Julian Noga has seen the world, both at its best and at its unbelievable worst.

But, this Saturday at the Stanley Theater, Noga's years of work as a Polish Community Advocate and as a voice for his countrymen will be rewarded by the area he calls home.

This weekend, the 91 year-old will receive the CNY Cultural Ambassador of the Year Award during the inaugural "CultureFest: A Festival of Nations," with State Senator Joseph Griffo presenting him the honor.

Noga was born in Poland in 1921, where he lived until he was arrested and deported to Austria in 1939 after getting caught hiding a rifle. The deportation turned out be a blessing. While performing farm labor, Noga met and fell in love with the landowner's daughter, Frieda. However, their storybook love was not yet meant to be...

Relationships between Poles and Austrians were still socially unacceptable and, in this case, punishable by law.

During an interview with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, he talked about the relationship.

"I fell in love with Frieda, the landowner's daughter, and she loved me too," Noga said. "When her father objected, she moved to another farm. We continued to meet secretly even though Nazi law forbode romance between Poles and Germans. The Gestapo warned me, "If you see Frieda again, you're going to be hanged.""

Noga was arrested again in 1941 and deported to the Flossenburg Concentration Camp in Germany, where he performed quarry work.

He remained at the camp until April 1945, when U.S. troops began to close in. He was forced to march toward Dachau with about 9,300 other prisoners from Flossenburg and another 7,000 from Buchenwald. Though nearly 7,000 people died during the march, Noga was lucky. He was liberated by incoming U.S. soldiers and later reunited with his lost love, Frieda. The two married, then emigrated to the United States.

Since those dark days at Flossenburg, Noga's love story with Frieda has been turned into the book, "The Courtship of Julian and Frieda" by Krista Perry Dunn, and his prisoner jacket has become a display item at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

Noga has also become the voice of the Polish community. Each Sunday, he hosts WIBX's weekly Polish music show, "Polonaise," America's longest running Polish language program.

Senator Joe Griffo says it's an honor to present the award to someone who has experienced so much in his life.

Though he's seen the worst the world has to offer, Noga has kept his spirits high. This weekend's award proves to many in the community that even in the most unenviable situations, a person's spirit and will to survive can continue to flourish.

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