Poles in America
For thirty years I have been taking pictures of Poles and American people of Polish origin who live in the United States since the first days of my arrival in New York in 1979. Unfortunately, many of those photographed have already passed away, however, they left behind them great achievements, which are still not well known in Poland.
My first exhibition of portraits "Portraits of Americans of Polish Origin in the New York Metropolitan Area“, was prepared two years after my arrival in New York, in May 1981 in the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America in New York, and was presented during the annual convention.
Apart from taking pictures I also described distinguished Polish people in books, in "Saga rodu Styków” ("The Styk Family Saga, 1989), "Kariery w Ameryce” ("Careers in America" 1994), "Artyści polscy w Ameryce” ("Polish Artists in America" 1995) and in dozens of articles published, among others, in the New York "Nowy Dziennik” ("New Daily"), the weekly supplement "Przegląd Polski” ("Polish Review"), the monthly "Kariera” ("Career") and many other Polish magazines.
One of the most numerous groups of Polish people in America are artists, whose fame reaches far beyond this continent. Among them there are painters, such as Zygmunt Menkes (1896–1986), lecturer at the Art Student League, whose works are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum; Wojciech Fangor (1922), who created projects for the Martha Graham Ballet and had an individual exhibition in The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; Richard Anuszkiewicz (1930), one of the founders of the Op-art; Rafał Olbiński (1945), the author of covers for “The New York Times”, “Newsweek”, “Der Spiegel”, the winner of the International Oscar “Prix Savignac” in Paris. There are also sculptors such as Stanisław Szukalski (1895-1987), the legendary Stach from Warta, the leader of the artistic group Szczep Rogate Serce, the winner of the Grand Prix at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Paris in 1925, whose works are in the collection of Leonardo Di Caprio; Nathan Rapaport (1911–1987), the author of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw and Liberation monument in the Liberty State Park in Jersey City; Andrzej Pityński (1947), the creator of massive monuments including “Partisans” in Boston, “Katyn” in New Jersey City and “Freedom's Flame” in Baltimore; architect Daniel Libeskind (1946), the co-author of the project to arrange the empty space left after the World Trade Centre in New York, including the Freedom Tower.
Writers and poets: Czesław Miłosz (1911–2004), the Nobel Prize winner, a lecturer at the Berkeley University; Jerzy Kosinski (1933–1991), the author of numerous best-sellers, the president of the American PEN-Club for two terms; Leopold Tyrmand (1920–1985), who cooperated with the renowned “The New Yorker” and published the monthly “Chronicles of Culture”, is still an important voice of American conservatives; Władysław S. Kuniczak (1930–2000), who, apart from his own writing, also translated “The Trilogy” by Henryk Sienkiewicz into English; Janusz Głowacki (1938) a writer and a playwright, whose play “Hunting of Cockroaches” was staged in fifty American theatres and was in the top ten of the best theatre plays in 1997, according to the “Time Magazine”; Tymoteusz Karpowicz (1921–2005) a poet and prose writer, head of the Polish language faculty at the University of Illinois; Stanisław Barańczak (1946) a poet and translator, a lecturer at the Harvard University; Anna Frajlich (1942) a poet, a lecturer at the Columbia University in New York.
Musicians and singers: Mieczysław Horszowski (1892–1993) a pianist, who until his very death (he died at the age of 101) performed in the best halls all around the world; Stanisław Skrowaczewski (1923) many years director of the famous Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra; Teresa Kubiak (1937) who sang in the best opera halls in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York; Michał Urbaniak (1943) a jazz musician who recorded more than 40 albums for the biggest record companies such as “Atlantic” or “Columbia”.
Scientists: Stanisław Ulam (1909–1984) a mathematician, a representative of the Lviv mathematical school, co-creator of the American thermonuclear bomb; Ludwik Gross (1904–1999) a virologist who discovered two different leukaemia viruses; Zbigniew Brzeziński (1928) a political scientist, he received his doctor's degree at Harvard University, was a lecturer at American universities and a member of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. As the security advisor of the US President J. Carter, he played a significant role in shaping American foreign policy; Piotr Chomczyński (1942) a biochemist who developed a method of RNA isolation, and when published, it became the most often quoted research paper in the fields of biology and biochemistry; Aleksander Wolszczan (1946) an astronomer who, as the first, discovered planets outside the Solar System; Bronisław Misztal (1946), a sociologist, dean of the sociology faculty at the Catholic University of America in Washington, the only Polish in the world who has ever headed a global organisation – the Community of Democracies.
Many more names and achievements of Polish people living in America could be named, and this list is constantly growing. One thing is certain – Polish and American people of Polish origin have left durable traces in the history of this country. And this is the charm of America, open to distinguished representatives of various countries, who are given the possibility to implement their ideas, quite often infeasible (for various reasons) in their home countries. Though today, in the age of globalisation and common communication through the Internet it has become easier, the United States still are seen by many as the Promised Land.