March, march, Polonia

Czeslaw Ryszka

I went overseas to Uruguay and Argentina to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Union of Polish Associations and Organizations of Latin America (USUPAL), the biggest Polish immigrants’ organisation in this continent. Here, in Montevideo and Buenos Aires, a lot is said about the Union since as the name indicates it is an organisation of the Polish community from Mexico to Antarctica. The interesting fact is that generally speaking, only two languages are domineering in this vast area: Spanish as the leading language and Portuguese in Brazil. USOPAL was created after the first Convention of the Polish Community, held in Krakow in 1992. One of its participants was Jan Kobylanski, a very rich man, involved for the cause of the Polish immigrants in Argentina. Seeing that the voices of the Polish community living in Latin America, the voices of the independence organisations, consisting mainly of the combatants of World War II, were neglected and even ignored, he decided to unite the movements of the Polish immigrants in the continent of South America and create one organisation. Therefore, the Union of Polish Associations and Organizations of Latin America was created and presided over by Jan Kobylanski. Someone may ask, what are the tasks of the Polish community when our homeland is free? During the meeting with the Polish immigrants in Columbia in 1986 John Paul II, speaking about the obligation of the Polish community towards their motherland, asked them not to forget their homeland and paid the debt to their country. He explained that one paid debt to his country like to his family or parents. It was a similar relationship, a very similar dependence and very similar debt. He asked them to try to pay this moral debt to their first homeland that gave them the Polish spirit, here in their foreign country. The Union of Polish Associations and Organizations of Latin America does this, trying to defend the historic truth and the good name of Poland in the South American countries. Unfortunately, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives the union a tanning and the stigma of anti-Semites (e.g. the information publicised by USOPAL that the American Jews demanded war restitutions in the amount of 65 billion dollars from Poland was anti-Semitic). And how can we evaluate what recently happened in Argentina where Prof. Zdzislaw Ryn was dismissed from his post of the Ambassador? He was dismissed for his contacts with USOPAL, for his contacts with Jan Kobylanski. The brutal attacks on Ambassador Ryn began after the parliamentary elections last year when a Polish delegation was to arrive in Argentina for the swearing-in ceremony of President Cristina Fernandez, wife of the former Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner. Maria Kaczynska was to preside over the Polish delegation. The preparations of the visit were almost completed and there would have been no conflict but suddenly the Senate’s Speaker Bogdan Borusewicz became the leader of the Polish delegation. Just a few days before the arrival of the delegation in Argentina the Ministry sent a note that Borusewicz did not want to have Ambassador Ryn in his company. This was an unprecedential event that nobody in Argentina could understand. Then Borusewicz himself explained that he had not wanted to by accompanied by the ambassador who was connected with USOPAL. The ambassador was accused of representing Fr Tadeusz Rydzyk and Radio Maryja in America. Similar absurd accusations were multiplied, saying that the Ministry maintained contacts with the workers of the embassy behind his back and recently the Ministry sent ‘controls’ every several weeks. The strange thing was that the diplomatic dispatches were published in the newspapers in Poland the next day. In this situation Ambassador Ryn handed his resignation. It is not hard to guess that Ambassador Ryn became one of the victims of the war between the Office of the Prime Minister and the President. Unfortunately, the image of our country loses. One needs many years to rebuild Poland’s prestige in Argentina, especially after the years of good relationships. There are about 500,000 Poles and people of Polish background living in Argentina. Moreover, there are 96 priests and monks working there. This may be the greatest gift that Polish people give to that country. But the meaning of this contribution is destroyed by the above-mentioned activities of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Other decisions of the ministry concerning the closing of some diplomatic centres are also difficult to understand. One can agree that embassies in Panama or in some African countries are not necessary but in Uruguay? The Polish community there thinks that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered to close this centre only because the headquarters of USOPAL was there and that Mr Kobylanski who notabene had been an honorary consul of the Polish Republic, worked there. He was deprived of this title because of the accusation of anti-Semitism and criticism of the Polish foreign politics, especially the politics concerning the Polish community. Once the communist authorities did their best not to let our fellow countrymen be united. Now the independent government conducts a similar policy. Not along time ago the media wrote completely absurd texts about the Union of Polish Associations and Organizations of Latin America and hurled insults at its President Kobylanski making him a snatcher, a war criminal. The National Remembrance Institute exonerated him from all the accusations but who could have apologised to him for that! Well, the aims and aspirations of the Polish immigrants have changed depending on the situation of the homeland. During the partitions they supported the fight for independence. In the inter-war period they supported the Polish spirit in exile. After World War II the main idea of the Polish immigrants was again fight for sovereign, free Poland. And when freedom came it seemed that their homeland would return the Polish community love for love. It only seemed so.

"Niedziela" 48/2008

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: