From: National Catholic Welfare Conference
Progress Report 1943
War Relief Services – N.C.W.C.
Polish Refugees in the Middle East
The Polish refugees are for the most part the wives and children of men now serving with the Polish Army, or orphaned children of those who served in the Polish Army. They have been released by the Russian Government and have traveled through the Eastern parts of Russia to their present temporary homes.
Latest information shows that these refugees are now in the following places: In Iran there are settlements in the capital at Teheran, at Ispahan and in Ahwaz. In Iraq there are, for the most part, military forces of soldiers, the women's auxiliary and boy and girl scouts. These are located near Baghdad, in QuizlRibat, in Kanakin, in Mosul, Quisa and in Basra. In Tanganyika, there are refugees in Tengeru, Ifunda, Kidujala and Kondoa. In Northern Rhodesia refugees are located in Lusaka and in Bwana Mkudma. In Southern Rhodesia refugees are located in Rusape and Marandellas.
This project was brought to the attention of War Relief Services—National Catholic Welfare Conference by Bishop Gawlina, Chaplain General of the Polish Army. According to Bishop Gawlina's figures there were, including the military, at least 116,000 persons for whom he requested the establishment of welfare centers by War Relief Services—N.C.W.C. Of this total number 37,000 are civilian refugees.
On September 7th the National War Fund approved a budget in the amount of $290,000 for the remaining months of 1943, for the establishment of twenty welfare centers.
These centers will not be, strictly speaking, relief giving centers. Their principal function with be morale and character building. However, in addition to centralizing community activities and supplying recreational, vocational and educational material, they will provide special feeding, medical and dental care for children and adults. War Relief Services—N.C.W.C. has learned through various sources that practically all material for these centers must be shipped from the United States. Arrangements have been made with the Polish Embassy for such shipping, and at the present time merchandise and medical and dental supplies are being purchased, the needs having first been certified by the Polish Embassy.
Rev. Aloysius J. Wycislo, Assistant Supervisor of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Chicago, will direct the project in the Middle East and East Africa, and will be assisted by four persons from the United States. Father Wycislo will leave for the Middle East the early part of November, going to London first to confirm certain clearances with the Polish Government.
The budget in the amount of $378,000 will be submitted to the National War Fund in late November for the first nine months of 1944, for the continuation of this project.
Refugees in Mexico
There are 709 Polish refugees at Colonia Santa Rosa, Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico. There is some indication that this number will increase during the coming months. A budget of $20,000 for work with this group during the remaining months of 1943 was submitted to the National War Fund on September 7th and was approved.
The material needs of this group, as far as food and clothing are concerned, are being supplied by the Polish Government. However, they are sorely in need of educational and recreational services. A welfare center for these purposes as well as activities for youth is now being established at the Colony. Miss Eileen Egan is temporarily at the Colony establishing this service and she will be relieved by Miss Renetta Rakoski (Raczowki) of Chicago, who has accepted the position of supervisor and who will be there early in November.
A budget in the amount of $36,000 will be asked of the National War Fund for the first nine months of 1944.
History of Catholic Relief Services in Poland 1944
At a special hearing of the National War Fund in March, 1945, a proposed program for Aid to Poland was approved, and an appropriation was made in the amount of $166,666.00. This sum was to cover operations for the period March 1st to September 30th, 1945.
In the late fall of 1944 War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. began exploratory negotiations for the establishment of a special relief program in Poland. After a careful review of all the factors involved, it became apparent that the only means for private relief agencies to get relief to Poland in the immediate future was through the United Nations Relief & Rehabilitation Administration. A number of discussions were .held with the Director General of UNRRA, aimed at establishing a basis of the inauguration of this program. As a result of these meetings assurances were received that when UNRRA was able to inaugurate its work, the program of War Relief Services would be considered as supplementary to the regular intergovernmental program.
In June, 1945, a special UNRRA mission left the United States for the purpose of investigating relief needs in that country, and establishing a basis for UNRRA to carry on its program. Before this mission left the United States, the Director General of UNRRA made available to it a copy of the proposed program of this Agency. This was done with the understanding that the proposed program would _ be measured against existing needs in Poland and •determination would be made as to whether it would fill an urgent need.
In late August of this year a cablegram was sent to the UNRRA Mission through the State Department, requesting action on the proposed program of War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. This cablegram also asked for a consignee of goods from the Polish Hierarchy and permission to send American delegates to Poland. On September 21st a reply to this cablegram was received, stating that the Polish Government welcomed the assistance of War Relief Services-N.C.W.C., and designating his Excellency the Most Reverend Adam Sapieha, Archbishop of Crakow, as consignee, as head of the Caritas institutions of Poland Request was also made that War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. designated by name and qualification delegates to visit Poland in connection with the establishment of the program. A few days before the close of the fiscal period arrangements were made for a shipment of over 400,000 pounds of relief materials to Poland. This shipment was consigned to. Archbishop Sapieha, Crakow, for the Caritas institutions. Negotiations are now under way for two representatives of War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. to enter Poland to carry out the administration of the program. It is hoped that arrangements will be completed for these representatives to be in Poland before the arrival of the first shipment of relief materials.
A budget in the amount of $353,075.00 has been allocated for this work for the period beginning October 1st, 1945 and ending September 30, 1946.
After the invasion of Poland by Germany and Russia in 1939 more than one and a half million Poles were deported to Siberia and the interior of Russia. After June, 1941 some of these Poles were liberated from labor camps and collective farms and given freedom of movement. Trekking thousands of miles to the nearest frontier, that of Iran, they found themselves separated from their loved ones-mothers from children-wives from husbands-and little children from their parents. Many of the children were orphans, some having been forced to bury their own parents who died on the long, hard, journey. Polish cemeteries and in particular, Polish children's cemeteries, in Iran testified to the inhumanities done to these simple people.
