Polish Institute Finds New Home in Greenpoint

In the gallery of the Józef Pilsudski Institute of America at its current location. (Photo courtesy of the Józef Pilsudski Institute of America)

In the gallery of the Józef Pilsudski Institute of America at its current location. (Photo courtesy of the Józef Pilsudski Institute of America)

At the end of last year, the Józef Pilsudski Institute of America, which is the largest Polish-American research institution specializing in the recent history of Poland and Central Eastern Europe, was told to look for a new home. For the past 25 years it has been located at 180 Second Ave. in Manhattan, and the landlord – the Chicago-based Polish National Alliance – had decided to sell the building.

[Translator’s note: Created in 1943 during World War II, the Institute’s role from the outset has been to collect historical documents, conduct independent research and promote an accurate picture of Poland. The first documents placed under its care were those rescued from war-torn Warsaw. Since then the Institute’s archives have been continuously growing.

The library has more than 22,000 books. Also in the archives are rare manuscripts published by Polish immigrants outside of Poland, documentation of the life of the Polish-American community, more than 20,000 photographs, as well as medals, stamps, memorabilia and a gallery of 200 works by Polish painters.

Besides adding to and caring for the collection, the Institute’s scholars and volunteers conduct research and regularly host educational events for the Polish-American community, with historians, politicians and artists as key speakers. The events take place at the Institute.]

“We were shocked last year when the landlord announced plans to sell the building. Especially since we learned about it after the building had already been listed [for sale],” said Magdalena Kapuscinska, chairwoman of the Institute. “We were given no chance to negotiate, no chance to purchase the building, and no time to collect funds for it. All we heard was that we needed to vacate the building at the end of our lease,” she added.

Now, however, after months of searching, multiple meetings, and discussions, the Pilsudski Institute has found a new location. Starting next year the Institute’s home will be in the heart of the Polish neighborhood of Greenpoint. It will be located in a building owned by the largest Polish-American financial institution, the Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union, at 138 Greenpoint Ave.

Iwona Korga, executive director of the Institute, explains that the space offered by the PSFCU is big enough to hold the Institute’s vast archives. What’s more, PSFCU offered preferential financial terms and seems a reliable, long-term partner. “I am very glad we were able to finalize the rent deal,” Korga added.

The signing of the lease took place at the end of October at the headquarters of the PSFCU located at 100 McGuinness Blvd. in Greenpoint.

“After signing the lease I sighed with relief and now I am no longer worried about the future of our Institute. I know we are partnering with friendly and reliable people,” said Kapuscinska.

“Thanks to the deal, ‘the Polish archipelago’ in Greenpont has gained one more important institution, which further highlights the – now fading – Polish character of the neighborhood,” said Andrzej Zybertowicz, professor of sociology at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland.

The new location will be available from January 2015. The Pilsudski Institute has until the end of April to move out of the Manhattan building. Thus the first four months of next year will be a busy time for the Institute, which will continue its regular activity during the time of packing and moving to Greenpoint.

“We will start packing our archives during the winter and then in March will begin transporting them to the Greenpoint location,” said Korga.

Transport of the historical archives and other collections will have to be conducted by a professional company and will involve considerable costs. The new location will also have to be adapted for the storage of the precious and climate-sensitive contents of the Institute’s library and gallery. In order to secure necessary funds, the Institute, which is supported mostly by donations, grants and membership dues, has launched a fundraising effort through www.crowdrise.com. It is also trying to obtain funds from Poland’s Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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