After two weeks spent in a hiding place in Gdynia, on 5 November 1947, Korboński and his wife met Karl Nilsson,a Swede, who got them on board “The Drotting Victoria”.On the day following their boarding they arrived unhindered in Trelleborg, and a few days later in Stockholm, where they had still another dramatic experience when Polish political police officers under Major Stanisław Nadzin made an attempt to kidnap them from their hotel. Korboński was lucky enough to avoid being captured once again, in April 1953, when a close acquaintance of his (known by his pseudonym “Stawiński”), collaborating with the Polish political police, was – as part of an operation codenamed Apis” – to lure him into coming to Eastern Berlin where Korboński was to be captured by the Soviet counter-espionage service and brought back to Poland. Fortunately, Korboński did not decide to leave Western Berlin.
On 13 November 1947, Korboński and his wife reached London, but they soon left for the United States, and on 26 November they arrived at La Guardia Airport in New York. As they traveled on the same plane with Mikołajczyk, Bagiński and Paweł Zalewski,
they were met by a big group of friends and journalists. Among those greeting them at the airport there was also a former US ambassador in Poland, Arthur Bliss Lane, who had left the US diplomatic mission in Poland after he found it impossible to fulfill his duties there. Ambassador Lane offered Zofia Korbońska a job at Voice of America, a public radio station, when they were on their way from the airport to a hotel. Stefan Korboński also got numerous job offers right upon his arrival in the US, including those from his former employers, Prudential and Palmolive-Colgate, but he would not accept them, wishing to devote all his life and his work to the cause of Poland. At first the Korbońskis stayed at a hotel, with crowds of journalists everywhere, anxious to find out, in detail, about their flight from Poland. From the very beginning of his stay abroad Korboński actively shared in the life of Polish emigrants: he acted as the Chairman of the Polish Political Council Delegation, and of the Polish Council of National Unity, and participated in the activities of the Kościuszko Foundation, and of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America based in New York. In 1979 he was elected member of the Executive Board of the Polish Lawyers Association in the United States.
After the Radio Free Europe (RFE) station was made operational by the National Committee for a Free Europe founded in 1949 in New York, Korboński became its daily commentator. He delivered his first speech on emigration addressed to the Polish nation as part of the Radio’s inaugural broadcast in native tongues, targeted at the countries behind the “Iron Curtain” on 14 July 1950.
Korboński could be heard in the Polish segment of the RFE’s broadcast for quite a number of years. At the turn of 1971, his open letters protesting the plans to close RFE were published in a number of American and English newspapers (including “The New York Times” edition of 6 March, the London “Times” edition of 7 March,“The Washington Post” edition of 20 March, and “The Time”edition of 27 March), and on 3 May 1972, he congratulated the RFE Station on its twentieth anniversary in the name of the Assembly ofCaptive European Nations (ACEN), and on behalf of the Polish Councilof National Unity.
On 15 December 1947 Korboński, together with Mikołajczyk and Bagiński, met in Chicago with the President of the Polish American Congress (PAC), Karol Rozmarek, and with his co-workers, and they signed a two-year memorandum of understanding between PSL and the PAC. On the following day they published their official statement, as agreed bilaterally, comprised of ten paragraphs. This was not an easy thing to do, as Mikołajczyk’s activity met with several objections on the part of Rozmarek, known for being anti-communist. Korboński and Bagiński shared some of his objections (which, in particular, was related to the arrangements made by Mikołajczyk to flee the country), but they wanted to be loyal towards Mikołajczyk speaking to the Congressional authorities.
From the point of view of the peasant movement leaders, the memorandum of understanding with the PAC yielded significant political gains. It enabled them to publish their content in the Polish newspapers in the USA, and to use the existing structures of the Polish communities in America in their work done on behalf of Poland, which made it possible for Mikołajczyk, Korboński, and their party colleagues to make pronouncements and give public speeches on a frequent basis.
One month later, on 14 January 1948, Korboński and Bagiński participated in a banquet given for Polish communities in America by the Chamber of Industry in Buffalo, New York, where PAC was founded in May 1944. On 19 January they both took part in the Washington meeting of the International Peasant Union (mistermed by Korboński as “the Central Committee of the Union of Peasant Parties”), referred to as the “Green International”, which resulted in the Polish peasant activist’ joining that organization. On 25 January a group of PSL members went to Chicago again to meet the representatives of the Polish National Alliance (PNA), of the Polish Women’s Alliance of America, as well as journalists from “Dziennik Związkowy” (owned by the PNA) and from “Dziennik Chicagowski”.