With the aid of allied governments, the women and children and men unfit for military service were transported to Egypt, Palestine, Kenya, Tanganyika, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Uganda, the Union of South Africa and India. Thousands of the others were taken to havens in England, Mexico and New Zealand. The men of military age joined the Polish forces and fought for the Allies on every front at tremendous cost of life and health.
Negotiations for a War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. program in Poland began in August, 1945, when, through the cooperation of UNRRA, communication was established with the Polish Hierarchy, as also with the Government of Warsaw. At the same time two representatives of War Relief Services-N.C.W.C., then on the •Continent, applied for visas to Poland. On September 21, 1945, official approval for entrance into Poland came from Warsaw. It was agreed that His Eminence, Cardinal Sapieha, as head of Caritas, would be the consignee of War Relief Services -N.C.W.C. materials,
Soon after the arrival of the War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. representatives in Warsaw on November 16, 1945, the first shipment, comprising 138 tons of high concentrate foods, medical supplies and clothing, arrived in Gynia. Since then, nineteen other shipments have reached the War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. warehouse in that port city, totaling 137,318 units with a gross weight of 9,718,889 Ibs.
Some 7,880,613 lbs from the two canned food campaigns, in addition to special purchases in medicines and clothing, comprised this total. The more recent shipments have carried also all the material purchased by the League for Religious Assistance to Poland* Some 3,500 cases of altar wine, altar linens, church vessels, shoes, clothing, cassock and habit material, have been forwarded.
A resident delegate of War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. arrived in Poland on June 9, 1946. This representative succeeded in carrying out the program originally set up in December, 1945, that of working exclusively through Caritas. This representative has visited almost all of the twenty-five Diocesan Offices of Caritas, and had been instrumental in obtaining for the Catholic authorities free warehousing, inland transportation by rail and gasoline for the twelve trucks and three ambulances which War Relief Services,-N.C.W.C. purchased and shipped to Poland for Caritas.
On July 8, 1946, the Right Reverend Monsignor Karol Pekala, National Director of Caritas, arrived in the United States. He brought with him excellent reports of the distribution of War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. shipments which, through the Diocesan and Parish Caritas Offices, have reached every city, town and village in Poland.
Hundreds of thousands of Poles are still refugees scattered in twenty five countries, many thousands of miles from home and nearing the end of their seventh year in exile. For these, in the twelve countries that it has been possible to reach so far, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C., through its 262 Centers and as a part of its Polish Projects, has allocated a budget of $296,925.00. A highly successful program set up in the early days of the war has been so developed that, despite the liquidation of some camp and the opening of new ones, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. has maintained not only the same standard of assistance but has been able, due in no small measure to the assistance rendered by hundreds of its volunteer personnel from among the refugees themselves, to make additions to its program and meet the needs of changing circumstances. The program has been broadened to provide many additional health and relief services, dispensaries and convalescent homes.
Headquarters for War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. in the Near East are maintained in Cairo. From this office also a Polish refugee priest is meeting the needs of over 8,000 soldiers, some 600 civilians and over 400 youths, through the operation of thirty-eight welfare centers. Fourteen employees and ninety-six volunteers, carrying the now familiar War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. shoulder patch, conduct recreation centers canteens and libraries. The schools benefit from shipments of books, writing materials and trade tools.
After the local needs for the Near East were met, by five shipments sent by War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. and six by American Relief for Poland, it was possible to send from Egypt materials to displaced persons in Italy, France, Nairobi, Palestine, Syria, Iran and Hanau, Germany.
Through its 54 Centers in towns and camps throughout the Holy Land, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. is serving 6,500 civilian refugees, 3,000 girls in military schools, and 460 boys and girls in civilian schools. There is a diversified program to meet every need. There are homes for mothers and their children; recreation centers and canteens; courses in home economics, child care; there are workshops for invalid men and women; mobile libraries make the round of the more outlying camps. A convalescent home in Tiberias serves the wounded veterans of Monte Cassino and the Italian campaign.
After the liquidation of the Polish camps in Iran, 5,500 refugees were sent to Syria, and here War Relief Services-N.C.W.C., through the efforts of another Polish refugee priest, accompanied them to continue the work started in Iran and. to meet new needs.
Only six centers have been placed in operation due to lack of funds and the necessity of meeting more basic needs. Here,
for instance, in the five universities at Beirut, Polish students are at last getting an opportunity to continue or finish their
studies. For the 260 students, who in several instances are being exposed to non-Catholic influences, War Relief Services N.C.W.C. inaugurated new types of programs.
First there was established a hostel for those unable to pay the high local rents. Forty-five students are being served in this way. Study rooms and libraries are also provided. But for all the students, there had to be provided proper clothing, and, later, supplementary food projects and, for some, tuition fees. Many a doctor, lawyer or engineer will forever be grateful to War-Relief Services-N.C.W.C. for the opportunity thus offered to study and work for a degree.
At Ghazir, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. is meeting the needs of several thousand other refugees, mainly .women and girls, who seek leisure time occupation. At Zouk, there are two centers serving several hundred children; and the War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. sanitarium in Bhamdoum is helping over 800 tubercular patients to return to health.
From a branch office in Nairobi, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. is supervising the needs of 18,220 refugees scattered throughout the territories of Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika, the Rhodesias and South Africa. It is interesting to note that 36 per cent of the above totals are children up to seventeen years of age; 44 per cent are women and 20 per cent are men. There were 1,168 orphans. .
In 69 projects, including the Mary Kedzierska Memorial Home for the Aged at Kondoa and several orphanages, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. is providing recreation and leisure-time programs of such magnitude and diversity that the organization had won the gratitude of an appreciative people.
Substantial help through shipments from the United States had been given the Department of Education in providing much needed school supplies and laboratory equipment. Medical aids sent from America have made the difference between life and death for many in the colony's hospitals and clinics. Clothing, shoes and supplementary foods have made life more bearable in these jungles.
