In today's interview, Kurier Polski hosts Jan Dziedziczak - Secretary of State, Government Plenipotentiary for the Polish Diaspora and Poles abroad.
Waldemar Biniecki: We cordially welcome you, the Minister, to the pages of "Kurier Polski", a new, bilingual (Polish-English) portal with a historical headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Mr. Minister, to the satisfaction of the Polish diaspora, the Polish government has taken over from the Senate of the Republic of Poland the great duty of care for the Polish diaspora and Poles abroad. I wrote about it in Tygodnik Solidarność right after the last parliamentary elections. Since 1989, the Polish community expects not so much as a ministry for the Polish diaspora, but an efficient politician with the rank of a minister who will finally regulate, coordinate and professionalize the relations of the Polish diaspora with the Polish state. Prime Minister Morawiecki made such a move. What are your plans?
Jan Dziedziczak: The Polish community in the last 30 years has been treated differently by the rulers in Poland. Unfortunately, there were times when the Polish community abroad was treated as a petitioner, or as a matter of trouble for the Polish State. We are ending this policy and we want partner relations with our compatriots abroad, we want to work together for Poland, because each of us, regardless of whether we live on the Vistula or outside the country, is a Polish patriot. That is why Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki decided to change the structure of the policy regarding the Polish diaspora in order to operate most effectively. As we remember, for 25 years after the changes in 1990 (with some exceptions), the authorities responsible for the Polish diaspora were very varied and their activities were not fully coordinated (euphemistically speaking). We had the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of National Education as part of the care of higher education, of course, the activities of the Senate which exercised moral and financial care over the countrymen were included. On the other hand, Prime Minister Morawiecki, as a man who implements a coordinated policy and as a man who requires the effectiveness of a given policy for Poland, decided to reform it and establish within his chancellery the office of the Plenipotentiary for Polish Diaspora and Poles Abroad. This was done to show how important the policy regarding the Polish community is important both for him and for the Polish government. I have received the honorable mission of creating this office and coordinating the policy of the Polish State so that it is well thought out, so that one action results from the other. We want to raise the Polish diaspora profile at the highest level in the hierarchy, to treat it as an element of the entire foreign policy of Poland. This is a sign of great respect for what you are doing abroad and the expectations of what you can still do. Remember that there are 38 million of us in the country, and there are 20 million abroad, that is 1/3rd of our national community. The element of the policy towards the diaspora as part of the foreign policy is applied by all the most serious and powerful countries in the world, and Poland is joining them.
Waldemar Biniecki: We remember the economic boom in Ireland, it was undoubtedly thanks to the Irish diaspora. The Government of the Republic of Ireland, which has a huge diaspora all over the world, encouraged its people to cooperate with the old country. The basic tool of government-diaspora cooperation is a clear and transparent program entitled: "Global Irish - Ireland's Diaspora Policy". The vision of this program is also expressed simply: "Our vision is a vibrant, diverse global Irish community, connected to Ireland and to each other". This is perhaps the best-expressed essence of the political vision for which a diaspora exists. In addition to educational and cultural cooperation, does the Polish government have plans and a strategy on how to cooperate with its diaspora in the economic and political realm?
Jan Dziedziczak: Yes of course. We have well-thought-out expectations towards our compatriots abroad. We know what we can do together. In addition to activities for Poles abroad, such as: repatriation of our compatriots from the former Soviet Union, such as extending the Pole's Charter to the whole world and ultimately enabling the holders of the Pole's Card to acquire Polish citizenship, such as Polish school ID cards, i.e. the project of President Andrzej Duda aimed at expressing thanks to the teachers of the Polish community abroad, to the parents of Polish children, and finally to the children of the Polish community themselves, for the fact that they remember who they are and want to develop their Polishness in Polish schools, even in weekend schools. These ID cards abroad have the status of a serious document that can be presented as an attachment to your CV - it is a document of the Polish State with an emblem. In the country, however, it gives the same privileges to Polish children studying in Polish schools abroad as to Polish children studying in Poland, i.e. discounts on bus, train, museums, national parks and theaters. This is a significant support from the Polish State, besides, of course, financial support. However, as part of partnership relations, we do not only care for the Polish diaspora, but also have partner requests to the Polish diaspora. These requests are:
To defend the good name of Poland. Every Pole abroad should be an ambassador of Polishness, have this awareness and act not only defensively, resisting when Poland is under attack, when we hear about "Polish concentration camps," or the alleged participation of Poles in the Holocaust, or alleged faults of Poles during World War II. Also offensively, each of our compatriots, whether as an organization, or individually, speak positively about Poland, about its strengths and advantages. And this is something we ask our compatriots for - to create effective organizations that will fight for the good name of Poland and get involved in it also individually.
