At the tender age of 12, Julian Kulski swore an oath of secrecy and became a freedom fighter in the underground resistance to Germany’s occupation of his native Poland in World War II. The German invasion in 1939 shattered the middle-class life of his prominent Christian family in Warsaw, toppled the country’s democratic government, and replaced Poland’s traditional flag and its symbolic white eagle with the Nazi swastika. Julian’s father and uncle had been heroes in Poland’s war for independence from Russia in 1919. That legacy inspired the boy’s patriotism and determination to fight for freedom, family, friends, and Poland until American soldiers rescued him from a German prison camp at the end of the war. He was then 16.
Dr. Julian E. Kulski’s autobiographical “Legacy of the White Eagle” is that rare gift to history teachers and their students a primary source with the gripping excitement and emotional connection of a novel. The 2006-2007 National History Day theme, “Triumph and Tragedy,” resounds through this book. Its companion DVD includes recent videotaped interviews with Dr. Kulski and his surviving fellow freedom fighters in Warsaw, as well as a teacher’s guide suggesting topics for students’ research, such as the role of Polish leaders in the American Revolution, comparing Julian’s experience with that of POWs in the Vietnam War, the significance of secrecy and military intelligence in the Civil War, and the opportunity to collect oral history from Americans who remember World War II.
Click here to read a review of the book and click here to view a trailer for the DVD.