There are still some 5,000 refugees in India for whom War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. is operating four very large projects. In Bombay, there is cooperation with the Polish Red Cross in the operation of a hospital that has won wide acclaim. At Panchgani was a sanitarium for sick children. Recreation centers, canteens and libraries are operated in Valivade and Jamnagar. The Department of Education has benefited from shipments of school books, laboratory equipment and other supplies.
Since the last report on the Polish Projects in Italy, many changes have occurred due to the transfer of the Second Polish Corps in July and August of this year to Great Britain. Up to July l, 1946, War Relief Services N.C.W.C. was serving 41,100 soldiers in thirty one recreation centers and canteens. It served the leisure-time needs of men and women of the armed forces through two rest homes in Rome, one in Venice, another at 4
Cortina Dampezzo, and six mobile canteens and libraries for the
troops in camps near Ancona.
The shipments from the United States provided recreational supplies, school materials, food, medicines and clothing. There were twenty seven other shipments of surplus materials from Cairo, especially to meet the needs of the civilian refugees from Germany, Austria and Yugoslavia.
There are still 13,347 civilian refugees in Barletta and Trani for whom War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. operates a varied program. The refugees coming into Italy are served at five focal railroad points through a Travelers' Aid Service which provided supplementary food, clothing, and in some instances, lodging. After settling in either of the two camps, every opportunity is given them to use their time profitably; there were shoe shops, knitting, tailoring and dressmaking projects; a recreation program provides music classes, lectures and all sorts of games and crafts.
One of the most difficult tasks has been that of providing assistance to 3,500 civilian refugees who settled in Rome itself. The greater numbers of these are students desiring to begin or finish studies at the various universities. War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. has been able to provide in a small degree, food, clothing and lodging. A number have been helped to pay their tuition through contributions made to a students' fund by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Bernard J. Sheil, to the amount of $10,000.00, and by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Joseph P. Hurley, to the amount of $1,000.00.
With the transfer of the Second Polish Corps to Great
Britain, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. has also been able to move
all its personnel and. property with the troops.
There are 62 War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. centers in the British Isles, serving some 20,800 Polish soldiers and civilians. The character of the projects encompasses, in addition to recreation centers and canteens, training centers and workshops, hostels, study institutes and mobile canteens.
The representative for Polish Projects, who was in Italy, has already arrived in England to set up an accelerated program for 200,000 troops of General Anders Army. An assistant had remained in Italy to look after the remnants of the refugees there. This representative has had several conversations with His Eminence, Cardinal Griffin, and has been made a member of the Board of the newly formed Catholic Council for Polish Welfare, sponsored by His Eminence and other prominent lay Catholics in Great Britain. It is hoped that within a short time the number of centers in the British Isles will be tripled, and already there is word that many new ones have opened.
For some 500 Polish children in New Zealand, War Relief
Services-N.C.W.C. has been able, through the kind cooperation of
His Excellency, Archbishop O'Shea, to provide funds for the
operation of a number of camps and the purchase of school supplies and recreation equipment.
Through the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. distributed tons of supplementary
food, clothing and medical help to 70,000 refugees in southern France and Normandy. The Orphanage at Osny, conducted by the Pallitine Fathers, has received substantial financial and material help. The Polish Seminary at Chevilly was provided with supplementary food, clothing and much needed theological books.
In war-devastated Poland, Caritas, the nationwide Catholic Charities organization, continues to play a predominant role and is doing a great deal to alleviate the country's widespread human suffering. The present government in Poland, recognizing the vital contribution of Caritas to the country's welfare, grants „ the organization the freedom it demands.
During the past year 2,532,612 lbs of relief materials sent to Poland by War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. have been efficiently distributed to those most in need through the 25 diocesan offices of Caritas and their 3,302 parish branches. The reports of Caritas indicate that they have assisted a total of 5,419,170 people during this period.
Through a network of 608 institutions Caritas provides care of many kinds to 41,409 individuals. These institutions include child welfare centers in orphanages, nurseries, kindergartens, infant homes and in schools. War Relief Services-N.C.W.C., during the past summer, shipped 850,000 Ibs. of flour to meet the specific dietary needs of 39,661 children in 42 summer colonies operated in conjunction with the child welfare program.
Each of the diocesan Caritas offices operates one or more free kitchens, of which there were.346 in Poland. It was principally through these centers that the canned food, collected in this country and shipped to Poland, was distributed. Carefully compiled statistics show that 2,243,893 persons benefited through this program.
Approximately 12,395 aged receive care in 258 homes provided for them by Caritas. The care of the sick in hospitals and clinics has expanded, due in no small part to the arrival of medical and surgical supplies from the United States, but a great deal more remains to be done for several times the number of 317,307 who were thus helped.
Caritas reports that many blessings have attended its work for the sick because of the well-organized Apostleship of the Sick in Poland, an organization of the sick who join in offering up their sufferings and prayers to God for the welfare and blessing of God upon others-their beneficiaries and those less fortunate than they. Help for these, the most sorry victims of the last war, is constantly stressed and it is for this reason that War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. numbers among the most pressing needs for Poland in the coming months the purchase and shipment of medical supplies.
The most tried, the most handicapped and the most needed programs are those serving the blind, the lame, or the crippled. Here, again, children are predominantly the victims and carry on their bodies the saddest marks of the recent war. Caritas operates some 38 specialized institutions in Poland for
handicapped children. The blind in Poland, including some 2,050 children, have no hope for the future .without some extraordinary action. Caritas in two institutions has care and training facilities for just 200 blind children.
During his visit to the United States a year ago, the Most Reverend Karol Pekala, Executive Director of Caritas, stated that with $250,000 another institution for the blind could be established, and within six years bring almost all the blind in Poland to self-sufficiency. War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. is cooperating with the American Foundation for Overseas Blind, and to its Committee for the Blind in Poland has offered facilities for shipping the materials purchased by that Committee to Poland.
