New England - Mission & History

The New England Chapter of the Kosciuszko Foundation was established in January, 1997 to promote the Foundation's mission of fostering relations and understanding between the United States and Poland and increasing American understanding of Polish culture and history through cultural events, scholarships and educational grants.

This significant event was enabled through the generosity of the late Joseph Kszepka of Three Rivers, MA, who established a fund at the Kosciuszko Foundation with the sole purpose of forming a Chapter of the Foundation centered in Western Massachusetts. The goal was realized in May of 1997 with an inaugural concert by the Elsner Quartet, a group of young musicians from Poland, before an enthusiastic audience of over 400 at Elms College, Chicopee, MA.

Elms College also has been instrumental in the formation of the new Chapter of the Kosciuszko Foundation by offering the expertise of their faculty and staff, and the use of their facilities for events. We look forward to a long and productive relationship in collaborative efforts in arranging and presenting Polish educational and cultural programs.

Since then our members and friends of the Kosciuszko Foundation in New England have enjoyed numerous cultural events, and witnessed our support of social events and our successes.

A History of Programs and Events During Our First Ten Years


National Advisory Council April 2017

Kosciuszko Foundation New England

Submitted by Carolyn Topor, President

            On Sunday, April 23, 2017 the Kosciuszko Foundation New England Chapter held the 17th Annual Awards Luncheon at which the Chapter recognizes and congratulates Kosciuszko Foundation scholarship and grant recipients. The luncheon took place at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. 150 people attended the Gala. Of the 29 recipients 14 were in attendance. Their accomplishments are extraordinary!

            In attendance were Marek Skulimowski, President & Executive Director of the Kosciuszko Foundation, Peter Novak, Trustee of the Kosciuszko Foundation; Marek Lesniewski-Laas, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland from Boston; Richard Kos, Mayor of the City of Chicopee; Professor Robert Rothstein Walter Raleigh Amesbury Jr. & Cecile Dudley Amesbury Prof. of Polish Language, Literature & Culture at UMass/Amherst; Ronald Lech, Presidentof the Polish Center of Discovery & Learning at Elms College; Carl Eger, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Polish Center of Discovery & Learning at Elms College; Anthony Bajdek: National VP for American Affairs, Polish American Congress, President and Founder, Polish American Congress of New Hampshire, President and Founder, American Assoc of the Friends of Kosciuszko at West Point; Joseph Kos: President of the Polish American Congress of Western MA; Theresa Struziak Sherman, National Director of the Polish National Alliance; Wanda Milecki Commissioner of PNA District 1; Jeannie Zapala  VP/ PNA Council 62; Frederick Zimnoch, President of the Polish Genealogical Society of MA.

                                    Marek Skulimowski presented the award certificates to each of the recipients after which recipients spoke about their studies and/or research and their future plans.

            The Chapter also presented the NE Chapter Distinguished Polish-American Award for 2017 to Stephen Jendrysik a noted educator in high school and college, columnist, writer and narrator. As an historian he has made the people in Western MA aware of the legacy of the City of Chicopee and the Polish contribution.

            The Chapter also recognized The Irena Sendler awardees Jennifer Brzezinski 2015 and Johnie Sanders 2017

for their excellence in social work at Elms College.

            To cap off the Gala, Alison Chiang, Laureate of the 2014 KF Chopin Piano Competition, presented a recital "My Favorite Chopin" on a magnificent Bosendorfer piano in Abbey Chapel on the college campus. Her playing of the 24 Chopin Preludes held everyone spellbound!

Carolyn Topor, Pres. KF/NE; Alison Chiang, pianist; Marek Lesniewski-Laas, Honorary Consul

Ten Year Summary



Kosciuszko Foundation / New England Chapter

May 27, 2015   prepared by Carolyn Topor, President

From film to politics to the etudes of Chopin, the KF/New England Chapter continually worked to bring pride and knowledge of Poland to those of Polish descent and to others in our community to gain a general appreciation of the contributions of a country that symbolizes perseverance and an indomitable love of freedom.

