It was a big weekend for Greater Cleveland's Polish American Community. To celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the founding of St. Casimir's Parish, Fr. Eric Orzech, pastor of both St. Casimir and St. Stanislaus Churches invited the Most Reverend Andrzej Wypych, the Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago to be the Celebrant and Homilist at the Sunday, October 16th, 11:30 AM Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving.
Bishop Andrzej Wypych, Fr Eric Orzech, altar servers and children of the Sienkiewicz Polish Language School and Piast Dancers
Polish Constitution Day in Cleveland's Slavic Village
The Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791 was the first constitution to follow the 1788 ratification of the United States Constitution. May 3 was restored as an official Polish holiday in April 1990, after the fall of communism. It is celebrated in Cleveland with events including a parade in Slavic Village.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and PIAST ladies
After the Parade people gathered in front of the Shrine Church of Saint Stanislaus for a program.
The ClevelandPeople.Com Passport Adventurers travelled to Lithuania via the Cleveland Lithuanian Club. They learned about Jadwiga (St Hedwig) who reigned as the first female monarch of the Kingdom of Poland from 1384 untill her death. Her marriage to Wladyslaw-Jogaila enabled the union of Poland and Lithuania, establishing a large state in East Central Europe.
A highlight of the 6th annual Holiday Celebration of Cleveland's Diversity held in the atrium of the Global Center for Health Innovation in the Cleveland Convention Center by the International Community Council-Worldwide Intercultural Network (ICC-WIN) was the multicultural fashion show.
Models: Gustav Kotlarsic and sister Amelia Kotlarsic
Amelia will be wearing a flowered skirt with white apron, decorative beaded vest, white blouse and flowered wreathed with ribbons on the head.
Gustav will be wearing white and res stripped pants, white shirt with red ribbon tie and navy blue vest with large belt with many rings. On his head will be a square hat with a peacock feather.
14 year old Olivia Gutowski performed at the ICC-WIN event. Dressed in a traditional Polish outfit, Olivia played the Hejnal on her trumpet.
The Hejnal Mariacki is a traditional, five-note Polish anthem closely bound to the history and traditions of the capital, Kraków. It is played every hour on the hour, four times in succession in each of the four cardinal directions, by a trumpeter on the highest tower of the city's Saint Mary's Church.
Legend has it that a sentry on a tower of St Mary's Church sounded an alarm by playing the Hejnal but the trumpeter was shot in the throat and did not complete the anthem. That is why performances end abruptly before completion.
Olivia Gotowski then performed Silent Night on trumpet.
Gary Kotlarsic receives Freedom Award
The American Nationalities Movement of Ohio (ANM) celebrated their 51st annual Christmas Luncheon and Freedom Award recognitions on December 19, 2015.
Lia Staaf, Gary Kotlarsic, Jane B. Sheats and the band Harmonia were honored.
Gary Kotlarsic has been a volunteer for many Polish organizations including director of the Polish American Cultural Center, John Paul II.
Judge Ralph Perk Jr, Gary Kotlarsic and Judge Ray Pianka
Mariachi Band for Our Lady of Guadalupe and Mexican Immigrant Family
A group of Mexican immigrants from Painesville and Polish parishioner met in front of historically Polish St Casimir Catholic Church in Cleveland to pray for a Miracle from the Polish icon Our Lady of Czestochowah and her Mexican counterpart Our Lady of Guadalupe to keep the family of Carmen Camarillo of Painesville together. Mariachi Santa Cecilia of Painesville performed.
Cleveland Museum of Art October 4, 2015 The Piast dynasty was the first historical ruling dynasty of Poland. The folk song and dance group PIAST is named for them. They are part of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA) the oldest Polish American organization in the United States.
They performed at the Cleveland Museum of Art's International Cleveland Community Day in the Atrium of the museum.
Sierpien 31 - Dzien Solidrnosci i Wolnosci
August 31 - Day of Solidarity and Freedom
Day of Solidarity and Freedom - a Polish national holiday , established by the Polish Parliament on July 27, 2005 is celebrated every year on August 31, on the anniversary of the August agreements to commemorate the historic Polish uprising for freedom and independence of 1980, which marked the start of the fall of communism and the liberation of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe.
