THE BLACK SONS OF POLAND: Black Soldiers in the Polish Military
by Capt. Zbigniew W. (Adalbert) Gamski
Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
Chairman of the Eng. Zglenicki Charity Foundation – Poland
Source: http://forum.poland.com/index.php?showtopic=1566 (Defunkt)
It was a 1920 Polish-Soviet War.
A new country just freshly reborn after few centuries of occupation by Prussia, Russia and Austria was eager to show to the rest of the world it’s loyalty in the crusade against a new threat to the Free World–the Soviet Union. With very little money and almost no help from allies, with tremendous courage and loss of life, the Polish people stopped a huge unit of 100,000 horsemen under the command of Marshall Budionny, the hero of the Russian Revolution.
But, as always in history, some people, motivated by either patriotism, sentiment, courage or political conviction joined the Polish Forces in an uneven fight with the overwhelming power of the Red Army. There were Italians, Britons, Hungarians, Czechs and about twenty Americans. The most interesting one among them was Captain Merian C. Cooper, the Second in Command of the Kosciuszko Squadron of the Polish Air Force. He later became an actor, movie director, producer, even received an Oscar as the creator of the “King Kong.”
Cooper came from a wealthy family and his ancestor was a physician during the War for Independence in Savannah and treated General Pulaski’s wounds. Unfortunately his work wasn’t successful and General died. History about General Pulaski’s death was passed from one generation to the other and fructified with the decision to go to Poland and join the crusade against communism. Captain Cooper was shot down in a battle of Rowne , was a POW in a Russian camp for nine months, and after his successful escape when the War was finished, he worked in Herbert Hoover’s Mission in Warsaw.
There is unconfirmed information that he had a son who was a writer and the translator of English literature [It is my own theory that his son wrote some criminal books under the name of Joe Alex to make a living. To fulfill his intellectual needs he translated English-writing authors into the Polish language. The work of his life was “Ulysses” by James Joyce.]
After his return to the United States, Merian C. Cooper, with animator William O’Brien, created the King Kong. They received an Oscar for that. Cooper even sat in the pilot’s seat of the plane attacking the Monster.
As stated above, twenty Americans had joined the anti-Bolshevik force. Same of them never returned home. They were Capt. Pilot A.H. Kelly, Lt. Pilot E. A. Graves and Capt. Pilot T.V. Callum.
Historians know the names of all Americans in the Polish Air Force very well. But, there are no African Americans. How did they come to Poland and why? In my personal opinion, they were sons of mixed Polish-African marriages, which were not so uncommon when the first wave of Polish immigrants reached the American soil. There was a dramatic shortage of Polish brides and Poles were very often called “white niggers” by the WASPs, settlers of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant origin. Hence, the Poles often chose Black women, sharing almost the same social status.
Those Poles, the earliest emigrants, were mostly simple farmers for whom black women, born and raised on the cotton fields, were the perfect match. The word “racism” did not exist in the Polish mentality. Poland was bordered by Christianity, Russian Orthodoxy and Islam. Poles, Russians, Cossacks, Tartars, Turks fought together and they lived together for centuries. They had learned to respect each other’s ethnic origin and understand various religious beliefs. The 18th-century Polish Constitution of the 3rd of May was more democratic than the U.S. Constitution of that time. Everybody, no matter what God they prayed to, no matter what the color of their skin was, all had the same rights. There was no Holy Inquisition in Poland; no one was burned at the stake for his own belief in God.
For that very reason, Poland had the world’s largest population of Jews, 3.5 millions, 10% of the entire Polish citizenry. They came from all over Europe, searching for peace and a place to live and raise families. Some became luminaries of art, science, industry, legislature–they were an active and important part of Polish society for centuries. Unfortunately, WWII put an end to that. Six million citizens of Poland disappeared; three million Poles of Jewish origin died in concentration camps and other places. Very few survived.
I believe that Black men in the Polish Army were just half Polish and half African Americans, having pure Polish last names, making them very difficult to track. They came to fight for the homeland of their fathers because that they had learned from them about Poland since they were small children.
No matter what one can say about Poles, no one can blame them for a lack of the patriotism and lack of the love of their Old Country. Their Black Sons just shared what their Dad’s believed, and they did what their souls and hearts told them to do–go and fight for their own Old Country. They are the Black Sons of Poland.
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Captain Gamski is attempting to trace the Black members of the Polish forces and enlists the help of our readers. He suggests checking among Black members of U.S. forces during WWI, or for specialists as pilots, airplane mechanics or drivers. It is most likely that the Black man would have a pure Polish last name. Anyone with such information may send it to Polonia Today, which is cooperating with Captain Gamski in his search.
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- Black Africans in Poland