 Highlights of the Year:

In October 2014, KF/New England presented the 13th annual Polish Film Festival at Elms College.  Each film was screened to a full house(150 people), with accompanying commentary and post-film discussion.  As 2014 was a year of special historic milestones in Poland, the festival featured films highlighting these momentous events and included: THE HONOR OF THE CITY: the Warsaw Rising; OUT OF THE ASHES-Warsaw story ;HIDING IN THE SPOTLIGHTWALESA: MAN OF HOPE by Andrzej Wajda; THE NINE DAYS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD and JERZY POPIELUSZKO: THE MESSENGER OF THE TRUTH.

 InOctober, Polish Heritage Month, the KF/New England Chapter hosted an Imieniny to toast and honor the name day of Tadeusz Kosciuszko.  Held at the Polish Center for Discovery and Learning on October 10th, the highlight of the evening was a performance by two local young Polish jazz musicians, as well as a champagne toast and a display of museum memorabilia.

 The KF/ New England Chapter, the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, The Polish Center of Discovery and Learning, and the Social Work Department at Elms College collaborated to make possible several events.  In February,a screening of In the Name of Their Mothers, a documentary film directed by Mary Skinnerchronicling the heroic work of Irena Sendler during World War II, was presented to more than 400 people at Elms College. On March 29, the play Life in a Jar,staged by the Kansas high school students who researched Irena Sendler's heroic exploits for a history project, held more than 450 people spellbound. From March 19 to May 30thForbidden Art, an exhibit of photographs of 20 works of art made by prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, was on view in the Alumnae Library at Elms College.  Recently shown at the UN in NYC, the exhibit was well received by the community and many field trips and tours for high school students were arranged.

 The XVI Kosciuszko Award Ceremony and Concert was held on Sunday, April 26, 2015 at Mount Holyoke College. The gala luncheon celebratedthe accomplishments of students and graduate students who had received scholarships from the Kosciuszko Foundation and are of Polish descent, or who are studying in disciplines related to Poland or Eastern Europe.  Also honoredweregrant recipients from Poland doing research at universities in New England.  At the Awards Ceremony, KF/New England Chapter recognized the following:  14 tuition scholarship recipients studying at colleges and universities such as Johns Hopkins (medicine), Washington and Lee (law),Cornell (public administration) George Washington and Tufts(international affairs ) among others; nine grants for research, teaching and advanced study at Brown, MIT, Yale, Harvard and Boston College; four students participating in study abroad programs in Poland; four students at summer studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow; andthree students participating as teaching assistants in the Teaching English Program in Poland. Also recognized were Gleidy Maria and Peter Madol, recipients of the KF/NE Irena Sendler Award at Elms College.A special highlight of the ceremony, the Distinguished Polish-American of the Year, was bestowedonKenneth Thomas Lemanski, Vice President, Advancement and University Relations fromWestfield State University, who had recently initiated a student exchange program with Krosno University in Poland. The day concludedwith a solo piano concert by internationally acclaimed Czech pianist Martin Kasik.

 On May 1, 2015 the Irena Sendler Award was presented to Jennifer Brzezinskifrom Greenfield, MA,and a graduate from Elms College with a degree in social work. Sponsored by the KF/New England Chapter, the $500 Sendler Award has been given to anElms College student who is pursuing studies/career in the human services/social services area and honors the memory and sacrifice of Irena Sendler.


The Chapter has offered 23 New England students, recipients of the Kosciuszko Foundation Tomaszkiewicz-Florio Scholarship Fund, the opportunity to participate in the KF Summer Studies program at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

The Chapter has annually participated in the Eastern European Festival in Deerfield, MA with displays of outstanding Polish Americans, tenor Jan Kiepura and Szopki winners of Chapter competition; has presented videos on Kosciuszko and the 2002 Szopka Festival in Krakow and offered Polish Books from the KF/NYC Bookstore.

The Chapter has sponsored 9 Awards Concerts honoring recipients of Kosciuszko Foundation scholarships and grants, 3 Szopka Competitions, has presented 5 Polish Film Festivals to celebrate October as Polish Heritage Month and numerous lectures and concerts.

Annual Programs and Events

~~~ 1998-99~~~

Inaugural Concert: Elsner String Quartet at Elms College.
Polish Culture and History Course offered by Stas Radosz at Elms College.
Trip to NYC: Lecture and Tour of Polish Art collection at the KF House and Concert by Joanna Kurkowicz, Polish violinist and graduate of UMass, Amherst and New England Conservatory, at Polish Consulate.
Polish Heritage month celebration at Elms College featuring poetry reading, films and documentaries, Polish dinner, Polish Choir and Polish folk tales.
Collaboration with Elms College for establishment of a Polish Center for Discovery and Learning.
Trip to Baltimore, MD: Polish art exhibit Land of the Winged Horsemen.

