As part of their annual convention, this year held in Baltimore, the American Council for Polish Culture honored Senator Barbara Mikulski for her contributions to everything Polish.
“Senator Barbara Mikulski began her career in Baltimore as a social worker, and ever since has tried to make a difference in her community,” said ACPC President Debbie Majka, noting that Mikulski was the first Democratic woman Senator elected “in her own right,” and is the longest-serving woman Senator in history.
“I have to stand on my little stool,” joked Mikulski, who is shorter than five feet, as she took the podium, “but I’ll stand up for the Polish community every chance I get.”
The luncheon and awards ceremony was held at Holy Rosary Church, a S. Chester St. Catholic church that still offers Mass in the Polish language.
“It’s here that groups have kept our history and culture alive,” Mikulski said. “Holy Rosary has been our church home and community home for so long.”
She noted the church’s history, starting with its founding in 1887 and through occasions such as its solidarity with the Polish people as their country fell under martial law, and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla’s visit in 1976.
“There was the future pope of the Roman Catholic Church, here at Holy Rosary,” said Mikulski.
She said that the church, with its bilingual English-and-Polish school, was a major “bridge to citizenship” for Polish immigrants.
Mikulski was also recognized for her own efforts to add Poland to the U.S.’s visa-waiver program.
“What would’ve happened if [Marie Curie] had needed a visa to enter the United States?” said Majka.
Mikulski noted that 3,000 members of the Polish military had served alongside Americans in recent conflicts, with 50 dying in Afghanistan alone.
Polish soldiers who wanted to visit their war buddies, Mikulski said, “had to get a visa like they were from a country that was an enemy of the USA.”
“There is no country that is a greater ally to the United States of America than Poland,” she added.
Mikulski recognized the ACPC as well as other Polish-American groups. She noted that in addition to the ACPC, the National Katyn Memorial Foundation and the Polish Heritage Association of Maryland had pulled the luncheon together.
“Everyone comes from a different place, and everyone goes to a different place,” noted Victoria Leshinskie, president of the Polish Heritage Association. “The Polish are known for hard work and kindness.”
Majka said that the ACPC’s mission is to “promote Polish culture and keep it alive.”
The group gives scholarships, and also attends an annual national conference of social studies teachers to promote teaching the correct Polish history.
“There is a lot of false information out there,” Majka said.
by Erik Zygmont