In addition, we ask you to create pro-Polish lobbying, wherever you are, so that others consider our compatriots as a strong group, even a group of voters who have the citizenship of the country in which they live.
The third request we have is to pass on Polishness to the next generation of Poles, and therefore use the Polish language, especially at home, in a family environment. We absolutely must speak Polish, even when we are in a mixed marriage, let's make sure that the child benefits from the already available offers, i.e., Polish school abroad, scouting, engaging in Polish ministry, this is something that will make our little ones stay Poles abroad. And this is a concrete thing that we can do for our homeland, Poland.
I must say here that in my work for Poles abroad, over 14 years of my commitment, I have met thousands or even tens of thousands of people. Among these people, I also met many young people who left Poland as little children or who were even born outside the country. And I did not meet a single person among these interlocutors who would regret the fact that the parents supervised the learning of the Polish language, that the parents "forced" the child to speak Polish at home, "forced" them to devote a Saturday, instead of resting and enjoying the weekend, when the child attended a Polish school. Not a single adult has regretted these parental choices. On the other hand, I have met many people who discovered their Polishness at a later stage in their lives, and their parents did not take care of learning the Polish language, which made them excluded from many elements of Polish culture, history, tradition and contacts with the Polish family. These people were unhappy, they were aware of the inability to make up for these losses, because it is much more difficult to learn any foreign language in adulthood than as a child. These people often even blamed their parents for neglecting this topic. Let us teach our children, our grandchildren, Polish. Let's keep an eye on this, because it is very important.
Waldemar Biniecki: We have a new political situation in the United States. Joe Biden won. The Polish diaspora in America became very much involved in Donald Trump's campaign in 2016 and 2020. However, the lack of leadership among the Polish community in America caused the American political elites to withdraw from the Polish community. Joe Biden himself explains this process perfectly in one of the interviews in The New York Times. How to recreate pro-Polish lobbying in the United States? How to defend Polish contracts, Poland, and to involve Joe Biden in the concept of the Three Seas Initiative? What is your strategy in this matter and what role should the largest Polish diaspora, in America, play in this process?
Jan Dziedziczak: On this occasion, let me mention the problem of the Ukrainian minority in Canada. For many years, as a parliamentarian, I participated in the NATO parliamentary assembly, i.e. a meeting of parliamentarians from all NATO countries, incl. United States and Canada. It is known that in recent years the security issue of Ukraine has been a frequent topic at these meetings. Whenever the Ukrainian topic was discussed, the hands of Canadian MPs who, one after the other, spoke out independently of the political party, lobbying for the interests of a free Ukraine, was immediately noticeable among the interlocutors during the plenary sessions. One should ask the question: how did it happen that the Ukrainian minority is so strong, influential or effectively influencing parliamentarians, media and resources in Canada, and the Polish minority, smaller in Canada, but also with 10 million in the States, has no such tools? There is not even one Polish senator or member of the House of Representatives. We have only a few significant Polish journalists. What happened? What didn't work? I would not blame the relationship with Poland here, because using the first example of the Ukrainian community in Canada, this community achieved a spectacular success in a period when not only was there no cooperation with Ukraine, but there was no Ukraine in the world at all. Nevertheless, this minority managed to organize itself. The Polish minority was successful, had congressmen even several dozen years ago, when there was no contact with Poland either, because there was the PRL (People's Republic, the Communist Poland -ed). My point is that there is no reason to look at Poland. You have to organize yourselves. You have to build by yourselves a strong, influential organization, which will be able to say about itself: we represent the 10 million Polish minority, we represent a group of 10 million potential voters who may be in favor of one or the other candidate in the elections. It is very important that we as Poles stay together, that we make demands on our candidates as American citizens. What does the candidate have to say about Poland? What he has to say about the presence of American troops in the east of Poland (a strategic issue and the most important for Poland in the coming decades). What does he have to say about the sanctions on Nord Stream 2? What does he have to say about the monuments of famous Poles (Saint John Paul II, Kościuszko, Pulaski, Chopin, Copernicus, and Maria Skłodowska).
