In today's interview, Kuryer Polski hosts Professor Jim Mazurkiewicz, Regents Fellow and Leadership Program Director, Governor Dolph Briscoe, Jr. Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership (TALL) Program, and one of the most important leaders of Polonia in the USA.
Waldemar Biniecki: You just returned from Poland. What was the reason for this visit?
Jim Mazurkiewicz: On April 24, 2020, the reviewers for the honoris causa at SGGW (Szkoła Główna Gospodarstwa Wiejskiego, The Premiere School of Farming and Agriculture) voted unequivocally to bestow an Honorary Doctorate for my work between Texas and Poland in the past 10 years. However due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions, the ceremony was postponed until September 17, 2021, when vaccinated travelers were allowed to travel to EU/Poland.
Waldemar Biniecki: During this visit, you had several important meetings. Can you tell us about them?
Jim Mazurkiewicz: To maximize my visit, I had invited the Vice Chancellor & Dean of the College of Agriculture from Texas A&M University to join me and explore research collaborations, student & faculty exchanges, and virtual educational opportunities. Including SGGW, we took the opportunity to meet with four additional Polish University administrators to explore potential collaborations (AMU in Poznan, UTP in Bydgoszcz, NCU in Torun, AGH in Krakow, UAK in Krakow). In addition, we met with several key Polish government officials in Warsaw to share our intentions and muster support for cooperation and collaboration. All our visits were well received, and we are now looking forward to implementation of the projects and activities we discussed.
Waldemar Biniecki: During this visit, you had several important meetings. Can you please tell us what ideas you presented to the members of the Polish government?
Jim Mazurkiewicz: Here is the list:
- A Master’s degree led by Polish Universities supplemented by online courses from the Texas A&M University Bush School of Government & Public Service providing access to international experts on international affairs.
- Research collaboration in human nutrition & diet related diseases, plant protection and agriculture production.
- Student and faculty exchanges
- Supporting Polish heritage and culture in Texas by helping to document more information about the contributions of Polish heroes in Texas history, such as Lt. Andrzej Feliks Wardziński, and the “Polish Freedom Fighters” from the 1830-31 November Uprising.
Waldemar Biniecki: When Witold Gadowski interviewed you, he introduced you as the person who was behind the LNG Poland-Texas contract. Can you tell us more about that?
Jim Mazurkiewicz: My first trip to Poland was in 2002, and then again in 2010, leading a group of Texas Agriculture leaders to study agriculture abroad. In 2011, I invited Poland to come to Texas to showcase Texas Agriculture production and this group was led by Kasia Boczek from the Polish Ministry of Agriculture. Following this first Polish visit in 2010, a member of this group Piotr Doligalski mentioned to Marshal Piotr Całbecki from Toruń that he should meet me with the Polish delegation coming to Texas to study oil & gas production and environmental impacts in April 2012. As a result of this visit by Marshals Całbecki, Hetman, Struzik, Stuk, Protas and Cios from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they invited me to bring a delegation to Poland to learn more about the opportunities in this fast developing region of Europe. In this group was State Senator Glenn Hegar and, today, he is the State Comptroller for Texas. In 2013, I was asked by Marshal Całbecki to invite a speaker from the Texas Government to come to speak about the Texas Economy at the “Summit of Marshals” Conference in Toruń. I invited Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Rick Perry to speak at the conference. A second invitation was extended by Marshal Całbecki to invite two speakers for the Polish National Congress Economic Forum in Toruń, Poland in March of 2014.
As a result of the first young farmer exchange between Texas and Poland, I met and invited Mr. Ardanowski to come with the second Polish group of adult farmers in 2014 to study Texas agriculture and how the oil & gas industry work simultaneously in Texas. Ardanowski’s son was in the first Polish/Texas Young Farmer Exchange implemented in 2013 and his son Jerzy encouraged his father to go to Texas and meet with me. As result of this visit, Vice-Chairman Jan Krzysztof came to Texas with the second Polish group of farmers in 2014 to study Texas agriculture and how the oil & gas industry work without any environmental issues. Following this visit, Ardanowski invited me to bring three key experts from Texas for a briefing in the Sejm about the Texas Oil & Gas Industry concerning production, environmental regulation and the co-existence of the energy industry and agriculture in Texas on June 16 & 27, 2014. Both Całbecki and Ardanowski have been most instrumental in helping me build relationships with key people in Poland. In total, I was asked to bring Michael Morrissey, Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Rick Perry to Poland on 6 occasions representing Governor Perry to speak about the Texas economy and to build relationships between Poland and Texas. During my initial visits, I could see the potential between Texas and Poland when I learned of the Port being constructed at Świnoujście for LNG and at the same time, I knew Texas was becoming an oil & gas production surplus state.
