Over five million Polish signatures adorn a birthday card given to the U.S. in 1926

Over five million Polish signatures adorn a birthday card given to the U.S. in 1926

“We, the people of Poland, send to you, citizens of the great American union, fraternal greetings, together with the assurance of our deepest admiration and esteem for the institutions which have been created by you, in them liberty, equality, and justice have found their highest expression and have become the guiding stars for all modern democracies.”

Those were the opening words written in a birthday card given to the U.S. in 1926 from the American-Polish Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Poland and the Polish-American Society, according to the Library of Congress. It was a Polish declaration of admiration and friendship for the United States.


The declaration states: “We, on the day of your national festival, desire to take part in your joy and to wish your country and your nation all possible prosperity, to the good and happiness of the entire human race.”

Presented to President Calvin Coolidge to acknowledge the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the letter also served to recognize American participation and aid to Poland during World War I. Its volumes hold over five million signatures of Polish citizens and contain illustrations from popular Polish artists depicting buildings, coats of arms, monuments, rural and urban scenes, and historical figures.

The pages of these volumes hold the signatures of almost one-sixth of Poland’s population in 1926, including the signatures of national and local government officials, representatives of religious, social, business, academic and military institutions, and millions of children attending school. When the volumes were given to President Coolidge, he had them transferred to the Library for their protection.

The volumes have been digitized for easier access.

“This is truly one of the unexpected treasures here at America’s library – a story from the past of goodwill and heartfelt friendship between nations,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said. “I am grateful to the Polish Library and the Polish Embassy for their support of this digitization project, which I have no doubt will be of unique significance to many historians and genealogists, but also of interest to all Americans.”

All photos from the Library of Congress.

Pior Wilczek, Poland’s Ambassador to the United States, stressed the value of the volumes.

“These declarations are one of the earliest examples of public diplomacy undertaken by the reborn Polish Republic and they embody the deep appreciation Poles held for America’s friendship and generous aid,” Wilczek said. “I greatly appreciate the Library of Congress’ efforts in safekeeping this priceless collection for many decades and for now facilitating its access to the entire world. Our Embassy is proud to have supported the Class of 1926 project to digitize the Polish Declarations.”

Currently, the 111 volumes boasting more than 30,000 pages are digitized and available for access on the Library of Congress website.

Besides being a unique gift from an appreciative nation, the Polish Declarations are also an invaluable treasure extravaganza for genealogists, historians and researchers. World War II took place 13 years after the names were gathered. Poland was invaded by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and dealt with serious losses. Nearly six million Polish citizens, along with three million Polish Jews, were annihilated.

Samuel Ponczak, who was the leader of the Class of 1926 digitization project, said, “for those who did not survive the war, in many instances their signature in this declaration is the only evidence that such a person existed.” Ponczak is a survivor of the Holocaust himself. “Through our digitization effort, we are reclaiming their lost history,” he said.

Read about this story here.


Heroic uncle rescues niece and nephews from house fire

Heroic uncle rescues niece and nephews from house fire

Derrick Byrd from Aberdeen, Washington, is dealing with the pain of serious burns because he rushed back into a burning building to rescue his niece. Byrd said from his hospital bed that he’d do it again, as reported by KOMO News.

Byrd, who is 20 years old, has 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his face, back and arms. He was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center after his house caught fire on July 4th.

“Even though I got burnt,” said Byrd. “I really didn’t care, though. I’d rather get burnt than her. She’s young. She’s still got a lot of stuff going for her. She’s a good kid.”

Byrd’s niece Mercedes and nephews Junior and Rory are very important to him. This explains why he was so adamant to protect them. He assisted the kids’ mother, Kayla, his sister, in transporting the kids out of the second-floor window.

“Kayla wanted to get the kids out so I ran downstairs even though I got burnt,” he said. “Started catching the kids. I caught Junior and I caught Baby Rory out of Kayla’s window.”

However, Mercedes, who is 8-years-old, was scared to jump. When her mom left the roof, Mercedes fell back into the room that was on fire. “She was screaming my name,” said Byrd. “So I wasn’t just going to let her sit there. I wasn’t going to let my niece die.”