The social welfare work of Caritas includes other programs. There is the care for 391,130 homeless in 20 shelters, carried on in cooperation with the Brethren and Sisters of St. Albert. Within the Society of St. Zita there is a program for girls gone astray, who need more than ever the lifting and guiding hand of the Church. There are 17 homes for wayward girls. Caritas also operates 18 homes for young working women. For all of these in various ways War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. has come to the assistance of Caritas.
If the whole emphasis on the work needed in Poland during the next year were put in one word, that word, would be CHILDREN. For the blind, the crippled, the handicapped, the orphaned and the sick children, special foods, medicines, clothing and some financial help are necessary. The Church in Poland is particularly concerned with these, the little ones, who are the first prey of every demoralizing influence.
More than twenty-eight per cent of Poland's pre-war
population, or approximately ten million people, were killed,
taken prisoner, or sent to concentration camps. Perhaps the
saddest remnant of these, some 769,500, remains in 23 countries
striving for existence in the eighth year of exile and unwilling,
or unable, to return home. For these War Relief Services-
N.C.W.C. continues its welfare work begun, in some instances, as
far back as 1943.
The resettlement and transfer of many of the refugees have helped to account for the decrease in the number of welfare centers conducted in their behalf from 262 a year ago to 158 as of the present time. The largest number of these Polish refugees-in Western Europe 571,916 and in England 165,000-is still the concern of War Relief Services N.C.W.C. in programs that not only provide for their material needs but also assisted in their plans for resettlement in other countries.
Throughout the war, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. operated 62 centers for the Polish troops in England. These centers, owing to changes in policy on the part of the British Foreign Office, numbered 29. Every effort is being made to coordinate more closely the work of War Relief Services-N.C.W,C. for the Polish refugees in England with the activities of the English Catholic Council for Polish Relief.
Living conditions for the Poles in England, due to the economic and labor situation in the country, are very poor.
Very few can find work after demobilization, and thousands upon thousands are forced into idleness and its consequent demoralization. The British Government, despite present conditions, is planning to bring more of the Poles from the Middle East and India to England. War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. has been urged to continue its program for the Poles in England until the agencies of that country are able to assume the whole burden.
During the past year, War Relief Services—N.C.W.C. operated 98 centers for the Polish refugees scattered throughout the Middle East. At the present moment, due to the transfer to England of some 11,000 refugees, 57 centers remain and, by the end of the year, only a dozen or so of these projects will be needed. These will serve principally the invalid soldiers, their families and some 6,500 civilian refugees who cannot be transferred to England.
There were still 18,200 Polish refugees in British East Africa and information available at this time indicates that all of these, who for the most part were women and children, will have to remain there indefinitely. A total of 68 welfare centers continue to supply help to the schools and serve as recreation centers, libraries and meeting places. There are special projects for the aged and the sick.
Of the 3,500 refugees in India, about fifty per cent will soon move to England. The 4 welfare centers that were in operation last year will have to continue to serve the smaller group which will remain. The Polish Hospital in Bombay, which War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. had been helping to support and which was operated in conjunction with the Polish Red Cross, has been turned over to the Diocese of Bombay with the understanding that the Poles will continue to benefit from it.
Up until June of this year, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. provided limited funds to service the remnants of General Anders' 11 Polish Corps who remained in Italy. In July the project was brought under the more general Displaced Persons Program directed by the Italian civilian relief representative.
As in Italy, the Polish refugees in France have become the direct responsibility of the War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. representative for French civilian relief. The charitable work of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul extends now to some 70,000 Poles living in France.
During the period covered by this report, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. shipped to Poland 4,511,028 Ibs of food, flour, leather, clothing and medicine. These materials, which were distributed through the Caritas in Poland, had a total value of $1,446,762.45. This brought the total amount of shipments to Poland since the program was inaugurated in 1945 to 14,148,839 lbs, with a total value of $40,537,634.04l
Poland, as one of the countries of the Eastern group, has been excluded from any aid offered by United States Government programs. Devastated by the long years of the war, there are
now approximately two million orphans and half orphans, thousands of aged who would normally be provided for by their own children, and many thousands of lame and blind, living all over the country. They naturally turn to the agencies of the Church in a country that was so predominantly Catholic. Although it receives generous and constant help from its own people, Caritas naturally looks to outside help for a substantial part of the support of institutions that are providing for these hundreds of thousands of war victims. It is said that some of the aid provided by Caritas was supplied by War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. and American Relief for Poland. This contribution on the part of American private agencies is represented in the supplementary food,-clothing and medicine which was so necessary in arresting and preventing the ravages of diseases, like tuberculosis, that follow in the wake of so much suffering.
According to the latest report of the Polish Caritas, its institutions are caring for 166,703 children, and are providing supplementary feeding for 151,668 half orphans. A total of 8,360 orphans have been placed with foster families. The number of aged who are cared for is said to amount to over 100,000. The Caritas offices, through their soup kitchens, supply food to 134,000 of the poorest families.
A special shipment of over 1,000,000 lbs of flour, milk and chocolate powder from War Relief Services-N.C.W.C.enabled Caritas to set up this year a large summer camp program, which permitted over 68,712 Polish children from the poorest Polish families to spend some time in the country. The Polish Bishops, in inaugurating this summer-camp program, pointed out that it was made possible by the sacrifices of American children who answered the call of the Holy Father, and asked the Polish youth and children to dedicate themselves to a program of service for Caritas in order to evidence their gratitude and appreciation.
The present regime in Poland pursues a program of definite preference for those who pledged allegiance to the Government-sponsored political parties. It is this group which is granted low rentals for housing and was provided with ration cards which entitle the bearer to special prices in the stores where food and clothing are purchased. Those refusing to join the organizations promoted by the regime are obliged to purchase their food and clothing in the so-called free market, where prices range as high as ten times those in the Government-controlled stores.
