2021 “Freedom” Monument Unveiled in Stevens Point, Wisconsin

“For Our Freedom and Yours”
Unveiled in Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Text David Rydzewski
Photos Irena Frączek

In a Stevens Point, Wisconsin park, sited on the banks of the Wisconsin River, a monument of immense significance to Polonia, was dedicated on Saturday September 18, 2021.

With a Polish Legion of American Veterans color guard, the flags of Poland and the United States were set in place to begin the dedication. A moment later (in a scene that could have been scripted out of Hollywood) a bald eagle patrolling the banks of the river flew overhead.

The Monument “For Your Freedom and Ours” is a derivation of “Za naszą i waszą wolność” which comes from the unofficial motto of Poland. It was dedicated this day, as the creation of 1st generation Polish American artist Boleslaw Kochanowski.

Kochanowski was inspired by the Polish motto, which was a rallying cry used since 1830 to unite oppressed peoples from many nations. He says “the canted and skewed spires signify the difficulties of upholding and retaining justice and liberty. The cracked and broken tips of the spires indicate that freedom came with hardship and sacrifice.” He continues “Corten alloy and stainless steel are used for durability and permanence, signifying strength and longevity. These materials also differentiate the Polish white eagle and the American bald eagle.”

Moving to the podium was Master of Ceremonies Gayle Phillip. Gayle is the President of the Polish Heritage Awareness Society of Central Wisconsin. She began by welcoming the assembled guests to the Stevens Point “Cultural Commons” on this momentous day.

Gayle then introduced the first speaker, the Mayor of Stevens Point and Polish American Michael Wiza. Following Mayor Wiza, the speakers included:

From left to right: Mayor Michael Wiza, Consul Paulina Szafałowicz, PNA and PAC President Frank Spula and artist Bolesław Kochanowski.

Consul Paulina Szafałowicz, who along with her own greeting, read a letter from Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago, Małgorzata Bąk-Guzik;

Frank Spula, President of the Polish National Alliance and Polish American Congress;

Professor JinMan Jo from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point, College of Fine Arts;

David Rydzewski, President of the Polish American Congress – Wisconsin Division and PAC National Director.

Artist, Boleslaw Kochanowski introduced three of his sons Vincent, August, and Valerius who shared in the design, engineering, and creation of the monument, and his wife Anna, who along with amazing cooking of Polish food, manages the office; showing that this was a true family effort. Bolek also recognized and thanked his father, who so influenced his life.

Trish Mrozek led a board that assembled a group of donors from the Stevens Point area, who were the source of the funding for the monument. The donors include members of the Lemke, Ostrowski, Pisarski, Gollon, and Belke Families, and Heritage of Portage County.

From left to right: Father Janusz Kowalski, Trish Mrozek, Gayle Phillip and Mayor Michael Wiza.

A blessing for the monument was given in both English and Polish by Father Janusz Kowalski, of Saint Lawrence Catholic Church in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.

Members of the press included a video team from Polish TV, and Stevens Point’s own Polish newspaper GWIAZDA POLARNA, and its editor and publisher Jacek Hilgier.

Boleslaw comes from a long line of blacksmiths, starting with his great uncle Hipolit Kochanowski who apprenticed Bolek’s father Boleslaw Kochanowski Sr. in Kotlice, near Zamość, Poland. Boleslaw Sr. passed his exams and became a blacksmith journeyman.

Bolek’s parents miraculously survived World War II, having been rounded up in Poland for forced labor in Nazi Germany. Upon Allied liberation they met and were married in the refugee camp at Gablingen Germany, starting their family there. They finally were allowed to emigrate to America where Bolek and a younger brother were born, joining their German born siblings.

Boleslaw Sr. began work as a lead blacksmith in the shops of the Chicago Transit Authority, later moving to Milwaukee, becoming the boilermaker-blacksmith layout designer at the huge shops of the Milwaukee Road Railway.

As a young man Boleslaw Jr. earned a degree in International Relations from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, but the draw of working with his hands alongside his father, drew Bolek to the Milwaukee Road shops. Kochanowski Sr. had a motto “Look and Learn” which Kochanowski Jr. did, and he put that knowledge to use through the years, in turn passing the expertise to his own sons – the fourth generation.

Striking out on his own to design and build architectural ironwork, Bolek’s talents led to commissioned works for gates, railings, screens, and fine metal artistic pieces. Gradually it evolved to works on a grander scale and now include monuments that adorn commercial and civic centers and parks.

The origins of this monument began with Polish leaders in Stevens Point who thought that there should be another significant piece of public art with a Polish theme, and Kochanowski was asked to submit designs for it. The setting would be a “Cultural Commons” area within a public park on the banks of the Wisconsin River. Areas within the “Cultural Commons” would show a connection with Stevens Point Sister Cities. One of which is Gulcz, Poland, which reflects an area where many early Polish settlers came from to Central Wisconsin

As the ceremony for the dedication was coming to a close, many in the audience were smiling, very proud of this monument and its symbolism of “This Glorious Fraternity of the Polish and American Brotherhood” and their own “Polishness”. A few even had a tear in their eye.

Friday, October 1st, 2021 Newsletter

Archived Posts

October 2021
« Jul   Nov »