In 1985, St Casimir Church was dedicated to the Solidarity movement by eleven Solidarity members from Poland.
God, who out of our land banished enemies.
Breaking their power, pride and arrogance,
Return our homeland free and just.
God, who executioners
For centuries rebuked out of our land,
Restore our independent Poland.
God, who in the heart of imprisoned Poles
Poured hope and moral discipline,
Restore us the truth in our pages of history.
Return Solidarity .
At the end, Michal Golab played a famous song during the 1980s, "Ojczyzno ma" while flowers were presented to the last of the eleven original Solidarity members, Andrzej Sobolewski, who was instrumental in installing at St. Casimir a replica of the Gdansk Shipyard Memorial dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
by Margaret Feckanin
St. Casimir Way street sign unveiled
St Casimir Church in Cleveland June 14, 2015 For years, there has been an unnamed street that connects MLK Blvd to Ansel Rd. just a block East of the twin towers of the historic Polish Church, St. Casimir, built in the American Architectural Style called "Polish Cathedral Style". St Casimir parishioner, John Niedzialek, whose family have been members for over a hundred years felt that an unnamed access street should have a name in order for people to easily find it. He worked with city officials for over 2 1/2 years to make " St. Casimir Way" a reality. With the help of caring local elected officials, especially Councilman Kevin Conwell, the project made it through committees, was ok'd by Cleveland City Council and was signed by Mayor Frank Jackson.
After the 11:30 AM Mass on June 14, 2015, a procession marched from the Church to the roadway where a short ceremony took place and the street sign was unveiled. Parishioners were joined by children in traditional costumes, Polish Veterans groups and others.
Gary Kotlarsic and his family from the Cleveland Polish community participated in the International Community Council - Worldwide Intercultural Network's (ICC-WIN) 5th annual multicultural holiday celebration at the Global Center for Health Innovation in the Cleveland Convention Center in Cleveland Ohio. They modeled Polish costumes at the International Fashion Show which featured traditional costumes of dozens of countries.
The 10th Annual Carpatho-Rusyn Vatra was produced by the Cleveland Chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society. The Vatra was held at Carpathian Hall at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Parma Ohio. One of the entertainment highlights was the performance by the young men and ladies from the PIAST of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America in Cleveland who performed traditional Polish dances in costumes.
By U.S. Senator Rob Portman
Seventy years ago, as American and British forces were liberating France and the Red Army was pressing forward on the Eastern Front, the people of Poland were fighting for their freedom. After five years of Nazi oppression, the Polish resistance in Warsaw launched an insurrection against their occupiers.
For two months and with little support from outside forces, thousands of resistance fighters—men, women, and even children—fought against the far better armed and better supplied German army. As one German officer later remarked, they fought to the very last bullet. Before it was over, more than 16,000 resistance fighters would give their lives. In retaliation for this act of defiance, hundreds of thousands of Polish civilians were murdered by the members of the SS. When the Red Army finally did arrive, what should have been a liberation turned into yet another form of captivity, and for the next 45 years, Poland endured the oppression of Soviet communism.
But the Polish people never forgot the bravery and the sacrifices of those who stood for liberty those 63 days in the late summer of 1944. Many of the survivors came to the United States, where they continued the fight for an independent Poland. Others joined the Solidarity movement, and the memory of the Warsaw Uprising served to inspire everyday people to fight for liberation. When Poland won its independence in 1989, the dream of the uprising was finally realized.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to travel to Poland to meet with Polish officials and visit U.S. troops in the country. I also had the opportunity to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum to see firsthand the moving commemoration of this chapter in Poland’s history. Poland is a staunch ally of the United States, and the Polish people have stood with us in our struggle against terrorism around the world. As the United States and Poland continue to fight for freedom and democracy, the historical ties that bind us are more important today than ever.
Recently, I joined with my colleagues in the Senate to cosponsor a resolution marking the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. The bravery of the men and women who took part in the fight against Nazi oppression will never be forgotten. Neither will their sacrifices. Their legacy lives on today.
So too does their cause.
U.S. Senator Rob Portman received the American Nationalities Movement ‘Freedom Award’ at the 2014 annual Captive Nations banquet.
Taste of St. Casimir's
The historic Polish Church held a Taste of St. Casimir's traditional Polish food festival the weekend of August 1-3, 2014.
