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Professional & Business Women of Polonia (PBW) held its membership dinner at the Millennium Hotel on Sept. 13, 2018. The dinner was attended by PBW members and their guests.

Sr. Mary Johnice Rzadkiewicz gave the dinner prayer which was followed by a delicious dinner and desert.

PBW President Christine Kibler,announced that the PBW will be joining the Polish Cadets of Buffalo to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence. The event will take place Saturday, Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Polish Cadets, 927 Grant St., Buffalo. Joseph Macielag will be the keynote speaker. Light refreshments will be provided. For tickets and information contact

A new PBW board member is being sought to replace the late PBW Board member, Mary Jane Wajmer. The criteria to be a board member is you have be a PBW member for one year. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the time and place to be determined.

Henry’s compelling story

The guest speaker at the meeting was author Katrina Shawver. PBW member Michelle Kisluk was instrumental in bringing Katrina to the meeting and introduced her. Katrina lives in Phoenix, AZ and has written hundreds of newspaper columns over 11 years for The Arizona Republic.

Katrina wrote a book titled "Henry: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America." This is her very first book and it is the true story of Henry Zguda, a Polish competitive swimmer. Henry survived the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II by his wit, humor, luck and friendships.

Katrina met Zguda in 2002. He was 85 years old. She had received a telephone tip about Henry who was also living in Phoenix. She was told that Henry was a Polish Catholic who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald and claimed to have attended high school with Pope John Paul II.

Katrina contacted Henry not knowing where this journey would lead her. She initially met Henry for the sole purpose of doing only one newspaper column about him. At their first meeting, Henry showed her a scrapbook of his entire life. Katrina recognized the importance of his story as a Polish Catholic prisoner during WWII that needed to be told. Katrina also learned that Henry was one of the few prisoners who survived the death march from Buchenwald to Dachau near the end of WWII.

The next 6 months, Katrina interviewed Henry twice a week at his home. She recalled Henry having an excellent memory and a good sense of humor.

Katrina learned that Henry was very outgoing and had a lot of friends. His ability to be social and have many friendships helped him survive during WWII. While interviewing Henry and through her own research, Katrina learned about Poland's history before, during and after WWII.

In 1958, Henry immigrated to the United States with a friend aboard the SS America. He lived in New York City. There, he met the love of his life, Nancy Conforti, whom he would marry. Nancy was from Brooklyn, NY. They eventually traveled west. In 1980, Henry and Nancy settled in Phoenix where they lived out the rest of their lives.

Henry died in December 2003. After Henry's death, Katrina stayed friends with Nancy until Nancy's death in 2013.

Katrina's book came out last November. It has won a number of awards. Her book is not only about Henry but also about the history of Poles during WWII. The book has been accepted for sale at the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum gift shop in Washington, D.C. The Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles has a recommended reading list of books about Poland. Katrina's book is listed on their website.

Katrina also said she just found out that the Polish American Congress of Arizona will be honoring her with their Distinguished Award in October at their Heritage Ball for presenting Henry's story and for her service to the Polish community.

Henry and Nancy did not have children. Had Katrina not received the tip about Henry, his story would have never been told. Katrina emphasized the importance of writing down your own family stories, otherwise they could be lost forever.

An evening with author Katrina Shawver

Former cold case detective, now author shares her story with PBW members

by Dawn Myszka,

PBW Historian

Professional & Business Women of Polonia (PBW) held its dinner meeting at Potts Banquet Facility on Jan. 23, 2019.

A big thank you went to Rose Schaefer, who served as membership chair for over 20 years. She is stepping down as chair and a new person will need to be appointed. Rose was presented with a gift in appreciation of her hard work.

The PBW scholarship application deadline is Monday, March 25. The application can be obtained from the PBW website. PBW will be continuing with its Scholar-Rama, the scholarship fundraiser, which was very successful last year.

Following announcements, Barbara Strzepka gave the dinner prayer.

After dinner, the board of directors for 2019 were sworn in by the Hon. Deborah Haendiges of the NYS Supreme Court. They are: Christine Kibler, president; JoAnn Lewandowski, vice president; Terry Tucholski, treasurer; Barbara Wetzel, secretary, and board members Dawn Myszka, Mary Zuk-Domanski, Patti Greiner (absent) and Renee Harzewski, president ex-officio.

Lissa Marie Redmond, the speaker for the evening, was then introduced. She is a retired Buffalo Police cold case homicide detective who handled a number of high-profile cases including the Bike Path Killer case.

She has appeared on numerous television shows including Dateline and Murder by Numbers. She is the author of "A Cold Day in Hell," her first book in her cold case investigation trilogy series. Her second book of this series, "The Murder Book," comes out on Feb. 8.

Her third book, "A Means to an End," is scheduled to come out in September and is dedicated to her 95-year-old grandfather, Joseph Kogut.

Her stories center around fictional characters and the community of Buffalo and its surroundings.

Redmond described herself as a writer who became a police officer. She reminded everyone that being a police officer can be very stressful. She relieved her stress by writing.

She started writing after joining a writers’ group at The Dog Ears Bookstore in Lackawanna. She said that she carries a notebook with her to write down things she observes and people she meets for inspiration for her stories.

She attended Erie Community College and the University at Buffalo.

When she was 21 years old, she took the Buffalo Police exam. She scored very high on the exam. She was sworn in as a Buffalo Police Officer when she was 22 years old in 1993.

The first precinct she was assigned to was Precinct 5 on the West Side of Buffalo where she worked patrol. She was then transferred to Precinct 3.

