During my years at The University of Montana for my BA degree in History-Political Science, I spent a lot of time in the Department of Foreign Languages studying French. My principal French professor, Dr. Maureen Curnow, who had had her own Fulbright Scholarship in the early Sixties in Lyon, France, approached me to consider a Fulbright Scholarship to France, and she gave me the brochure. There, in East Central Europe, were Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, after the Invasion on August 20-21, 1968, was closed. I also was approached to consider a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in the United Kingdom, but I declined this opportunity. So, I decided to apply for a Fulbright to Poland to research Czechoslovak-Polish relations, which, it would turn out, were not especially favorable.
While at UM, I took Elementary Polish from another French professor, Dr. Roman Zylawy, who was of Polish and Ukrainian extraction, then I departed after graduation in June 1972 to the East Coast to study Czech at the Summer Language Institute at Yale University to enhance my application. Then, in January 1973, I received a letter of acknowledgement from President Richard M. Nixon that my application had been received by the Ministry of Education in Warszawa; I would hear by April 1973. I heard nothing until June 1973, when a lady from the US Department of State telephoned that I had been admitted to Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Dr. Antoni Czubinski, who was a specialist on German-Polish relations. There was also a scholar on the Old Town Square in Poznan who had an interest in Czechoslovak-Polish relations.
When I came to Poland in September 1973 via Minneapolis and London, my Polish was weak, I was speaking more Czech, but I learned quickly that this was not Bohemia. I enrolled in Polish lessons and became fluent. Alexandra and I met by chance in the Department of History, she is the holder of an MA in History (military history actually), so we started to date secretly. This was, after all, the Cold War. We married on August 3, 1974 in Ostrów Wielkopolski, civil and Roman Catholic ceremonies that same day.
I was diligent in my research and my Polish was getting more proficient by the day, so Dr. Czubinski authorized an extension, so in actuality I had two Fulbright Scholarships (1973-1975). While in Poland, I also received exit visas to travel to see my great aunt Lucille and great uncle Len, a former US Air Force colonel who was then working for Boeing Aircraft in Seattle, Washington, then stationed in Athens, Greece, Christmas 1973; to Czechoslovakia in January 1975; and to Denmark and Sweden in April 1975, so I also had the opportunity to see other nation-states in Europe. I have been employed in government service and in academia and Alexandra was a celebrated court interpreter for many years in Philadelphia. The Fulbright Scholarship has been a blessing from Heaven. Thank you, Senator J. William Fulbright!
Stephen Medvec was a Fulbright grantee at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (1973-75).