The prevailing wages in Poland, for both laborers and intellectuals, range from 5,000 to 10,000 zlotys per month. Considering the fact that butter sells at 800 zlotys per kilogram, and the price of a pair of shoes may be from 10,000 to 20,000 zlotys, the difficulties in maintaining a family consisting of man and wife and several children are readily understood. The hardships of the countless widows in Poland, in who are combined the role of both mother and breadwinner, are almost unimaginable. It is to these groups that the Caritas must bring the supplementary assistance so necessary, to preserve the barest essentials of home life.
Although the most recent harvests in Poland have been
extremely fruitful, the prices of food are still beyond the reach
of the average working family. The basic diet consists of bread
and potatoes. Butter, meat and sugar were items that can
scarcely be included in the budget of the poorer families. It is
in view of these conditions that the Polish Hierarchy has made a
special appeal to War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. to continue its
program of supplementary aid and assistance during the coming
During the period covered by this report, considerable progress has been made in resettling a large number of Polish refugees scattered throughout the world. As a result, there has been a further decrease in the welfare centers originated by War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. in 1943 and 1944.
There are approximately 140,000 Poles in Great Britain, 30,000 of whom are still in the Polish Resettlement Corps. The great majority of the Poles are transferred to civilian work. They are living in hostels maintained by different organizations, the majority by the British Assistance Board. There are about 275 of these hostels in the United Kingdom. Eighty-five per cent of the Poles in Great Britain are men, ten per cent women, and five per cent children.
Because of separation of families, there are a great many residual problems. There is a great need of religious guidance. The welfare centers maintained by War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. and supervised by Polish priests served as a focal point which many of these men can visit at intervals and obtain guidance and moral support. With the influx of Polish Ukrainians and Lithuanians recruited from the Displaced Persons camps in Germany and Austria, every effort is made to extend the programs of these centers.
Because of the disturbed conditions in the Middle East, the resettlement of the Polish refugees in Egypt and Palestine was accelerated. The military forces were transported to Great Britain. Many of the refugees, who under British regulations were not considered the responsibility of Great Britain, were sent to Lebanon. At present there are five War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. centers in Lebanon. The most significant service in Lebanon is rendered by the center in Beirut which has provided a soup kitchen and a welfare Center for the Polish students studying at the French and American universities at Beirut. The centers outside of Beirut are under the direct supervision of Polish-priests, and render an invaluable service in providing a religious atmosphere and guidance for these Catholic refugees.
In East Africa, as in the Middle East, Great Britain has accepted and transported the many dependents of the Polish Resettlement Corps to the United Kingdom; others were sent by the International Refugee Organization to the French zone of Germany. Of the 18,200 refugees there originally, 5,157 refugees were left in East Africa in July 1948. The IRO has various plans for their resettlement but there is great difficulty in the fact that eighty per cent of this number is women. Most family groups consisted of widowed mothers in their forties, and their children
between twelve and twenty years of age. In East Africa, as in Lebanon, War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. welfare centers are under supervision of Polish priests and are the centers for Catholic Action and Catholic adult education. The YMCA and YWCA are ready to assume supervision of such centers should War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. support be withdrawn.
War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. program among the Polish refugees in India, which had been carried on since 1943, was liquidated in March 1948. Dependents of the military, among the refugees in this area, were transferred to Great Britain. Others among them were sent to East Africa to join the group of Polish refugees in that count.
The small remnant of the Polish Corps which remained in.
Italy is being assisted in the general relief program carried on
by War Relief Services-N.C.W.C.
Some assistance is extended to Polish refugees in France and
particularly to Polish students on the general relief program in
The number of Polish refugees in Mexico has been reduced to
456. Practically all of the refugees who first came to Mexico in
1943 have migrated to other countries and have been united with
the men of the Polish Army in Great Britain and Argentine. The
refugees who remained, most of whom are widowed mothers with
adolescent children, presented a perplexing problem because of
the difficulty they find in maintaining themselves in the Mexican
economy. Efforts to obtain a large number of visas for them to
the United States have been unsuccessful and an attempt is now
being made to secure work contracts- for them in Canada, where the
climate and way of living is more similar to those to which the
Poles are accustomed.
During the period covered by this fiscal report, thirty one shipments totaling 2,566,108 Ibs. having a value of $622,088.43, have been sent to Poland. The shipments of War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. continue to be received by Caritas and were distributed to the needy throughout Poland by that agency. The total shipments to Caritas since the program was inaugurated in 1945 now amount to 16,714,947 Ibs. with an approximate value of $5,159,722.47.
Poland's unfortunate position behind the "Iron Curtain" has excluded it from any large direct grants from the Western ponders. Except for some little assistance from the International Children's Emergency Fund, which is distributed almost entirely through the government, the aid of private and voluntary groups is the sole source of outside help. The progressive repression of Catholic life in Poland by the Communist regime and a nationalization of charitable institutions make Caritas practically dependent on aid from abroad.
All government and local subsidies have been abolished and in many places Carita has been refused permission to collect funds or gather gifts-in-kind, which would meet the needs of the institutions dependent upon it. There has been no decrease in
the number of applicants seeking aid at Caritas centers. Refusal to affiliate with the Communist party destroys opportunity for work, participation in the rations for foodstuffs and clothing g and medical care. Even where some means exist for the purchase of clothing and coal, the Communist regime has so denuded Poland through its shipments to Russia that the price of these commodities is beyond the reach of most people. This is the reason why today not only the needy, but even those who desire to remain faithful to the Church must turn to Caritas for help.
