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U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) is in Poland for that country's big observance of Sept. 1, which marks the 70th anniversary of Germany's invasion and the outbreak of World War II.
As far as she knows, and somewhat to her dismay, she'll be the highest-ranking member of the U.S. government to be there, she said by telephone Saturday.
"All of Europe is paying attention to this," Miss Kaptur said. "[German Chancellor Angela] Merkel will be here. I'm a representative of the legislative branch, but at every stop I'm asked, 'Who's coming from the executive branch? Who is Obama going to send?'•"
She said before she left, she contacted President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, Calif.), asking them to attend.
"They said they'd consider it. I'm hoping they won't muff it and they send a high-level delegation," she said. "People feel so bad. They say, 'Why haven't the Americans announced who they're sending?' I'm the highest-level official over here right now."
Miss Kaptur said one rumor has Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, representing the United States.
Miss Kaptur arrived in Poland Aug. 17 and will return to Toledo Sept. 4. Because the trip is personal as well as official, she's paying her own way, she said. She has deep roots in Poland: Her four grandparents were Polish immigrants.
Among her traveling companions is a 95-year-old former Toledoan, Marion Wojciechowski.
In 1939, Mr. Wojciechowski, as a Polish cavalry platoon leader, saw the invasion of his homeland by the Germans on Sept. 1, and less than three weeks later, by the Soviet Red Army.
Mr. Wojciechowski's experiences in World War II are an epic story of courage and survival. On Sept. 11, 1939, his cavalry and a group of infantry were surrounded by Germans.
The infantry surrendered, but the cavalry charged. Mr. Wojciechowski drew his sabre and cut through the German ranks. A soldier from his hometown of Polaniec thought he saw him shot and reported his death to his mother, who held a funeral.
After Mr. Wojciechowski joined the Polish resistance, he was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo and sent to the infamous Auschwitz death camp. He would meet his wife-to-be, Wladyslawa Poniecka, in a displaced persons camp after the war. They were sponsored by a cousin of Mr. Wojciechowski's in Toledo, which became their adopted hometown.
Here, they published a Polish-language newspaper, Ameryka-Echo, for more than seven years. Today, Mr. Wojciechowski lives in Las Vegas.
Miss Kaptur, in her 14th term, has traveled previously to Poland and championed good Polish-American relations as a member of Congress.
She notes that 2009 also is the year Poland celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of European Communism and the 10th anniversary of its admission to NATO.
This trip, she will be exploring her father's ancestral roots for the first time. "This is a real journey of discovery for me," she said.
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