What began as a gift of friendship between Poland and the United States more than 90 years ago is now a gift to researchers and genealogists around the world.
To mark the 150th anniversary of American independence, the Polish government, civic groups and business leaders joined forces in 1926 and decided to present the United States with an extraordinary memento: a declaration of friendship, gratitude and esteem signed by 5.5 million Polish well-wishers.
“Noble Americans, your national holiday is not for you alone,” asserts the Polish Declaration. “It finds a warm reverberation over the whole world, and especially in our Motherland, Poland.”
Today, those signatures — about one-sixth of the entire Polish population at that time — are digitized and available online thanks to the U.S. Library of Congress, with assistance from the Embassy of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Library in Washington.
The online Emblem of Good Will also lists the hometowns of those Polish citizens and their schools and contains original Polish artwork, photographs and official seals.
The information is a boon to genealogists, scholars and researchers around the world, particularly those interested in Poland before World War II.
“In some instances,” Grazyna Zebrowska, president of the Polish Library in Washington, said, “the signatures found in the Polish Declaration may be the only tangible reminder that a person even lived.”
More than 6 million Polish citizens were killed during World War II and the Holocaust.
Also destroyed in the war were Poland’s historical treasures, archives, manuscripts and museums.
Zebrowska said she hopes that making the document available online inspires scholars “to reclaim their lost history and to bring to collective memory, not only the tragedy of World War II, but the optimism of the years preceding it.”
Long history of friendship
Celebrating the United States’ independence on July 4 in 1926 came quite easily to the Poles. Just eight years before, at the end of World War I, American President Woodrow Wilson unveiled his 14-point plan for world peace, which included an independent Poland.
“Poland and the United States are united by an unbreakable friendship and alliance,” Zebrowska said, “and documents such as the Polish Declaration serve as a reminder that our current friendship has long roots grounded in mutual admiration.”
Vital allies today
The U.S.-Poland alliance remains strong, as evidenced by the United States deploying thousands of soldiers to Poland earlier this year as part of a NATO military exercise.
Also, President Trump will travel to Poland in advance of the July 7–8 meeting of the world’s 20 largest economies, to be held in Hamburg, Germany.
The visit to Poland “will reaffirm America’s steadfast commitment to one of our closest European allies and emphasize the Administration’s priority of strengthening NATO’s collective defense,” the White House said in a statement.
Poland recently received a supply of liquefied natural gas from the United States, the first such shipment to Central Europe, to bolster energy security in the region.