“And I just ran up the stairs and pushed through the fire,” he said. “I could feel it burning me. I got her and took my shirt off and put it around her face so she wouldn’t breathe in any smoke and I just carried her out as fast as I could.”

Mercedes and her younger brother Junior were flown to Harborview just like Derrick.

He is being praised as a hero.

“I can’t say a hero,” said Byrd. “I’d just say for my niece and nephews, I wasn’t going to let them die.”

The family’s house looked to be unsalvageable. The firefighters and police were thankful that nobody lost their life.

“I’d do it again,” Byrd said. “I really would. I don’t care. I really would. I’d run back in there and do it again even if I got burnt worse or died.”

According to the fire investigators the cause of the fire is still unknown, but apparently it started on the inside on the second floor.

A food, clothing and toy drive was started for the family by friends and neighbors.

Read the KOMO News story and watch an interview with Byrd here.



Canby high school trap shooter shoots a perfect 100 at nationals

Canby high school trap shooter shoots a perfect 100 at nationals

Issabella Berge, a Canby High School senior, has been named one of the top female trap shooters in the country. Canby did something different three years ago when they formed a trap team.

However, Issabella’s accomplishment almost didn’t become reality after an official threatened to disqualify her because of what she was wearing.

In order to get Issabella to the national stage to begin with, Coach Chuck McClaugherty had the difficult task of convincing school officials to let him start the team.

“(They said) it’s never gonna happen, because it involved shotguns,” McClaugherty told KOIN 6 News. “We had to prove to them how safe the sport was … comparing trap shooting to like a football game. When we’re out trap shooting we don’t have ambulances parked here at our games and we’re not hauling people away with broken legs and concussions. Just showing the history of the sport that there’s been over 50 million shots fired at targets with zero accidents.”

Trap shooting is also lauded as the fastest-growing school sport by the USA High School Clay Target League.

Issabella became a part of the team during its first year. She was accustomed to most guns, but she hadn’t participated in any trapshooting till her dad took her to the Canby Rod & Gun Club.

“She picked it up fast, and the thing about Issabella is she does put in the work,” Trig Berge said. He brings her to practice at the club twice a week, each week. “It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing, raining, whatever, she comes out and she shoots and gets in her practice.”

Issabella describes shooting as “calming.”

“You get out here and you drop all problems. So from school, from your home life, from working, anything, you just get out on the line and you shoot and it was like therapy almost.”

Issabella’s persistent practicing paid off at this year’s USA Clay Target High School National Championship, which took place in Michigan. On day one of the individual competition, she ran a perfect 100—hitting 100 targets consecutively.

“She was focused,” McClaugherty said. “It brings back emotions now.”

McClaugherty was sitting by Issabella’s parents while it happened.

“Everybody in the crowd was teared up and like, ‘Come on. She can do it. That’s 90, 91, 92,’ and they counted all the way up and everybody just bursted into cheering and yelling when she broke that 100th target.”

Nearly 1,700 students participated at nationals. Issabella was one of seven to hit a perfect 100, and she was the only girl.

“It was neat to see thousands of people just all like talking about, ‘Hey there’s a girl down there that just shot a hundred straight and she beat all the guys … It’s something I’ll cherish forever as a coach,” McClaugherty said.

That big moment might never have taken place, however. The day before the competition, Issabella was practicing with the other teens when, according to her parents, an organizer took issue with her clothes and threatened to disqualify her.

She had been wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and cutoff shorts.

“I’m not sure what the problem was, especially since the next day boys were wearing tank tops,” her father said. “I think he just wanted to be able to say something … so her mom and I talked to her and told her just go out and win this thing so then you’ll have a platform to stand on, and she took it to heart.”

Issabella acquired some new clothes before she competed.

“I bought scrubs,” she said. “I wore T-shirts and scrubs the whole time.”

Issabella would like to see more girls get involved in trapshooting, but she knows it has its cons.

