Milwaukee Remembers Its Heroes

Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Jędrzejczak

The Polish Army is a force that allowed us, Poles, to remain separate and independent from other nations and states, and which covers one of the most important aspects of our history, tradition and culture. The military weaves our past and present with the history of Europe and the world.

The Day of the Polish Army has been celebrated for a long time, although in different periods of history, it had various forms and emphasized, depending on the current political trends, the importance of different events.

Commemorative medal of the Ministry of National Defense (Photo: K. Murawska)

After regaining independence in 1918 and, afterwards, defending it during the victorious Battle of Warsaw in August 1920, when the borders of the Second Polish Republic were finally established, by the order of the Minister of Military Affairs, General Stanisław Szeptycki of August 4, 1923, the Soldier's Day was established for August 15.

The day was solemnly celebrated during the interwar period, then during World War II in the Polish Armed Forces in the West and in the Polish People's Army until 1946. Later, the Day of the Polish Army was established by the Act of the Sejm on July 30, 1992.

The army is present in the life of almost every Pole in the country and abroad. Especially those who, after the defeat in September, never laid down their arms, fought in France, in the Middle East, at Tobruk, and at Monte Cassino, they carry Poland in their hearts and keep their Polish uniforms with great reverence.

One of the last of them is Leonard Jędrzejczak. His family is an example of all kinds of patriotism. Grandparents emigrated to help the family farm. During his emigration, his father Franciszek Jędrzejczak was an instructor in the Niagara-on-the-Lake camp, from which the newly trained soldiers went to France, to the Blue Army of General Józef Haller, to fight for the independence of Poland, which was revived after 123 years of partitions.

Beret of the newly appointed Lt. Col. Leonard Jędrzejczak (Photo: K. Murawska)

Leonard, as a 17-year-old scout, joined the army on August 30, 1939, after the end of the military training camp. He withdrew with the Armored Brigade of Gen. Maczek to Hungary, made his way to the Middle East, to Beirut, together with the Carpathian Brigade, and then with the Second Corps of Gen. Władysław Anders, followed the combat route of the Polish Army in the West as a communications officer. At the beginning of this wandering military career, his good command of the English language — a rarity among Polish officers at that time — helped him immensely.

He ended his wartime service in April 1945 in Italy. As a communications officer, he was not allowed to return to Poland, then under the communist yoke, so he emigrated to his family in the United States.

In the US, under the command of Scoutmaster Ryszard Kaczorowski — a friend and comrade in arms [the President of the Polish State in Exile –ed.], he created Polish scouting in the USA. Every year, immigrant soldiers also solemnly celebrated the Day of the Army. Today, most of them have already passed into the eternal guard and the celebrations of the Polish Army Day are becoming more and more intimate.

Such was the nature of the joint visit of the delegation of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland from Washington and the Consulate of the Republic of Poland in Chicago on August 13 this year, which came to Milwaukee to honor the last surviving World War II veteran, Major Leonard Jędrzejczak.

Presentation of the medal of the Ministry of National Defense to the newly appointed Lt. Leonard Jędrzejczak (Photo: A. Woźniewicz)

A delegation consisting of Brigadier General Krzysztof Nolbert – the Military Attaché of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington, Lt. Col. Karol Budniak – the Deputy Military Attaché, and Agata Grochowska – the Consul for the Polonia in Chicago, came to Milwaukee to present to a World War II veteran, a hero from Tobruk and Monte Cassino, a hero of the war and peaceful times for Poland, an active activist of the Polish community, Major Leonard Jędrzejczak, a nomination for the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the Polish Army and a commemorative medal of the Ministry of National Defense on the occasion of the Polish Army Day.

