I would like to congratulate Mr. Andrzej Nowak on his scholarly and thoughtful essay on "Russo-Polish Historical Confrontation" (SR, XVII/1, January 1997). At the same time, allow me to offer corrections to the document from the Hoover Archives and accompanying commentary which you published in translation in the same issue. As a one-time deportee to Kazakhstan, I have first-hand familiarity with the issue.

First, I am amazed at the dates cited in the report. The deportations of Polish families to the USSR took place in 1941 and not in 1942, i.e., not after the 'amnesty' announced by Stalin in Summer 1941. Contrary to your commentary, the deportees were not usually separated from their families. Only persons arrested by the NKVD in Poland, tortured and often murdered in Soviet prisons and labor camps, were not allowed contact with their families. Ordinary deportees were allowed such contact.

The author of the report states that the deportees were traveling 'from Arkhangelsk to Chelyabinsk' in March 1942. There must be a mixup of dates here. At that time, Polish units under General Wadysaw Anders were already formed in the Asian part of the USSR. Does the information about the railway carriage #421174 (containing 30 persons) pertain to 1942 or to the years 1939-1941 when the deportations took place?

Finally, when writing about Soviet atrocities, it seems grossly inadequate to write about the death of one Polish person who 'fell ill' and died in the railway carriage, while over one million of (predominantly) women and children were transported from Poland to the USSR in cattle or freight cars. Such wagons were locked from the outside by the Soviet military, with no water and no toilets except for a small hole in the floor. The number of people in each wagon was never less than 50 in the transport I was in, which left Lwów on 13 April 1940. There is evidence that in the previous transports from Lwów some people froze to death on their way to Siberia.

In your commentary, you should have made a clear distinction between the status of the deportees (i.e., the civilian population deported in appalling conditions to various areas of the USSR in 1939-1941), and those Poles (mostly former deportees) who after Stalin's 'amnesty' were trying to join the Polish army in the USSR. Presumably, it is the latter group that the report describes.

Anna R. Dadlez, Ph.D.
Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan
Thank you for your corrections. Apparently the report, as recorded in field conditions in 1942, did not make clear that the victim described therein was a former deportee, and that he died not during the original deportations in 1939-1941 but during a later ordeal. Our translator missed that point as well. Ed.

In his Letter (SR, Vol. XVII/1, January 1997) Mr. Pogonowski missed the point of my example of Jim Miklaszewski. He may not be an ideal role model for Polish American identity, but he obviously represents the norm for successful third generation Polish Americans and the way they appear in the media. In general, we just do not know very much about successful Polish Americans beyond their surnames! The real point is that the leadership in Polonia has done very little to publicize our current success stories. In all honesty, there are not many figures in the existing literature on the history of Polonia who are very attractive to fourth generation Polish Americans. Mr. Pogonowski could not even name one. Responsibility for that sad state of affairs lies directly with us. We do not do a very good job telling the world and our children who we are. Our task is clear: how do we get the Jim Miklaszewski's of the world to claim proudly and loudly that they are Polish Americans?

We cannot depend on the media to do our work for us. If one were to believe the media, the most visible Polish Americans in American culture would be people like the unibomber whose Polish name has been prominently featured in newspaper headlines. While it is generally known that irregularities in the use of various congressional perks have been common, Congressman Dan Rostenkowski was one of the very few singled out for criminal punishment. In contrast, when Polish Americans do achieve, for example the Polish physician who was a co-inventor of the polio vaccine with Dr. Jonas Salk, their names fall into oblivion. If Zbigniew Brzezinski's name were not so obviously Polish, he would probably have been coaxed by every administration, be it Republican or Democrat, to join the government in some important capacity. As things stand now, his genius can only manifest itself in books and occasional TV appearances.

A related issue is why are the media silent in matters pertaining to Polish traditions and culture, the upbringing of Polish children and their acculturation to Polish customs, while printing on a daily basis laudatory stories about the roots and traditions of many other ethnic cultures? Why are the names and opinions of the leaders of Polonia unknown to the media? We should be glad that we have at least one very successful and publicly visible Polish American who courageously refused to anglicize his long, complicated, yet beautiful surname!

Instead of questioning Mr. Miklaszewski's qualifications to be Polish American, we should turn our attention to a more troublesome issue: the way Polish identity is formulated and manipulated in the mass media. Mr. Pogonowski and the rest of us need to realize that the mass media continues to defame the Polish identity (e.g., just look at the current portrayals of Polish Americans in films and on television), and denigrate cultural institutions we hold sacred (e.g., just look at a recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education celebrating a book on how Christmas began as a pagan holiday and has developed into an orgy of materialism and commercialism). Rather than objecting to a particular choice in a situation where choices are few, we should discuss ways in which our presence in society could and should translate into visibility in the mass media.

Joseph A. Kotarba, Houston, Texas

Return to April 1997 Issue
The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 07/02/97