Despite the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warsaw has repeatedly refused a visa to a representative of War Relief Services-N.C.W.C., relief materials consigned to His Eminence, Cardinal Sapieha, continue to enter Poland and no effort has yet been made to bar their distribution by Caritas. Not only His Eminence, the Cardinal, but the Executive Director of Caritas, His Excellency, Bishop Karol Pekala, and other members of the hierarchy plead that the relief shipments of War Relief Services - N.C.W.C. continue to Poland.
The sole sustaining force of the Catholic agencies in Poland is the supplies that are coming to them from American Catholics. This avenue for relief to Poland may be barred at some future date, but until the door is completely closed the relief shipments from America should be continued.
There has been little improvement in the condition of the Polish refugees, now ending the tenth year of their exile, who continue to form the largest-single refugee group. Those Poles fortunate enough to be listed as Displaced Persons have some ' outlook for the future. Programs of resettlement in many countries have opened doors to new opportunities for them. The Polish refugees, whom War Relief Services - N.C.W.C. has assisted since 1943, still looked for help in the following countries.
A small monthly grant insures the continuance of almost fifty' welfare and religious centers for Polish refugees now living in England. Approximately 140,000 soldiers of the Anders Army are now engaged in civilian occupations in that country. Their adjustment and rehabilitation have been a difficult problem. Though anxious to improve, their lot, the Polish refugees in England find that the Communist infiltrated unions refused to accept them because of their opposition to the Soviet-inspired regime in their home country. Only the lowest paying and physically strenuous jobs are open to them.
Particularly .difficult is the condition of invalids and orphaned youth. War Relief Services - N.C.W.C. has tried to be especially helpful to these two groups. It has concentrated its program on vocational training projects for invalids and young people. A close liaison is maintained with Catholic agencies in England and some progress has been made in making the lot of these refugees a happier one.
Of the original 2,000 Polish refugees in Lebanon, only 300 have been given opportunity for resettlement in other countries. Those who remain continue to look to War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. to maintain the welfare centers established for them in 1944. Refugee priests continue to direct these centers and are
able to provide, through small monthly grants, not only for the welfare needs', but also for the religious needs of their compatriots in exile.
In the early days of the war there were 18,500 Polish refugees settled in camps throughout British East Africa. Only recently have resettlement missions reached them and provided opportunities for several thousands to immigrate to other countries. Great Britain, Australia and Canada have been the only countries willing to open their doors to these refugees.
War Relief Services - N.C.W.C. was instrumental in interesting the Reverend William Nicol, Chief of the Australian, Immigration Commission, in the refugees in East Africa. Through the cooperation of His Excellency, Archbishop Joseph Charbonneau of Montreal, it has been possible to affect the entry of all the Polish orphans in East Africa to Canada.
It is the fond hope of these Polish refugees that most of them will find new homes in either Australia or Canada. Until the opportunity for resettlement arrives, War Relief Services - r N.C.W.C. finds it necessary to continue the welfare centers established in East Africa for these refugees in 1944.
Of approximately 1,500 refugees who were transferred from India to the Colonia Santa Rosa in Mexico, only a small group remains. Most of the children were given the opportunity to come to the United States and have made splendid adjustments in this country. Relatives and friends have provided affidavits for many of the fatherless families of Polish soldiers lost during the war.
Canada has been particularly interested in the refugees in Mexico and has provided work contracts for a number of them.
War Relief Services -N.C.W.C., through a small monthly grant, is looking after the needs of the aged and the sick that have been denied emigration to either the United States or Canada. It is hoped that within a few months plans for the care of these remaining refugees in Mexico, by the Catholic agencies in that country, will be completed and the program of War Relief Services - N.C.W.C. will be ended.
The thousands of Polish refugees, still living in countries,
from which they can make no move to seek resettlement, continued
to appeal to War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. for help. War Relief
Services - N.C.W.C. makes their plight known to local Catholic
agencies and where necessary continues to make small grants to
meet emergency needs.
During the first four months of the period covered by this report, while it was still possible to ship materials to Poland, 654,332 pounds of food, clothing and medicine, which had a value of well over $1,000,000.00, were sent to that country. These shipments consisted mainly of clothing gathered in the Thanksgiving Clothing Collection. In January, 1950, when the Communist regime in Poland ordered the national Caritas program placed under state control, War Relief Services -N.C.W.C. discontinued its relief shipments to that country. It was felt
that any supplies sent to the government-dominated Caritas would
be used to strengthen the regime rather than to meet the needs of
The closing of the program in Poland has increased individual appeals. Some of these appeals, especially for medicines which are not available in Poland, came from the former directors of the Caritas on behalf of the sick known to them. Every effort is made to send medicines in these and other cases, where the need is certified by a physician and a priest.
In spite of the reports of quick recovery in Poland, information from that country indicates that there exists a serious shortage of meats, fats and clothing.
Although War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. is extending much delimited assistance to the welfare centers for the Polish refugees, these centers continue to function in many places.
The Polish refugees in Great Britain, from their meager savings, find it possible to utilize the equipment originally provided by War Relief Services-N.C.W.C.; and maintain about 50 welfare and religious centers. In many instances their leaders are able to obtain quarters free of charge and the Polish priests contribute their services.
A shipment of 39,984 pounds of dried eggs and 45,000 pounds of dried milk was sent to these centers for distribution to the invalids and orphaned children. This distribution was not confined to the Polish group, but was extended to Catholic refugees of other nationality groups who had been brought into England.
Five welfare centers in Lebanon were maintained for several months for the 1,700 Polish refugees, thanks to savings effected by the priest representing War Relief Services N.C.W.C. in that area. In June and July of this year, all the Polish refugees in Lebanon were transferred to Great Britain, with the exception of about 100 of the sick who constituted the "hard-core." Some of these people receive aid from the British Government. However, there are many desperate cases that are without any means of support.
The welfare centers in East Africa were maintained from funds obtained by the sale of the equipment of the welfare centers in camps which were being liquidated by the British Government. During the past year also, all the Polish refugees have been transferred to Great Britain, with the exception of the chronically ill who were remaining in Tanganyika. It is estimated that there will be about 50 of these. They will remain under the care of the Catholic missions in that area.
