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Woman's Day USA

 

On Wednesday, March 10, 1997, a reception and program honoring a select group of nine women was held at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. The women made an outstanding contribution through their determination, tenacity and courage to make a difference. The Honorees are as follows:

Brenda Blethyn, actress, Oscar nominee "Secrets and Lies".

Rose Freedman, a 104 years young survivor of the tragic 1911 New York City Triangle Shirt Waist Co. fire which killed 146 employees.

Alexandra Nechita, a truly young 11 year old whose artistic achievements pegged her as the new Picasso.

Allison Anders, writer/director "Gas, Food, Lodging" and "Mi Vida Loca".

Mitsuye Yamada, Japanese born writer, Idaho Concentration Camp survivor, Board Member of Amnesty International.

Marcy Pollier, an entrepreneur, philanthropist, founder of Entertainment Data Inc.

Dr. Vivian Brown, Prototypes, CEO, a center for Health, Mental Health, Social Services.

Irene Opdyke, featured on Oscar nominated "Courage to Care", rescuer of Jews in WWII.

Stefania Burzminski, saved 13 Jews by hiding them at great personal risk for 2 years in WWII.

The following is a brief resume of the ladies of Polish descent who participated in this wonderful program.

Irene Gut Opdyke who is in her seventies, continues her life long commitment to teaching people (especially children) to take a stand against hate, bigotry, and racism. She has received the esteemed "Holocaust Righteous Christian Rescuer" and Israel's highest award, the Medal of Honor. A foundation was started by Rosalie to help Irene continue her life dream of inspiring human beings to care about one another. We are after all, people with the same basic needs. For information, the "Irene Opdyke Holocaust Rescuer Foundation" can be reached by calling Rosalie at (714) 497-1556.

Stefania Burzminski, also a Righteous Christian, was a teenager when she saw the horror of the Nazis' inhumanity during the German occupation of Poland. Stefania and her sister hid 13 Jews and kept them in their attic, feeding them and caring for them for 2 years. She married one of the survivors, who accompanied her to the podium this evening.

Beata Pozniak, the hostess and founder of Women's Day USA, is an exceptional beauty with talent to match. She is an artist, sculptress, and actress, with a determination to be a mover and shaker, one who makes a difference.

The native of Gdansk has had an incredible journey, which has taken her to the stage and films, to the founding of a performance art company, Theater Discordia; to sculpture and painting in all endeavors-to poetry.

As a child in Poland, Pozniak says, she remembers March 8th as a day when boys would present young girls with cards and flowers, symbols of respect. There would be stories in the media and discussions in the classrooms about women's history.

She was surprised when she came to the United States in 1988 to discover that the day went largely unnoticed. Pozniak lobbied for and eventually received proclamations from then Mayor Tom Bradley and Gov. Pete Wilson, and has since made her way up the chain of command.

Upon Beata's suggestion, Congresswoman Maxine Waters introduced the very first bill recognizing March 8th as International Women's Day. This was the first official recognition of Women's Day, enacted by the US Congress in 1994, while the rest of the world brought its tradition into existence 85 years earlier.

On March 18, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan honored Beata for her efforts on Women's Day USA at the Mayor's breakfast.

Beata was determined to find her way to the land of freedom and justice. She is driven by memories of midnight, December 13, 1981. The cold was made more bitter by the lingering heaviness of teargas, by the tanks and communist police filling the streets. When martial law was imposed, Pozniak supported the Solidarity movement while a student at the Film School in Lodz.

"The police would stop people on the streets and ask to see their hands. If they were even a little dirty, you would be imprisoned as a suspect of throwing stones."

She recalls the death of a strong, gentle priest, Father Jerzy Popieluszko, the man who gave her the required documentation to live in Warsaw, the theatrical hub of Poland. Popieluszko, a charismatic Solidarity supporter, was murdered for his convictions in 1984.

In 1988, Pozniak came to Los Angeles to attend the American Film Institute's Film Festival, representing "Chronicles of Love Affairs", which she starred in but has never seen. This led to the role of Marina Oswald in Oliver Stone's "JFK". While filming in Dallas, she was reunited with her father, a surgeon, whom she hadn't seen since the 1970's when he refused to return with his family to Poland from England. It was too late for him to be her father, but he agreed to sponsor her so she could become and American citizen and pursue acting. Pozniak has since appeared in "Melrose Place" and "Mad About You".

Her work for International Women's Day has focused on honoring women from all walks of life.

A little known fact in the United States is that there are already 80 countries around the world who have been celebrating Women's Day, going back as far as 1913 when it was founded in Copenhagen. She hopes that Women's Day will soon be recognized in schools and civic groups in ceremonies around the country.

News of Polonia, March 1997, by Alice Rusnarczyk-Silvers

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