Something that deserves mention in the context of the many meetings held by Korboński in those days is also his meeting with the new Polish military emigrants in the Polish National Home of New York on 27 January 1948, and the meeting in the “Sokół” Headquarters in Pittsburgh on 30 January 1948. There he met Colonel Teofil Starzyński, PhD., the President of that organization and main driving force behind the voluntary conscription into the so-called “Blue Army” in the days of Great War, a man highly respected in the United States.
On 11 April 1948 Korboński arrived in Toronto to an invitation from the Canadian Polish Congress (CPC), to participate in a meeting of several thousand Polish Canadians, attended by a guest of honor: George Drew, the Prime Minister of the Ontario Province. It afforded Korboński a possibility to visit numerous Polish communities living in the neighborhood of Toronto. What he himself considered to be the most interesting experience of that first stage of his life in America was his presence at the PAC Convention held in Philadelphia on 29–31 May 1948, with the participation of Tom Clark, acting in the capacity of President Truman’s deputy, who was responsible in Truman’s administration for the Department of Justice. That was when Korboński met Piotr Yolles, the Editor-in-Chief of “Nowy Świat”, the main Polish daily in New York, and President of the Syndicate of Polish Journalists and Publishers in the USA.
On 22 July 1948 Korboński received a letter from Jerzy Giedroyc with a proposal to have his wartime memoirs published. It was the first letter to arrive at 540 West 113 Street, his New York a
ddress, and the first out of ca. 500 letters exchanged by him with the Editor-in-Chief of “Kultura”. On 31 July Korboński accepted Giedroyc’ proposal, and by letter on 23 August he was informed that his article about the last months of the Polish Underground State Delegation would be published in the September edition of “Kultura”, around the middle of the month.
Ultimately, those plans were changed, as the memoirs had impressed Giedroyc so much that on 3 October he advised their author of his intention to have the full text published in the October edition. That publication was the beginning of Korboński’s 40 years as a journalist and writer. The next piece of Korboński’s writing was his first book, published in the middle of June 1954: W imieniu Rzeczypospolitej. The book was highly appreciated, it got about 150 reviews (one of them by Jan Lechoń, in enthusiastic terms), and was widely discussed in RFE and Voice of America radio broadcasts. W imieniu Rzeczypospolitej brought its author prestigious awards, including those from the Polish Combatants’ Association in America,the Home Army Veterans Clubs in America and in the Great Britain, as well as the Union of Polish Writers Abroad. As a result, Korboński became a member of the Union, and, later on, also of the PEN Club.
Twenty years after the publication of his book, on 1 February 1974, he received the annual prize awarded by the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation in New York for the translation of Polish works into English.
Apart from his voluminous correspondence with Giedroyc, Korboński would also exchange letters with Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, General Tadeusz Komorowski, General
Władysław Anders, General Tadeusz Pełczyński, Edward Raczyński, Jan Lechoń, Kazimierz Wierzyński, Józef Wittlin, Melchior Wańkowicz, Rafał Malczewski, Leopold Tyrmand, Witold Gombrowicz, Jerzy Kosiński, Tomasz Arciszewski, Adam Ciołkosz, Tadeusz Zawadzki-Żenczykowski, and Franciszek Wilk. Occasionally, he also corresponded with contemporary or former American Presidents: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Senior (the Vice President in the days of Ronald Reagan), and with high-ranking American politicians, congressmen and senators, including George Kennan and Zbigniew Brzeziński. Korboński accepted an invitation dated 29 November 1949, from Harold Macmillan of the European Movement (from which the Council of Europe and its Consultative Assembly in Strasburg stemmed) to contribute to the work of the Eastern European Section. He did so on June 27, 1950, together with another Polish politician, Ambassador Edward Raczyński. In the years to follow, Korboński was an active member of the Council of Europe and that was where in July 1951, he met Paul Henri Spaak, a many-time Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Belgium and, in the years 1957–1961, the Secretary General of the NATO, as well as General Colin Gubbins, the Head of the far-famed Special Operations Executive active during World War Two, known for the deep esteem in which he held the Polish resistance movement for the results of its clandestine operations. What was of special importance to Stefan, in particular, was his meeting with Dr. Retinger whom he first happened to meet during the wartime, the then-Secretary General of the Eastern and Central European Committee and one of the main architects of the Council of Europe.
