Monday, September 1, 2014


August 14, 2014

To the Editor - Polish American Studies

Although one can appreciate an additional article about Reverend Stanislaus Orlemanski[1], as he has been a seriously understudied individual, and certainly the transcript of the Soviet report is interesting, I find it necessary to correct several misconceptions that have been presented by Mr. Markiewicz in his recent article.[2] I will attempt to present my remarks by following the layout of the article, with one exception.

In almost every article that has appeared, Oskar Lange is presented as the intellectual, the professor, the economist, while Reverend Orlemanski is a quasi-country bumpkin, and Mr. Markiewicz falls into this same trap.  This was not the case.

On Page 61, Mr. Markiewicz refers solely to the possible plans for including Oskar Lange[3]  in the post-war Polish government, although later he does make passing reference to both Oskar Lange and Stanislaus Orlemanski. This then is the crux of the issue, as it was not solely Lange who was expected to take a role in the post-war government, and the trip to Moscow was predicated on Orlemanski joining him in that plan, which is documented in correspondence sent to the Papal Nuncio in Washington, confirming the expectation concerning Reverend Orlemanski.

On Page 56, there is presented a photograph of Stanislaus Orlemanski and it is described as follows: Reverend Stanisław Orlemański, founder of the pro-Soviet Kościuszko League, upon his graduation from Orchard Lake Seminary in 1910.  Yet, in 1910, Stanislaus Orlemanski was not ordained, nor did he ever complete theological and formation studies at Orchard Lake Seminary (more properly St. Cyril and Methodius Seminary). School records state that he solely graduated from St. Mary’s and further research confirms that he was ordained outside of the United States in late 1915. Thus at the time the photograph was taken he was not a Reverend, nor does the material held at the Polish Museum description state that[4], as it refers to an occurrence – a reunion in 1918, when he was indeed, an ordained priest and thus the image should clearly have omitted the use of Reverend.

However, these issues appear to be insignificant when one notes the repeat of a standard presentation of Stanislaus Orlemanski as solely a pro-Soviet sympathizer, and a simple parish priest. 

I would posit that Stanislaus Orlemanski was a much more complicated and multi-faceted individual, one that we may or may not agree with, but more complex than generally presented. The fact is that the Reverend Orlemanski had written a series of articles for, and been published by the conservative PRCUA in the mid-1920’s.  Thus his description as a leftist or pro-Soviet sympathizer requires layering and consideration, and not a blanket statement.  Certainly, at the least summary description of this alternate dimension is warranted. Certainly, the statement by John Olejniczak of the PRCUA, quoted on p. 59, that he “does not represent anyone at all” requires a deeper explanation, given the fact that no less than six lengthy articles had earlier been published by the self-same PRCUA.

In describing the April 1944 trip, the author makes it appear as though Lange and Orlemanski travelled to Moscow jointly, yet nothing could be farther from the truth.  Clearly, their journey began together, or rather was planned to be a joint trip.  Yet Reverend Orlemanski so disliked Oscar Lange that he had three conditions for his trip; one of which was that he refused to travel together with him. The commander of the airfield in Great Falls, from which both men started their trip, precisely noted that Oskar Lange flew out on April 11th, and then noted that it was that Reverend Orlemanski appeared in his office on April 18th.

In contradiction to the statement that:  During their trip, the two men reported on the state of soldiers in the Polish army forming in the USSR and visited children’s homes and schools. The two men met personally with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. (p. 57) – which leads one to believe that their meetings were joint, and that the trips to the field were joint, leads one to an incorrect assumption - it was not so.  The meetings, as appears in eyewitness records, were separate and individual.  In fact, the very document that is cited by Mr. Markiewicz refers only to Reverend Orlemanski being present at the specific meeting that is reported on.

Once again, it should be noted that Orlemanski, just as he travelled alone outbound, returned separately from Moscow, while Lange remained there until early June.

Stanislaus Orlemanski had returned from Moscow, landing in Seattle, on May 11, 1944 – clearly, the meetings that Oskar Lange held with the Soviet authorities and the pro-Soviet Polish government required a lengthier presence, while Rev. Orlemanski may have wanted to return home for Ascension Thursday, which was May 18, 1944.  Thus it is impossible for them to have made joint statements upon their return, as appears to be indicated from the sentence structure in Mr. Markiewicz’s article “Upon their arrival back to the United States, Lange and Orlemański (sic) spoke very favorably of their visit, praising and lauding….”  

However, it is the following, un-footnoted sentence in Mr. Markiewicz’s article that is most troubling “President Roosevelt even invited Reverend Orlemański (sic) to the White House to describe his travels.  Speaking with the American leader for over two hours…” It is troubling, because heretofore all records indicate that no such meeting occurred, and that Secretary of State Cordell Hull argued against the proposal of such a meeting.  Additionally, since Reverend Orlemanski was clerically suspended and did not venture outside his rectory, his only contact with the US government occurred during an interview with a retired US Dept. of State Consular Official who travelled to Springfield, Massachusetts to interview him at the rectory of his parish, Our Lady of the Rosary Church.  Had Reverend Orlemanski travelled to meet with the President the press would have noted it – and the press was certainly noting the fact that he was not offering Mass at his church, or when he did offer Mass they noted that he had not given a sermon.

Clearly, if Mr. Markiewicz has located any documentation that shows that the Reverend did travel to meet the President, information, which is heretofore unknown, a reference note would be appropriate. 