The weekend included Church tours, live music and dancing and, of course, great Polish food!
Francis Rutkowski receives Freedom Award
The American Nationalities Movement of Ohio presented Francis Rutkowski the Freedom Award at its 53rd Annual Captive Nations Dinner on July 17, 2014 at Wal-Tam's Grand Ballroom in Garfield Heights, Ohio.
Judge Ralph J. (Rocky) Perk Jr and Francis Rutkowski
Eugene Bak was inducted into the 2014 Class of the Cleveland International Hall of Fame on the evening of May 12, 2014. A sold out crowd of 520 (with a waiting list) attended the induction ceremony in the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott at Key Center. Ben Stefanski inducted Gene Bak.
John Borkowski passed away at the age og 69 in May 2014.
John was the president of the Polish American Congress Ohio Division, former president of Alliance of Poles in America, president of St. John Paul II Foundation and a member and officer of many other organizations in Polonia. He was the leader of the John Borkowski Orchestra for 32 years.
John will be greatly missed by his numerous family and friends in Polonia and beyond.
Ligia and John Borkowski
Polish Constitution Day Celebration
Slavic Village, Cleveland Ohio May 4, 2014 Mayor Frank Jackson and Councilman Anthony Brancatelli marched in the annual Polish Constitution Day Parade in Slavic Village.
The route was from Immaculate Heart of Mary Church to the Shrine Church of Saint Stanislaus.
Tribute to newly canonized Saint Pope John Paul II
April 27, 2014 St Barbara Church at 1505 Denison in Cleveland has a large Polish American population. They celebrated the canonization of Pope John Paul II with a special service (in Polish and English) at St Barbara Church.
Mass Mob at St Barbara Church and Canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II
April 27, 2014 St Barbara Church at 1505 Denison in Cleveland has a large Polish American population. Pastor Joseph Hilinski and Rev. Andrzej Panek were joined by 2 other priests at this special Mass celebrated in both Polish and English.
Saint Casimir Church - 8223 Sowinski Ave. Cleveland
March 23, 2014 Social Media (Facebook, Twitter and others) has been used to create Flash Mobs for impromptu dance and other performances, Cash Mobs to help a small business get lots of customers and other "Mobs" to get a larger than usual group of people together for a common purpose.
Parishioner leaders from St Casimir Catholic Church in Cleveland have been active since the Church was originally closed down several years ago. Stanislav Zadnik, Joseph Feckanin, John Niadzialek, Wojtek Flezar and others organized weekly prayer vigils at the Church until it was reopened on July 15, 2012. Zadnik heard of the Mass Mob in Buffalo and spread the word to the others and, after discussing with pastor Rev. Eric Orzech, spread the news of a Catholic Mass Mob at St. Casimir Church at East 82nd and Sowinski.
Typically the 11:30 AM Sunday Mass at St Casimir would attract about 100 people but over 700 attended Mass on March 23, 2014 for the first Mass Mob in Cleveland.
Fr. Orzech processes into the Church
Fr. Orzech spoke about the Polish Lenten tradition called Gorzkie zale, a Catholic devotion containing many hymns that developed out of Poland in the 18th century. The devotion is primarily a sung reflection and meditation on the Passion of Christ and the sorrows of His Blessed Mother.
A memorial mass for Dr. Zbigniew Piotrowski Ph.D. was held at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus on Saturday, February 8th. Piotrowski, age 61, passed away on January 29th at the Hospice of the Valley in Youngstown, Ohio with family and friends at his side. In November of 2013, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The memorial mass was arranged by his many friends in the Cleveland Area and it was a "Celebration of his Life". The mass was accompanied by the music of Chopin, religious music, voice, playing of the trumpet, poetry and a touching from the heart eulogy by his son, Marcin Piotrowski, who spoke of his father's "Passion" for whatever he did.
Over two hundred attended this mass which included people from the Youngstown Area and from Poland. Rev. Father Jerzy Kusy was the celebrant and said," Zbigniew lived a full life and now has gone on to a new life-he is still living". After mass, the tribute of Zbigniew's life continued at the Polish-American Cultural Center on Lansing Avenue.
