NED Mourns the Passing of Jan Nowak, Polish-American Patriot

The staff and directors of the National Endowment for Democracy join with the Polish people in mourning the passing of a great friend and one of Poland’s greatest patriots, Jan Nowak, who died Thursday, January 20 at the age of 91. NED extends its deepest sympathy to Nowak’s family and friends.

Known to so many in Poland as a hero of the Polish underground during WWII and as the voice of Radio Free Europe’s Polish service for many years thereafter, Nowak went on to play a crucial role in helping to solidify America’s support for Polish democrats in the 1980s. This included acting as the principal adviser to NED on its support of Solidarity and other prodemocracy groups operating inside Poland whose courageous activities in many ways helped precipitate the end of the Cold War. “Nowak was an indispensable guide and supporter in the early days of our organization,” said NED President Carl Gershman. “the impact of Jan’s wisdom and his tenacious commitment to freedom for Poles was felt well beyond the borders of Poland itself.”

On July 11, 2002, Nowak was awarded the NED Democracy Service Medal (which was first presented in 1999 to Lech Walesa and Lane Kirkland). At that ceremony, NED’s Director for Central Europe and Eurasia Nadia Diuk commented, “It’s hard to pay adequate tribute to a man whose actions have been so integral to the turbulent struggles of Poland and Eastern Europe in the past fifty years. Most of us are shaped by the environment around us, but there are the few rare individuals who shape the times in which we live, and Jan is just such a person.”

NED is a private, nonprofit, grant-making organization created in 1983 to strengthen democratic institutions around the world. It is active in more than 90 countries, supporting grassroots, democratic initiatives. More information about NED can be found at