Polonia Technica-70 years of bridging past and future

Autor: Eva Orlowska

From left: Michael Niedzinski, Dominik Ras, Mrs. Ras, Mrs, Dymek, Maciej Dymek, Iwona Pietrus-Kozlowski

The Association of Polish-American Engineers in New York City celebrated its 70th anniversary on May 13-15 at the elegant De Lamar Mansion-home of the Polish Consulate. The event was attended by community leaders, Polish officials and distinguished colleagues from around the world proud to pass their heritage of achievement to the next generation.

Polonia Technica (PT) is  a prestigious Polish-American engineers nonprofit servicing the Mid-Atlantic States since 1941. Its 70th anniversary drew enthused guests from across North America and Europe. The goal was to inspire new generations to enter the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and to honor the dedication of Polish technical professionals to innovation in the United States.

Under the honorary patronage of the Polish Ambassador Robert Kupiecki and invocation of Father Dominik Libiszewski, the anniversary festivities opened on May 13 with welcoming remarks by Consul General Ewa Junczyk-Ziomiecka, PT President Ryszard Bak, Honorary President Janusz Zastocki, Vice President Janusz Romanski and Board Member Magdalena Pietrzak. The evening concluded in congratulatory letters, formal introductions and upbeat Chopin repertoires played by a young pianist Dawid Kondrad Zarzycki from Bialystok.  There was also an impressive exhibit of Polish inventors, topped off with traditional Polish dishes and spirits in the Bar Salon.
The highlight of the evening was no doubt the city of Bialystok after its city council chairman Wlodzimierz Leszek Kusak humorously convinced the audience of its splendor and progress. The main sponsor of the event, Bialystok’s firm ASTWA, and the brilliant pianist-a graduate of I. J. Paderewski Music School and current student of The Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Bialystok-were a testament to Mr. Kusak’s claim.

Photo: Margaret Romanski, Dr. Janusz Romanski, Consul General Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, PT Honorary President Janusz Zastocki

May 14 was dedicated to a Scientific Symposium. Topics included the collaboration of Polish engineering organizations around the world, history of the first railroad bridge across Mississippi River, security of bridges and tunnels, engineers’ perspectives of human genome, scientific collaboration in the Age of Internet, best practices of technology transfer, emerging technologies and opportunities in US universities.

Photo: Andrzej Kozlowski-From left: Prof. Piotr Moncarz, Eva Orlowska, Prof. Andrzej Targowski. Prof. Henryk Krawczyk


Most of the guests gathered agreed that the historical perspective left a big impression. Prof. Andrzej Targowski from Western Michigan University reminded us that Polish specialists have contributed to the industrial boom of America for over 400 years since their first arrival in Jamestown Virginia in 1608. Polish glassware and wood experts, recruited to the colonies by Captain John Smith, helped establish the first American manufacturing company and profitable export to Europe.

