Tuesday, October 21, 2014

World War I Veterans Memorial - Saint Adalbert Cemetery

Location: Saint Adalbert Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Features: Monument on cemetery grounds.

History:  Before World War One Poland did not exist as a country.  It had been partitioned by surrounding nations, its territory broken apart and ruled by Germany, Austria and Russia.  With the outbreak of war in 1914, many hoped that Allied victory would see the restoration of Poland as a sovereign state.  The United States entered the war in 1917 and many Polish-Americans volunteered to fight in the US armed forces.  Additionally, many Poles from the United States and abroad volunteered to join the ranks of the Blue Army.  The Blue Army, or Haller's Army, was an independent unit of Polish soldiers who fought alongside the Allied forces in France with the objective of promoting a free Poland. The name Blue Army was taken from their distinctive blue uniforms, but they were also know as Haller's Army after the name of the Polish General, Jozef Haller, who commanded the unit.  With the Allied victory secured in 1918, Poland was restored as a nation.  This monument honors those from the Chicago Polish community who served in the United States Armed Forces during the First World War as well as those who volunteered to serve in the Blue Army.

Traveler's Notes:  2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.   There is an overwhelming amount of new material on the subject released for the observance.  This may help bring about some new awareness to the events of the First World War which has been for the most part neglected.

Resources: Haller's Army Website, Saint Adalbert Cemetery

Veterans Memorial



Haller Army


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Katyn Massacre Memorial - Saint Adalbert Cemetery

Location: Saint Adalbert Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Features:  Memorial situated in Polish-Catholic cemetery.

History:  In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to a non-aggression pact that secretly allowed for the separation of Eastern Europe into their respective spheres of influence.  For Poland this was to foretell a new division of the country.  On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and so began World War II in Europe. Several weeks later the Soviets rolled through eastern Poland, quickly capturing what little remained of the Polish Army shattered by the Germany attack.  In accordance with their treaty, Germany and the Soviet Union split the country in two.  The Polish prisoners captured in this rapid advance were held by the NKVD, the Soviet state security organization. While most of these prisoners were from the Polish officer class, there were also many intellectuals, lawyers, doctors and government officials.  In March, 1940, Stalin ordered that these prisoners be executed. by the NKVD.  When it was done, some 22,000 Polish nationals had been killed.  These executions occurred at various interment camps in Russia, but the discovery of mass graves at the forest near Katyn presented the world a name for these massacres.

In 2007, a memorial to the Katyn Massacre was established at Saint Adalberts Cemetery in Niles, Illinois, here in Chicago's Near Northwest suburbs.  There is a long history of Polish settlement in Chicago, which is considered the largest community of Poles outside of Poland.  Saint Adalberts Cemetery was established in 1872 to serve this growing community.   Named for Poland's first saint, the cemetery's 255 acres are filled with a beautiful display of over 300,00 historic graves, shrines and memorials.  The Katyn Monument was designed by noted Polish artist Wojciech Seweryn, who immigrated to Chicago in the 1970's.  More significantly, Seweryn was the son of a Polish Army officer killed in the Katyn massacre.  To add to the tragedy, Wojciech Seweryn was killed, along with Polish President Lech Kaczynski, in the 2010 Polish Air Force Crash near Smolensk. Along with Seweryn and the President, several government officials as well as relatives of victims of the Katyn Massacre were on their way to mark the 70th anniversary of the event.  All aboard were lost.  A new monument was placed in 2011 nearby the Katyn Memorial to honor those lost in the disaster.

Traveler's Notes:  This is a continuation of my exploration of locations within walking distance from home here in Park Ridge. Saint Adalberts Cemetery in nearby Niles is a scenic destination for cemetery walkers with its rich, gothic architecture and stonework. These memorials are of particular meaning to me considering my own Polish-Lithuanian heritage, but you don't have to be related to appreciate and honor the artistic expression of those who seek to remember.

Resources: Saint Adalbert Cemetery - Archdiocese of Chicago

Katyn Memorial

Katyn Memorial

Katyn Memorial

Memorial to the 2010 Air Disaster

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Spirits of Old Park Ridge Event October 2014

Location: Town of Maine Cemetery, Park Ridge, Illinois

Features: Guided tour of historic cemetery, October 4, 2014.

History: The Park Ridge Historical Society organizes this guided "spirit" tour of the Town of Maine Cemetery.  At the cemetery a tour guide will lead your party to the markers at the burial sites of notable local personages.  At each of these stations is an actor in period costume who will briefly relate the history and life of the person they are portraying.  This year featured a variety of people including several mayors of Park Ridge, a Major League ballplayer, early settlers, teachers, and entrepreneurs.  Of interest to the Military History Traveler was Colonel Thomas P. Robb, a prominent Illinois Civil War veteran and friend of U.S. Grant. Robb was responsible for formally introducing Grant to Illinois Governor Richard Yates, thereby starting Grant's Civil War career.  Also presented on the tour was Charles G. Sherwin, a young Civil War volunteer, who unfortunately succumbed to disease in 1861, the most common cause of fatality during the war.

Traveler's Notes: This is a fantastic concept for relating local history.  Even though it was our first blustery Fall day here in Park Ridge, the enthusiasm of the volunteer actors and staff, along with those who came to take the tour, was high.  It was very encouraging to see the use of memorials as educational points of "living" history.

Resources: Park Ridge Historical Society, Park Ridge Herald Article Reviews Event

George and Laura Penny, Brickyard Owner

Charles G. Sherwin, Civil War Soldier

Dr. Gustav and Mary Fricke, Town Doctor

Harriet Rand, First School Teacher