The Cleveland Society of Poles Foundation

The Third 25 Years & Beyond: 1973 to Present

The past 25 years embraced a period of transition in which new frontiers of science and technology were breached for the first time. It was also a period in which barriers of social distinction and mores began to crumble amid a new sense of individuality. The Society reflected these changes in venue and membership.

Qualification for membership to the Society changed to include adult males of Polish descent whether by paternal or maternal lineage. For the first time women and guests were invited to attend open programs before regular monthly meetings. The formal initiation ceremony became an anachronistic ritual and was discontinued with the infamous "blackball."

Prior to 1960, the regular meetings were held at the Harmonia Chopin Hall on East 71st Street and later moved to the Union of Poles Hall in the 1970's. For a brief period, meetings were also held at the Guild Hall on Fowler Avenue and at Eddy's Chalet West to begin our summer break. At the present time, meetings have interchanged between the Alliance of Poles Hall, the Holiday Inn Independence and the University Inn.

In the wake of a changing society, interest and attendance at some of our social functions began to wane, such as the Presentation Ball. The ensuing years however have developed a new renaissance. There was a rebirth of interest in our Polish Heritage and growing concern to preserve our cultural inheritance. Programs consistent with our desire to learn more of our heritage and culture began to emerge.

January 1974 was the beginning of a new quarter century since our founding. It began on a positive note. To commemorate the 500th anniversary of Nicholas Copernicus, the Cleveland Society sponsored a traveling exhibit by the Smithsonian Institution, "The Persistent Crafts of Poland" at the Western Reserve Historical Society. In his first official act as incoming President, Ted Woznicki presented a check in the amount of $5,500 to Fredric C. Crawford, President of the Historical Society, to establish the Ethnic Archives Project, a program to study and identify Cleveland's rich ethnic heritage.

In the same year, the Society donated $2,500 to Ursuline College to establish Polish language and culture courses. Under the leadership of Wallace Kosinski, Thad Post and Dr. William Wladecki, the Society sponsored events to enhance our interest in Polish history and culture. Lecture series at John Carroll University introduced our members and the community to Norman Davies, a world-renown lecturer, author and historian of Poland and Europe. The Polish Phoenix, an exposition of a thousand years of Polish history, was held at Kulas Auditorium.

This event set an all-time attendance record to hear lecture and book reviews by W. S. Kuniczak, who translated Henry Sienkiewicz's "Trilogy." In 1982 the Society co-sponsored a lecture series with Cleveland State University and the George Gund Foundation at a reception for Czeslaw Milosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize for Literature. As a result of these lecture series and programs, interest in the Society attracted a new wave of members. In 1989, under a program initiated by President Edward Rybka to enroll new members, the Society reached its zenith; membership grew to 270. With an expanding membership, and under the guidance of Arthur Wincek, the first photo roster was printed.

In 1995 the Society received national recognition when President Joseph Fornal met President Clinton and some of the Polish delegates in Cleveland at a conference on Trade and Economic Development with Central and Eastern Europe. Later President Fornal was invited to the White House by Hillary Rodham Clinton to meet the new President of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski.

As our pursuit to learn more of our Polish heritage expanded, the social schedule was not ignored. Society members and friends enjoyed a picnic at Hale Farm and Village, theater parties, Night at the Races, Family Night at Cleveland Stadium, golf outings, boat rides on the newly developed Cuyahoga River, a Lake Erie cruise on the Goodtime III and a week-end cruise to the Bahamas in 1989. Perhaps the most enjoyable and popular social event was the Fall Harvest Celebration - the Dozynki. This was a festival held in 1980, 1981 and 1982 at Eddy Ratusz's North Ridgeville Farm. It was a gala event highlighted with sumptuous Polish food, music, singing and dancing into the cool September evening.

As we conclude our 75th year, another crowning achievement was added when President Dale Lytkowski announced that the Cleveland Society of Poles will donate $5,000 to a national campaign to establish a Chair of Polish Studies at the University of Virginia. Thanks to the generous contribution of Ron Trzcinski this project will become a reality.

A portion of our creed reads, "I will strive to form a more perfect union of American resident Poles and Americans of Polish descent and extraction, and to promote high regard for the principles of American citizenship." The brothers of the Cleveland Society of Poles, over the past 75 years, have remained true to these ideals. They have assisted one another, as well as their fellow Polish-Americans and have distinguished themselves individually. Their works have served as an inspiration and they have brought credit to their heritage. Our future is secure.

back to top