These are the topics we focus on when it comes to Polish-American relations, we feel responsible, as patriots wherever we live. This is primarily about symbolic politics - monuments, street names, exhibitions, patrons, the possibility of learning the Polish language, the possibility of cultivating our culture, and finally the absolute enforcement of the historical truth, and therefore the lack of consent to any suggestions about the alleged complicity of Poles in the Holocaust, etc. Demand it of your politicians, you are a group of ten million voters! Why do politicians take into account other minorities, and not the Polish minority? Especially when it comes to federal policy, when it comes to presidential elections, I am addressing the people of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, i.e. the so-called swing states, where the differences in election results were minimal. Certainly, even a Polish minority of half a million in Pennsylvania can determine who will win the elections in the whole country. And here is an important task. You have to organize yourself, I say so firmly. We will of course support you. This year, for example, in our grant competition "Polonia and Poles abroad 2021" there is a new, special topic, in addition to traditionally supported topics such as: education, events, including cultural events, Polish media, charity aid for Poles in the East, South America, support for Polish community organizations. This year, a completely new topic emerged: building the good name of Poland by Polish organizations. We want to teach our compatriots (of course we know that there are already meritorious groups regarding this topic) how to be effective in defending the good name of Poland, how to effectively fight for the image of Poland. Here we are planning symposia, case studies, we are planning to publish textbooks on how to do it effectively. Remember that the Polish State will not do it for you, you must organize yourself, just like your ancestors did. The People's Republic of Poland did not help them, to put it mildly. Like the Ukrainians, they mobilized in Canada, despite the obstacles. I also encourage you to take care not to succumb to the crocodile syndrome, i.e. a big mouth to speak with and small hands to work with.
Waldemar Biniecki: Undoubtedly, a role in this matter could be played by the Polish media, provided that they reach Americans with their message in English. In the pre-war period, there were 250 Polish journalists working in the United States who were very sympathetic to the Polish government. However, Polish missions worked with them, providing them with up-to-date analyzes and materials. Just in my example, no one from the Polish diplomatic missions contacted me, although I am probably the only Polish journalist living in the USA and writing weekly columns in "Tygodnik Solidarność." And no one replies to the emails sent to the Embassy. Today, the situation of the Polish press in the United States is rather deplorable. The divisions among the Polish diaspora press organizations follow exactly the American divisions. To this must be added the influence of the new right-wing formation - the Confederation. Most liberal media avoids politics, and some right-wing media adopt positions unfavorable to politics in Warsaw. The PiS (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, Law and Justice) media, in turn, create their own network of commentators, ignoring the message of the Polish media. Does this image of the Polish media in America satisfy you?
Jan Dziedziczak: First of all, the most important thing is to integrate the Polish community in the United States. We respect the fact that the reader in Poland can learn about the activities of our compatriots abroad, but the key is that the media should integrate Poles in the United States. On the one hand, we are glad that we live in times when barriers and distances in the media do not exist, i.e. from any place in the USA we can access a number of Polish websites and learn about the situation in Poland, so these news and arguments are not hard to find. However, on state websites and within the profession of journalism, we are aware that it is important to create strong media in English, hence our activities, which I can already talk about.
That is, there is already a 24/7 Polish Radio for Foreigners in English, also a radio in Russian, German, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, as well as for the Polish diaspora. On the website of the Polish Radio for Abroad (https://www.polskieradio.pl/395), there is the The News portal prepared by the Polish Radio. Finally, there exists a Polish Television program in English https://polandin.com/, there are also numerous TV programs from other stations, for example Poland Daily of Telewizja Republika broadcast on Youtube. It is worth using these media and it is worth proposing these media to those who are interested in Poland, not only to English-speaking people of Polish origin, but also to friends of Poland, people interested in Polish affairs. I can offer these programs with a clear conscience. I can also tell you that work is underway to create a professional TVP World channel (in place of the aforementioned Poland in), which will be broadcast by satellite all over the world. It will inform about the events in Poland, as well as about the events of Central Europe, as well as events from the world from the Polish perspective. You will be able to receive this channel for free on satellite and on the Internet.
I would also like to remind you that in the United States, due to the blocked TVP Polonia television, a successful trial with Spanski Enterprises Inc. took place, thanks to which TVP Polonia is again available in North and South America over the satellite, on cable networks, and on the Internet (https://polonia.tvp.pl/). The trial was a consequence of the disastrous policy of the previous TVP management boards. In addition, the TVP Info and TV Trwam programs are broadcast via satellite in the United States, so access to the media in English and in Polish is universal.
Waldemar Biniecki: Let's hope that, this being the first interview for Kuryer Polski, there will be many more. In conclusion, would you like to address the old and new Polish diaspora in America directly?
Jan Dziedziczak: Thank you very much for inviting me to this interview. I really respect this title and this editorial staff. We are glad that in 2020 and 2021, as the Chancellery of the Prime Minister, we were able to co-finance the creation of this work. I cordially greet my compatriots, I believe that you are great Polish ambassadors. We need you very much as Polish ambassadors, pro-Polish lobbyists who pass on Polishness to the next generations. Thank you very much and I wish you all the best for the Summer holidays and the new school year. I also especially wish you health in these difficult times.
Waldemar Biniecki: Thank you, Minister, for your wonderful words. Kuryer Polski, as the first Polish newspaper founded in 1888 in the United States, would like to continue its original mission - to represent Polish interests in the United States. We are actively involved in the Polish cause in the USA. We invite you to our columns: kuryerpolski.us.
Translation from Polish by Andrew Woźniewicz.