Dear Readers: I have tagged Silvio Canto, the host of the very popular BlogTalkRadio.com show CANTO TALK, as the “Cuban-American Most Interesting Man in the World”. This week, I am thrilled that we are going to have his Polish-American equivalent on the show this Thursday to talk about Poland, its historical influences, and our recent relationship hiccups with that great country: Rik Fox.
I met Rik via the Military History Page, where the participants desperately try to convince me history didn’t end with Egypt. I first alighted upon Rik’s fascinating story when I saw this image posted on the page:
He is attired as a Polish Winged Hussar. Being the newbie to European and military history that I am, I had to ask: Why the wings? Granted, they look most impressive — but was there a practical benefit?
Rik kindly took the time to answer me, indicating the clattering noise produced would make the cavalry seem much larger and distract the opposing enemy. Through Rik, I learned about Casimir Pulaski, a rebellious Polish nobleman who came out to help our militia during the Revolutionary War and who saved George Washington’s life.
Washington rewarded him by inducting the Count into the Freemasons and appointing him the first overall commander of all American cavalry forces.
General Pulaski responded to this honor by writing the book on American cavalry. Literally. As in, he wrote the manual for American cavalry tactics, strategy, training, and organization, basing it largely on time-honored Polish cavalry customs dating back to the days of the Winged Hussars. Some of the fundamentals set up by Pulaski are still employed in current U.S. cavalry operations, a detail that usually gets Pulaski referred to as “The Father of American Cavalry”.
Rik has a rather interesting personal story. He was a heavy metal star back in the 1980’s, playing bass-guitar in several bands, including Steeler, SIN and W.A.S.P. In fact, Steeler was a template for later Hollywood rock scene that came out in the late 1980’s and 90’s (e.g., Poison, Guns N’ Roses). Not to say that means much to me, as I was in the New Wave/Duran Duran crowd at that point — but the pics he shares from that era are….timeless! 🙂
And here is a video of Rik’s former band (SIN) doing “Break Down the Walls” that is certain to bring flashbacks of the “Big Hair ’80’s”!
Later on, after serving in the California State Military Reserve, his interest the military developed and he started a new career trajectory: Working in the film industry as an assistant property master, weapons handler, and eventually film and television actor. He worked in such diverse television series as Air America and General Hospital.
The blend of acting and passion for the military eventually melded together in historical re-enactment. Rik is truly an “experimental archeologist”: He created the first representation in the U.S., of the Polish winged hussar cavalry. He describes his commitment to highlighting Polish history and instilling pride in the accomplishments of its people in a Swindler Magazine article:
“I came out of music and realized I was still looking for another platform where I could act and entertain, while portraying something close to me and still be a ‘rock star’, albeit a period one, onstage,” he says. Then, quite emotionally, with tears rolling down his cheeks, he continues, “When I first saw the real hussar armor in a Museum exhibit from Poland, the hairs stood up on my whole body, and I got a cold feeling in my stomach, immediately, I ‘heard’ two words in my mind: ‘I’m Home.'” “That feeling has stayed with me ever since, as if it were my ancestors saying ‘It’s about time you woke up and got here, we’ve been waiting for you, now pick up where we left off,’ I feel like I have found what my goal in life is supposed to be, (by using the high visibility of his rock star status for raising Polish Historic awareness), and have made enormous strides ever since. Of course, I have made some adversaries as well, along the way, who have made it their life’s work to try and spread malicious gossip and discredit me, mostly jealous characters from little, insignificant renaissance fairs, and mostly, because I refuse to kiss their holier-than-thou asses.” “It’s O.K.” he says, “they can be the rain, and I’ll still be the parade.”
Truly, the Goddess approves of not kissing “holier-than-thou” posteriors. Butt, I digress.
Rik has received accolades for his historical endeavors. He has been the recipient of the Honorary Chivalric Orders of The Royal Order of Piast and The Royal Order of Jagiello from the Polish Nobility Association Foundation. He has also received recognition and acknowledgement of his efforts to promote pride in Poland and its history by the Order of St. Stanislaus and the Polish Consul of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles. In Poland, Rik is now known as “The First Saber of the U.S.”.
We just passed the anniversary of the Battle of Vienna: September 11th, 1683, when an alliance of Christian armies led by Jan III Sobieski, the King of Poland, arrived at the Gates of Vienna, to rid the city of the surrounding Turkish army. Having failed to take Vienna in the siege of 1529, the Turks were making a second attempt in 1683. A Gates of Vienna piece has a mention of the Winged Hussar’s role in that key engagement: The Other September 11th
At about the same time the King of Poland, in the van with the fearsome Winged Hussars and with 20,000 men behind him, led a cavalry charge down the hill into the right flank of the Ottoman army. The Hussars were one of the most formidable fighting forces of the time, and the sound of the wind through the feathers of their artificial wings was said to unnerve the enemies’ horses and drive superstitious soldiers into a panic.
Through the week, I will be posting links to more detailed military history oriented stories on this subject, thanks to Deadliest Blogger!In these days, as the West is again contending with Islamic forces, the lessons Rik has for us about the Winged Hussars will be important, indeed. We will also be exploring America’s current relationship with Poland.
For more information about Rik’s regiment or any other aspect of his Poland-outreach work, the contact information is as follows: