Let’s see a show of hands. Who here can read Polish? I can’t. I can pick out a word or two here, like “szable” for “sabre” and “Zablocki” for “Wojciech Zablocki”, the great Polish sabre fencer. A few other names. That’s about it for me.
Polish news headline from 1961.
In March of 1961, a team from the USA traveled to Poland to compete in an international meet in sabre. Six Americans attended the match: Tibor Nyilas, Robert Blum, Wally Farber, Laszlo Pongo, George Worth and Michael D’Asaro. It’s rather challenging to parse from the text exactly what’s going on – for me, since I can’t read Polish.
It seems like the Polish team won. They certainly were at the top of their game at this time. They had won the team gold at the World Championships in 1959, silver at the 1960 Olympics and gold again at the 1961 and 1962 World Championships. Fencing great Jerzey Pawlowski headed the team, long before he was jailed for being a spy. Exactly who he spied for, and who he spied on, is a long tale that I don’t know all the particulars of. But he was the leading Polish saber fencer from the mid-50’s until the early ‘70’s. Here is his Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerzy_Pawłowski
Something about Pawlowski here. The Americans are named about 2/3’s of the way down, but if they’re winning or losing I can’t tell. I’m guessing they’re losing.
Also in the parenthesis above you can find Charles de Beaumont, representing Anglia (Great Britain in Polish, no doubt), author of the book “Fencing: Ancient Art and Modern Sport”, Mawlichanow from ZSRR (Polish for USSR?) and H. Baron from “NRF”. France?
Michael D’Asaro, left, scores against Nuzar Asatiani from the Soviet Union. Asatiani was on the gold medal winning 1964 USSR sabre team.
The event seems to have taken place over two days. The papers are dated March 13 & 14. The USA team seems to have gotten a fair bit of attention. I only say that because their names keep being mentioned. If, as the very first headline announces, they took 3rd in a strong field, they certainly deserved the attention. However, there isn’t really a full breakdown for the event, so I don’t know that the team event consisted of more than the Poles, the Soviets and the Americans. However, entirely apart from that, an American team visiting the ‘Home o’ the Warsaw Pact’ nation of Poland must have been an event of some import on the political front, if for no other reason.
Fantastic caricatures of all the Americans. From bottom left going clockwise: Nyilas, Blum, D’Asaro, Farber, Pongo & Worth.
So, if anyone out there feels like exercising their Polish translation skills, let me know what I’m missing! Even without the details, it’s some pretty cool stuff.