Polish American Veterans celebrate 70th anniversary

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - Updated: 7:14 AM

Photo submitted Members of the PAV celebrate the post's 70th anniversary.

On Saturday, Oct. 22, hundreds of members of the Polish American Veterans (PAV) and the general community came together to commemorate the founding of the post 70 years ago by returning World War II veterans. To mark the occasion, over 325 eat-in or take-out Polish dinners were served, and the PAV's headquarters, 53 Church St., was packed long before and after serving hours, despite the poor weather.

"This was the best Polish dinner I've had in 20 years," said one community member. Not surprisingly: every bite was hand-selected or handmade by PAV members. Organizers made a special trip to Chicopee, Mass., to select each kielbasa, and members spent days over several months making the pierogis, golumbki, and kapusta from scratch. Amsterdam residents brought in trays of traditional Polish desserts as a thank-you. The plates were overflowing, and no one asked for seconds,

An annual Polish dinner had been a custom of the PAV that had lapsed in recent years but was brought back at the request of the membership to honor the 70th anniversary. Visitors had not only a great traditional meal but also the opportunity to see recent improvements to the structure and appearance of post headquarters, the historic McClumphra Mansion, built circa 1860 (Some members claim the McClumphas never really left and can be heard moving about late at night). One prized display was inherited for the Filius Polonais (Sons of Poland) which was created in 1919 to honor Amsterdam's Polish veterans of World War I; It contains the name of the soldier died of wounds that American Legion Post 701 is named for, newly restored.

The PAV was founded at a February, 1946, meeting held at the ZNP Hal (now the PNA on Reid Street) conducted by returning World War II veterans. It continued to meet there, opening its membership up to veterans of later wars, and a limited numbers of non-veterans, until moving to its own rented storefront further south on Reid Street. In the late 1960s, it felt the need for its own permanent place and eventually settled on the McClumpha Mansion on Church Street.

Over the years, as other local veteran posts closed, PAV persisted, so it is now one of only two regularly established veterans' posts in Amsterdam. Over the years, it has reached out to support community activities beyond its advocacy of veterans concerns. It supports children athletics, and other community organizations; its color guard steps off the Halloween Parade every year, and was the first across the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook; most recently, it donated the profits from its "poker walk" to replace five flagpoles at Veterans' Field.

"There is a reason the PAV is still in there pitching after all these years," said Robert von Hasseln, first non-Polish Commander in seventy years. "It's because we all - veteran members, non-veteran associate members, and Ladies Auxiliary, are all committed to the ideals and values of our Polish founders: we come from many proud ancestries, add our strengths to America, and become part of it, and we will support and defend those principles, together, whenever and however we can."