Korboński, together with the Presidium of PSL in America,arrived in Europe for the first time since he left the old continent,with London and Paris as his destinations in August1948.
He undertook that journey because he considered unification of the democratic parties in exile, i.e. of PSL, PPS and SP,to be the most important thing to do. In the so-called Memorandum of Understanding between Democratic Parties dated 15 November 1948,the parties developed the guidelines for their operations in the form of a document comprised of 17 paragraphs. The collapse of that understanding and the coming into being of the Political Council – in London, on 20 December 1949 – was the reason why those ways followed by Korboński and Bagiński finally parted with those followed by Mikołajczyk.
The prior two hoped that Americans who would not have diplomatic relations with the Government in Exile might want to consider the Political Council to be their partner. The conflict with Mikołajczyk finally resulted in the removal of Korboński and Bagiński from the party on 2 January 1950. Supported by peasant movement activists from Polish communities in England and France, they set about As a result, PSL OJN joined the Provisional Council of National Unity (Tymczasow
a Rada Jedności Narodowej, TRJN). The exile peasant movement became united again as late as 1968, with a considerable contribution from Stefan Korboński.
Korboński was a member of the Provisional Council of National Unity in the USA from the very beginning of its operation. He was also a member of the RJN Presidium in the USA, and in the years 1971–1985 became its President. During the presidency of August Zaleski, Korboński was considered a strong candidate for the Prime Minister’s office in the Government in Exile.
Korboński was also active on the international level: it was on his initiative that the Conference of Central and Eastern European Countries was held at the Villard Hotel in Washington on 21 March 1951. Moreover, he was a considerable driving force behind the creation of the Assembly of Captive European Nations, which came into being on 20 September 1954. This organization consisted of nine Central and Eastern European countries enslaved by the Soviet Union: Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, with 21 groups represented (totaling over 100 activists) altogether. At the beginning the Assembly, organizationally modeled on the UN, had its headquarters at 57 West Street in New York, but then it moved to the Carnegie Endowment at the corner of 1st Avenue and 42nd Street, vis-a-vis the new UN edifice. The countries, so united, had their building decorated with national flags draped in mourning, and their sessions were held concurrently with the sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations. “The New York Herald
Tribune” called the ACEN a “Smart Little UN”.
The organization was co-funded by the National Committee for a Free Europe, which enabled its vigorous political activity, including numerous publicity operations and informative functions. It also covered the operational and maintenance costs of its New York headquarters and its auxiliary offices in Paris, London, and Bonn, as well as those of its numerous agencies all over the world. Korboński was the chairman of the Polish delegation to the ACEN from the very beginning, and in the years 1958–1959, 1966–1967 and 1971–1985, a total of 16 years altogether, he acted in his capacity as the Chairman of the ACEN General Committee. He resigned the office on 12 September 1985. The new Chairman of the Committee, László Varga, was Hungarian, and the Polish Delegation was headed by Zygmunt Gross, with Korboński performing as its Honorary Chairman.
It was, to a significant degree, due to his efforts that the organization avoided liquidation at the beginning of the 1970s, when the Cold War entered its new détente phase and the United States, acting in the name of savings and “sorting their federal budget” ordered the National Committee for a Free Europe in 1971 to stop all financial assistance to the ACEN beginning in January 1972. Thanks to Korboński’s efforts that assistance was secured until April 1972. Since then, all the funding has come from individual sponsors and from membership fees.
The activity pursued by the ACEN sometimes led to internal disputes. Such was the case in May 1963, at its Strasburg session, when Adam Ciołkosz and Korboński appealed to the Federal Republic of Germany to recognize the inviolability of the Oder–Neisse line, i.e. to repudiate the doctrine under which the borders of the Third Reich from before 1937 were still existent and legally enforceable. Moreover, they accused Bonn of tolerating anti-Polish revisionists, and criticized the idea to equip the Bundeswehr with nuclear weapons. They also vetoed the idea to hold one of the future sessions in Bonn. Their position was so strongly objected to by the Hungarian and the Romanian delegations that both Polish delegates left the assembly hall and did not take part in the rest of the proceedings.
