2017 Dr. Mazurkiewicz lecture notes

The Story of Polish and East European Exiles
in the United States After World War II


Lecture by Dr. Anna Mazurkiewicz

Professor of history at the Gdańsk University
and the 2017-2018 President of the
Polish-American Historical Association (PAHA)

The lecture took place in the Polish Center of Wisconsin on November 16, 2017 under the sponsorship of the Wisconsin State Division of the Polish American Congress and the Polish Heritage Alliance.

…. by David Rydzewski with edits by Dr. Donald Pienkos

This is the great, if little known story of many Polish and other East European po-litical leaders and activists who had fled their homelands after 1945, the year World War II ended. Soviet Russia had taken over their homelands, suppressed their countries’ freedom and initiated what became known as the Cold War with the United States and the Free World. For the exiles from Eastern Europe, the U.S. government would provide both a new homeland and the support they sought in order to carry on their struggle to regain their countries’ freedom from Communist domination.

After the Faustian bargain that began at the Teheran Conference with Russia’s push to change the borders of post war Poland to the Curzon line and furthered and expanded that argument in Yalta and Potsdam; Britain and the United States negotiated away the rights and freedoms of 100 million East Europeans. With eyes only on how to end the war in Europe and the Pacific, as speedily and at least expense in allied lives, they traded war time expediency, for 45 years worth of cold war subjugation of those people.


Arthur Bliss Lane, American ambassador to Poland wrote a book in 1948 called I Saw Poland Betrayed: An American ambassador reports to the American people. It was first published in the U.S. and later in Poland by an underground publisher. It was a early report to the world by an American insider on this Faustian bargain. East European exiles had been saying this since the end of the war.

America began to fund these exiles in covert ways. In 1949 the U.S. government formed the “National Committee for a Free Europe”, later known as the “Free Europe Committee” or FEC. This group funded by American intelligence agencies created tools for spreading an anti-communist message, for use in the Iron Curtain countries. So began Radio Free Europe, the Europe Free Press, speakers bureaus, and other programs.

Polish exile groups organized in different ways and often were at odds with one another. The FEC pushed for one national committee, but that was a tough task for groups such as the Polish Political Council, the Polish National Democratic Committee, and the Polish Council of National Unity, and the Polish Council in the U.S., who all had similar goals, Poland’s independence, but competing strategies.

In 1954 national committees of nine Central and East European countries formed the Assembly of Captive European Nations (ACEN). This new organization delivered an anti-communist message from the intellectual, educational, scientific and political elites of these nations, who kept alive the voice of the “stateless.” For 7 years the ACEN had a building across the street from the United Nations building in New York, where they kept messages of Europe’s oppressed, visible to the western world.

Without an independent base for financial and political support, the question needs to be asked ,“Were these Polish and East Europeans exiles just part of Dependent Political Organizations, sponsored by American and Western European countries, primarily serving their interests?”

Did FEC and ACEN serve America first and only then exiles and those in the captive countries? Or did it materially help and give hope to those exiles and their countries? Well, it is true that “He who pays the Piper calls the tune”, but what did the exiles and their countries gain?

In the short term, hope was kept alive, and in the longer term, these exiles and their causes saved political tradition, helped spread their countries cultural herit-age, and helped the establishment of East European and Central European Studies as an academic pursuit.

Today those ACEN countries form the eastern watchtowers of NATO, defending themselves and other NATO member states.




Source: Wikimedia


Source: Wikimedia

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