~~~ 1999-2000~~~

Polish Heritage Week, Quadrangle, Springfield, MA: Program of Polish Folk Tales, Wycinaki craft project and Krakowiak dancers from Boston.
Polish Heritage Month: Art exhibit of New England Polish-American artists. Concert of Chopin and Szymanowski Songs, Lectures on the Art Collection at the KF/NYC and the Twardowski Legend and An Evening of Polish Cuisine with author Susan Strempek-Shea at Elms College.
Trip to NYC: Concert at Alice Tully Hall to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the death Chopin preceded by Mass at St. Stanislaus Church/NYC.
75th Anniversary of KF Banquet at Sheraton and Concert at Symphony Hall featuring the Springfield Symphony Orchestra with guest artist Michael Namirovsky, laureate of 50th Kosciuszko Foundation Piano Competition.
Awards I to honor KF Scholarship and Grant recipients.
Gift of $5000 from Chapter to KF/NYC.
Elms College exchange program established with 2 colleges in Warsaw. Two Polish students graduated from the Elms in May.
Polish Center of Discovery and Learning at Elms College officially opened with events highlighting the Polish Renaissance.

~~~ 2000-2001~~~

Chapter donated 200 books on Poland to Elms College Library.
Chapter Website set up.
Polish Heritage Month: Spotlight On Youth, concert featuring young local musicians of Polish heritage at St. Stanislaus Basilica, exhibit of Polish poster art, series of Andrzej Wajda films and evening of Polish Cuisine with Joan Peterson author of Eat Smart in Poland.
Trip to NYC: Opera Halka by Moniuszko at Hunter College.
Awards II Luncheon and Concert by Andrew Russo, 1996 winner of KF Chopin Piano Competition.
May 3, Polish Constitution Day celebrated at the State House in Boston. A wreath was placed at the base of the Kosciuszko statue in Boston Gardens.
Polish Center for Discovery & Learning sponsored lecture by Holocaust survivor Irene Gut Opdyke.

~~~ 2001-2002~~~

Polish Heritage Month: Wajda film Pan Tadeusz presented at Elms College and Smith College.
Trip to NYC: Concert at Carnegie Hall to commemorating 60th anniversary of death of Paderewski.
Chapter sponsored concert by internationally acclaimed Penderecki String Quartetat Elms College.
Awards III Luncheon and Concert by New Britain Symphony featuring Michael Namirovsky at CCSU.
67th Kosciuszko Foundation Debutante Ball and Dinner: Presidents of KF chapters honored as Ball Co-Chairmen at the Waldorf Astoria, NYC.
The Forgotten Odyssey: Documentary of the 1.7 million ethnic Poles sent to Siberia in WWII at Elms College.

~~~ 2002-2003~~~

Polish Heritage Month: Gallery of Polish Christmas Traditions featuring a Polish Christmas tree with ornaments handcrafted by Chapter members.
Trip to KF/NYC: Christmas Concert with Anna Szalapak, cabaret singer and dinner at the Foundation.
1st Krakow Szopka Competition and Jaselka (Nativity play) St. Stanislaus School, Chicopee, MA.
Trip to NYC: Concert dedicated to John Paul II by Sinfonia Varsovia at Carnegie Hall.
Awards IV: Luncheon and Concert, Songs to Remember Tribute to Jan Kiepura (100th birthday) at Mount Holyoke College.
Gift of $5000 from Chapter to KF/NYC.
Chapter collaboration with local PBS station WGBY to present Polish documentaries: Jan Karski, Zegota, and The Forgotten Odyssey.