Piotrowski, a world renowned mathematician, for the last 30 years, was a math professor at Youngstown State University. He had over 70 publications in the field of Topology and Real Functions. He also was a visiting professor at universities throughout the world along with being a sought after speaker at conferences in the United states and abroad. Zbigniew was a colleague in research with several world renowned mathematicians. According to his peers, his love and intensity for mathematics was unparalleled.
Zbigniew earned his Ph. D. at the University of Wroclaw, Poland in 1979. In 1981, he came to Cleveland as a visiting professor at Cleveland State University. He also lectured at John Carol University, where many met him for the first time.
Always a Polish patriot, Zbigniew had an intense love for his homeland, Poland. In 1982, he founded with others the Cleveland branch of the Solidarity movement, the anti-communist organization which challenged the regime in Poland. In addition to his Solidarity years, he was a member of several professional organizations and a member of the Polish-American Cultural Center.
Piotrowski is survived by his loving sons, Marcin of Wroclaw and Michal (Marta) of Ningbo, China, grandson Bruno of Ningbo and a brother, Jerzy of Polanica, Poland. He is to be buried close to his parents, Helena and Jozef at the Koscian Cemetery in Poland. Wasko Funeral Home in Campbell, Ohio handled all arrangements.
Zbigniew's intense energy and passion will be missed and can be an example for all to follow in our life's journey.
Dr. Zbigniew Piotrowski
by Joseph Feckanin
Pilgrimage to Stop Deportation of Local Immigrant Father
Ricardo Ramos, an immigrant father of three U.S. citizen children, has been working (and paying taxes) in the nurseries of Lake County, OH for the past sixteen years. Currently, he's facing deportation on January 16th, the same day as his daughter's twelfth birthday.
St. Casimir Church in Cleveland is home to a predominantly Polish American congregation but St Casimir has become the adopted Church of Ricardo Ramos and his family. They learned of the miracles attributed to Our Lady of Czestochowa, also known as the Black Madonna.
On Monday January 13, 2014 about 100 supporters made a 20 mile pilgrimage walk in the cold and rain from Painesville to St Casimir to pray for a miracle in front of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
Rev. Eric Orzech is Pastor of both the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus and St. Casimir Church in Cleveland. Father Eric told how they were serving pierogis to the pilgrims at St Casimir but calling them Polish tamales for the day. He called St Casimir Church a place where miracles happen.
Rededication and unveiling of the Adam Mickiewicz bust
Polish Cultural Garden August 25, 2013
Adam Bernard Mickiewicz (1798 to 1855) was a prominent poet, dramatist, essayist, political activist, publicist and translator. He is commonly considered the greatest poet in Polish literature. His bust was restored and in a ceremony on August 25th it was unveiled and re-dedicated.
The event featured dignitaries, speeches and performances from PIAST, the Polish Folk Song and Dance Ensemble of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA).
Gary Kotlarsic, Ben Stefanski, Irene Morrow, Councilman Anthony Brancatelli and Dr. Sean Martin unveiled the newly renovated and rededicated monument to Adam Mickiewicz
Bernadette Zubel of the Polish National Alliance represented the Polish culture at the 2013 Culture Shock event which was put on by Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) West and the Parma City School District.
Wladyslaw 'Wladek' Szylwian,
The Hero of St Casimir
Bóg Zaplac and Rest in Peace
100 year old Wladek passed away February 20, 2013.
Walter was the then 96 year old altar boy who pulled the plug on the bishop at the last closing Mass of St. Casimir Church on Nov 8, 2009. At the time he said he did it as his form of protest for an unjust closing. He took great care of the altar at St Casimir each and every day.
Walter was born in Grodno, Poland and served in the Polish Army. He was liberated from the notorious death camp of Bergen-Belsen in 1945 but he lost his beloved wife and family members and could not return home to the Soviet occupied land.
In 1948 he immigrated to America and settled in Cleveland in the St. Clair Polish Neighborhood of Poznan.
The many different cultural performances were a highlight of the grand opening of the Ames Family Atrium in the Cleveland Museum of Art on Sunday October 28, 2012. This included a performance by the PIAST Polish Folk Song and Dance Ensemble.