A group of Polish refugees still remain in Mexico. Some of these were chronically ill and aged. Those who are able bodied are having serious difficulties in being able to earn a living because the Mexican Government has passed new immigration laws during the past year, and this group is now required to pay large fees for permits to work and to reside permanently in the country. War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. was able to maintain an office to assist this group until the end of July, 1950, but at that time our office was liquidated. It is
hoped that the American Relief for Poland will assist this group, with allowances.
The situation of many of the Polish refugees in France,
Spain and Venezuela continues to be very serious and every effort
was made to secure aid for them from other agencies.
With a minimum of resources, many hundreds of Polish students are completing their studies in various countries and particularly in France. In view of the extermination of Polish intellectuals by the Nazis and the persecution of the remnants of that group by the Communist regime, the training of these students for future Catholic leadership in Poland is of the utmost importance.
Even though the War Relief Services N.C.W.C. relief program
in Poland was discontinued upon the seizure of the Polish Caritas
by the communist regime, many appeals for clothing and medicines
are received from that country despite the strict surveillance on
the part of the government. Many such appeals are received from
the former directors of the diocesan Caritas offices. With the
special funds placed at its disposal by the Bishops' Committee,
it has been possible for War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. to meet
many of these appeals for medicine. Clothing packages are
prepared from the supplies gathered in the goods-in-kind
campaigns, thus making it possible to satisfy the majority of
In response to many tragic individual appeals from the Polish clergy ministering to the needs of Polish refugees, a limited program is still being carried on in behalf of these dislocated people.
There are still fifty welfare centers in Great Britain under
the guidance of Polish priests. Especially impressive are
the ranks of the Sodality members wherein a large percentage of
the Polish youth was organized. Though the refugees make every
effort to support these centers, their low wages make it
impossible, and it therefore has been necessary to grant them
some financial assistance.
Many of the Protestant organizations, including the International YMCA, are attempting to attract the Polish refugees in England by offers of recreation and welfare services.
Some financial aid has been extended to the "hard core" of the Polish refugees in Lebanon which is practically without means of assistance. This has been distributed through a priest who was formerly in charge of the War Relief Services-N.C.W.C. program in Lebanon.
Several very desperate cases were assisted in Mexico, where the remnants of Polish refugees-the sick and the Aged existed in the slums of Mexico City and Leon on minimum allowances from American Relief for Poland.
Assistance was extended also to the many hundreds of Polish students in France, Sweden, Germany and Austria. These students are the potential Catholic leaders for Poland since the communist regime is liquidating Catholic Action participants in
that country at a rapid pace.
It has been possible to send an important number of clothing packages to religious orders in Poland, especially the Salesian. Fathers and Benedictine Sisters. Despite the persecution that goes on in that country, many of the religious orders are requested to admit more novices than ever before in their history. Since their sources of income have been almost totally curtailed and all the offerings heavily taxed, their problem is that of providing food and clothing for the old and new members of their communities. In addition, medicines and packages of clothing were sent to a number of lay people at the request of their pastors or former directors of Caritas.
With the relaxation of rigid controls that resulted from the Poznan demonstrations in October of 1956, thousands of appeals began to flow from Poland for clothing and other types of assistance. Large numbers of these were from Poles returned by Soviet Russia after many years in concentration and forced labor camps. Many of these appeals were directed to the Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. by Polish-American priests and representatives of Polish-American organizations.
In 1950, when the communist government in Warsaw seized Caritas, Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. was forced to discontinue, shipments of relief to Poland. Up to the present time Caritas has not been restored to the hierarchy although the government has offered to permit the Bishops to reassume administration of the organization, provided the present personnel directing its affairs be retained.
Since the Polish Hierarchy has been without an effective distribution agency, they have organized an alternate organization attached to the Bishops7 Caritas. This charities agency, on a diocesan level, reaches out to -most of the parishes. It is hampered by the lack of funds and mobile equipment, but it is trying effectively to substitute for Caritas.
In his discussions with the Assistant Executive Director of the American Bishops' organization in Rome early in the year, Cardinal Wyszynski, Primate of Poland, expressed his concern for the needs and privations of the Polish people whose faith had remained steadfast despite twelve years of isolation behind the Iron Curtain, He emphasized the fact that the Poles who were returning from Soviet Russia to poverty-stricken Poland were without clothing, many seriously impaired in health and without any means to purchase the most meager household equipment. He expressed his special concern for widowed and abandoned mothers with large numbers of children, the aged and sick, the blind and tubercular, needy university youth and the inmates of institutions administered by religious. He also was anxious to get sewing, knitting and laundry equipment to provide many of these needy with a means of work and self-support.
The Cardinal Primate has been given financial assistance,
two large shipments of medicine and a large shipment of used clothing from the Thanksgiving Clothing Collection. The Polish Government had guaranteed duty-free entry and assistance with the inland transportation of these materials. Individual requests for medicines, properly certified, are being filled through the Geneva office of Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C.
Even though shipments of relief supplies by the American Bishops' agency to Poland have been temporarily suspended, negotiations for the re-establishment of this program are being continued. The Polish Government is anxious to have relief materials forwarded to Poland distributed through governmental agencies, but the authorities of the Church insist that such distributions be made through Catholic parishes and institutions.
During the period in which the Polish Government permitted
free entry of such supplies and their distribution through
agencies of the Church, it was possible to forward to the people
of Poland 1,300 tons of used clothing from the annual
Thanksgiving appeal and a limited amount of powdered milk, flour
and cheese from United States Government surpluses. A large
quantity of medicines was also shipped.
The events surrounding the initiation of the program in Poland and its eventual breakdown are of significance.
