ROTARY IN POLAND Pre-1940
ROTARY IN POLAND Pre-1940
Rotary is well known around the world for helping those who need it the most. Many traders have lost their money due to some bad choices. It is in such situations that automated systems like HBSwiss, can be helpful as there is no room for human error. However, Rotary does not help you by giving you the money you lost in a trade, but it helps you find a way to earn back that money and reach a decent lifestyle or even your old lifestyle, all by yourself.
In 1931, the first Rotary club in Poland was chartered on March 19 1931. Other clubs followed at regular intervals, the nine pre-war clubs being:-
Warsaw chartered March 19 1931
As happened elsewhere, some clubs experienced opposition from the Roman Catholic church. The Bydgoszcz Club in particular recorded that the Church had effectively prevented the creation of a Rotary club in Poznan and elsewhere. It seems that the Church believed that Rotary was a form of Freemasonry, an organisation which it felt was in opposition to the teaching and practices of the Church. While it was true that many Rotarians were masons and vice versa, the two movements were always quite separate.
When the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, Rotary, as it did in other parts of Occupied Europe, came to a standstill and on October 10, 1940 all the clubs had their charters terminated. When the Germans were driven out, Rotary fared no better under the Communists. One Polish Rotarian, Casimir Zienkiewicz of the Katowice Club, escaped to London and there helped to start the Inter Allied Rotary Club in London in November 1940
The story of how Rotary returned can be found in other sections. When PDG Jack Olsson met Marek Sredniawa on a train in 1984, he told him that Warsaw had had a flourishing Rotary club until 1939 and the subsequent invasion of first the Germans and later the Russians. What happened next can be read in another section.
Note. The list of charter termination shows only 9 clubs in Poland in
With thanks to PDGs Kari Tallberg, Jack Olsson and the RI Archivists.
Posted 5 January 2006 by Rotary Global History historian Basil Lewis
ROTARY IN POLAND The Re-establishment from 1989.
When Rotary was originally established in Poland in 1931, it was reported that it was an inspiring event in Poland, our beloved country, restored in 1918, following the Great War, to new independent life. This came after 125 years of Russian control in a country which was one of the first in history to have a liberal system of government. Therefore, at the proper moment, the great Rotarian movement was able to find unselfish followers in Poland .The principle of ‘Service Above Self’ was ever close to the Polish spirit.
In 1989, it was reported that. “there is again a favourable atmosphere in Poland ..to come back to the ideals of service, fellowship, goodwill and peace”. In this context the possibility of re-establishing Rotary was just one more evidence of a dramatic change and of progress towards an open, democratic society. The achievement of world peace and understanding is one of the major goals of Rotary. Coincidentally this goal was also undertaken in June 1984, when, under the auspices of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, my wife and I participated in a study tour of four communist countries in Eastern Europe including Poland.
As it turned out, when returning by train from Crackow to Warsaw, I met for the first time Marek Sredniawa, a young academic from the Warsaw Institute of Technology . During the course of our conversation, Marek spoke of his professional aims for the future and the difficulties and lack of opportunity. of gaining world experience by visiting other countries. We exchanged business cards and although I said nothing to him at the time, his enthusiasm to help his country and his keenness to improve his knowledge, struck a chord with me . On my return home, I had the opportunity at my Rotary club of giving a three minute talk on my visit overseas and finished up by saying “wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could wave a magic wand and bring this young man to Australia so that he can attend the International Telecommunications Conference in Sydney”. It is now a matter of record that with the help of the Rotary network in Canberra and Sydney, Marek’s dream came true. He attended the International Telecommunications Conference and, before returning home, was introduced and enjoyed his first experience of Rotary service and fellowship.
This could have been the end of the story. Fortunately, however, the spirit of Rotary service and its benefical effect within a community was not lost on Marek. His astute mind quickly picked up the idea and value of such an organization.
Following the success of this visit, I maintained contact with Marek in the hope of extending the hand of friendship to other young academics from behind the Iron Curtain and during my visits to Evanston as a member of the Rotary International Finance Committee, actively pursued the idea of similar projects for young people similarly placed .
It was on one of my final visits to Evanston about 1987, however, I learned that the Trustees of the Rotary Foundation had appointed me to be leader of the first Group Study Exchange program to be undertaken in a communist country, namely to Poland. I immediately contacted Marek to arrange the GSE program and in April 1988 visited Poland to discuss details of the exchange. It was also an occasion to have some informal meetings with the medium level representatives of Polish authorities to discuss prospects of such visits by Rotary, for without state approval no such international meetings would be possible.
At that time Marek also recruited a group of six men of different professions as a host team for the first leg of the GSE visit to Australia . This team, incidentally, ultimately became the nucleus of the future Warsaw club. The successful result of talks gave us the stimulus to arrange a meeting at senior government level and directly discuss the possibility of reestablishing Rotary in Poland.
Fortunately, at this time Michael Gorbachov’s ‘Glasnost’ and ‘Perestroka’ had begun to influence the thinking of people in Eastern Europe .This was not only the watershed of communism but also the turning point for the development of Rotary in Eastern Europe. It was during this preparatory stage of the development of the GSE program that I became increasingly aware of a genuine interest by the Polish hierarchy in Rotary. Of course this was not always straight sailing as evidenced by some of the questions posed to me including ” What is this capitalist organization all about?” and “What is meant by Rotary’s motto ‘He Profits most who Serves Best'”?
On my return home and being aware of Rotary’s policy that no steps could be undertaken for international extension without approval from the Board of Rotary International. I immediately contacted Royce Abbey who was soon to take up the appointment of President of Rotary International. I told Royce of my experience in Poland and of what I believed was the positive reception of the idea of the re-establishment of Rotary. I also suggested that I would be prepared to arrange a visit for him to meet the appropriate authorities. Royce immediately agreed and during July 1988, together with the General Secretary of R.I. Phillip Lindsay, I returned to Warsaw where we were able to finalise not only the GSE program, but to put in train the initial steps for re-establishing the Rotary Club of Warsaw.
In the words of Marek Sredniawa, “In September 1988 we hosted a GSE team from District 971 (now 9710), led by Jack Olsson. The reciprocal visit of the Polish team to Australia took place in February 1989.The GSE program was really successful and helped very much in founding our club”.
Rotary International appointed the Rotary Club of Malmo Sweden as the sponsoring club, and Past R.I President Ernst Brietholtz to represent R.I. President Royce Abbey in presenting the charter to the re-established Rotary Club of Warsaw.
On November 9 1989 at the Royal Castle Warsaw, my wife and I had the honour, together with 500 distinguished guests and Rotarians from around the world, of being present on that most historical occasion