Orchard LakeAugust 26, 2009
Exhibit tells story of Polish suffering in World War II
By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer
Drawing by Jan Komski. Artwork provided
ORCHARD LAKE — Seventy years after Nazi Germany invaded Poland, local history buffs will soon have another chance to reflect upon World War II.
The Polish Mission at Orchard Lake Schools will host WWII Commemoration Sept. 1, 5 and 6 on the campus of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. According to event organizers, the exhibit will remember the veterans and Polish people who saw the war and its suffering firsthand.
“Our goal is to tell a fuller, richer story of the history of WWII,” said Ceil Wendt Jensen, Polonica Americana Research Institute director and genealogist for the Polish Mission.
Jensen said the occupation of Poland has direct ties to some Michigan residents, and their stories are largely untold and unknown to the public, she said. “Often they would only speak to other Poles about it, and they wouldn’t tell the rest of the community,” she said.
The event will honor veterans for their service — including those from Poland’s Air Force, 2nd Polish Army Corps, and the resistance movement, the Home Army.
The exhibit will also feature Holocaust survivors’ artwork, shed light on Catholic survivors of German and Soviet camps, and teach visitors how to locate survivor records.
According to Jensen, some camp inmates were actually Michiganders born to Polish U.S. immigrants. They had returned to Poland after World War I because they expected to live in a newly formed, independent Poland, she said.
But when Germany invaded the country on Sept. 1, 1939 — with the Soviet Union invading weeks later — that dream came to an end.
According to Jensen, 6 million Polish citizens died in World War II — including approximately 3 million Christians and 3 million Jews. She said community leaders, local officials, priests, teachers, lawyers and doctors were particularly targeted.
“Many Americans, including those of Polish descent, don’t realize that the first people to be incarcerated and killed in Nazi concentration camps in Poland were the Polish Catholic intelligentsia,” she said.
To make the exhibit part of a relevant, continuing Polish-American history, the event will create a time capsule, fill special guest books with signatures and feature a dance called the Polonaise to honor the military.
“We’re really using the arts to tell this story,” Jensen said.
Polish Mission Director Marcin Chumiecki said he hopes to see people of all nationalities attend the event.
“We are a part of the community,” he said. “(The Mission) was like a hidden jewel for so long. My biggest goal is to bring people over and let them see the Polish culture.”
The Polish Mission’s WWII Commemoration will be held Sept. 1, 5 and 6 on the campus of St. Mary’s Preparatory, 3535 Indian Trail, in Orchard Lake. The exhibit is partly funded by the Michigan Humanities Council. For more information, call (248) 623-0412 or visit www.polishmission.com.
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