Jan J. Wieckowski, 84, Polish resistance fighter

Posted: July 16, 2008

Jan J. Wieckowski, 84, of St. Davids, a Polish resistance fighter who became an international banking executive, died Friday of a brain tumor at Bryn Mawr Terrace.

A native of Warsaw, Mr. Wieckowski at 16 joined a scout troop that took sabotage actions against the occupying German troops. He later joined the Polish underground army. In 1944, he was captured and endured a long winter march between German concentration camps. In May 1945, his camp was liberated by the British and he moved to London. At the end of the the war, he chose not to return to Poland, which was under Soviet control, and in 1948 he emigrated to the United States.

He earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in international economics from Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., and joined Girard Bank in Philadelphia as a credit trainee. He eventually became an executive vice president and headed Girard's international department. Mr. Wieckowski, who spoke French, German, Italian, Russian, Polish and English, helped establish Girard branches in London and New York and offices in Mexico City, Singapore, Zurich and Paris. In the 1960s he represented Pennsylvania, making business contacts for the state in Europe.

He gave numerous speeches, including at the World Affairs Council, and addressed Radio Free Europe on issues connected with the development of business with communist-bloc countries. He made periodic visits to Poland and told a reporter in 1981 that Western countries needed to support the country and find ways to mobilize its coal, copper and sulfur resources. He anticipated an end to Communist rule because in Poland he said, "Soviet order-takers have never been accepted, trusted or respected."

After retiring from Girard in 1986, Mr. Wieckowski was active in the establishment of a branch of the Polish Bank Pekao in New York and was a bank consultant. He assisted in the development of banking infrastructure in Poland after the fall of communism and was rewarded with medals from Polish presidents Lech Walesa and Lech Kaczynski.

Mr. Wieckowski served on several boards including the Pilsudski Institute of America, which promotes the history and culture of Poland.

He is survived by his wife, Joanna Gronkiewicz Wieckowski; daughters Maria Mercer and Anna; a grandson; and two great-grandchildren. He is predeceased by his former wife, Irena Wieckowski

A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. today at St. Thomas of Villanova Chapel, 800 Lancaster Ave., Villanova. Friends may call at 9:30 a.m.

Memorial donations may be made to Pilsudski Institute of America, 180 Second Ave., New York, N.Y. 10003.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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