Gerald Kochan is an American of Polish decent working for Americans
Gerald Kochan is an American of Polish decent , he speaks Polish and clearly has rehearsed his sales approach – those that have sold to him are very elderly Poles or the immediate relatives of WW2 Veterans who have recently passed away.
There are suggestions that family members may well not be interested in the items sold to Kochan – but you have to think that much of this stuff has been hidden away in attics for possibly 50 or 60 years – Poles are great hoarders – so many people may not be aware it even exists. Once somebody passes away the grieving can easily have no idea what they actually posses both personally and historically.
In my Grandfathers case he was a fantastic raconteur to the end (even when his immediate memory had faded he was able to repeat his accounts of his battles in 1940s as if it were yesterday ) – I loved the stories of his time in The War and his Post War Adventures – but not once did he bring out his WW2 effects . As a family we are lost as to why a man who hoarded such things as sugar and newspapers until his death would allow his most important historical item to fall into the hands of a US based collector – this is a question that we have yet to receive an answer to and baffles and upsets us to this day.
The Museums and Veteran Associations here in The UK have not actively targeted those surviving members of The Polish Armed Forces or their families to obtain their effects whereas Kochan has made direct approaches – he has the upper hand over UK based institutions in that he is proactive in his attempts to expand his collection in The USA.
It is only by publically raising the issue of this situation that we can ensure that the memorabilia of those that came to this country with nothing , fought with unquestionable bravery and ended up exiles in a foreign country stays in the place that they eventually made home and where their families now are based.
The end of The Cold War and the fall of The Berlin Wall have enabled History to be revisited and rewritten rightly acknowledging the role played by The Polish Armed Forces in WW2 without fear of upsetting the feelings of The Russians.The surviving members of those armed forces and their families have an important story to tell and we need to honour their contribution and memory by ensuring that their story is publicised here in The UK – the land that they helped save.
I strongly believe that a private collection is not the place for these items regardless of which side of The Atlantic that collector resides.
The Center of Military Studies occupies a wing of the Polish American Museum in Port Washington, Long Island New York. You can read about the center on the internet at centerformilitarystudies.org (paste into any search engine). There’s also an article about the Center in the Polish American Journal, May 2013 edition, “The Polish American Museum – Not Just Your Long Islander’s Museum”. The article states that the museum, of which the Center has its own wing, has been around since 1992 and contains an extensive cultural collection of “Polish History, Culture and the Polish Experience in America.” The article identifies Mr Kochan as a Director. Besides the article in the Journal, I know the Director very well. Gerald Kochan is an avid devotee of the Polish veteran and is dedicated to telling their unique stories. Those heroic Poles, through their generous contributions of uniforms and other military gear, are immortalized in the displays and on the website. Their achievements live on and generations of Poles and those Americans of Polish parentage have a place in the United States where Polish history and its warriors live on. That’s quite an achievement.