For a young girl born in Detroit, Michigan, and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Lydia
Maria Kordalewski has led very active life. While she was growing up, she enjoyed sports, playing volleyball, basketball, tennis and bowling. She recalled, „As an only child, I was brought up in a very disciplined Polish Catholic family. Therefore, I grew up strongly believe in discipline, especially in school. So it is not hard to understand, why I majored in criminal justice with a minor in journalism”.
„My father, Zygmunt Kordalewski, was forced to work in the slave labor farm during World War II, and always shared his experiences with me. I think that is one of the reasons I like to fight for Polish rights. During the war and post-war years, the Poles have always been the victims. Not many people know about this existence or understand the reality. My father was always educating me about history and politics after school. It is probably because of him, I have started to dedicate my life for human rights and work towards a political career”.
„My mother, Maria was a pharmacist when the Germans occupied Poland during the war. She always had the time to teach me about the feminine things of life. She was a remarkable woman – a real woman to woman person. So, I think I get my strong character from her. Mother speaks five languages and I speak Polish and Spanish fluently.”
Recalling her first career choice, Lydia stated: „With my studies in Criminal Justice, I joined the Los Angeles Police Department where I loved the excitement. There was always a different situation to respond to daily. I enjoyed helping people overcome their emergencies, while I worked in many different capacities”. She also acted in several training films on domestic violence and for being the first Civilian Hostage Terrorist Negotiator.
Every summer, Lydia started to nurture her taste for traveling with her parents. Her „favorite place is Monaco. It is a serene and exotic place … a nice getaway. Washington D.C. is also another favorite of mine. There is always something happening there and you feel the excitement in the air”. At this stage in her life, she confessed with a sense of pride in her voice: „I need to see 12 more states and 9 more provinces to complete seeing the whole of North America. I must admit – my hobbies are traveling, every two months to a different place. And I love going to ringside boxing and international soccer events!” Following several exciting trips to South America for a couple of years, she was tempted to move to the coast of Miami, after those long stopovers. She felt life would be more pleasant and made the coastal move to Ball Harbor, Florida, which was not easy at first, after the fast paced, bumper-to-bumper, smoggy environment of the West Coast.
„At the time I arrived in Florida, Miami did not have a lot to offer after my career at the LAPD, so I chose any job to fulfill my time while searching for the right job to come along. Soon I adjusted and dabbled in working as a personal shopper, security, casting assistance to working in film and TV, event coordinator and tour guide”.
Then in 1994, Lydia had one of her most fascinating assignments. She explained: „I was asked to help out in security with the Summit of Americas in Miami. President Clinton and all the Latin dignitaries were flying in. I was assigned to work with the White House Communications and Secret Service in securing areas and communicating by radio on daily activities. It was a lot of excitement and I met a lot of very interesting people during that time”. By the late 1990s, Lydia settled down to a more traditional life, working as a civil activist where she currently holds several jobs on a volunteer basis. For her there is this art of volunteering: It is self-giving to causes you believe in. Anyone who has the ability and willingness should volunteer. Not really a gender based thing. Volunteering can come at any age”.
„I love variety. I get bored when there is not a constant challenge in my life. I like to keep busy and that is why I’m constantly on the move. I like to utilize every hour of the day, no matter what kind of project I am involved with or given. I enjoy working 25 hours of a day”.
Using her creative instincts as a journalist, Lydia pens a monthly Florida social column for the Polish American Journal, published in Buffalo, New York – a newspaper dedicated to the promotion and continuance of Polish American Culture. „I like writing the social column for the newspaper so I can inform the Poles to get more involved with their community and also a chance for others to find out what the Polish communities are doing”.
She holds the position of Secretary with the Florida Division of the Polish American Congress and several other positions in various Polish organizations throughout the United States, including the American Center for Polish Culture in Washington DC. At the same time, she supports many groups and organizations such as Radio Polonia in Miami and the Flyweight Boxers in the International Hall of Fame Association. She also belongs to the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. She is the Chair of the Audience Development Committee, where she tries to bring in more members and have the local community share a healthy interest in contemporary art.