On December 15, 1957, Rev. Edward Synowiak, a priest of the Buffalo diocese, was sent to Poland to represent the Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. Because of the delicate situation between the Church and the State, he was instructed to follow the guidance of Cardinal Wyszynski in his contacts with the officials of the Polish Government. Since, traditionally,Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. works through the indigenous agencies of the Hierarchy of a given country, it was understood that any negotiations would be conducted through the Episcopal committee which was holding a number of meetings with Polish Government representatives on various Church and State problems. The first shipments of clothing arrived just as Father Synowiak entered Poland. As the shipments of, Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. supplies increased, the Polish Government appeared to become more and more concerned. It finally began to create difficulties in regard to the duty-free entry oh clothing shipments, despite the : fact that Cardinal Wyszynski had received an assurance from the Ministry of Foreign Trade and the Director of Customs that duty free entry would be granted on each shipment as it entered. When representations by Cardinal Wyszynski's Secretariat proved ineffective, His Eminence suggested that the representative of Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. negotiate with the Minister of Religious Portfolio to obtain a blanket duty-free entry of these shipments. The Minister stated that he did not have the authority to grant such permission because this was in the hands of "other interested people." Following this interview, the representative of Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. visited the Vice President of the Council of State and also contacted the Chief Director of Customs and through them was able to secure
duty-free entry of three Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. shipments.
In the meantime the Polish Government informed Cardinal Wyszynski that the matter of Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. shipments to Poland would be discussed by a joint commission of representatives of the Polish Government and the Polish Episcopate. At this meeting the government officials proposed that a general distribution committee be formed and that this commission consisted of thirty members of the various governmental agencies in Poland and two representatives of the Church.
The two Bishops who represented the Church on this commission stated that it was the Church's right and obligation to distribute goods to the poor and invoked the agreement of 1950, which the Polish Government pressured the Episcopate into signing and which stated, "It will be allowed to the Church to practice works of charity but only on a diocesan and parochial level; works of charity which are connected with the priests' daily work." The Bishops emphasized that the. relief shipments of Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. being sent directly from Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. to the Polish Hierarchy were to provide them with means to meet the needs which confront them in their daily parochial work.
Cardinal Wyszynski felt that it would not be possible to agree to such an arrangement and stated that the Church wished' to conduct its own charity work In Poland in accordance with the decree formulated by the Polish Government itself.
In the meantime, when negotiations broke down, the Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. representative returned to New York to confer with the directors of the agency about the obstacles placed by the Polish Government to a free and unfettered offer of a Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. program. While in New York he was advised to apply for a return visa to Poland. After several weeks, Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. was informed by the Polish Embassy in Washington that a visa would be granted to a Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. representative on condition that this representative would be prepared to negotiate and work out a program directly with the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. The Polish Embassy also advised that Father Synowiak would not be acceptable as Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C.'s representative. Simultaneously, it was learned that the Polish Government imposed a duty amounting to $40,000 on 400,091 pounds of clothing which reached Poland on April 1, 1958.
In reply to a cable asking for information on this situation. Cardinal Wyszynski stated that there were difficulties in obtaining duty-free release and that further negotiations were going on. A few days later another cable was received stating that it seemed impossible to obtain duty, free entry. In view of this, no further shipments were made to Poland awaiting the result of the negotiations between the representatives of the Episcopate and the Polish Government.
Since then, there have been conflicting reports in the press that an agreement was reached. This was denied by the
Secretariat of Cardinal Wyszynski. As a matter of fact, up to the present time all relief materials addressed to Cardinal Wyszynski from a number of countries, such as England and France, are being held up by the Polish Government. Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. was advised by the Polish Embassy by telegram that no shipments consigned to Cardinal Wyszynski would be admitted into Poland. At one point the Secretariat of Cardinal Wyszynski offered to pay the duty on some of the shipments but, despite that, the Polish Government refused to release them.
On September 15, 1958, the Secretariat of Cardinal Wyszynski notified Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. that the Cardinal had allocated the clothing held by the Polish Government to flood victims in the Krakow area and that the distribution would be effected through the Krakow committee for relief to the flood sufferers, with the Bishop of Tarnow acting as the representative of the Episcopate. Doubtlessly, this decision was evoked by the great distress occasioned by the floods. There is, however, no reason to presume that the Episcopate in Poland is abandoning its principle that the Church in Poland has a right to conduct its own relief activities.
The attitude of the Polish Government on the distribution of
the relief materials is in keeping with other restrictions
directed against the Church and freedom of the press which have
been noted during the past few months in Poland. It is now quite
evident that the Polish Government seeks to reverse many of the
relaxations enjoyed in Poland since the uprising in October,
1956, and it is indicative of the attempts to return to the
centralized control that existed before that date.
Presumably, the negotiations between the Episcopate and the Polish Government are continuing. One of the most important subjects of the negotiations at the present time is that of religious instructions in schools and high schools to which the Polish Government agreed and which they are now attempting to reverse by demanding that teachers of religious instructions have all qualifications that teachers of other subjects must possess. This means the exclusion of over 2,000 nuns and monks from giving religious instructions. There have been serious differences of opinion with regard to Church publications which resulted in the unprecedented raid upon the shrine of Czestochowa. Possibly, the differences with regard to these important questions, as well as with regard to the distribution of food through Church channels, will be resolved, although at present the outlook was discouraging. It is hoped, however, that it will be possible to assist the Church in Poland to carry on its historic role of helping the multitudes of poor who have been suffering ever since the outbreak of World War II.
During the close of the period covered by this report, a representative of Catholic Relief Services-N.C.W.C. made a special visit to Poland to discuss with His Eminence, Cardinal Wyszynski, the possibility of re-establishing a program in that country. Following the Cardinal's suggestion, an effort will be
made during the coming months to secure a visa for a permanent lay representative. It is the Cardinal's hope that an agreement can be worked out with the Government by which the agencies of the Church in Poland can be assisted in their efforts to meet t
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