Letter: Polish-American community loses leader and advocate
Professor Thaddeus C. Radzilowski passed away on July 20 at age 80, after having battled a series of health issues. His funeral mass was held in St. Gerald Catholic Church in Farmington.
Professor Radzilowski was to me a mentor and friend, an extraordinary soul devoted to the Polish nation. As someone so passionate and driven, meeting him will forever be something I will hold dear to my heart.
I had the absolute honor of meeting such a man. A celebrated historian and an achieving intellectual, Professor Radzilowski focused his work on Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Russia.
Having written more than 100 academic publications, these works focused specifically on the histories and cultures of the region, and also on the migration of its peoples.
Professor Radzilowski was a strong advocate of the Polish community with his studies and efforts to strengthen Polish-American relations.
A long-time native of Michigan, he underlined the importance of the Polish community to the city of Detroit, aiming to illustrate that the Polish diaspora, in tandem with many different cultures, shaped the atmosphere and traditions of the city itself. His personal interests, as well as his commitment to the Polish community, led him to then co-found the Piast Institute in 2003, which became one of the leading think-tanks in the United States that focuses on Polish issues.
In addition to his founding of a renowned think tank, Professor Radzilowski also illustrated his devotion to a strengthened relationship between Polish and American academia. As corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Chair of the International Conference on Migration at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, Professor Radzilowski presented himself as an academic concerned with the social history and historical portrayal of the Polish people.
It is precisely his efforts in the dissemination of Polish history and culture that earned him the Cavalier’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 1999. His deep involvement in the Polish community and his various academic efforts were recognized by the Polish administration as a sign of friendship and devotion to the greater Polish diaspora of the United States.
In addition to his engagement in academic research, Professor Radzilowski taught at many universities. With his infectious spirit and passion for his subject, he inspired students at the University of Michigan, Madonna University, Heidelberg College and Southwest Minnesota University. Through his lectures, his academic works, and engagement with Polonia, Professor Radzilowski exhibited the mark of a truly worldly person and of someone who works to transcend national borders.
In our many meetings, I was always struck by Professor Radzilowski’s spirit. Just in the way he talked, you could tell that his life’s work was more than just a history of peoples. To him, it was about the souls of these nations, about their culture.
You could recognize his passions almost instantly, and you could see that he was kind and genuine and always willing to take on a new problem. I cherish the moments I spent with him. He was a brilliant man, a true patriot to our nation. His legacy will live on and his loss will always be felt in the Polish community.
Ambassador of Poland to the United States