With great sadness, we note passing of one of Polish Music Center’s friends and supporters, Dr. Teodor Polak. After a long illness, he died in his sleep in Los Angeles on 8 June 2021 at the age of 92.
Born near Warsaw on November 9, 1928, already as a teenage patriot he joined the Polish Scouts’ fight against the Nazis and participated in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. After completing his medical studies and residency at the Warsaw Medical University, Dr. Polak was a practicing surgeon in Warsaw and assistant professor of surgery as well as health advisor for the Polish Ministry of Health. In 1955, he married Maria and together with his wife emigrated via France to the United States in 1958.
Settling first in Chicago, where Dr. Polak was associated with Grant Hospital, by 1960 he became a research surgeon at UCLA and was also a surgeon at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Panorama City. Since 1965 Teodor Polak was in private practice and performed general surgery until his retirement in 1992.
Active in Polish émigré circles, Dr. Polak worked tirelessly to raise awareness of Poland’s history and culture, largely through his membership in the Southern California Division of the Polish American Congress. For thirty-eight years, Dr. Polak chaired the Anti-Defamation Committee of the Polish American Congress and largely because of his determined efforts, the California Board of Education formally recognized Polish Genocide committed by the Nazis during World War II. For his exemplary service to his homeland, Dr. Polak was recognized with the Cross of Valor and the Bronze Cross of Merit as well as with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit, the latter bestowed by Poland’s then President, Lech Wałęsa.
Besides his professional and Polonia-related activities, Dr. Polak was a great music lover, with Chopin clearly one of his favorite composers. Always accompanied by his charming wife, Maria, throughout several decades Dr. and Mrs. Polak attended numerous concerts organized by the Polish Music Center at the USC campus and elsewhere in Southern California. Their generous support and involvement in the Polish Music Center from its inception in 1985 has been deeply appreciated.
Dr. Teodor Polak is survived by his wife of 66 years, Maria, as well as his daughters Ivona and Eva, and grandchildren Alexa and Julia, all residing in California. He is also survived by his brother, Joseph, in Poland, and other relatives on the East and West Coast.