Korboński’s role in the ACEN, as well as his other activities, did not escape the notice of the Communist authorities in Poland – surveillance began in 1945.
The political police, the UB, had a secret operation codenamed “Batory” launched against the former activists of the Mikołajczyk faction of PSL, Kazimierz Bagiński and Stefan Korboński and their wartime and post-war contacts. In May 1955 yet another secret operation was launched, this time against a spy ring, codenamed “Kanał” and focused on “PSL-incited spy ring activity” (“sprawa o zabarwieniu PSL-owskim – szpiegowskim”). By targeting Korboński, the UB hoped to find out about his contact network and about his own “involvement in espionage” while still in the country.
The operational plan provided for investigation aimed to find out about the persons involved in the operations of KWC and of Korboński; find out about the persons involved in the operations related to PSL activity within the territory of Poland; find out about the persons within the territory of Poland on friendly terms with Korboński, and about his relatives with whom he was in touch. The operation ended in 1970. The covert surveillance of the targeted group included having their correspondence censored and their phones tapped, as well as the recruitment of secret police agents. The next operation, launched in 1962 and codenamed “Kalif”, was focused on surveillance and on generating new information to be used as a trail of evidence. It targeted Korboński again. The plan was to use a secret police agent to infiltrate the environment of “the target” and find out about his political activity in exile. That operation got the ad acta status from the SB (the legal successor of the UB) in 1965. In May 1972 Korboński became blacklisted in the Polish People’s Republic, and it was as late as January 1980 before his name was removed from the black list.
Korboński and his wife moved to Washington in 1954, following the editorial board of Voice of America, where Zofia Korbońska was employed as a speaker, news reader, and translator of the content intended for radio broadcast and of the government comments about the US policies. She also had her own broadcasts: “Życie Warszawy pod komunizmem” (“Life in Warsaw under Communism”), „Klub myśli niezależnej – dyskusje młodzieżowe” (“Independent Thinkers Club – Teen Discussions”), “Traktorzystki i farmerki” (“Women Tractor Drivers and Farmers”), “Instytucje demokratyczne w Stanach Zjednoczonych” (“Democratic Institutions in the United States”). Her husband, having deliberately refused to accept American citizenship, had to rely on his wife in this respect, who enjoyed full rights of an American citizen. Korboński responded to occurrences both in Poland and in Eastern Europe in an explicit way. Near the end of June 1956, he backed the Poznań Protests. His organizations sent hundreds of telegrams and intervened dozens of times, requesting that the UN Security Council investigate the situation in Poland and that measures should be taken for which it had been provided in the United Nations Charter. Korboński himself had a letter published in the “Evening Star” on 19 July, in which he described the dramatic situation in Poznań and demanded that the Security Council respond to it. On 27 September 1956, when the first trials of the people involved in the Poznań Protests were initiated, the Polish Council of Unity and ACEN held a demonstration in support of the detained workers. Moreover, John Foster Dulles, the US Secretary of State, and Dwight Eisenhower, the US President, had been persuaded by them into making pronouncements in response.
Korboński’s involvement in supporting the cause of the “Polish October” and of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (nota bene suppressed by the same Soviet General, Ivan Serov, who was behind the detention of the 16 leaders of the Polish Underground State) was no weaker. Together with Prelate Béla Varga, a former Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament (after 1945) and member of the ACEN, Korboński exerted himself to secure any available form of support for Hungarians both in the country and in exile.
With Korboński in charge of its affairs, the ACEN issued two booklets: the first one about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (its presentation to Henry Cabot Lodge, the US Ambassador to the UN, provoked an angry response on the part of the Hungarian communist authorities), and the other about the violation of human rights in Eastern Europe (the response which the ACEN got after having it mailed to the widowed Eleanor Roosevelt was rather pessimistic).
