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Obituary: Vera von Wiren- Garczynski

Professor Vera von Wiren- Garczynski died suddenly in Glen Cove on Saturday, August 3, 2013, after two massive strokes.  She was born in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, and was placed in a Nazi detention camp during WWII, when the Nazis invaded that country. After being released by the American forces, she met Stanley Garczynski, a polish officer who was also freed by the Americans after being imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz.  They married in Munich, and she gave birth to her daughter Maria. The teenage bride and her husband immigrated to America via Ellis Island with her mother, Helen and their infant daughter.  Soon after, she had two more children, Barbara and Waldemar. 

 

Before obtaining her doctorate, she worked as a model for Oleg Cassini, taught dance at Arthur Murray and acted as interpreter during the Khruschev visit to New York.  She tutored Van Cliburn in the Russian language at Carnegie Hall before his 1959 award winning performance in Moscow. In 1961, after graduating from Brooklyn College, and while working on her graduate studies, she gave birth to her son Robert. Soon afterwards, she received her Masters degree from Columbia University, and her doctorate in Russian Area

Studies from NYU.  She taught Russian language and literature at the CUNY, and was a visiting scholar at the School for International Affairs at Columbia University.

 

Professor von Wiren Garczynski, who spoke seven languages, was very energetic, and enjoyed traveling. She was fervent in promoting good relations between her adopted country, America and the Slavic countries, whose heritage she shared.   She carried messages between the White House and Lech Walesa in Poland in the early 1980’s during the

Solidarity Movement, and met with President Yeltsin in Moscow in the early 1990’s. In 1998, she traveled to Russia at the invitation of the mayor of St. Petersburg to attend the funeral of the last Russian Tsar and his family. Her grand father, Admiral Robert Wiren was the first victim of the Bolshevik Revolution in Kronstadt.  She was frequently invited to presidential luncheons at the White House during the Reagan and the older Bush administrations, and later by Hillary Clinton to discuss the First Lady’s Central European trip. In the mid eighties, she spoke at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco on Soviet American relations.  In 1990, she became the 33rd member of the International Women’s Press club, a prestigious club known as “33Women and One Man.”

 

She was chairman of the Commemorative Community of US Dept of Defense WW II Commemoration Committee. She was a member of the Nassau County Holocaust Committee, and a delegate of AIMAV, a subdivision UNESCO. She was Cultural Advisor to the Pulaski Police Association of NYC, and received Citizen of the Year Award in 1979.  In 1986, she received the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor for National Heritage contributions on the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.  

 

She was the founder and president of Slavic American Cultural Association, and for more than 20 years, together with SACA executive, Paul Wisniewski, had arranged for Slavic

Dance Festivals at Morgan Park in Glen Cove.  She and Mr. Wisniewski led the Solidarity March on the Soviet Compound on Dosoris Lane in Glen Cove.  They put on cultural programs for deaf children in Milneck, L.I.  For over twenty years, she arranged for exhibits of Eastern Culture, including teaching the art of painting Easter Eggs at the Glen Cove Library

 

Professor Vera was an active supporter and contributor to animal causes, and disabled veterans She is survived by her two daughters, attorney Maria Lawcewicz and attorney Barbara Wierbicki, and her three grandchildren from her son Robert: Maximilian, Alexandra and Katherine Garczynski.