaw Dzieciatko and his wife Jadwiga. Mr. Dzieciatko is a member of PANS, who had his collection on display amidst the rows and rows of collectibles. His collection was made up of a variety of coins, medals, and paper money, including an excellent group some of Poland’s early banknotes, a type issued during WWI. Among the collection, something special caught our attention because of our close association with the Polish Falcons of America. It’s a small copper-colored commemorative medal that was a memento of the September 6-10, 1914 Polish Falcons convention and rally in Buffalo NY. The history surrounding the little souvenir tells a fascinating Polish story: when the medal was issued, Europe had been plunged into war, and Poland, under partitions by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russia, and Germany, began a disastrous existence as the Tsar and Kaiser pitted Pole against Pole, all while the countryside and cities became battlegrounds. Poles in America advocated assistance to the Polish victims, and called for independence amidst the European tragedy, and the Falcons led the charge. The Buffalo convention was the largest Falcons gathering in the history of the organization, with over 2,000 people in attendance, including about 1,300 uniformed Falcons who performed military exercises. A group of 379 core Falcons delegates from 270 “nests” across the U.S. were present at that convention, during which the group redefined its purpose to become the nucleus of a Polish-American Army. That same month, the Polish Falcons officially joined an all-Polonia federation based in Chicago, the Polish Central Relief Committee (Polski Centralny Komitet Ratunkowy) aimed at organizing relief for their beleaguered ancestral home by collecting medical supplies, clothing, and donations. October of 1914 was a launch point from which the Polish Falcons of America leapt to support Polish Independence, and the convention in Buffalo was an important event that helped put everything in motion.
It’s stories like that that that give meaning to our collections. The little mementos of yesteryear remind us all of the history that we safeguard against being forgotten. What makes the above story even more special is that Mr. Dzieciatko donated the meaningful medal to us. Thanks to his work in finding and keeping this special artifact, it will have a new life here in Orchard Lake in our coming exhibition honoring the Polish Falcons, and Poland in the First World War.
Please join The Polish Mission in thanking the Polish American Numismatic Society not only for their support of our purpose here at The Polish Mission, but for their fervent engagement with our shared Polish history. Thanks to their example, we’re inspired even more to advance our “Polish” mission wherever we go. It’s our hope that collectors and communities will look to them as an example of professionalism, friendliness, and genuine passion for our past.
As always, we’d love to hear from you in Orchard Lake! Please see www.polishmission.com to catch up all the news, and reach out to us anytime to share your own collections!