On 31 October 1956, as the Head of the Polish Delegation to the ACEN, Korboński was received in Washington by US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Murphy and by future US Ambassador to Poland Jacob D. Beam. In the context of the efforts made by Korboński to defend the
Polish cause, the resolution of the Council of National Unity in the United States, headed by Korboński, on the US assistance to Poland deserves mention. It was passed on 12–13 January 1957, and the related telegram was addressed to the US Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. A similar resolution was proposed by Korboński to the Polish American Congress at the meeting of its Executive Board in Washington at the beginning of February 1957, with a final suggestion that it would be advisable to reestablish cultural relations with Poland. On 24 March 1957 “The Washington Post” issued Korboński’s letter arguing against the opinion of the Economic Research Council of the US Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate, which was against financial assistance to Poland. On 21 January 1958 at the Sherman hotel in Chicago, at a convention of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Korboński opened an exhibition organized by the ACEN, related to the Katyń massacre, the 1956 Poznań Protests and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It was also he who personally showed then-US President, Harry Truman, around the exhibition.
The ACEN was not indifferent to the political repression against the Polish intellectuals who signed the “Letter of 34”. Invited by the US Department of State in 1964, the Polish delegation stipulated that the international community should deal with the issue without delay. Similarly, it requested that mass repression against the clergy and lay members of religious denominations in Poland should be dealt with on the UN level. During the anti-Semitic campaign in 1968, Korboński, at a meeting of the Jewish Labor Committee, stated that it was only the Communists who were to be blamed for it. He even sent an open letter to “The New York Times” in which he referred to those occurrences as an internal party struggle between Communist factions.
The functions performed by Korboński made him travel a lot: on 19 September 1956, together with two co-workers: Vilis Masens, a Latvian diplomat who was the head of their delegation, and Constantin Vişoianu, a former Romanian minister responsible for foreign affairs, he travelled on behalf of the ACEN to five South American nations. It was Korboński’s first political journey. As the head of another delegation, whose other members included József Kövágó, a Hungarian politician, and Masens, Korboński travelled around the world, especially the Far East and Australia, for business and leisure, at the turn of 1958.
That mission was about gaining support for the UN’s dissent against the Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe. On 30 January 1959 the delegation arrived in Tokyo (visiting Honolulu on the way on 27 January), where it was welcomed by Wakako Yokoo, an ex-student of Prof. Jerzy Lerski (a famous emissary known by his pseudonym “Jur” who happened to give lectures in the capital of Japan for a few years before that, and who himself met the delegation in Pakistan). During their 5-day stay in Tokyo, the ACEN delegates met representatives of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the Institute of Foreign Affairs, as well as Japanese journalists.
On 5 February 1959 the delegation reached Seoul, and its later destinations were: Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia (which afforded them a chance to meet with World War Two veterans who settled in great numbers in Australia after the war), Singapore, Indonesia, South Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. Korboński returned to Washington at the end of March 1959, and the reminiscences of his trip can be found in his book W imieniu Polski Walczącej.
Korboński arrived in Strasburg on 20 April 1959, to a session of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe devoted to the tenth anniversary of it’s founding. The session ended in a resolution passed on 23 April supporting all European countries in their aspirations of independence. Four days later, in a telegram sent to American Secretary of State Christian Herter, Korboński requested that that issue be discussed at the Geneva conference as well.
On 27 May 1959 Korboński took part in the funeral of former American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who died three days before.
Korboński, together with three other members of the ACEN Main Committee, were, on 17 July in Washington, handed President Eisenhower’s Proclamation in which the Captive Nations Week (17–23 July 1959) was first proclaimed. The Proclamation was delivered to the delegates by Douglas Villon – known for his Polish origin – substituting for the then-absent US Secretary of State.
The Captive Nations Week turned out to be a great success. Korboński was welcomed in New York by Francis Cardinal Spellman, who celebrated a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. On 20 July the nine national flags were raised at the ACEN headquarters.
Arrangements were also made to hold a meeting with the chairman of the trade unions united in the then-influential American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations, George Meany, who appealed to the American workers to support the people “behind the Iron Curtain”.
Korboński availed himself of the opportunity occasioned by the official visit of US Vice President Richard Nixon to Warsaw, scheduled for 2–5 August 1959, to advise presidential officials of the 15th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Rising, to which Nixon then referred in his welcome address at the airport. Korboński himself gave a Warsaw Rising anniversary-related speech aired by RFE on 2 August. Five years later, on 31 July 1964, acting in his capacity as the Chairman of the Committee for the 20th Anniversary of the Warsaw Rising (Komitet Obchodu Dwudziestolecia Powstania Warszawskiego), he arranged for a meeting in the White House with President Lyndon B. Johnson, who proclaimed 1 August 1964, the Warsaw Rising Day. In Washington he also received General Tadeusz Komorowski, a former Commander-in- Chief of the Home Army, who was visiting the biggest Polish communities abroad.