The Golden Age of Poland (16th and 17th centuries), period of great expansion and prosperity, produced a large well-educated noble (middle) class and many advances in science, architecture, mining, metallurgy, military, forestry and agriculture. Many of those advances found their way to the American soil as Poles began to flee political unrests at home in mid-1700’s. The best-known example of technology transfer to Colonial America is Thaddeus Kosciuszko’s fortification of Philadelphia, West Point and Saratoga. The Polish General made Head Colonel of Engineers in the Continental Army is credited with key successes of the American Revolution. [divider_padding]
Poland’s Partitions (1772, 1793, 1795) and subsequent loss of independence for 123 years caused massive fleeing. Over 10 million Poles left Poland prior to WWI. Three million chose America, furnishing the manpower for construction of railways, roads, bridges, factories, mills, mines, ships, canals, tunnels and military installations.
[divider_padding]WWII, created a new wave of Polish immigrants escaping occupied Poland to the US via France, UK or Canada. The New York region experienced an influx of nearly 6000 technical professionals and a need for a nonprofit as Polonia Technica.[divider_padding]Janusz Zastocki spoke of PT beginnings and the famous engineers associated with the organization. PT was formed by Polish Consul Kazimierz Krasicki and three engineers: Walery Starczewski, Wiktor Przedpelski, Zbislaw Roehr (inventor of disposable syringe). From inception, the organization assisted in retraining and integrating the newcomers while maintaining ongoing professional ties with colleagues in Poland and Western Europe. As a social and education platform, PT offered lectures, publications, annual conventions, summer excursions, fundraising balls and holiday parties. During and post Cold War, the association sent trade journals to Poland spearheading Poland’s transformation into a modern, stable economy.
In the 1980’s, PT experienced a significant growth due to Solidarity immigration and renewed interest in technical fields sparked by Information Age. Adapting to new demands and often collaborating with other prominent Northeast Polish American organizations like the Kosciuszko Foundation, Pilsudski Institute, Polish Slavic Federal Credit Union and Polish Student Organization, PT offered many valuable services: popular ComPract computer classes, Internet portal with financial and legal advice, scholarships and college prep workshops “Studia 4U”.
[divider_padding]Results are many. One of the beneficiaries of Polonia Technica training, engineer Stanislaw Luniewski, returned to Bialystok in 1990’s to start an eco-waste management company. Today, Mr. Luniewski’s firm ASTWA is on the cutting-edge of energy recovery from waste. The firm has 40% of local market share, employs nearly 100 and services brands like Mercedes, Man and Iveco. Mr. Luniewski, also Vice President of Podlasie Business Club in Bialystok, has become a prominent business man in his community, sponsoring events in Podlaskie Voivodeship as well as Polonia Technica 70th Anniversary in New York City.
Photo: Andrzej Kozlowski   Prof. Andrzej Targowski, PT Sponsor ASTWA Stanislaw Luniewski, PT President Ryszard Bak
The list of famous PT honorary members is long and impressive: helicopter innovator Frank N. Piasecki, Boeing Vice President Nicole Piasecki, synthetic rubber inventor Waclaw Szukiewicz, metallurgistTadeusz Sendzimir, US National Commission on Energy member Jan Grzybowski Holm, NASA scientist Wojciech Rostafinski, Patriot missile designer Zdzislaw Julian Starostecki, master bridge builder Ralph Modjewski, bullet proof fiber Kevlar inventor Stephanie Kwolek, editor of Grumman Aerodynamics Manual Stanislaw Wojciech Rogalski, V-tail aircraft inventor Jerzy Stanislaw Rudlicki, textile scientist Ryszard Chmielowiec, construction engineer Kazimierz Eljasinski, geologist tunnel builder Marek Miroslaw Luniewski, food textile scientist Alina Surmacka-Szczesniak and  “American Inventor” winner Janusz Liberkowski among many others.
PT board needs to be congratulated for a great job in raising the awareness of the achievement of Polish engineers  in America.
Photo: Andrzej Kozlowski-Prof. Henryk Krawczyk, Prof. Jacek Zurada, Dr. Janusz Romanski and Janusz Zastocki