After 5-1/2 years on the job, she decided to take the detectives exam. She scored very high on this exam.

After she was sworn in as a detective, she applied for a job in the Sex Offenses Squad and was accepted. The Sex Offenses Squad handles sex offenses, domestic violence, missing persons, sex abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse cases.

On her first day as a detective, she was given a binder by her lieutenant and asked if she would be interested in working on the now infamous Bike Path Killer case.

She spent 8 years in the Sex Offenses Squad chasing after the bike path killer. She was eventually assigned to a Task Force with other members of the NYS Police, Erie County Sheriff, Buffalo Police and Amherst Police to work on the Bike Path Killer case. She was the only woman detective on this Task Force.

She described the painstaking work she and the other investigators did on this case. It was the first time that DNA testing was used to find the killer, Altemio Sanchez.

Most Americans did not know about DNA testing until it was first discussed in the OJ Simpson trial. Her work with the Task Force lead to the release of Anthony Capozzi who was in prison for two of the rapes committed by Sanchez.

Redmond also worked on another high-profile DNA case – the Crystallynn Girard case. Crystallyn's mother, Lynn DeJac, was originally charged with her murder. Lynn DeJac spent 13 years in prison for this crime. Her conviction was eventually vacated and she became the first woman in the United States to be exonerated for murder and released from prison on the basis of DNA evidence.

After spending 22 years as a police officer, she retired in 2015. She lives in Buffalo with her husband, who is a fellow detective. They have two children.

The next PBW meeting will be held on March 20 at the Forestview Restaurant. The speaker will be from Forest Lawn Cemetery who will be talking about the "Famous" Ladies of WNY that are buried at Forest Lawn.

Author Lissa Marie Redmond signs copies of “A Cold Day in Hell.”

by Dawn Myszka, PBW Historian

Karen Wielinski recently shared her story about the night of Feb. 12, 2009 when Continental Flight 3407 crashed into her home in Clarence Center, NY killing her husband, Doug, and all 50 passengers (one passenger was pregnant) and crew on board the plane.

Wielinski, a freelance writer and author of the book "One on the Ground", was the guest speaker at the Professional & Business Women of Polonia (PBW) dinner meeting on Nov. 21, 2019 at The Columns Banquets in Elma, NY.

Karen, Doug, and their daughter, Jill, were in the house at the time of the crash. Karen and Jill somehow managed to escape and survive the wreckage. Karen suffered a broken collar bone. Jill had minor cuts and bruises. They also lost the family cat in the crash.

Her book, "One on the Ground," is about Karen, Doug, their four daughters, Jill, Kim, Lori, and Jessica's lives before, during and after the plane crashed into their home.

Karen was determined to stay busy and provide some normalcy in her family's lives after the crash. One daughter was getting married soon and another daughter was in North Carolina doing an internship. It was important for Karen and her daughters to be able to try and get through the tragedy as best they could.

Karen and her daughters stayed with Karen's aunt for a short time after the crash. Karen then moved to East Aurora where she now calls home.

When she moved to East Aurora, she joined a creative writing group. She had dabbled in writing when they lived in Ohio and her daughters attended Catholic grammar school there. Karen said that when she attended her first PTA meeting, they were looking for volunteers to do publicity. Karen ended up being the only parent who volunteered. This got her interest in writing started. She wrote for the local newspaper and started a newsletter. She said she enjoyed doing it very much.  

Karen said her strength to write about her and her family's experience came from the support of her creative writing group and Erik Brady, a sports reporter for USA Today. In 2011, she received a message on her Facebook page from Erik. She described his Facebook picture as a cartoon caricature of someone in a Buffalo Bills cap. Erik was interested in doing a story about Doug and his Buffalo sports memorabilia collection.

When Karen met Erik, she learned he and his wife were originally from Buffalo and both worked for the Courier Express. Erik's article about Doug appeared on the front page of USA Today on Aug. 1, 2011. After that article came out, Karen gave Erik some of her writing samples. He encouraged her to continue writing. Karen started to write about her and her family before, during and after the crash.

Over 40,000 items were recovered by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) from the crash site. The majority of those items belonged to the Wielinski family.

Karen's friend, Cindy, knew of a co-worker by the name of Connie, who would be interested in making a quilt from items of Doug's clothing that were able to be salvaged from the crash site. The quilt took almost two years to complete.

When it was completed and presented to Karen, it had the bright orange baseball uniform Doug was wearing the day Karen first saw him, his running shirts, a Buffalo Bills Super Bowl XXVIII t-shirt and other items of his clothing. In the center of the quilt, is a picture of the Wielinski family together.

There is now a memorial at the site of the crash. The memorial consists of 51 stone pavers that lead from the street to where her house once stood. Karen said when you get to a certain point on that path, you can see indentations on the pavers that outline where her house once stood.

The book, "One on the Ground," is divided into five parts: Part One - February 2009 to February 2010; Part Two - The 3407 Families; Part Three - 6038 Long St.; Part Four - The Trial; and Part Five - Aftermath.

Eighty percent of the sale proceeds from her book go to the Douglas C. Wielinski Memorial Scholarship Fund. Karen said the scholarship was started to offer financial assistance to students who love history as much as Doug did. It is awarded to two students (a girl and a boy) from Clarence High School and a student from Hutch Tech High School.

For more information about her book or scholarship fund, contact Karen at:

Karen Wielinski.

 Wielinski shares her story of Flight 3407’s tragic crash into her home