The oldest Polonia organization in the United States, the Polish National Alliance, celebrated its 140th birthday on Sunday, February 16th, 2020 in Chicago’s Klairmont Kollections. The banquet hall’s decorations and lights adorned the organization’s colors: white and blue. Guests heard the event’s sophisticated nature that was channeled by the music performed by Anthony Kawalkowski Orchestra. Attendants truly enjoyed a splendid afternoon along with an opportunity to see the Kollections’ numerous old-school cars.
Mistress of Ceremonies, Alicja Kuklinska, welcomed members and distinguished guests. She is the National Secretary of the Alliance and the former Editor-in-Chief of Zgoda. Soon after a brief introduction, attendants all stood for Karolina Baran’s rendition of the American anthem followed by the Polish anthem. Baran, a new PNA member, rose to notoriety after appearing on the 13th season of America’s Got Talent. Followed by the performances was a brief description of the Organization’s history followed by a slideshow prepared by the PNA’s IT Office Systems Specialist Victor Modlinski.
The organization of course had rich representation with its employees and renowned guests, including Treasurer Steve Tokarski, Vice President Marian Grabowski, and Vice Chair Wesley Musial. The elected Board of Directors Irene Hercik (IL), Teresa Stuziak Sherman (MA), Anthony Nowak-Przygodzki (CA), Jeff Twardy (PA), and Val Pawlos (PA) were warmly welcomed as well. Many significant local figures were invited: Congressman Dan Lipinski, Clerk of the Circuit Court of the Cook County Dorothy Brown, 30th Ward Alderman Ariel Reboyras, 41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano, 45th Ward Alderman James Gardiner, 39th Ward Alderman Samantha Nugent, Mayor of Niles Andrew Przybylo, Vice Consul of the Republic of Poland Piotr Semeniuk, and Republican Candidate for the US Senate Casey Chlebek, and Father Peter Samborski of the Transfiguration Parish in Mauconda.
Many representatives from other Polish-American groups were warmly greeted too. In attendance: President of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America James Robaczewski, PRCU Secretary-Treasurer Agnieszka Bastrzyk, President of the American Congress Charitable Foundation Christopher Nowotarski, President of the Polish American Congress-IL Division Miroslaw Niedzinski, Chairman of the Polish Museum of America Richard Owsiany, PMA Executive Director Malgorzata Kot, President of the Copernicus Foundation Mario Mikoda, CF Chairman Hubert Cioromski, Director General and Music Director of the Paderewski Symphony Orchestra Barbara Bilszta and Mojciech Niewrzol, President of the Polish American Medical Society Dr. Marek Rudnicki, President of the Polish Teachers Association in America Tadeusz Mlynek, President of the Legion of Young Polish Women Kathy Lesny-Evans, President of the Alliance of Polish Clubs Jan Kopec, President of the Polish Highlanders Jozef Cikowski, President of the Chicago Society Peter Dykes, and Anthony Kawalkowski from AKO.
PNA President and CEO Frank Spula, nicknamed “Mr. PNA,” hosted the event and presented a memorable speech that spoke of the Aliance’s historical contributions in enriching American society and its present goals. President Spula spoke of the founding principles. Since 1880, the Alliance promoted love for ancestral heritage, history, culture, and traditions. In 1886, fraternal life insurance was introduced which provided tremendous foresight in providing benefits in order for families to survive. Since 1910, the PNA granted its female members full suffrage. Other significant contributions in history were accomplished thanks to this great organization from Chicago’s first Constitution Day Parade in 1894 to the sponsorship of humanitarian aid to Poland after WWII. There was also the establishment of Zgoda, Polish Daily News, 1080 AM, Polish American Congress, and 103.1 FM. Today, the PNA has an asset that exceeds $430 million and it is licensed in 37 states. Millions of dollars were spent on education, by subsidizing Polish Saturday Language Schools in promoting the language and culture. They have sponsored scholarships and promoted Polish cultural events. During talks of the Polish community’s solidarity, guests passionately applauded the speech even before its conclusion.
After the heart-felt speech, Kuklinska awarded a number of guests. The Silver Legion of Honor Award was presented to former director and longtime employee Wanda Penar. Former Commissioner and employee of the Polish Daily News Wanda Juda received the Bronze Legion of Honor Award. Not present to accept the Bronze Legion of Honor Award was Former Commissioner from Indiana Mary Wozniak. Honorable Dorothy Brown and Alderman Ariel Reboyras were thanked for their contributions to the Polish community and the PNA. Kuklinska also thanked PAC National Vice President Mary Sendra Anselmo, contributor to Polish Daily News Andrzej Baraniak, and Sales Representative and director and founder of the PNA Dance Studio Elizabeth Stolarczuk. PNA Fraternal Department Director Mary Srodon fantastically organized this memorable event. Thank You! Happy 140th Birthday, PNA!