It was equally inspiring to see so many young faces in the audience. In an era when science and engineering are losing appeal among college students, it is encouraging to see young engineers take charge. Ms. Pietrzak arranged for guests to visit a state-of-the-art Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Brooklyn, NY. The tour given by superintendent James Pynn himself on the morning of May 13 was a great kick-off to a program on innovation in the United States.[divider_padding]The hope is that the new board members will transform the organization into a magnet for young techies and scientists from Googles, Ciscos, Microsofts, Apples, Amgens or Boeings of the world. For a start, some suggested that PT  applies for a grant to translate its archives into English (language of technology) and include English speaking second and third generation Poles in their events.
Photo: Andrzej Kozlowski   Polonia-Technica board members Iwona Pietrus-Kozlowski and Janusz Zastocki
Slawomir Nowak, Secretary of State of the Republic of Poland, urged all Polish engineering organizations to help Poland become more competitive and integrated into the global economy. University of Louisville Prof. Jacek (Jack) Zurada suggested offering membership to international engineering organizations such as IEEE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Stanford University Prof. Piotr Moncarz advocated for a comprehensive Think Tank-Polish engineering resource center and virtual meeting place under one portal. [divider_padding]
University of Nebraska Prof. Andrzej Nowak recommended additional scholarships and internships for Polish engineering students in US universities, similar to the program announced this week by Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education Barbara Kudrycka at the European Economic Congress 2011 in Katowice. The new scholarship program spearheaded by Silicon Valley US-Polish Trade Council will provide a chance for 500 top Polish innovators to study in leading US universities such as Stanford and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). “The concern that Polish students will stay in the United States, thus creating a financial loss for Poland, could be easily addressed by a scholarship repayment contract,” said Michal Urbankowski, Consul of the Polish Consulate Trade & Investment Section. [divider_padding]
Following the lectures, an elegant award ceremony ensued in the beautiful Mirror Salon. PT 70th anniversary, Polish Federation of Engineering Associations and Jan Heweliusz (Johannes Hevelius) medals changed hands. The day ended with an emotional performance by Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Barbara Revi, bass Wojciech Bukalski and baritone Pawel Raczkowski. Standing ovations erupted into a patriotic chorus and not a dry eye was visible was in De Lamar Mansion. [divider_padding]
The time is now for Polish engineers to gain momentum. Building on the value created by the landmark anniversaries of Polish Engineering Associations in UK, France, Austria and US, by the Poland-Silicon Valley Technology Symposium in December 2010 and by the First World Convention of Polish Engineers where over 400 Polish engineers convened in Warsaw in September 2010, the time is now to tap into the intellectual potential. The Council of Polish Engineers of North America recommends setting up a task force, clear goals, strategy, benchmarks and metrics to assess the effectiveness. The political power of Polish engineers will come from accountability and results not from political speeches. If anyone can design a system for efficient collaboration and value creation, it is the Polish engineers. [divider_padding]
Polonia organizations around the world represent Poland’s competitive advantage. More than 30 percent of the Polish population found itself outside of Poland after the Partitions, WWI and WWII. Now the organizations formed by Polish immigrants are a catalyst to globalization. The common interest of Poland, United States and Europe today is igniting the commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Scientists, engineers and mathematicians, solving problems of hunger, healthcare, energy, security, transportation, and communication contribute immensely to the wealth and wellbeing of nations.Polish engineering organizations working together have the opportunity to contribute to the talent and innovation in these fields and thus bolster the economies on both sides of the Atlantic. [divider_padding]
The festivities concluded on May 15 with a Mass at St. Stanislau Bishop and Martyr Church, symbolic blessing of the commemorative plaque dedicated to Polish engineers, lunch reception at the Polish Consulate De Lamar Mansion on Jan Karski Corner and a tour of  New York City.[divider_padding]

Special thanks to:
Sponsors ASTWA and Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union

Consul General Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka for opening De Lamar Mansion to guests from around the world

Polonia Technica for organizing a memorable event

Attendees for joining in celebration and representing the following:

Polish Federation of Engineering Association in Poland (NOT)
World Convention of Polish Engineers
Polish American Engineers Association in Chicago
Council of Polish Engineers in North America
Polish Engineers Club of Silicon Valley
Association of Polish Engineers in Austria
Association of Polish Engineers in Canada
Association of Polish Engineers and Technicians in France
Institution of Polish Engineers in Great Britain
City of Bialystok
Stanford University
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Western Michigan University
University of Louisville
Warsaw University of Technology
Gdansk University of Technology
Krakow University of Technology
Bialystok University of Technology
Nowy Dziennik Polish Daily News
US-Polish Trade Council
Polish American Chamber of Commerce Pacific Northwest
Bisek Engineering Firm
Andrew Kozlowski Photo
Metropolitan Opera
St. Stanislau Bishop and Martyr Church
Poland’s Law and Justice Party
Cabinet of Secretary of State of the Republic of Poland
Trade & Investment Section of Polish Consulate in New York