Acting in his capacity as the Chairman of the ACEN General Committee, Korboński participated in a session of the American Congress on 14 August 1959 by invitation of Harold D. Cooley, a congressman and chairman of the American delegation to the 48th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Warsaw. He gave a speech about the Warsaw Conference and handed over the related memorandum. The most important Polish problems – from the ACEN’s point of view – were also recapitulated in a nine paragraph document submitted to Pope Paul VI by the Korboński couple during the audience which they were granted in connection with their protest action defending the cause of the Church in Poland on 19 October 1963. The Pope assured them (in Polish!) of his pastoral care.
On 21 February 1966, under the American Congress program to commemorate the Millennium of Christianity in Poland,Congressman Henry Helstoski from New Jersey presented Stefan Korboński’s essay, Polish Millennium, to the House of Representatives of the US Congress. Korboński chaired the Committee for the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland (Komitet Millenijny Chrztu Polski) in Washington, and was a co-organizer of the Millennium Ball. The proceeds from that charity event were donated to support the Polish cause. The celebrations of the Millennium coincided with the World Meeting of Fighting Poland (Światowy Zjazd Polski Walczącej) scheduled for 19–21 May 1966.
Korboński was appointed a member of the Honorable Committee and Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs. The meeting was also attended by his wife Zofia, who was Deputy Chairman of the Washington Group.
Korboński and his wife participated in a great demonstration of Polish Americans in Doylestown (called American Częstochowa) on 16 October 1966, connected with the dedication of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa, founded by Michał Zembrzuski, a Pauline Father. The celebrations attracted over 100,000 pilgrims from the USA and Canada, among them President Lyndon B. Johnson. A visit to Polish communities in Montreal and to the Canadien Polish Congress in Toronto where Korboński traveled on 11 November 1962, acting in his capacity as the RJN President and Member of the ACEN General Committee, was an opportunity to meet Polish Canadians grouped around Home Army Veterans Clubs.
On 14 August 1970, acting as usual in a formal capacity, Korboński gave a speech on behalf of the ACEN and RJN at a convention of the Polish American Congress in Chicago, and, later on, he participated in a convention of the PAC, held in Detroit from 6–8 October 1972. His contribution to the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Warsaw Rising consisted of reading a topical paper at two universities in Ottawa by invitation of Carleton University and of the Adam Mickiewicz Foundation in Canada, scheduled for 17–18 October 1974. That event also occasioned two interviews for Canadian TV stations as well as a meeting with the authorities of the Canadian Polish Congress. The next time he visited Canada was on 13 April 1975, in connection with the 35th anniversary of the Katyń massacre, in order to participate, by invitation of the CPC in Toronto, in the unveiling of the Katyń Monument and in the great demonstration that followed it. In the period between 7–9 November 1975, he took part in the Convention of Poles Living in the Free World (Zjazd Polonii Wolnego Świata) in Washington.
Korboński met twice with Karol Wojtyła, the Head of the Polish Episcopate Delegation to the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia in August 1976, and on 24 September 1976 he participated in the yearly Convention of the Polish American Congress in Philadelphia. He also represented the ACEN and Polish Council of Unity at the conference „Polonia ‘78 – Polonia Jutra” („Polish Diaspora of 1978 – Polish Diaspora of Tomorrow”), held in Toronto from 25–28 May 1978. On 6 December 1978, as part of the program commemorating the 30th anniversary of adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Korboński was received by President Jimmy Carter. He was also one of the presidential guests at the gala party given for representatives of Polish-American communities to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Warsaw Rising on 3 August 1979. The next opportunity for Korboński and his wife to talk with the President was at the garden party given at the White House in honor of Pope John Paul II on October 6 of that same year.
