Embedded with Polish Troops in Afghanistan

How many Polish-Americans are aware that some 2,500 Polish troops are stationed in Afghanistan and that a sizeable portion of those troops are dedicated to training Afghan National Security Forces? I certainly wasn’t, until I talked today with journalist Aleksandra Kulczuga, recent recipient of a 2010 Phillips Foundation Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship. She left her job as a political reporter for The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C., last year and is using the fellowship to write about the Polish military presence in Afghanistan. ”I want to write about the Polish soldiers,” she told me, because “I believe they are an important ally doing good work in a difficult and strategically important area of Afghanistan. I have heard many top American officials praise them for being both willing and capable and I wanted to highlight their outsize contributions on the global stage.”

Kulczuga, who was born in Poland but left for America as a young child with her parents for political asylum, spent April and May this year embedded as a journalist with the troops in Afghanistan, and she has written about some of the more personal aspects of the experience on her own website. ”Kulczuga explains her decision to take on this under-reported topic in a video made during a Phillips Foundation dinner. If you watch closely, you can see former Defense SecretaryDonald Rumsfeld leap to his feet at the end of her speech. Visit Kulczuga’s blog for stories and photographs from her time in Afghanistan.

“I am always looking for Polish soldiers who have spent time in Afghanistan,” Kulczuga says of her project, “especially those who were there in the early stages of the conflict. If that’s you, please email me at aleks@thephillipsfoundation.org. I am also a member of the American-Polish Forum, a volunteer nonprofit organization run by a wonderful group of young professionals in D.C.,” she explains. “In addition to raising awareness of issues with significance to both the U.S. and Poland,  last year APF organized the first-ever large-scale care package drive for the 2,500 Polish troops stationed in Afghanistan.”

The Phillips Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides this year-long grant to allow young journalists the opportunity to pursue original, independent research on a topic of their choosing, the main guideline being that the project “support the values of a free society.”

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