Just the two of U.S.! Fascinating untold story of Americans who gave their all to help rebuild Poland’s independence
Americans who helped Poles when they needed it the most in the twentieth century is the subject of a new exhibition in Warsaw, the opening of which coincides with the 100th anniversary of Poland and the U.S. establishing diplomatic relations in 1919.
The exhibition at the History Meeting House in Warsaw’s Old Town tells the story of the generation of Americans who came to Poland with Herbert Hoover in the early 1920s.
They were often young and ideologically-minded people whose aim was to help revive and rebuild Poland’s independence. When Poles sought help from America in 1939 and in the first years after WWII it was this same generation that wanted to provide practical help.
Exhibition organiser Jan Roman Potocki told TFN: “The relationship between Poland and the US is as much a relationship between individual people as it is between a state and a state.
“Of course there were the big relationships between Jefferson and Kościuszko, Paderewski and Wilson, John Paul II and Reagan. Contacts at the highest level are important, but also important are those who gave five dollars to feed hungry kids in Poland in 1919 or in 1946.”
The exhibition ‘Americans in Poland 1919-1947’ attempts to restore the memory of those Americans who wanted to help Poland, a memory which has been largely overshadowed by the geo-political situation that left Poland under Soviet occupation for over 40 years.
Potocki said: “Nobody knows the story. It's a story about Americans who were engaged with Poland. At the beginning, for very idealistic reasons: the struggle for freedom or support for democracy. This generation of Americans fought together with Poland against Russia.”
The group of people involved includes American pilots, relief workers, journalists, photographers and diplomats.
Among the diplomats featured in the exhibition is Anthony Drexel Biddle Jr., the ambassador to Poland from 1937 who left with the Polish government to France and later to the United Kingdom. He remained ambassador to the Polish government-in-exile until 1943.
His son Anthony Biddle, who visited Warsaw for the opening of the exhibition, told TFN: “After Yalta, he went to Washington to persuade Roosevelt not to allow Poland to slide into Russian domination.
“He told the president that it was unethical. He said that the Polish people expected us to restore their government in their capital and now we are going to break that promise. When Roosevelt didn’t change his mind, my father resigned over the principle.”
About 100 carefully selected photographs can be seen at the exhibition from American archives showing the American generation who came to Poland with Herbert Hoover in the early 1920s.
The exhibition describes work of the American Relief Administration and shines a spotlight on the first U.S. Ambassador to Poland Hugh Gibson, the later the founder of UNICEF Maurice Pate and the Grey Samaritans, who were Americans of Polish descent who volunteered to help children in Poland.
The exhibition also shows the history of the Tadeusz Kościuszko Squadron and the fate of American pilots during the Polish-Bolshevik war, the work of diplomats and their lives in Warsaw, as well as the work of journalists and photographers, including Julien Bryan in 1939 and Larry Allen, the Associated Press correspondent in Warsaw from September 1945.
The exhibition can be visited until October 6, 2019. The United States Embassy in Poland and American Center Warsaw are partners of the exhibition.