Reaching the dream. The Kosciuszko Foundation and its Polish founder, Stephen Mizwa
The exhibition “Reaching the dream. The Kosciuszko Foundation and its Polish founder” was organized, in the summer of 2022, by the Casimir Pulaski Museum in Warka, which has been successfully fulfilling its mission to document and promote the achievements of Poles in the United States for 55 years.
The Kosciuszko Foundation was the proud leading partner of this project. The Museum opened the biographical exhibition featuring one of the biggest Polish-American activists and founder of the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York: Stefan Mierzwa, also known as Szczepan Mierzwa and Stephen Mizwa (1892–1971). The exhibition at the Casimir Pulaski Museum in Warka tells the story of Stephen Mizwa’s adventurous life and outlines a vast range of his ideas, which have been preserved and continue to be worked on until today.
The Exhibition was curated by art historian Anna Rudek-Śmiechowska Ph.D., who authoredthe scenario and organized the display, and historian Prof. Tomasz Pudłocki, who sharedhis knowledge and the results of his research about the Foundation and Stephen Mizwa. Almost all of the archives, materials, and original memorabilia came from the Kosciuszko Foundation collection. Mrs. Agnieszka Kozak, Stephen Mizwa’s closest family member living in Poland, helped immensely with the exhibition by lending photographs from their private collections to accompany the story. Moreover, Stephen Mizwa’s grandson who lives in the United States, Michael B. Mizwa, contributed to the idea. The exhibition scenography was designed by the outstanding Polish designer and graphic artist Kama
Schinwelska, who runs Studio Elipsy and was assisted by designer Marcin Gwiazdowski. The whole was produced by AlenaTrafimava and her team. The partners of the Exhibition were: The Kosciuszko Foundation in New York, The Archive of Science of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (PAU) in Kraków and The Kosciuszko Foundation Alumni. This exhibition was only possible due to the financial help of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, and The Kosciuszko Foundation in New York.
“Reaching the dream” is an exhibition aimed to remember and honor the outstanding Pole, who opened the proverbial American doors wide open for many Polish scientists and people of culture through his hard work and way of acting. Stephen Mizwa created one of the most recognizable Polish American organizations. His activities embodied the fusion of the two nations and two worlds. His life, however hard, was a succession of brilliant ideas and successful projects serving people of science, culture, and art. Mizwa’s character, courage, knowledge, and ability to bring people together led to the creation of an organization serving Poles for almost 100 years. 2022 marks the Foundation’s 97th anniversary (in 1923, Stephen Mizwa began collecting donations for the Scholarship Fund, and in 1925, he officially established the Foundation).
“In the beginning, there was nothing; no building, not even a typewriter or desk space, and nofunds. There were only a dream and a few people who believed in it” – this is how the initiator and founder of the Kosciuszko Foundation, Stephen Mizwa remembered the organization he would later devote his entire life to.
Today the Kosciuszko Foundation pursues its goals by awarding various scholarships (which in 2020 were granted to 122 scholars and 37 beneficiaries of the so-called special grants (which refer to specific projects, e.g., in the visual arts or music). Besides, the KF also pioneers the Year Abroad in Poland in cooperation with the Jagiellonian University Center for Polish Language and Culture in the World. Thanks to the program, every year, several students can not only work on their Polish skills but also study at the Jagiellonian University in their areas of expertise under the supervision of outstanding Polish specialists.
The Foundation also provides financial support to befriended institutions, such as the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America, and cultural events, such as the annual Pulaski Parade in New York, and art exhibitions. The “Teaching English in Poland” program,implemented in cooperation with many high schools in Poland, American teachers, andvolunteers, has been very popular for years.
Since 24 February 2022, thanks to the personalinvolvement of President Marek Skulimowski, the Foundation has actively joined in theassistance for Ukraine, which Russia attacked. This includes support for refugees, various types of aid sent to combat zones, and scholarship support for students and scholars from the war-torn country. The Kosciuszko Foundation has been meeting new expectations and successfully facingchallenges of a changing reality for almost acentury. It does not stop in its efforts to ensure that successive generations of Poles and Americans get to know each other better and thus, undertake more efficient and multifaceted cooperation in areas encompassing learning languages, science and culture, and the world of diplomacy and politics.