The clear, strong voices of a boys' choir could be heard early yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery singing "Boze Cos Polske" (God Who Blessed Poland).
Ignace Jan Paderewski, the Polish patriot, statesman and musician who was being remembered at a wreath-laying ceremony, undoubtedly would have been pleased, epecially by the last verse, which calls for the return of a free Poland.
The 40 boys from St. Mary's Preparatory and Frank Baranowski, dean of the Orchard Lake, Mich., school, had gathered outside the USS Maine Memorial, where Paderewski's body is entombed.
Paderewski's remains have rested in the otherwise barren tomb inside a cedar box on wheels since shortly after he died at the age of 80 in 1941. Hundreds of thousands of Poles await the fulfilment of a pledge originally made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that the world-famous pianist's body would be returned to his homeland when Poland was free.
"There's no question in my mind he's going to remain here for some time in the future, given the current situation in Poland," said Baranowski, who, along with his students and Washington-area Polish leaders, wore a black button bearing Paderewski's name and red and white ribbons, Poland's colors.
Baranowski and the students from St. Mary's, which is affiliated with the Polish Seminary of America, are here for the inaugural festivities, and to drum up support for a nationwide campaign to persuade Congress to confer honorary U.S. citizenship on Paderewski.
"It's a very restricted privilege," Baranowski said. "You have to have a good cause and a good case." Baranowski, along with Myra Lenard, national executive director of the Polish-American Congress, and her husband, Casimir, president of the group's local chapter, recounted the pianist's accomplishments.
Paderewski, who was called "perhaps the greatest living man" by Supreme Court Justice Harlan Stone, initially gained his fame as a pianist. That reputation was soon matched by one as a statesman and humanitarian.
During World War I, he donated his income to war victims, and became the prime force in the restoration of Poland as a nation through the Versailles Treaty. He subsequently served as ambassador to the United States, and the first premier and foreign minister of the Republic of Poland. During the Depression, he helped raised funds for hungry Americans, and served as president of the Polish Parliament in exile during World War II.
Paderewski was decorated by many nations, but it was the United States he loved and believed to be Poland's true friend, said Myra Lenard. He loved this country so much, she said, that he asked that his heart be kept here. It has been enshrined in a Brooklyn mausoleum.