By Michael A. Szymanski
Now that the year is almost at its end, it seems as if 2013 has passed very swiftly. Christmas is upon us, and I join the others involved in producing the Polish Weekly in wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Elsewhere in this issue you will find a variety of Christmas related stories that will touch your heart, bring back your own memories, and perhaps even amaze you with the quiet courage it sometimes takes to “do the right thing.” I can make my “observations,” but I can’t match the experiences of Alicja Karlic, Frank Dmuchowski or Andrew Ladak, or many others who have contributed various parts of their stories to this newspaper over the years.
Andy Ladak’s “Christmas in Vietnam” story touches me because the Vietnam War was the war of my generation. I was a student at the University of Michigan and I was subject to the first Lottery draft. I remember thinking that I had to be ready to fight and die for my country, but for me the necessity never arose and by the time I finished school at Michigan, American troops had been pulled out of the conflict.
Frank Dmuchowski’s story of a past Christmas spent in Krakow and his search for the perfect Christmas tree brings back memories of my trip to Poland with my mother and my brother Frank. We visited the Old Town area, or “Stare Miasto” that Frank speaks of, more than once while in Krakow, visiting the Sukennice in the center of the great market square and some of the jazz clubs around its perimeter later that night. It wasn’t Christmas time, but a festive atmosphere was in the air.
Alicja Karlic tells her story of a harrowing Christmas Eve under Martial Law in Poland in 1980. That was the year I graduated from Wayne State University law school, long before my involvement in the Polish Weekly. I was a second generation Polish American who was proud of my heritage, but somewhat remote from the events unfolding in Poland. Alicja’s story touches me more deeply now than it did then as I think of that part of Poland’s past, and the feelings I have remind me why it is so important that these stories be told and retold.
The re-telling of important stories is a subject of JJ Przewozniak’s item “What to do with Memory…” concerning the Polish Mission of the Orchard Lake Schools. The Katyn story is the subject matter, and JJ notes that the Polish Mission recently hosted the traveling exhibition The Destruction of the Polish Elite: Operation AB – Katyn, and that Orchard Lake Teacher Mrs. Shannon Harrison has incorporated the subject matter of the exhibit and its related educational materials into the Orchard Lake Prep School curriculum, which I think is a great addition.
Another fine piece of Christmas story telling is Victoria Galanty’s article telling of the Christmas customs observed in her household and the variety of ways that a Polish Christmas can be celebrated, some of which she has learned about through her involvement in the Polish Club at one of my favorite places, the University of Michigan, but I have to close on a personal note to three of my siblings who graduated from Michigan State University: Congratulations, and Go Spartans! Win the Rose Bowl!