~~~ 2003-2004~~~

Polish Heritage Month: Concert for area school children by Igor Lovchinsky, the 17 year old laureate of 2003 KF Chopin competition at Elms College.
1st Distinguished Polish American Chapter award presented to Stas Radosz at Polish Center for Discovery & Learning October banquet.
Trip to NYC: Tour Pilsudski Institute and attend KF Member's Day with concert by KF grantees.
2nd Krakow Szopka Competition: Mater Dolorosa School, Holyoke, MA.
Trip to KF/NYC: Christmas pageant Mikolaj (cancelled due to storm).
Sharing our Stories-Polish Heritage Project- new award winning documentary produced by WGBY-local PBS station and other Polish documentaries presented in a daylong fund raising campaign. Chapter initiated and financially supported this documentary.
Awards V Luncheon and Concert The Romance of George Sand and Fryderyk Chopin in Her Words and His Music Guest artist Ruth Albert Spencer.
Award of $500 to Lee Ann Kostek in Nursing Program at Elms College.

~~~ 2004-2005~~~

2nd Distinguished Polish-American Award presented to Dean Anthony J. Bajdek, Northeastern University and President of the Polish American Congress of Eastern Massachusetts at the Polish Center for Discovery & Learning Banquet.
3rd Krakow Szopka Competition: Holy Trinity School Greenfield, MA.
Poland's Future Role in Europe: European Union and and Beyond: Panel Discussion led by Marek Lesniewski-Laas, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland with distinguished professors from Local colleges and universities.
Awards VI Luncheon and Concert: Mazurka: Dance of the Polish Soul guest pianist, Anna Kijanowska, KF grantee.
Award of $500 to each of 2 Elm Students as winners of Chapter competition for projects on Polish subject.
Kosciuszko Foundation 60th 70th 80th Anniversary Debutante Ball and Dinner: Carolyn Czaja Topor, President of the New England Chapter of the KF and Joseph M. Topor, Jr., President of the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning at Elms College honored as Chairmen at this 70th Ball.
Holy Name Rectory, South Street, Chicopee, MA, donated by the diocese of Springfield, officially became the new home of the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning at Elms College.

~~~ 2005-2006~~~

Madonnas of Europe exhibit of 81 photos by internationally acclaimed Polish photographer Janusz Rosikon at Elms College in conjunction with the installation of Elms College 9th President Dr. James Mullen, Jr.
3rd Distinguished Polish-American Award presented to Dr. Stanislaw Milewski, noted ophthalmologist and KF Trustee.
Candlelight Concert by 2005 laureate of the KF Chopin Piano Competition Yoonjung Han at Stone Church in Bellows Falls, VT sponsored in part by the Chapter to honor the large Polish community at this location.
Polish Heritage Month: 4th Polish Film Festival - 3 Wajda films Promised Land, Revenge and Korczak at Elms College with commentary/lecture by Krzysztof Plesniarowicz, the KF teaching fellow at UMass, Amherst.
Trip to NYC: Celebrate 60th anniversary of the KF House.
Awards VII Luncheon and Concert t by Yoonjung Han 2005 laureate of the KF Chopin Piano Competition Gift of $1500 from Chapter to the KF/NYC.

~~~ 2006-2007~~~

Polish Heritage Month: 5th Polish Film Festival at Elms College.
Concert by Krystian Tkaczewski, a young Polish pianist now studying at Hartt School, sponsored by the Chapter for the Donor Reception at the new Polish Center of Discovery and Learning at Elms College.
Awards VIII Luncheon and Concert, Squeezebox and Horsehair, guest artists Lidia Kaminska, accordionist and violinist Jennifer Curtis.
4th Distinguished Polish American presented to Carolyn Czaja Topor, President of the New England Chapter of the Kosciuszko Foundation and volunteer in area arts organizations.
Trip to NYC: Finals of the KF Chopin Piano Competition at Hunter College.

~~~ 2007-2008~~~

Polish Heritage Month: 6th Polish Film Festival at Elms College.
Trip to NYC: Concert Tribute to Karol Szymanowski at Carnegie Hall.
10th Anniversary Banquet at the Marriott, Springfield, MA, and Concert by Springfield, Symphony Orchestra with guest artist Claire Huangci, 2006 laureate of the KF Chopin Piano competition.
Awards IX honoring KF Scholarship and Grant recipients.
The directors and I are proud to have presented these programs which fulfill the mission of the Kosciuszko Foundation '"to foster knowledge and appreciation of Polish Culture, History and Traditions among Americans and to increase awareness of the contributions of Poland to world culture". I encourage you to become a member of the Kosciuszko Foundation in support of this important mission!

Carolyn Czaja Topor, President.

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