Elmhurst honors Polish WWII heroes in hopes of preserving historic home

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Councilman Daniel Dromm celebrated a street co-naming in Elmhurst to honor two Polish WWII heroes who settled in the neighborhood after the war. (Photo courtesy of Dromm’s office)

Elected officials, historians and community leaders gathered at the Janta House in Elmhurst to celebrate the street co-naming of 43rd Avenue and Judge Street as Janta-Połczyńska Polish Heroes Way.

The co-naming highlights the historic home and contributions of Polish World War II heroes Walentyna Janta-Połczyńska and her husband Aleksander Janta Połczyński. The Elmhurst community has been actively petitioning the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark their home as a historic cultural site since 2020.

“The Janta-Połczyńska home in Elmhurst is a pillar of my district and a symbol of the Polish immigrant contributions in Queens,” Councilman Daniel Dromm said. “The house stands as a monument to Polish citizens who fought against the scourge of fascism in Europe. I’m so proud to have named this street Polish Heroes Way. We hope to preserve homes like this that are rooted in history.”

Photo courtesy of Dromm’s office

The couple dedicated their entire life to undermine the oppressive totalitarian regimes of Europe in the 1940s before they were exiled from their native Poland and moved to 88-28 43rd Ave. after their marriage in 1949. Their home became a gathering place for other notable Polish expatriates in the post-war era including Czesław Miłosz, Jerzy Giedroyc, Jan Karski and Marek Hłasko. Walentyna died in 2020 at the age of 107.

“Walentyna and Aleksander Janta-Połczyński were humanitarians who fought valiantly against Nazi occupation and later Communist oppression,” Councilman Robert Holden said. “Their house in Elmhurst often served as a meeting place for Polish revolutionaries and is a part of Polish history. This street will forever memorialize the Jantas’ heroism. The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission must landmark this house.”

Photo courtesy of Dromm’s office

Community leader Alfonso Quiroz has organized Elmhurst residents and preservation organizations to push for the landmarking status in an effort to thwart a developer’s plan to demolish the home to make way for an apartment house on the property.

“Today’s street renaming is an important part of recognizing the historical importance of Elmhurst, Queens. This place is one the oldest established neighborhoods in New York City, with a history dating back to before the Revolutionary War, and it’s being swallowed up by unscrupulous developers,” Quiroz said. “The clock is ticking and time is of the essence. We can no longer sit back and watch these cultural gems disappear from our landscape.”

Preservation consultant and NYU Adjunct Instructor Kelly Carroll explained that the street co-naming celebrates real people who embodied service, sacrifice, leadership and Walentyna’s non-traditional women’s role in a leadership position.

“Mrs. Janta’s education and bilingualism put her at the nexus of Polish intelligence during World War II,” Carroll said. “Because of her skill set, she transcribed Nazi atrocities for the world to see. In a world where women’s education is still not a right, her story is a story worth preserving and sharing. Our only hope is that the celebration today will propel the house to priority status for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to act and save it for future generations.”

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