“They feel like their male peers are kinda looking down on them,” she said. “That’s a difficult one … to go out and shoot and then feel like people are looking down on you, especially being a female in a male-dominated sport.”

When people would put Issabella down, she said it made her resolute to “go out and do better … show ‘em who’s boss.”

“If you’re a girl and you’re even debating on going into it, it’s good. It’s a nice sport and you will eventually not be criticized,” Issabella said, adding, “Unless it’s for your clothing.”

Read the KOIN 6 story here.

Prosthetic leg lost by Ariel Rigney found by Eric Gantner—under the river

Prosthetic leg lost by Ariel Rigney found by Eric Gantner—under the river

A Portland woman has been reunited with her prosthetic leg after it was lost in the Clackamas River.

On July 27, Ariel Rigney and several friends came to McIver State Park to float the river in celebration of her 32nd birthday.

“Every year, I like to do a birthday float,” Rigney said, as reported by KGW 8.

Rigney’s leg was lost below the knee after a car crash when she was a teenager. Her prosthetic leg has made it possible for her to stay active. “I can still swim, hike, bike and run,” she said.

Despite having a prosthetic leg, Rigney floated the river. However, the bungee cord that attached her prosthetic leg to the raft came undone.

“We just hit a big bump and the leg went pfrewwww!” said Jacob Morton, Rigney’s friend who attempted to save Rigney’s leg. “It became pretty obvious pretty quickly that we didn’t have the resources to get the leg.”

Rigney thought that there was no way to retrieve it.

“I just saw it bobbing and I’m like, ‘No!’ I felt more ridiculous than anything. Like, who loses a leg, twice?” she said.

A friend of hers suggested posting about her lost prosthetic on Facebook.

A day later, Eric Gantner from Tigard went snorkeling in the Clackamas River near McIver State Park. He was not aware of Rigney’s lost leg.

Gantner has found lots of thingamabobs in the Clackamas.

“You find all kinds of stuff down there,” Gantner said. “It’s crazy.”

He first saw a rainbow-colored Keens sandal, then realized it was attached to a prosthetic leg.

“When you see that, you’re like uh, what? What is that?” Gantner said. “I go, ‘So, somebody had a really bad day.’”

When Gantner returned home, he searched Facebook for leads.

“I searched, ‘Lost leg Clackamas River,’ and sure enough this came up,” Gantner said. He sent Rigney a message.

“He was like, ‘Hey, I was snorkeling the Clackamas, saw your post about the leg. I think I found it?’” Rigney said. “I was like, that’s it!”

In the evening on July 28th, the two met each other. Gantner gave Rigney her leg and Rigney purchased a beer for Gantner.

“It was nice,” Rigney said. “I’m really glad he was willing to sit and chat and hang out, as opposed to just, ‘Here’s the leg, OK, bye.”

Gantner was glad to chat.

“I was like, ‘There’s a story behind this. I gotta hear about your day!’”

The prosthetic was found, and so was a friendship.

“I just can’t get over it,” Rigney said. “I feel very charmed.”

Read the story and watch an interview with Rigney and Gantner here.

Read Rigney’s Facebook post about her experience here.












Shirley Radecki, age 90, wins gold in the National Senior Games

Shirley Radecki, age 90, wins gold in the National Senior Games

Do you see yourself skydiving, bungee jumping, or hiking 14,000 feet up Mount Kilimanjaro when you are 90 years old? That’s exactly what Shirley Radecki has done.

Radecki, who lives in Eugene, most recently traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico. There she participated in the 90-94 age group as a swimmer in the 2019 National Senior Games. She won a gold medal in the women’s 50-yard backstroke and a silver medal in the women’s 100-yard backstroke.

“It was pretty nice,” Radecki said, as reported by The Register-Guard. “Pretty impressive.”

Her only competition in her age group was Sara Sievert from Texas. Because of this, they took turns taking the win. Sievert won the gold in the 100-yard backstroke and silver in the 50-yard backstroke.

“We were just a few seconds apart really,” Radecki said. “She was pretty good competition.”

