“Food for Poland” no longer exists as a national organization, but Polish citizens will not forget the BYU students, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and other churches and individuals who helped them live.
Eugene England, professor of English, helped organize “Food for Poland,” a national fund-raiser, in 1981 to help Polish citizens under martial law.
England will talk about these experiences along with Walter Whipple, assistant professor of Germanic and Slavic Languages, at 7 tonight in 378 ELWC, said Vaughn Jones, secretary of the Polish Club.
England said he was a private citizen who got involved after Pope John Paul II, originally of Poland, was shot May 13, 1981, in St. Petersburg Square.
“I was present and touching his hand when the Pope was shot at his weekly appearance. I felt deeply emotional and was afraid he’d been killed. I’m convinced the Lord protected him. His visit there galvanized Polish people to resist communism,” he said.
The Pope once requested that “societies all over the world, particularly the nations of Europe and America, continue to demonstrate concern because of the situation in Poland.”
England said he worked with friends to organize “Food for Poland,” eventually raising more than $7 million.
A national fast day was held in February 1982, and many BYU students fasted and donated money weekly, he said.
He said the LDS Church sent money, medicine and other supplies.
“The church helped out; it was really the first time they were involved in a big way in Eastern Europe,” he said.
Catholic church leaders and people with Polish ancestors also helped, he said.
“The Catholic Church is doing heroic work in seeing that gifts of food and medicine are distributed fairly and promptly to the neediest of needy,” said Ronald Ockey, a trustee of Food for Poland.
Donations from churches and individuals were received through 1985, England said.