In the late 1960’s numerous Polish American groups were organized by young third and fourth generation descendants of the Great Eastern European Immigration to the United States.
Among these, attached to a dance ensemble and theatrical group, was a small endeavor to assist the people of Poland, then living under the totalitarian regime of the communist party. The dance ensemble was “Galicja” and the theatrical group was “The Polish American Folk Theater.” Both groups were based in the Detroit/Hamtramck area.
Initially, small parcels of medical supplies, vitamins and clothing were sent to village centers, churches and, in particular, the Laski Hospital for Blind Children which is located outside of Warsaw, Poland. These small but important projects were carried on for years: and thousands of people benefited from the kindness and charity work of young adults in the metro Detroit area.
In the 1980’s, bolstered by increased membership and a new location (Polonia Imports Store in New Baltimore, Michigan) the small group of volunteers created a name – The Polish Emergency Relief Committee – and made its purpose public to all surrounding communities of the new location. Almost overnight, hundreds of people were volunteering to do something for the people of Poland. The “Solidarność” movement for freedom began to be common knowledge in the United States and young Polish Americans felt it was their duty to help all of the people who were putting their lives on the line for freedom in the country from which so many Americans immigrated.
To raise funds for parcels the organization began to sponsor cultural activities, language lessons, history classes, dance lessons and numerous projects that would economically foster a regular flow of parcels to Poland. Contacts were made with “Solidarność” leaders and children’s centers and soon individual packages gave way to ocean containers. These containers, left on the lot of Chesterfield Mall on 23 Mile Rd., would quickly be filled with over 40,000 lbs. of supplies – reaching the port of Gdansk in northern Poland every two to three months. Much credit for the organization of this movement must be given to the late Ms. Irene Goleski who labored tirelessly in the name of her beloved P.E.R.C.
By the mid 1990’s the organization officially changed its name to the American Polish Assistance Association and, with the consideration that Poland had won its independence of the Soviet Union, efforts began to be concentrated on the orphanages of the country and the poor and elderly of village communities. These efforts continue on until today.