The event was Radecki’s second time competing, and her first time receiving a medal, save the state qualifiers in 2018.

She competed in the 100-yard breaststroke as well. However, she was disqualified because she did not touch both hands on the wall or use proper leg form.

It all started for Radecki at the 2018 Oregon Senior Games in Bend. It was there that she qualified for the national games. In the beginning, Radecki was uncertain if she wanted to compete. But her daughter, Shaundele Leatherberry, convinced her that it would be a good thing to do.

Last year, Radecki spent her time training and preparing for the competition. She trained at the River Road Park and Recreation pool with the help of her coach. She ate peanut butter and banana toast, and practiced swims and water aerobics two times every week.

Her daughter said it was important for her mother to be around more people her age that could keep up with her.

“She’s around a lot of people her age that don’t do anything,” Leatherberry said. “I wanted her to be around more active seniors and really have something to work toward.”

Even though she has tight competition in the pool, Radecki said she’s not a competitive person, she just keeps an extremely active lifestyle.

“I guess I do my best,” said Radecki, who also has two sons. “But I’m not gung-ho or anything like that.”

Leatherberry said her mother tends to downplay her abilities. Participating in the games showed her that even at 90 years old she could still be an athlete.

“There were signs that said, ‘welcome athletes,’” Leatherberry said. “I think people at that age have an image of themselves and things like this help them work toward something, and better themselves.”

Radecki acknowledged that credit goes to her daughter for getting her involved in the games. She said that most of her adventures have happened because her daughter did them first. In the last five years, Radecki went skydiving at 85 and climbed 14,000 feet up Mount Kilimanjaro at 87. To top it all off, she’s also been bungee jumping in New Zealand.

She already got the gold, but Radecki has no plans for slowing down. Her goal is to skydive again when she turns 95. Currently, she swims often and golfs twice a week.

“I mean, what else am I going to do?” Radecki said. She has been married two times, widowed once and reconnected in her late 70s with a childhood sweetheart who later passed away. “I don’t want to go out to lunches, that’s too boring. It’s just good to have things to do.”

When it comes to living a long and happy life, Radecki said she’s been lucky to have her health and a supportive family.

“You know it’s important to eat healthy, stay active and do what you do best,” Radecki said. “But having a good relationship with my family has been really special.”

Leatherberry said that while she is her mother’s biggest cheerleader, she wants people to know what a great person she is.

“She’s always lived a really healthy lifestyle and has really taken care of herself,” Leatherberry said. “She really deserves her day in the sun.”

The 2021 National Senior Games are projected to take place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Radecki said she’s not sure if she’ll compete again. She plans to focus on things one day at a time at this point.

“I don’t want to make predictions, so we’ll have to see,” Radecki said. “But if my daughter is at it and wants to, then I’d do it, too.”

Read The Register-Guard’s story here.

Mount Kilimanjaro






17-year-old hero saves toddler who fell from second-floor window in Turkey

17-year-old hero saves toddler who fell from second-floor window in Turkey

A 17-year-old Algerian citizen, Feuzi Zabaat, is being pronounced a hero. Footage has gone viral that shows him catching a young girl when she fell from the second-floor window of a Turkish building.

Zabaat was walking on a street in the Fatih district of Istanbul last week. That is when he noticed a little girl playing near an open window, as reported by the Saudi Gazette.  

The CCTV videotape shows Zabaat in a yellow shirt looking up as he stood in the street, aware that the girl’s safety was in jeopardy. He stretched out his hands, anticipating her fall, and astonishingly catches the toddler, who was identified as a 2-year-old Syrian girl, Doha Muhammed.

“I was just walking in the road when I saw the little girl at the window,” Zabaat said. “She fell, and thanks to God, I caught her before she hit the ground,” he told AFP in an interview, as reported by Fox News.

The little girl tripped and fell out of the window when her mother was cooking. She was not injured. Her family was thankful for Zabaat’s amazing catch, and gave him 200 Liras or $35 USD, as reported by USA Today.

Watch the viral video and read the story here.