There is something that all veterans recognize in one another. Comrades in arms, they don’t need a lot of words to express this. They just know.
On May 2, 2016, a very special event was held at the War Memorial Veterans’ Building in San Francisco to honor Jan Karski and the Polish Home Army (AK) of which Karski was a member. The offer to hold it at the Vets’ Building was arranged by the veterans from the American Legion War Memorial Commission when they learned, for the first time, that the Polish underground movement was the only resistance in German-occupied Europe that was given the status of an allied army.
“I’d never heard that before,” said Paul Cox, President of the American Legion War Memorial Commission. “We were happy to honor veterans who fought with our men during WWII.”
It was a perfect venue, not only because it is named as a memorial to veterans but also because it is a beautiful building and perfectly situated in the center of the City. “I was thrilled when Paul offered to arrange this,” said Maureen Mroczek Morris, who had wanted to bring the Karski exhibit to San Francisco for a long time. “When Paul made his offer to help, it was done. All I had to do was ask the Polish Consulate in LA to ship the exhibit to us which they graciously did” said Maureen.
With Paul and Maureen co-organizing, things moved quickly forward. Because a lot of people visit that building for a variety of reasons, they decided that the exhibit should be on display for two weeks. Because of its location, it’s a perfect place for teachers to bring their classes, and for all visitors to the Herbst Theater and other performing arts venues in the historic building to see the huge, attractive poster in the atrium. In fact, following the official closing time many visitors, who had come to the Veterans’ Building for a large Asian-Pacific Heritage Month celebration, stopped in to see the Karski exhibit. There is much to learn about the great man who took on the dangerous trek across occupied Europe, and then, though only 24 years old at the time, accepted the daunting task of meeting with the most powerful leaders of the allied countries, including President Roosevelt.
What was still needed for a successful ongoing exhibit were onsite docents to answer questions and handle sales of the documentary film, Karski and the Lords of Humanity, and the books, Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust and Story of a Secret State. Paul stepped in again by reaching out to the D.A.R. (The Daughters of the American Revolution). With their long tradition of volunteerism, they stepped up to help, filling numerous slots in the exhibit’s two‑week run.
By all accounts, the opening was a great success. Following immediately after Polish Flag Raising ceremonies at the Mayor’s Office in City Hall the guests, including a representative of the American veterans, moved to the Trophy room in the nearby Veterans’ Building to launch the exhibit. In attendance were the Polish Consul General, Mariusz Brymora, honorary consuls Christopher Kerosky and Tad Taube, and to everyone’s delight, Krystyna Chciuk, a veteran of the AK who took part in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
When the introductions and speeches were finished, Maureen presented Paul with a donation to the Legion in support of their projects for American veterans. “It was the least we Bay Area Poles could do to thank them for their enthusiastic support. They deserve our support and our respect. And I’m also happy that they now know about the Polish Home Army,” Maureen said.