- The Washington Times - Monday, August 2, 2004

Remembering heroes

The Polish ambassador remembers the Warsaw uprising of 1944 with pride and some bitterness, a combination that defines the collective Polish identity.

“Without understanding this Polish tragedy, it is very difficult to understand us Poles,” Ambassador Przemyslaw Grudzinski told Embassy Row yesterday.

He proudly noted that foreign leaders are recognizing the 60th anniversary of Warsaw’s valiant last stand against Nazi occupiers, although the Western Allies and the Soviet army ignored their struggle.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in the Polish capital on Sunday called all of the fighters of the Polish underground army “heroes.” German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder came to Warsaw to apologize on behalf of his country.

The 63-day uprising began Aug. 1, 1944, and ended with the defeat of the Polish fighters and the complete destruction of Warsaw. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered his forces, then about 10 miles from Warsaw, to stay out of the fight. Aside from airlifts of limited supplies, the Poles received no help from the United States or Britain, which already had ceded postwar Eastern Europe to Stalin.

“The Allies were willing to pay the price in Polish freedom and Polish blood,” Mr. Grudzinski said. “Almost every Polish family had someone fighting there.”

The ambassador’s uncle, Zigmunt, fought in the uprising, and his father, Tadeusz, was part of the underground army outside of Warsaw.

The Poles lost more than 200,000 fighters and civilians. Many of the fighters were women or teenagers. The Nazis expelled the survivors, sending many to concentration camps. The Soviet army entered the devastated city in January 1945.

The uprising was lost to history during that period, as communist governments repressed its memory and Western governments were too embarrassed to remember it, the ambassador said.

“What we have now fundamentally is the rediscovery of the Warsaw uprising as an important event in the history of the Western world,” Mr. Grudzinski said.

“The Warsaw uprising symbolizes the struggle for freedom in the face of adversity. Today, Poland is a partner in the fight for freedom in the Balkans, in Afghanistan and in Iraq.”

By appointment only

The daughter of a Nazi concentration-camp survivor is among three new ambassadors who President Bush appointed during the congressional recess.

All were also political supporters of the president, his father or his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Dr. Aldona Wos, a retired physician, was named ambassador to Estonia. She is known for her long efforts to promote the knowledge of Polish efforts to save Jews during World War II.

Her Polish father, Paul Z. Wos, and her grandparents helped 12 Jews escape from the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. Mr. Wos, a Polish Catholic, also fought in the Warsaw uprising and survived confinement in the Flossenburg concentration camp.

Dr. Wos, who served on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, was a campaign manager for Sen. Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina Republican, and helped organize the president’s fund-raising efforts in North Carolina for the November election.

Mr. Bush named another top fund-raiser to serve as ambassador to the Bahamas. John D. Rood is one of Mr. Bush’s “Pioneers,” supporters who raise at least $100,000 for his campaign. A Florida real-estate developer, he is chairman of Vestcor Companies of Jacksonville, Fla., and a top supporter of Jeb Bush.

The president tapped a longtime supporter of his father, the first President Bush, to serve as ambassador the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. Charles Graves Untermeyer served in the first Bush administration as director of presidential personnel.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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