Participants in the meeting (from the left): Lt. Col. Karol Budniak, Fr. Bogusław Czaja, Mrs. Danuta Kwidzyńska, President Andrzej Woźniewicz, Consul Agata Grochowska, Lt. Col. Leonard Jędrzejczak, Brig. Gen. Krzysztof Nolbert, editor Katarzyna Murawska (Photo: L. Fons)

In this close meeting prepared by Kuryer Polski — in particular, by Katarzyna Murawska, a co-founder of Kuryer Polski and the author of the biography of L. Jędrzejczak entitled "Tearing out history" (Wyorywanie historii) — in addition to the above-mentioned members of the state delegation, there was a group of friends: Andrzej Woźniewicz, president of the Polish American Congress in Wisconsin and also a co-founder of Kuryer Polski, Fr. Bogusław Czaja from the National Church in Milwaukee, Ms. Lidia Fons, and Ms. Danuta Kwidzińska.

The meeting was held in a house-warm atmosphere and was enriched with personal memories of Lt. Col. Jędrzejczak about his experiences during the war and the people he met and met. The participants of the meeting were amazed by his ability to tell stories and recall names, facts and exact dates. Let us mention that Lt. Col. Jędrzejczak will soon — on October 8 — be celebrating his hundredth birthday.

On this occasion — and on the occasion of His promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel — the publishers and editors of Kuryer Polski would like to wish our eldest Wisconsin Veteran good health and many more years to come.

In 2024, two important anniversaries for Poles coincide: 80 years since the victorious battle of the 2nd Polish Corps for Monte Cassino and the 50th anniversary of the death of the one thanks to whom the heroism of the soldiers of General Władysław Anders was recorded with journalistic reliability for future generations.


Whether Polishness in Wisconsin will survive depends on the leaders in Warsaw, in the consulate in Chicago, the leaders in Wisconsin. Can they come up with a logical and practical program? Kuryer Polski, in accordance with its mission, will suggest ideas and encourage the creation of connections between Wisconsin and Poland.


Today, it would be his hundredth birthday. Maybe 100 years is a decent age, but for us — his friends — it is still not enough. Images are shifting like in a kaleidoscope — important moments in his life and, at the same time, important moments in the life of Polish emigrants in Milwaukee and the United States.


On May 18, 1944, at dawn, the world heard the news, which — as Polish patriotic commentary — was accompanied by the song "Red Poppies at Monte Cassino". The author of the words was Feliks Konarski "Ref-Ren" — a poet and soldier of the 2nd Corps of General Władysław Anders — and the composer of music was Alfred Schütz — a conductor and member of the Polish Soldier Theater stationed in Compobasso, near Monte Cassino.


On January 25, 1988, the President of the Republic of Poland, Kazimierz Sabbat, on the basis of article 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of April 23, 1935, appointed him in an order "the successor of the President of the Republic of Poland in the event of the vacancy of the office of the President of the Republic." After the sudden death of Kazimierz Sabbat on July 19, 1989, on the same day in the evening, pursuant to Art. 19 of the Polish Constitution, he took the oath and took the office of the President of the Republic of Poland in Exile.


Although there are no witnesses to this history anymore, substantial American archives remain, however, which allow to extract the truth about the great patriotism of over 20,000 soldiers and the entire army of involved civilians, Polish community activists who, together with the volunteers, devoted themselves to creating a great and strong, free and independent Poland, and for whom we should also ensure a worthy place in our historical memory.

Polish General in Milwaukee
Katarzyna Murawska

The 2nd and 3rd days of May are very important holidays in the life of the American Polonia, but also in the life of the entire global Polish diaspora. On May 2 we celebrate Flag Day and the Day of Polish Diaspora, andon May 3rd — the Constitution Day. This year, the Polish community in Milwaukee hosted representatives of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington, D.C., the military attaché Major General Cezary Wiśniewski and his deputy, Lieutenant Colonel Karol Budniak.


That summer (1939) was important and a breakthrough for scout Leonard Jędrzejczak. He graduated from middle school and was about to start high school after the summer holidays. He performed the function of a camp guard at a scout camp near Kościerzyna. He had his first love and his first kiss. On August 6, together with a few colleagues from Bydgoszcz, he went to the Military Training Camp in Myszyniec.