A special mention should be reserved for Korboński’s journalistic output, for example his letter published in “The Chicago Tribune” on 11 January 1960, with respect to the deterioration of the Polish and American mutual relations, and his text published in the “Evening Star” on 10 October 1960, in response to the speech given by Gomułka at the UN session in New York. In November and December 1967 “AFL-CIO Union News” published a long article by Korboński: The Polish Panorama (Polska Panorama). In connection with the armed intervention of the Warsaw Pact in Czechoslovakia on 21 August 1968 Korboński submitted a relevant memorandum to the US Congress and to the Department of State, and had five letters published by various American periodicals, with the last one issued on 20 June 1973, during Brezhnev’s official visit in Washington. It was in the speech given at the Convention of the PAC held in Ohio on 27 September 1968, that Korboński referred to the “Prague Spring”. That was also an opportunity to mention the March 1968 student protests in Poland. In January 1971, in issue No. 1 of the AFL-CIO “Free Trade Union News”, Korboński’s article: The Polish December: Five Days that Have Shocked Poland (Polski Grudzień– pięć dni, które wstrząsnęły Polską) was published.
Between 10–14 May 1971 Korboński, with a group of his ACEN colleagues, participated in the debates of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, at which the 1970 Polish protests were discussed. On 3 June 1972 the Republican Party-owned “Human Events” published Korboński’s article: Jakie są prawdziwe cele Rosjan? (What Are the True Objectives of the Russians?), reprinted by “Orzeł Biały” (“White Eagle”) (a monthly) in October 1972. At the beginning of 1975 Korboński wrote a long, factual text Prawda o Enigmie (The Truth behind the Enigma), in which he pointed out at the achievements of the Polish cryptologists.
In connection with the disclosure in America of the aerial photographs showing gas chambers and crematoriums in Auschwitz- Birkenau, dating from 1944, Stefan Korboński explained in “Jewish Week – American Examiner” (on 18 March 1979) that he, as the Head of KWC and the last person to act as the Delegate of the Government in Exile, had transmitted radio telegrams to the western allies keeping them updated on the Holocaust and demanding that the railway lines and the surroundings of the concentration camp be bombed. He also argued (23 October 1977) with the letter written by Manuel Bekierman and published in “Jewish Week – American Examiner” on 4 September, in which the author accused Polish people and the Home Army of having their share in the Holocaust and in the Kielce pogrom. On 14 December 1979 he responded with a very sharp tone to that piece of the interview given to Dutch television: Televisie Radio Omroep Stichting in Hilversum by Menachem Begin, the Israeli Prime Minister, on 15 May 1979, and then reprinted in the September issue of “Kultura”, in which Poles were charged with collaborating with Germans and with indifference towards the Holocaust.
Copies of the long and factual letter sent by Korboński to the Dutch TV station in response (as one of many of his letters touching upon that issue) were received by: Pope John Paul II, Jan Cardinal Król from Philadelphia, Władysław Cardinal Rubin from Rome, Clement J. Zabłocki, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives of the US Congress, Zbigniew Brzeziński, a National Security Adviser to President Carter, Alojzy Mazewski, President of the Polish American Congress, and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Washington. As part of his struggle to maintain Poland’s good reputation, he protested against the use of the term “Polish gas chambers”(“Life”, 12 February 1965).
On 18 June 1977, in connection with the Belgrade Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Korboński had a long and factual article, Belgrade Conference: The Need to Support Soviet Block Dissidents, published in issue No. 25 of Vol. 37 of “Human Events”, dealing with human rights in Eastern Europe. In his letter published in issue No. 49 of “Human Events” on 6 December 1980 he argued against the statements made by Edmund Muskie, US Secretary of State, on the American assistance to Polish workers on strike. A few months after Ronald Reagan’s election to the office of the President of the United States (4 November 1980), in the March/April issue of “Wiadomości”, a 15-page-long text written by Korboński Od Cartera do Reagana, czyli zmiana lokatorów Białego Domu (From Carter to Reagan, i.e. Changing the White House Tenants) was published. It wasan analysis of Carter’s system of government, and reflections on theReagan Presidency which had just started. Korboński had expected Carter’s re-election and was cautious about his victorious opponent. However, after some time he changed his attitude, and the text referred above reflects his opinions after that change.
On March 1982 Korboński wrote 10 texts about the Polish Underground State, commissioned by the RFE, and had his article Podziemie wczoraj i dziś(The Underground Yesterday and Today) published in the April issue of “Kultura”. On 11 April 1983 “The Washington Post” published Korboński’s Powstanie żydowskie (The Jewish Rising) to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto struggle. Korboński had his letter Polska pomoc dla getta (Polish Assistance to the Jewish Ghetto) addressed to the editorial board of “Jewish Week” published on 13 May in the above-mentioned weekly. On 4 May 1985“Human Events” featured another article by Korboński: Wewnętrzna wojna trwa (The Civil War Is On), describing the situation in the Polish People’s Republic after the introduction of martial law.