Gary Kotlarsic at Polish Cultural Garden Table
in Ames Family Atrium
The event featured Congressman Dennis Kucinich who was instrumental in getting honorary US citizenship granted to General Casimir Pulaski from Poland. At the 2012 Pulaski Day celebration at Cleveland City Hall, he gave two copies of the official House of Representatives to local Polonia leaders.
Dr. Marek Dollar, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland, was the keynote speaker.
Mike Polichuk, Dennis Kucinich, John Borkowski and Francis Rutkowski
Christmas 1981 - A Flame for Freedom in Poland by historian Dr. Paul Kengor.
December 2011 might not be an anniversary on the minds of American Catholics, but it is close and near and dear to the hearts of Polish Catholics. As American Catholics, we ought to pause here, today, to consider why. The reasons are historically and even spiritually inspiring.
It was 30 years ago, December 13, 1981, that martial law was imposed upon Poland by the communist government. Poles were aghast, horrified, frightened. And so was the man in Rome, a Polish native named John Paul II, and so was another man thousands of miles away in Washington, DC, President Ronald Reagan.
When word of the communists’ actions reached the White House, President Reagan was furious. He wanted to help the people of Poland in any way he could. At that very moment, Reagan committed to save and sustain the Polish Solidarity movement as the wedge that could splinter the entire Soviet bloc, as the first crack in the Iron Curtain.
One of Reagan’s first responses was to call someone he deeply respected: John Paul II. On December 14, he told the Holy Father: “Our country was inspired when you visited Poland, and to see their commitment to religion and belief in God. It was an inspiration…. All of us were very thrilled.”
At that point, Reagan had not yet met John Paul II in person. Reagan had been president only for 11 months. Both he and John Paul II had been shot earlier in the year. Reagan told the Pope that he looked forward to a time when the two men could meet in person. The imposition of martial law added a special urgency. Reagan wanted to meet with the Pope to plan ways to cooperate.
Reagan followed up with two letters to John Paul II, dated December 17 and 29, 1981, neither of which was declassified until July 2000. In the December 17 letter, he asked the Pope to urge Poland’s General Jaruzelski to hold a meeting with Lech Walesa and the Poland’s Archbishop Glemp. In the second letter, Reagan explained the counter-measures his administration was taking against the USSR; he also asked the Pope to use his influence with the Polish Church to lift martial law, to gain the release of detainees, and to resume a dialogue with Solidarity; and he requested that John Paul II press other Western countries to join the United States. “If we are to keep alive the hope for freedom in Poland,” said Reagan, “it lies in this direction.”
There is much more I could say about all of this, having written books on the subject, but one item that happened precisely 30 years ago, right now, on December 23, 1981, is especially moving and notable:
On that date, Reagan held a private meeting in the White House with the Polish ambassador, Romuald Spasowski, and his wife, both of whom had just defected to the United States. Michael Deaver, a close Reagan aide, witnessed the meeting. Deaver later recorded:
The ambassador and his wife were ushered into the Oval Office, and the two men sat next to one another in plush-leather wingback chairs. Vice President Bush, and the ambassador’s wife, sat facing them on a couch.
The ambassador had in his hand a pocket-sized note pad with wire rings and lined paper, and he was obviously referring to notes he wanted to give to the president of the United States. Meanwhile, his wife, a tiny, delicate-looking woman, kept her head in her hands the entire time, while George Bush put an arm around her shoulders to comfort her.
The ambassador said, “It is unbelievable to me that I am sitting in the office of the president of the United States. I wish it were under better circumstances.”
He begged the president never to discontinue Radio Free Europe. “You have no idea,” he said, “what it meant to us to hear the chimes of Big Ben during World War Two. Please, sir, do not ever underestimate how many millions of people still listen to that channel behind the Iron Curtain.”
Then, almost sheepishly, he said, “May I ask you a favor, Mr. President? Would you light a candle and put in the window tonight for the people of Poland?”
And right then, Ronald Reagan got up and went to the second floor, lighted a candle, and put it in the window of the dining room.
Later, in what I still recall as the most human picture of the Reagan presidency, he escorted his guests through the walkway and out to the circular drive on the South Lawn of the White House. In a persistent rain, he escorted them to their car, past the C-9 Secret Service post, holding an umbrella over the head of the wife of the Polish ambassador, as she wept on his shoulder.