In October 2014, I was asked to help organize a visit for Governor Rick Perry and a delegation of 15 Texas business leaders to visit Poland. Marshal Piotr Całbecki was instrumental in coordinating this visit for Governor Perry and his delegation to meet with key leaders in Poland to explore future cooperation. In addition, there were several meetings I attended in Poland with Polskie LNG, Grupa LOTOS, Grupa Azoty, the Gdansk University of Technology Energy Center and others in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
On December 23, 2015, I was asked by Grupa Azoty for contacts for LNG sales and pricing formulas and Governor Rick Perry’s office supplied me with the information. In December of 2016, the Polish Ministry of Energy asked me to provide a list of LNG exporters along the Gulf Coast of Texas, and again, Governor Rick Perry’s office and Michal Morrissey furnished me the contacts to provide to the Polish government. In January of 2016, a Polish delegation from PGniG including Piotr Wozniak and Maciej Wozniak and a small delegation came to Texas and met with Honorary Consul Zbigniew Wojciechowski, MD. They reached out to me again when they arrived in Texas and asked if the list contacts were still current, and I confirmed it was a good list. Then, the PGniG delegation met with the contacts at Cheniere Energy at Sabine Pass to establish the first contract to purchase LNG that arrived at Świnoujście on June 14, 2017. My goal was to facilitate this effort for energy diversification for Poland and economic development for Texas.
Waldemar Biniecki: Some Polish Americans say, "Poland is an independent, democratic state, so the members of the Polonia don’t need to do anything anymore." Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
Jim Mazurkiewicz: It is selfish to think we are alone in this world, and we can live without our friends and neighbors. We need to be thoughtful in helping our friends and allies around the world as well as the misfortunate. The United States is a world leader and has been a great role model and friend to those less fortunate in the world due to no fault of their own. Poland has been a friend and ally of the US since the American Revolutionary War and Polonia and Americans alike should provide a helping hand in times of need. I personally believe in providing a hand up and not necessarily a handout for self-dignity and self-respect. We have all needed a helping hand throughout our history and our personal lives. Poland has been a strong supporter of the US and a great ally as they were the first to join us and the last to leave in recent Middle East conflicts.
Waldemar Biniecki: What are the future plans for Texas Polonia?
Jim Mazurkiewicz: Texas Polonia is growing stronger every day and working closely together as one, promoting our culture, supporting cooperation, and strengthening relationships between Texas/US and Poland/EU. Texas is the home of the first and oldest Polish parish in the United States, Panna Maria, and the newest Polish diamond, a $14 million Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria opened in October 2021. This state-of-the-art facility is building local, state, national, and international partnerships with museums, libraries, schools, school districts, cities, communities, parishes, colleges, and universities. Another newly established Polish jewel is the Saint John Paul II Institute for Polish Studies and the Teachings of John Paul II at St. Thomas University in Houston, which began in 2020. Texas boosts over 30 Catholic parishes established by Polish immigrants since the 19th century with four major waves of Polish immigration, “Za Chlebem” in 1854 (Panna Maria) and 1867 (Brazos Valley), World War II/Solidarity 1945 to 1980, and “The Texas Economy,” 2000 to today. There are Masses said in Polish each Sunday in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio with several Polish festivals in Houston, Dallas, the Brazos Valley and South Texas Parishes. In addition, we have Polish school on Saturdays in Houston, Dallas, and Austin as well as Polish studies at University of Texas and St. Thomas Universities. Texas A&M University and the University of Texas have Polish associations for college students and the Polish American Council of Texas “Everything Polish in Texas” has over 100 Polish parishes, festivals, organizations, and businesses as members under one Polish umbrella. Texas is not the largest Polish diaspora in the United States, but it is unified and working together with one voice and one objective, “To promote and advocate for our Polish culture, heritage and values”.
Waldemar Biniecki: What would you like to say to the global Polonia all over the world?
Jim Mazurkiewicz: We are one Polonia and one Poland and by working together with one voice, we are stronger and more effective! Listening to others and their opinion is key to gaining respect and bringing people together. People want to be heard and appreciated for their contribution to society. Many times, the courtesy of listening to others, even though the timing of the idea may not be right, makes them feel that, at least, they were heard and is usually greatly appreciated. People also appreciate the fact that you care. Communication and empathy are key! Many times, people with discontent are those that are the least informed, or or those to whom we did not provide enough information to alleviate their questions and/or resentment. Leadership is not easy and the most difficult part of being a leader is that “you must be one every day and at all times”. The more respected you become, the more visible you are to the public. Respect and trust are earned by your actions and deeds, and titles are useless without respect and trust. The most powerful leader in an organization may not be one with a title, but the one with the most respect and trust. Value those people and follow through with your promises, talk is cheap, but actions are priceless.
Waldemar Biniecki: Thank you so much!