Korboński sent to the Editor-in-Chief of “Tygodnik Powszechny”,Jerzy Turowicz, on 13 March 1987 a text in response to the article by Jan Błoński published on 11 January Biedni Polacy patrzą na getto (Poor Poles Are Watching the Ghetto), which had repercussions throughout the country. Korboński’s argument was never published, however. In January 1989, in issue No. 1 of Jesuit“Przegląd Powszechny”, an interview with Korboński (which happened to be the last press interview given by him) was published: Od czegoś trzeba by zacząć(The necessity of starting from scratch). Korboński gave the interview – aware of the preparations for the “Round Table Debates” – to Michał Jagiełło and Krystyna Stypułkowska-Smith near the end of 1988.
On 14 July 1979 Korboński was distinguished with a Medal for Valor, and on 30 April 30 1981 he was granted a diploma with the medal Righteous among the Nations awarded to him on 12 March 1981 by the Jewish Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem. This was for his outstanding contribution to saving Jewish lives during World War Two, and the award was presented to him by Ephraim Evron, the then-Ambassador of Israel in Washington.
Korboński’s other distinctions and awards include: the Order of the Virtuti Militari (V Class), the Golden Cross of Merit with Swords, the Cross on Silesian Ribbon of Valor and Merit (2nd Class) – introduced in 1921 for the Silesian insurgents, awarded to Korboński in 1933 in recognition of his struggle in the Third Silesian Rising; the Medal of Independence, the Commemorative Medal for War 1918–1921, the Ten Years of Independence Commemorative Medal.
On 29 November 1995 Korboński was posthumously awarded the Order of the White Eagle – in recognition of his great, historic contribution to the cause of the independence and grandeur of the Republic of Poland – in a decision issued by the President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Wałęsa.
Beginning in 1965, Stefan Korboński was a member of the Supreme Council of the Home Army Veterans Club. On 17 August 1984, acting in his capacity as the Chairman of the Home Army Cross Committee, he decorated US President Ronald Reagan with the Home Army Cross in a ceremony, which took place during a gala banquet held to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Rising. Reagan himself used that event as an opportunity to award posthumously American Legion of Merit Medals to the three successive
Commanders in Chief of the Home Army, generals Rowecki, Komorowski, and Okulicki. A few months before that, on 28 May, Korboński issued an official statement on behalf of the ACEN, appealing to Reagan to request during the summit meeting with the participation of the political leaders from Western European countries and from the Soviet Union that elections in Eastern Europe should be independent.
Stefan and Zofia Korboński celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on 10 July 1988, and had a mass concelebrated in the St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington.
Stefan Korboński passed away on 23 April 1989 at George Washington University Hospital in Washington after a short illness, at the age of 88. Five days later he was buried in the Heritage Walk area of the Pauline Fathers Cemetery in the “American Częstochowa”, Doylestown, Pennsylvania (funeral service was held on 26 April in a Washington chapel).
The funeral oration was delivered by Prof. Jerzy Lerski: a “cichociemny” (member of the Polish special military force in World War Two), emissary of the Polish Government in Exile, long-time friend and co-worker of the deceased, who himself was to be buried in the same cemetery later on. Numerous death notices and obituary notices appeared in memoriam both in the United States and in Great Britain. This is how Korboński was remembered by Zbigniew Brzeziński: “Stefan Korboński had true community spirit and was born to fight.
He was an outstanding member of the peasant movement in Independent Poland, a fearless advocate of freedom in the Communist period of the Polish People’s Republic, a Pole recognized in the Western World, and a representative of Polish political emigration. He devoted all his life to the cause of Poland, and served his term of office well.”
On 7 May 1994 Zofia Korbońska unveiled a commemorative plaque on the wall of the building in Praszka which was her husband’s home. On 13 May 1998 the widowed wife of Stefan Korboński received honorary citizenship in her husband’s home town, and in 2006 she became an Honorary Citizen of the Capital City of Warsaw. She has also been decorated with the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by President Lech Kaczyński. Zofia Korbońska died on 16 August 2010 in Washington.
by Roman W. Rybicki