That candle might have brought to mind those lit after Mass by a young Karol Wojtyla. Then and now, they burned bright for Russia’s conversion.
But Reagan did more than that. That evening, with Christmas only two days away, the president gave a nationally televised speech watched by tens of millions of Americans. He connected the spirit of the Christmas season with events in Poland:
“For a thousand years,” he told his fellow Americans, “Christmas has been celebrated in Poland, a land of deep religious faith, but this Christmas brings little joy to the courageous Polish people. They have been betrayed by their own government.”
He made an extraordinary gesture: The president asked Americans that Christmas season to light a candle in support of freedom in Poland.
This was a remarkable display, one that placed all Americans on the side of freedom for Poland—and against the communists.
I’m sure it was appreciated, too, by a Polish Catholic named Karol Wojtyla.
Thirty years ago, December 1981, the communists tried to turn out the lights in Poland. But like a candle in the White House window, Ronald Reagan and John Paul II and the people of Poland kept a flicker of hope alive.
It may seem like a long time ago, distant to the interests of Americans today. In truth, this was a crucial turning point for the world, for freedom, and for faith. It is a history lesson worth taking to heart, especially this Christmas.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press), God and Ronald Reagan, and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism.
Joseph A. Drobot Jr., President of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America and Michael Polichuk, President Polonia Foundation of Ohio and National and 1st Vice-Commander of the Polish Legion of American Veterans, U.S.A.
Cleveland Councilmen Joe Cimperman and Anthony Brancatelli, Francis Rutkowski, Chairman Director of the Polonia Foundation of Ohio, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Joseph A. Drobot Jr., President of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, Michael Polichuk, President Polonia Foundation of Ohio and National and 1st Vice-Commander of the Polish Legion of American Veterans, U.S.A., Genny Torrero, President of Polish Legion of American Veterans Ladies Auxiliaries (PLAV),Department of Ohio, Rev. Eric Orzech, National President of the Polish American Priests Association and Kathy Boll, Past National President and Past State President of PLAV Ladies Auxiliaries
"It is estimated that more people saw John Paul II in person than any other figure in history, yet for those who were fortunate to get close to him during his public appearances, it seemed that he was present for them alone." Colombia Magazine
Pulaski Plaza, a monument of significance to Greater Cleveland's Polish Community will return to its location on Mall C when the Medical Mart project is completed.
Councilman Brancatelli, who serves on the Landmark Commission, was alerted by Gary Kotlarsic, Chairman of the Cultural & Education Committee of the Polish American Congress, that the monument may be in jeopardy with the construction of the new Medical Mart.
The City of Cleveland's Landmark Commission voted unanimously on December 9, 2010 to preserve the Pulaski Plaza, located on Mall C and its monument in honor of General Casimir Pulaski, a American Revolutionary war hero.
MMPI, the owners and developers of the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center, had made a presentation to the Landmarks Commission on December 9 seeking permission to demolish a portion of the old Convention Center and to remove the top portions of Mall C as part of their development of the site. Councilman Brancatelli motioned to approve their request for demolition with the amendment that MMPI appropriately remove, store then replace the cannon, plaques and plaza to its prominent place on Mall C. The owners' representative of MMPI and the Jackson Administration all agreed to this amendment and it was unanimously passed by the commission.
Poland is an ancient nation that was conceived near the middle of the 10th century. Its golden age occurred in the 16th century. During the following century, the strengthening of the gentry and internal disorders weakened the nation.
In a series of agreements between 1772 and 1795, Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland amongst themselves. Poland regained its independence in 1918 only to be overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. It became a Soviet satellite state following the war, but its government was comparatively tolerant and progressive.
Labor turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of the independent trade union "Solidarity" that over time became a political force and by 1990 had swept parliamentary elections and the presidency.
A "shock therapy" program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe, but Poland still faces the lingering challenges of high unemployment, underdeveloped and dilapidated infrastructure, and a poor rural underclass. Solidarity suffered a major defeat in the 2001 parliamentary elections when it failed to elect a single deputy to the lower house of Parliament, and the new leaders of the Solidarity Trade Union subsequently pledged to reduce the Trade Union's political role.
Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. With its transformation to a democratic, market-oriented country largely completed, Poland is an increasingly active member of Euro-Atlantic organizations.