Presidential Visit to the United States
of Lech Kaczyński, President of the Republic of Poland
February 9 - 10, 2006
President's remarks: Polish English
|Personal impressions of
meetings with the Polish President by:
Thaddeus Mirecki, President
Irena Mirecki, Vice President
President Kaczynski met with Polonia several times during this visit. On Thursday, Feb. 9, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland organized a dinner with a small group of Polonian leaders from the East Coast. It was held at Blair House, the official residence for visiting heads of state and heads of government across the street from the White House. During the stay of a guest here, Blair House becomes extra-territorial, so formally President Kaczynski was the host of the evening in his residence.
About 18 people from Polonia were present; most were leaders of the Polish American Congress (PAC). The Presidents' party included Minister of Foreign Affairs Stefan Meller and two UnderSecretaries from the President's Chancellary: Lena Dabkowska-Cichocka, UnderSecretary for culture, national heritage and science; Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, UnderSecretary for social issues. And of course there was the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in Washington, Janusz Reiter.
The atmosphere was extremely cordial, but primarily social and not political. The statement by the President had no significant political overtones. He did, however, call to mind the significant role played by Polonia in the regaining of Polish independence in 1989 and the accession to NATO in 1998. The response, delivered on behalf of the guests by Col. Casimir Lenard, Director of the Washington Office of the PAC, was also apolitical. But Anthony Bajdek, National PAC Vice-President for the American Agenda, called on Pres. Kaczynski to press Pres. Bush about admitting Poland to the visa waiver program. However, the meeting of the two Presidents had already taken place that morning, and from what we heard, unfortunately the visa issue was not discussed.
Ted Mirecki also spoke, and referred to the efforts of Polonia on behalf NATO accession, as mentioned by Pres. Kaczynski. In that connection, he presented to the President a copy of a book covering one aspect of this issue, Poland's Road to NATO - Documents, Correspondence and Publications from the Archives of Jan Nowak-Jezioranski. Because Ted had significant input into this work (translating all Polish documents to English and English to Polish), he inscribed a personal dedication for the President.
Here, in the name of the Polish American Congress and our own, we wish to extend sincere thanks to H.E. Janusz Reiter, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland and to the entire staff of the Embassy, for the idea of organizing this meeting and the wonderfully efficient way in which it was conducted. It was a fitting tribute to the contribution of Polonia to the recent history of our Fatherland.
On the following day, Friday Feb. 10, President Kaczynski visited Zofia Korbonska, widow of Stefan Korbonski who was one of the main founders of the Polish Underground State, Director of the Committee of Civil Resistance of the Underground State, and the last delegate to Poland of the Polish Government in Exile in London. Mrs. Korbonska's health does not permit her to leave her home, so the President went to visit her. She welcomed the President seated, and apologized for not being able to rise to greet him. To which he replied - "Then I will rise to greet you."
There was a dual purpose to this visit. The first was to present to her a high decoration, the Grand Cross of the Order of Poland Reconstituted (Polonia Restituta). The second was a symbolic transfer of the Korbonski library, which Mrs. Korbonska had granted to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. The Director of the Museum, Jan Oldakowski, was present at this occasion. The first several hundred volumes of the library had been previously packed up and were ready to leave for Poland on the presidential plane upon Kaczynski's return.
Accompanying the President to Mrs. Korbonska's was Undersecretary Lena Cichocka; also present were Mrs. Beata Winid, wife of the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, and Irena Mirecki, Vice-President of the Stefan Korbonski Foundation.
The visit made a great impression not only on the persons present, but on the residents of the quiet neighborhood where Mrs. Korbonska lives. From early morning, the Secret Service closed off the street and posted parking bans under threat of immediate towing. Then, a huge bus came into this narrow and charming (as Pres. Kaczynski termed it) street, disgorging a herd of journalists. Finally, the presidential entourage arrived in a caravan of limousines. Initially, it was planned that the journalists would be admitted into the home in small groups, but they all crowded in simultaneously and totally jammed the small apartment. After a short while they were asked out, because their presence made it impossible to move about the place. Before leaving, they each received a press kit describing the history and activities of the Stefan Korbonski Foundation, prepared by its Vice-President, Irena Mirecki.
Mrs. Beata Winid deserves sincere thanks and recognition for her most competent coordination of this visit on behalf of the Embassy, always taking into consideration the special needs of Mrs. Korbonska.
After the visit with Mrs. Korbonska, the President had a private lunch with Zbigniew Brzezinski at Blair House, then flew to Chicago for a grand banquet organized in his honor by the Polish American Congress. Ted Mirecki was present there also.
Upon arriving at the banquet site, Pres. Kaczynski met in a side room with the directors of the PAC and other Polonian organizations. He was accompanied by Ambassador Reiter and DCM Boguslaw Winid. Newly-elected PAC President Frank Spula conducted him around the room and introduced the assembled guests.
In the main banquet room, over 1200 guests greeted the President with a thunderous ovation. After the singing of the national anthems, after an invocation led by Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and after a greeting by the master of ceremonies (a person unknown to me), the first address was delivered by President Spula. It was a gross oversight that the persons at the head table were not introduced. This was the first occasion for Chicago Polonia to meet Ambassador Reiter, and he was not even mentioned! President Kaczynski gave a brilliant speech - the full text can be read here. Polish original English translation
After the official part and the meal, there were artistic presentations. Three separate dance groups presented a polonaise, mountaineer dances, and mazur/oberek.
In face-to-face contacts, President Lech Kaczynski is a most charming, warm, open, unpretentious person. He is very far from the bombast of Wałęsa or the calculated coldness of Kwasniewski. We certainly hope that he made as good an impression on the US authorities and other influential persons with whom he met, as he did on Polonia.