Reverend Orlemanski met with various individuals in Moscow, both journalists and other Westerners, many of whom left journals and aide-de-memoires of this period.  None of them noted Lange’s presence while they were with Orlemanski.  Further, all the photographs published of the Stalin, Molotov and Orlemanski meetings (yes, there were two and not one) only show the three men together, with Orlemanski looming head and shoulders over the other two.  There is no photograph that has surfaced showing all four together, had there been a joint meeting of the four, it is highly probable that would have been such a photo.  The animosity of Reverend Orlemanski for Oskar Lange was so great that even Stalin respected it.[5]

What Mr. Markiewicz fails to note in his article, is that the entire trip took place with the knowledge and aid of the United States government, and as Major Jordan noted, the Reverend carried “military passes for the Alaska Defense Force and Western Defense Command... a passport from the State Department empowering him to travel to the Soviet Union by way of Egypt, Iraq and Iran. He also had visas for the three countries.”  No one could have received those other visas, or orders to fly on US Air Force equipment without government permission.  This aid significantly exceeded the well-known correspondence between Stalin and FDR on the subject of passports for the two travelers.

It is relevant to note that it was the Soviet News Agency (TASS) that betrayed Stalin’s (implied) promise that the Lange and Orlemanski trip would be kept secret, yet it was primarily Orlemanski’s presence which was immediately broadcast, forcing Roosevelt to explain the situation, although only discussing Orlemanski – it was as though Lange did not exist.

As for the Soviet report on the meeting which Mr. Markiewicz presents – it is clearly either a compilation of the two meetings which occurred or a summary of them (which appears implausible since Professor Miner quotes a report on the earlier meeting in his book[6]), and which are described not only in several aide de memoire’s, but also in State Dept. reports – and that it was only after the first meeting, when Rev. Orlemanski reported that Stalin had promised the moon and the stars (my terminology) that one of the Moscow Westerners asked why he did not have anything in writing.  The ‘promissory note’ which is frequently referred to appeared as a result of that second meeting.  To reiterate – the document that Mr. Markiewicz presents in his article clearly refers to this being a second meeting (vide P. 64) “He [Orlemański (sic)] said last time that something needs to be done in order to split the Polish Catholics in America.” (Emphasis mine – K.P.)

It is therefore misleading for the general reader or university undergraduate to be told that

This article presents two previously unknown Soviet archival documents. The first deals with the visit of Fr. Stanislaw Orlemanski, a pro-Soviet Polish-American Catholic priest to Moscow and his meeting with Stalin.

As the first two sentences of this article read.  These sentences lead one to believe that nothing from the Soviet archives has ever been printed on these matters, and at the least, a reference to Professor Miner’s book would have been appropriate.  Additionally Dr. Noskowa writes about this material in her work published in 2005, so there are at least two sources that precede Mr. Markiewicz's paper, and should have been referred to.

Although this writer agrees with the author’s statement that “Stalin took a great interest in Orlemański and his activities in the United States within the Polish American spheres” I believe that it is Stanislaus Orlemanski’s two decade long work in the Polish-American community that brought him to the attention of the Soviet authorities, and not solely “through his work as a parish priest and as a leading figure in the Kościuszko League”.

 Stanislaus Orlemanski took assertive positions in attempting to empower the Polish-American community; these actions had a long history, much earlier than the formation of the Kosciuszko League, and were both clerical and political.  Yet upon his return from Moscow, he accepted the suspensa of the clerical authorities (which originated from Washington and not Springfield) and submitted to the humiliation of presenting a public apology which had been written for him. 
I have not (yet) found records of his making public political statement after mid-July 1944, thus it would appear that his pro-Soviet position was less meaningful to him than his priestly duties.  It will take deeper research to determine the accuracy of that statement, but at this point it would behoove researchers to remove Reverend Stanislaus Orlemanski from a purely pro-Soviet position and allow a fuller picture to be presented, as I would have hoped that Mr. Markiewicz would have presented in his article.

[1] Stanislaus Orlemanski used the English form of both his Christian name and surname, particularly in English language materials, and so I will refer to him in that fashion. It is not apparent if this was a typo, but at certain points, Rev. Orlemanski’s name appears with a diacritical over the n, while the Reverend never used that form in any English language materials (vide p. 54). 
[2] I first began researching Rev. Orlemanski as a result of my work on the English-speaking witnesses to Katyn, and specifically the role of Father Marie Leopold Braun, AA, who was pastor of St. Louis des Français in Moscow.  This work has been conducted at the National Archives at College Park, at the Manuscript Division of Columbia University, the Augustinians General House Archives in Rome as well as their Provincial House, at least five other archives in other countries and also include the ‘general suspects’ i.e. FRUC etc. When I first began researching this issue it also related to the issue of the Military Ordinariate attached to the First Polish Army (i.e. Armia Berlinga). 
[3] In this case I will use the Polish spelling, as does Professor Anna Cienciala, since Lange did renounce his US citizenship and was a Polish Ambassador.
[4]To be precise – the description reads Abitutyenci Gimn. Sem. Pols. z roku 1910 w Orchard Lake, Mich., Zjazd Kolezenski odbedzie sie dnia 19go czerwca 1918 roku, referring to students not graduates nor priests.
[5] Interestingly, although this author’s research has not concentrated on Lange, various articles and reports have been reviewed.  It is clear that Lange’s visit did not hold as much attraction as the visit of Orlemanski, as neither TASS nor the English language press seems to have accorded it a similar level of attention.
[6] vide Miner, Steven M.  Stalin’s Holy War. University of North Carolina Press, 2003