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Chicago-esque politics

President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland visits Chicago

resident Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland said the nearly 1 million Polish-Americans in Chicago — the largest population outside Warsaw — are an asset, and the city should take advantage.

Polish Alma Mater
Polish Alma Mater

I’ve often heard people say Chicago has a large Polish population, seems as if it is true. With numbers like this, of course there is diversity of opinions…

[President Bronislaw] Komorowski, who made his first visit to Chicago for the NATO summit, also met briefly with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. At a meeting with the Tribune’s editorial board, the president said the nearly 1 million Polish-Americans in Chicago — the largest population outside Warsaw — are an asset, and the city should take advantage.

During a morning visit at the Polish Consulate, Komorowski saw two opposing sides of how some Polish-Americans in Chicago view his government — one by young professionals who want to forge stronger ties with their homeland and another by older immigrants who want his party kicked out of office.

While Poland leads European countries in economic growth, Chicago and the rest of the U.S. have not kept pace with other foreign investors in his country, Komorowski said. Putting his own spin on a famous statement by President John F. Kennedy, he told the young professionals: “Ask not what Poland can do for you. Ask what you can do for Poland.”

Komorowski encouraged the 35 college students and other young adults to take an active role in shaping relations between the U.S. and Poland. He urged them to lobby politicians for policy reforms, such as the Visa Waiver Program, and to consider running for office themselves.

“I see a climate here that I dream of in Poland,” Komorowski said. “You have a great attitude, independence and ambition.”

Several of the young professionals said they wanted the president to know that they support Poland and value their Polish heritage as well as their American citizenship.

“We wanted to introduce the president to a perspective of what Polish-Americans look like today, not just immigrants but second and third generations that are interested in their community and giving back as well,” said Agnes Ptasznik, 30, an assistant Illinois attorney general who attended the event. “Their parents and grandparents had to take hard jobs, and they invested in them, and it paid off.”

(click here to continue reading President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland visits Sen. Mark Kirk – chicagotribune.com.)

Not all his visit was dumplings and pierogis though…

Music and Dancing
Music and Dancing

As he sat among the successful lawyers, doctors and business people invited by Polish Consulate General Zygmunt Matynia, about 50 older Polish-Americans gathered on the sidewalk outside the office in the Gold Coast neighborhood, waving Polish flags and chanting “traitor.”

The protesters are among a group of Poles and Polish-Americans who contend that the 2010 plane crash in Russia that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, including his wife, was no accident but an assassination. They claim that Komorowski, whose opposing party won in a runoff election afterward, has stood in the way of an international investigation.

“They don’t represent the true Poland,” said Casey Panek, an 80-year-old Salem, Wis., resident who left Poland more than 40 years ago. “There are too many (communist) agents in the government in Poland. It’s not completely red, but it’s pink.”

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