Few people can speak to the perils of dictatorship with the authority of Lady Blanka Rosenstiel, who was born in Warsaw, Poland to a Catholic family. As a young girl in 1939, she witnessed the cruelty of World War II and the occupation of her country by Nazi Germany.
In 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising, Rosenstiel, along with her mother and brother, were taken to a labor camp in Germany. Overall, more than 250,000 Polish people, many young civilians, were killed, and 85 percent of Warsaw was burned to the ground during the uprising. Other members of her family were dispersed to other labor and concentration camps. Among those who did not return was Rosenstiel’s own father, who died in Magdeburg in Germany.
“Those were difficult years, but somehow and against all odds, a few of us survived,” said Rosenstiel. “Although my mother deplored the years we lost without schooling, she instilled in us optimism and positive thinking. She convinced us that the future would be better, brighter and successful.”
Lady Blanka and her family didn’t return to Poland after the war, as Poland was under Soviet control for over 45 years. Instead, her family lived in the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg before settling in Belgium. Rosenstiel moved to the United States in 1956, followed later by her brother and mother.
As a result of her childhood experiences, educating young people about the principles of freedom is extremely important to Rosenstiel as is her dedication to the people of her home country of Poland. “I have devoted my life to the promotion of knowledge about my beloved country Poland because her people have suffered tremendously,” said Rosenstiel.
Rosenstiel says she was surprised when she came to the United States by how little was known and taught about Poland in schools. “There’s a lot to be learned from the Polish experience in the last 200 years,” said Rosenstiel. So, in 1972 she founded the American Institute of Polish Culture, where she now serves as president, and in 1977 she established the Chopin Foundation of the United States.
As part of Rosenstiel’s efforts to promote education and awareness, she also created the Lady Blanka Rosenstiel Scholarship Fund at The Fund for American Studies. The scholarship fund allows students from Poland to attend the American Institute on Political and Economic Systems (AIPES) in Prague. Twenty-eight students from Poland have benefitted from the scholarships since its initiation in 1999.
The Fund for American Studies is a great educational organization, giving young students the opportunity to broaden their horizons, sharpen their perception and become leaders in growing economies,” said Rosenstiel.
Thanks to Rosenstiel’s generosity, future leaders in Poland and throughout Eastern Europe will be well educated in the American ideals of freedom and free markets and will work to avoid the mistakes of the past, working instead toward a brighter and more prosperous future.