Szybalski ,Waclaw (2005)


A new spirit of international friendship:


While fighting, wars, and ethnic murders flourish around our 2005 World, there seems to be emerging a new hope and spirit of international friendship: The Polish “Campo Santo” , the “Cemetery of Lwów Defenders” (Cmentarz Obroncow Lwowa) will be re-dedicated by Presidents of Ukraine and of Poland, Yushchenko and Kwasniewski, on June 24, 2005, after long negotiation with the Ukrainian Authorities. This cemetery was destroyed by Soviets tanks in 1971 and then rebuilt in 1990-ties by the volunteer workers of Energopol, a Polish private construction company and by Polish citizens of Lwów. The historically Polish city of Lwów is now just beyond the Polish border, in Ukraine, with the current Ukrainian name of Lviv.

Who were the “Lwów Defenders” of 1918 –1921 and how are they connected to the United States of America?

There were principally two waves of Lwów Defenders just after WWI : (1) those who were predominantly children and students (Lwów Eaglets; Lwowskie Orleta), and who successfully but with great losses of life defended Lwów from November 1 to 21, 1918 against a surprise occupation by the 30 00 man strong Austrian-Ukrainian professional legion, just before collapse of Austrian Empire at the end of WWI. (2) Polish volunteers and the newly organized army that blocked the 1920 invasion of the Bolshevik Red Army which hoped to spread Communism to Germany and Western Europe. Among the 1920 Defenders one could also find Americans. One, Merian C. Cooper from Florida (1893 – 1973 was influenced by the family tradition of a friendship between his great-great-grand father, Colonel John Cooper, and the Polish Count Kazimierz Pulaski, a hero in the American Revolution, and the founder of the first American Cavalry Division, ‘the Pulaski legion’. Thus Cooper (who was ready to repay what he saw as a 150-year-old debt to Poland) and Cedric Fauntleroy (formerly in Rickenbacker squadron), together with 17 other Americans (recruited at the sidewalk cafes in Paris) and 20 new planes, organized a Kosciuszko Squadron in Lwów, as described in the early chapters of the recent American Bestseller “The Question of Honor - Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes” by L. Olson and S. Cloud [Alfred A. Knopf, Publ., New York, 2003]. (see

Together with four Polish squadrons defending Lwow and Warsaw against the Soviet invasion in 1920, to quote the book: “American pilots would drop the bombs by hand on Soviet Cossack columns, then dive to strafe them with dual machine guns, pulling out only a scant dozen feet or so from the ground. --- The planes that managed to get back were riddled with bullet holes”. The Polish General, Listowski, wrote “The American Aviators, although exhausted by work, fight like madmen. Without their assistance, we would have gone to the devil a long time ago”. However, the defense of Warsaw and Lwów was successful and the encircled and defeated Soviet Red Army hastily withdrew. The Polish eastern borders were then established by the Riga Peace Treaty.

In 1920, Cooper was shot down, taken prisoner by Soviets, and personally investigated by Stalin. He escaped, however, with the help of an American journalist. For his exceptional courage and valor, Cooper was decorated with the highest Polish military decorations: Virtuti Militari. Later, he become very important Hollywood producer, being the first to use Technicolor, produced many movies, started Cinerama, and in 1933, he has co-written and directed the famous movie, King Kong He received a special Oscar and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but his name is misspelled as "Meriam” C. Cooper.

The Grave of American Pilots at the Cemetery of Lwów Defenders

Three of the American pilots perished when repelling the Soviet invasion and were buried in a very artistically designed memorial dedicated as follows:
“For American killed when defending Poland in 1919-1920 - Officers Pilots of the Tadeusz Kosciuszko Fighter Squadron:
Edmund P. Graves – lieutenant - born 1891 Boston, MA, died tragically 22 XI 1919 in Lwów,
Arthur H. Kelly – captain - born 1890 Richmond, VA, shot down 16 VII 1920 near Luck,
G. Mac Callun – lieutenant - born 1890, Detroit, MI, shot down 31 VIII 1920 near Lwów”.

The grave, originally funded by the Polish-Americans of Chicago and Cook County, was dedicated on May 30, 1925, with a beautiful statue representing an American flyer with angel wings, sculptured by Józef Starzynski. Memorial Day was celebrated at this grave every May 30 before WWII in the presence of the US Ambassador, Lwów Officials and general public. Hopefully, this tradition would be resurrected.

The American Flyers Memorial was destroyed by Soviet bulldozers around the summer of 1969; this was during the “Hate America period” of Soviet occupation of Lwów. As a lesson in irony, the grave was not saved from that barbaric act, even though USA in 1945 has ‘ratified the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact by formally gifting the Polish city of Lwów to Soviet Union during the 1945 Yalta accord; that was followed by the deportation of Polish population as a part of ‘the USA-sponsored ethnic cleansing of Eastern Poland in 1945-47’. However, the grave was recently rebuilt by Poles, but without the American flyer statue, which still awaits the Ukrainian permission to be restored.

The original project of the “Cemetery of Lwów Defenders” was drafted by a student [Rudolf Indruch] of The Lwów Institute of Technology (who won the 1921 competition) and then was build in 1920-and-1930-ies, to become one of the most beautiful anti-war memorials in Europe.

Waclaw Szybalski
McArdle Laboratory, University of Wisconsin,
Madison, WI 53706, USA.

Anno Domini 1939

Before destroying, May 1971

After destroying, August 25-26, 1971

Anno Domini 2005