October is Polish American Heritage Month and the Ten-year Anniversary of this Blog!

Polish and American flags to celebrate Polish heritageOctober is Polish American Heritage Month. In 1986, the U.S. Congress, by House Joint Resolution 547, designated October as “Polish American Heritage Month” and authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this event.

“Our nation owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to the millions of freedom-loving Poles who have come to our shores to build a new land…I urge all Americans to join their fellow citizens of Polish descent in observance of this month.” – President Ronald Reagan, October 13, 1986. 

Fun facts:

  • Per the Polish American Congress, there are more than ten million Polish Americans.
  • In 1608, the first Polish settlers arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, on the English ship Mary and Margaret.
  • In 1619, the (Catholic) Polish settlers staged the first labor strike in America. The strike was not for wages or working conditions but for equal voting privileges as the (Protestant) British settlers held.
  • The Library of Congress has more than a million items searchable by “Polish.” Many are online.
  • The Polonaise is one of Poland’s five historic national dances. It often opened court balls and other royal functions. On September 17, 2023, Poles living in Lithuania danced a stunning, choreographed Polonaise on Vilnius Cathedral Square. There were 192 couples in national and historical costumes. It was a demonstration of the unity and strength of the Polish spirit on the anniversary of the Soviet attack on Poland, on September 17, 1939.
  • For more info on Polish American Heritage Month, visit PolishAmericanHeritageMonth.com.

October is the ten-year anniversary of this blog!!

After one book, ten years, 375 blog posts, and lots of emails from readers, I have amassed a wealth of information on this website.

Katrina Shawver in Kraków Poland. Celebrate Polish heritage in person.
Standing in front of St. Mary’s Church in Kraków. 2013.
Katrina Shawver and husband in front of Wawel Castle, Kraków. 2013. Celebrate Polish heritage in person.
Standing In front of Wawel Castle with my husband in Kraków, 2013.

I began this blog in October 2013 when I visited Poland. I needed to research and verify stories my friend Henry Zguda relayed to me. Authenticity is critical. Three years later they were compiled and published as Henry, A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America. (Note to self: keep future book titles to three words or less!) Have I mentioned that Poland is a beautiful country to visit?

Blog posts have highlighted notable Poles, Polish and Jewish history, and reviewed books. Some blog posts related to current events, holidays, or something I found interesting and thought others would too. Or I just wrote for fun. All posts are given various categories that make it easy to search for topics or names.

Here are a few fun favorites:
Lessons from a Coffee Pot. (2022)
Remember Ukrainian Culture.  (2022)
A Church Amidst Communist Kitsch. (2013)

I wish you could have met Henry Zguda in person. Invite me to your group or book club and I’ll share more pictures and stories not included in the book.

(Keep reading to see how you can win a free copy of my book.)

History occurs one person at a time.

When I began learning about Poland twenty years ago, I detected a prevalent and false historical bias towards Poles, dating back to Russian and German propaganda through the centuries. I also found few stories of Poles that were positive (in English.) Though this has changed in the past ten years, I became driven to tell a different and important story representative of millions of Poles during World War II. Six million Poles lost their lives; three million were Jewish, and three million were Christian, among other grim statistics.

So often Poles during World War II are summarized as either “Collaborators,” “Bystanders” or with rare exceptions  “Rescuers” who saved Jews. While all three “categories” existed in the population, this attitude is a short-sighted pat answer that omits or grossly understates the full context and scope of the fourth category of millions of Poles: Victims. I won’t list statistics, but there is a summary in the appendix of my book.

No “category” represents the full picture of any country or people. Life is far more complex.

For examples of Poles not designated in any category other than “Defiant” and “Resisting”  consider reading the following posts. They are but a few examples of many others.

Ryszard Kuklinski, Polish Patriot and American Hero (2016)
Polish Hero – Witold Pilecki (2014) and  Remember the Courage of Witold Pilecki (2015)
Polish Composers and Music at Auschwitz (2020)

I am compiling a list of more names (I have quite a few.) Please comment below or email me with other suggestions of people to highlight in future posts. I love hearing from readers.

I remain relentlessly curious about discovering lesser-known stories. I hope you stay with me for future blogs.

Win a copy of Henry, A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America. 

Book that honors Polish heritageTo celebrate ten years of writing, I will draw names from anyone who comments below or subscribes as a new reader in the next two weeks. The winner will receive a free signed copy of my book. Share with your friends as it’s the first time I have offered this.

As a bonus, you can choose whether you want the English or the Polish edition. Feel free to share this post with your friends.

Thank you for your readership through the years.
In friendship,

Meme - Katrina sitting on a pile of books


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Tags: About Katrina, Commentary, Notable Poles

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Katrina,
    Thank you for the signed copy of ‘Henry’! I had my own copy as well as sending my brother one, but the signed copy I will cherish! It is a great book and I will buy another to give to our local library.


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