Charles Rozmarek

Presidents of the Polish American Congress

Four individuals have served as president of the Polish American Congress since its founding in Buffalo, New York in June 1944, during World War II, just days before the great Normandy invasion of Nazi-occupied France. Each went on to contribute to realizing the mission of the Congress, together with many other dedicated men and women. This series of short biographies is on the first three, starting with Charles Rozmarek, who headed the organization for 24 years.

President Eisenhower (left) talks to Rozmarek (Photo:

Born on July 25, 1897 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Ignacy Karol Rozmarek, a son of immigrants, went on to earn his degree in Law from Harvard University. Active in the Polish National Alliance fraternal from the 1920s, he won the election to be its president in September 1939, just days after Germany’s invasion of Poland and the start of the Second World War.

Already in Fall 1943, Rozmarek was working closely with other leaders of the six million strong Polish community in America to make its voice heard to the heads of the U.S. government. Together they organized a massive Congress in 1944 of over 2,500 elected delegates from across the country. The resolutions approved at this gathering reaffirmed the Polish community’s total patriotic commitment to victory over Hitler to President Franklin Roosevelt and reminded him of his support for a postwar free and independent Poland. This was a commitment he and British Prime Minister Churchill had made in their meeting off the coast of Canada early in the War.

President John F. Kennedy meets with a delegation from the Polish American Congress in the Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C. (L-R) Secretary General of the Polish American Congress Reverend Valerian S. Karcz; Director of the Polish American Congress Representative Roman Pucinski from Illinois; President J.F. Kennedy; President of the Polish American Congress Karol (Charles) Rozmarek;

Tragically, after Roosevelt and Churchill met with Josef Stalin, the despotic ruler of Soviet Russia, at Yalta, it became evident that victory over Nazi Germany would not include a free and independent Poland. Instead, a war-devastated Poland would fall under Soviet domination.

From this point on, Rozmarek led a concerted, public PAC effort to denounce the Yalta decisions on Poland. Already in May 1945, he headed a delegation to San Francisco to present the case for a free Poland at the founding of the United Nations. Soon after he was in Paris, France, to state Poland’s case at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the great powers. In Germany he observed the squalid conditions of Polish displaced persons and called for immediate action to improve things there. Back in the U.S. he championed passage of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 to enable 200,000 Polish refugees to enter this country. As PAC president he spurred the creation of a special committee to assist the newcomers in beginning their new lives in America.

Year 1960: 5th PAC Convention in Chicago (L-R): Chicago Major Richard J. Daley, PAC president Karol Rozmarek, democratic candidate for the President of the United States John F. Kennedy (Phooto: Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

Rozmarek and his colleagues backed the U.S. Congressional investigation that in 1952 found the Stalin regime responsible for the infamous Katyn forest massacre (something Russian leaders Gorbachev and Yeltsin only acknowledged in 1990 and 1992). Over the years, as president, Rozmarek gave hundreds of speeches, made countless radio addresses, including on Radio Free Europe, and met with Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson – all in support of free Poland. In 1957 he and the PAC supported U.S. humanitarian assistance to Poland; this aid eventually amounted to nearly 600 million dollars (today - $5 billion). His and the PAC’s unflinching effort to win U.S. recognition of Poland’s postwar northern and western borders was at last realized in 1975 at the international meeting in Helsinki, Finland.

Charles Rozmarek was defeated by Aloysius A. Mazewski for the presidency of the Polish National Alliance in 1967 and a year later stepped down as president of the Polish American Congress. He passed away on August 5, 1973.

In his very last remarks as PNA president he had this to say:

I never saw Poland, but I fought for the cause of a free Poland. Never did I and never will I waver in this struggle.… Let us love Poland, the land of our fathers. Let us love America, the land of our children.

For more information on Charles Rozmarek, check out Dr. Pienkos’ histories of the Polish National Alliance (1984) and Polish American Congress (1991) and entries in James Pula, ed., The Polish American Encyclopedia (2011).

In today's interview Kuryer Polski hosts prof. Donald Pienkos. Donald Edward Pienkos is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He is a Polish American historian specializing in political science and the history of the Polish American community. He was a witness and the creator of history, especially involved in the cause of Poland's accession to NATO.


Chicago’s Edward J. Moskal was born May 21, 1924, the son of immigrants. High school educated and a World War II veteran, he was the proprietor of a successful business at the time of his election in 1967 to serve as treasurer of the Polish National Alliance. At that convention Charles Rozmarek was defeated by Aloysius Mazewski for the PNA presidency. Moskal went on to win election six times before becoming president in October 1988 in a special election following Mazewski’s death. That November he was elected president of the Polish American Congress, an office he held until his death on March 20th, 2005.


Three related activities defined Mazewski’s career: his building of a highly successful law practice, his engaging in Republican party politics, and his involvement in the Polish National Alliance fraternal. A PNA national director in 1947 at age 31, Mazewski was elected President of the Alliance over Charles Rozmarek in September 1967 at the 35th national PNA convention in Detroit. Long involved in the Polish American Congress, he was elected PAC president in 1968. He served as president for 20 years — until his death on August 3, 1988.


Clement Zablocki was born on November 18, 1912, the son of a grocery store owner on Milwaukee’s heavily Polish South Side. A diligent student who completed his college studies at Marquette University in 1936, Zablocki, well-liked and highly motivated, won many friends in his community by teaching civics to new immigrants and serving as his parish’s church organist. In 1942 he won election to the Wisconsin State Senate as a Democrat.