In the Year 1999, Lydia was Mayor-appointed to serve on the North Miami Hall of Fame Selection Committee, a City Board position. She became an Associate Councilor with the Atlantic Council of the United States. This is a bipartisan network who work on the pivotal importance of Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific dialogue in promoting the effectiveness of the US foreign policy and the cohesion of U.S. relationships.
„Political life fascinates me,” Lydia remarked. „It gives each one of us the opportunity to make changes and improvements in the system that cannot always be perfect. At the moment, I am not satisfied with either political party and one of my motivations for my political career is to improve the party that is more for the people. Campaigning is a great way to learn about the hard life of politics. I am very much a people’s person”. „Everyday there is a different issue to fight for. For example, I am presently working on this fascinating TV program called „Woman of Poland” which will be a celebration on the women of Poland, headed by the biography of the former Prime Minister of Poland, Hanna Suchocka (1992-93). The TV proposal was sent by two women in New York who also want to film celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Polish Solidarity — for US and worldwide TV networks.” „It is a very exciting TV project by WLWD 2000 Productions Inc. where I am on the Board of Directors. One of the filmmakers is a young 23-year-old scriptwriter, Lauren Sabel from Colorado. She met with Hanna Suchocka in Washington DC. Hanna is our Minister of Justice and had flown to DC for some formal discussions with Attorney General Janet Reno and Chief Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Lauren was so excited because a whole New World of Poland was opened up for her, as she researched and is working on the script”.
„She and the young group of filmmakers are working with an older woman filmmaker, Vina Sarkar, who is a graduate from Columbia University and completed a TV film on the former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi titled: „Facing the Challenge”. It is incredible that these filmmakers are not Polish, yet they are completely immersed in producing the story of ‚ Woman of Poland’ tracing the dramatic history of Poland from 1946 to present day”. Lydia herself has worked in several films including ACE VENTURA, BAD BOYS, TRUE LIES and a Spanish soap „Guadeloupe”, not to mention bit parts in other films, TV and commercials. She became deeply involved in promoting Producer-Director Mishael Porembski’s „Burning Questions” – a documentary about the forgotten Polish Catholics in World War II. She commented: „I decided to get involved with this project because of the long silence of the Polish Catholics. We need to educate the public more and the new generation. The older people need to finally come out and tell their stories openly without fear or prejudice”.
Lydia has rubbed elbows with many famous dignitaries and politicians. The State Senator from Florida that she honored was Alberto Gutman of Polish-Jewish descent. Recently she worked with the Mayor of North Miami, Frank Wolland, who is also of Polish-Jewish descent. There was also Czeslaw Bielecki, Foreign Affairs Chairman from Poland and the Slovakian Ambassador Martin Butora. Among entertainers, she has worked with the famous Cubans Adan Rey (singer), Ray Garbay (heavyweight boxer), singer Al Jarreau, James Woods, etc. Recently, another exciting event was when Lydia was invited by the Polish American Congress and the Atlantic Council to take part in the NATO activities in Washington DC, because of her involvement with the Polish American communities. Her greatest enjoyment is hosting functions with themes and national events, which included a military luncheon honoring the survivors of the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Upon returning to Miami from the Capital, she single-handedly, organized and hosted the First Florida NATO Ball, bringing together the Czechs, Hungarians and Poles for the first time! The event was sold out at the Polish American Club of Miami. She admitted, „I did this solely myself, no one helped. It was my entire project of hard work. I enjoyed it more that way”. With that success behind her, Lydia organized and hosted the Second NATO Dinner/Dance in Florida during April 2000 at the American Czechoslovak Social Club in North Miami. Without much breathing space, she is working on the grand finale at the Hungarian Club in Miami for 2001.
With her social credentials, she remarked: „During the last two NATO balls – I was able to bring together people from many nationalities. It was such a joy to introduce the different ethnic communities from all over to become involved with projects. It makes people understand each other better and appreciate themselves so much more. I learned that we can discover so much about each other and we can achieve more towards understanding our different nationalities and be more aware of what it means to be a good American citizen.”
As she concluded, Lydia Maria Kordalewski said, „Everyone should be aware of who they are and where they come from … Roots are very important for me.
Everyone has an ethnic origin and they need to know more about themselves and the living people around them – their neighbors. We need to inform our families and friends to have a better understanding”.
Lydia Kordalewski at NATO Ball with the Mayor of North Miami Frank Wolland.