By Michael A. Szymanski
I was pleased to read the item from Andrzej Ładak with comments in general about Polish Americans participating in politics and specifically about the candidacy of Doug Skrzyniarz for the Sterling Heights city council. Having grown up in what I view as a politically oriented family (my father was Auditor General for the State of Michigan during the Mennen Williams administration and thereafter an appointed and then elected judge for the rest of his career, two of my brothers have been and one still is an elected judge, and my older brother I am sure would acknowledge he is “active” in politics even without running for office) the under-representation of Polonia in American politics was not a matter I gave much thought. I do know that, Polish or otherwise, we need more good politicians in office, men and women who have the good of the country as well as the good of the local constituency at heart. On Andy’s recommendation and because of the way Doug spells his last name, I wish I could vote for Doug, but I don’t live in Sterling Heights. If you do, or if you know someone who does, you might want to put in a vote or a good word for Doug.
Speaking of politics, I note that among the news from Poland, we report that Poland’s prime minister and foreign minister are listed in Foreign Policy magazine as two of the 500 most influential people in the world. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski are “virtually the only representatives from Central and Eastern Europe outside of Russia” who made the list. Many individuals of Polish stock have strong leadership qualities.
Another interesting aspect of Andrzej’s remarks is the issue of just what “Polonia” means. Who are “Polonians”? He mentions the “hard-core” Polish speaking people who feel major allegiance to and interest in Poland, the non-Pole who marries a Pole, the non-Pole who is simply interested in Polish affairs or culture, and the individual who has some small percentage of Polish blood but no real affinity to or interest in Poland. All of these types are among my friends and acquaintances. It behooves us to think about this question because, as Andrzej observes, the younger generations are less inclined to participate in the “top-down” traditional hierarchical Polish organizations that we take for granted. When Poland was more directly engaged in a struggle for freedom from Russian/communist rule, it was easy to unite Polonia. It is more difficult now that threats on Polish sovereignty and freedom are less imminent and less defined. I think it would be great to hear from our readers what their thoughts are on the proper composition and goals for the future of Polonia.
A also note among our news items an observation by John Micgiel, a political scientist and historian at Columbia University in New York, that negative stereotypes of the Polish and Polish Americans are “slowly disappearing.” I am glad to hear that, and Micgiel’s observation is consistent with my own, but we still need to challenge those stereotypes when they surface.