Address of Polish President Lech Kaczynski
to the Polish American Congress

House of the White Eagle, Niles, IL, Feb. 10, 2006.

Unofficial translation by Thaddeus Mirecki - Not authorized by the
Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland

Thank you sincerely for such a warm welcome. When in my first days in office – because I am President for about 50 days – I was coming to the United States, following the interests of my country, Poland, it was a given that during that visit I should also come to Chicago and meet with the Polish-American community, with Poles and Americans of Polish descent. I am very pleased that such an occasion arose so soon. And I would like to thank those of you, Ladies and Gentlemen, who as citizens also of Poland took part in the election and cast their votes. I thank all of you, not only those who voted for me.

For over 16 years, Poland is again a free country. During that time, Poland has achieved many successes. During those years, I was among the critics of the Third Polish Republic, but neither I nor the political circles with which I am associated ever for a moment denied that we have achieved what is most important – a free and independent Republic of Poland – and that our country has achieved some significant victories. Indeed, today we have a free-market economy, perhaps not an ideal one, but we have one, we are in NATO, and that is a huge success for us, we are in the European Union and we should also be glad of that.

In other words, Ladies and Gentlemen, I come to you from a country which has achieved significant successes. But I also come from a country which has serious problems, where not everything during the past 16 years went as it should have, where too many remnants of the old totalitarian system impacted upon Polish reality. I wish to thank the President [PAC President Frank Spula – TM] for his assessment of the observances of the 60th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising and the opening of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, but we all know that what happened on the 60th should have occurred ten years ago, on the 50th anniversary. So the question arises as to why it did not. Precisely because of the reasons I mentioned earlier. That is why today we have to make up for certain shortcomings. We are aware of our successes, but certain matters in Poland need to be straightened out. And that is the motto under which I was elected the President of the Republic of Poland. And under this motto the party with which I am associated more or less since 1990, although prior to Law and Justice I was not a member of any political party, won the last parliamentary election.

In a free Poland we must take reality into account; now and over the next several years we will strive to repair that which has not been done or which was done badly. I think that what we want to accomplish can be summarized as: first, establishing a just nation, a well-functioning nation; second, that this great process of societal transformation, which is quite advanced in Poland and is in its second, ending phase, would be more associated with a sense of justice. The differentials which arose in Poland after 1989 are natural, every free-market economy creates them, but often they are excessive, surpassing that which is necessary. We want to create chances for those who in the past 16, 17 years have had no chances. That is a difficult task, but we will try to accomplish it, we will try to act so that there will be fewer people in Poland who feel rejected, who feel defeated. And achieving those two goals will result in a new entity, which we call the Fourth Polish Republic.

On the long postwar road to full independence – because even then the Polish nation had existed in some form – and also before that, during both World Wars, Poles living beyond the borders of their country played an enormous role, and especially those Poles living in America. And also those who today are rather Americans of Polish descent. For that, Ladies and Gentlemen, representatives of Polonia, I wish to express to you my sincere thanks. If the majority of Polonia, the majority of Poles living abroad, had not rejected the realpolitik that Poland did not enjoy the fundamental right of every nation, the right to independence, the regaining of that independence would have been incomparably more difficult. I feel it is my duty as President to bring that to mind and once again to thank you. We appreciate that, we are cognizant of that, we are striving to strengthen the bonds with Poles living abroad, particularly in those countries where the situation of Poles is especially difficult, to help them. But please remember that today we live in a free Poland, and that previous phase, that glorious phase, has ended. It ended in victory – for the second time in the past 100 years. There was a victory in 1918, and again in 1989.

Today, Poland expects from her countrymen, or persons of Polish descent living abroad, and in particular from the Polish-American community which has been here now for many generations, which often today has a very strong position in society, to become engaged, above all, in making this community the strongest in the U.S. My wish to you, Ladies and Gentlemen, and to you, Mr. President, is that Poles and Americans of Polish descent living here become a strong society, with strong organizations. Certain animosities have arisen here in the past, which sometimes made this difficult, and the Polish authorities will endeavor to assist in this regard according to our capabilities. You desire strong ties with your fatherland. Your fatherland in turn desires that you be strong and influential here, that the greatest number of you are highly educated, that you become very successful in all areas, in business, science, and also sport, culture, the arts. That is what we primarily expect of you. We also expect that those who achieve success in the United States will desire to transplant that success to Poland, in the form of investments. These do bring significant returns. Today we spoke with representatives of influential businessmen in the U.S. about American capital investment in Poland, which is perhaps not on too great a scale but which brings significant yields to those who conduct business in Poland. It pays for entrepreneurs to invest in our country, because there are opportunities for high gains relative to capital invested.

We would also encourage you, Ladies and Gentlemen, to thoroughly familiarize yourselves with and understand the interests of Poland in the here and now, the Poland of 2006. We are after all not a small nation in Europe, the sixth of 25 countries, and soon of 27. We are a country which has its interests in Europe, particularly in the EU and to the east of Poland, and of course we have our interests in the Middle East. We want to conduct a policy which strengthens Poland’s position. That is the purpose of my visit to the U.S. I met with the highest authorities of the American government, with the executive branch, the legislative branch, but I also met with other circles, with persons of influence, with Polonia. That is my fundamental duty, that goes without saying. I also met with representatives of the American Jewish Committee. There are many difficult issues to which we as Poles must object, for example stories of Polish concentration camps, there is no room for discussion here. But there are also issues which we must clarify and we strive to clarify them and will continue to do so.

Recently, new leadership has taken over the [Polish American] Congress, and I am very glad of that; I wish the President every success, I wish that the Congress becomes a powerful, influential organization, with access everywhere, to all places which are significant in the U.S. In that regard, we will do whatever we can to help – and once again, thanking you Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you all the best. Thank you very much.