In 1972, Nixon was the first
US president to visit Poland
President Reagan never visited
but is one of the most popular
By Robert Strybel, Warsaw Correspondent
WARSAW–Preparations are now under way in Poland’s capital to erect a monument honoring US President Woodrow Wilson. It will stand in Plac Wilsona (Wilson Square) in the city’s northern district of Żoliborz. Named after Wilson in 1926, it was renamed Plac Komuny Paryskiej (Paris Commune Square) by the communist regime in honor of a French revolutionary upsurge, but reverted to its original appellation after communism was dumped in 1989.
Wilson was famous for his 14-point peace plan which was to ensure a fairer and more equitable Europe following the ravages of World War I. Hiss 13th point stated that “an independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations and which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea.” Streets named after Woodrow Wilson are found in such Polish cities as Częstochowa, Tarnów and Opole.
Americans may recall Herbert Hoover’s campaign promise of “a chicken in every pot” and associate him with the Great Depression, but Poland recognizes him as a great humanitarian. Before becoming president, he headed the American Relief Administration which especially assisted Polish war orphans and other children. Warsaw has honored him with a small fenced-in Skwer Hoovera (Hoover Square) not far from Warsaw University. There is also an Ulica Herberta Hoover (Herbert Hoover Street) in the Warsaw suburb of Marki.
Streets and squares (Rondo Waszyngtona, Aleja Waszyngtona, Ulica Waszyngtona) named after the first American president are found in Warsaw as well as Kraków, Częstochowa and Kołobrzeg, but none bear the name of the pro-Russian Abraham Lincoln. Streets called ulica Roosevelta can be found in Legnica, Łódź, Poznań and Wrocław, all named by Polish communists who saw in FDR a great friend and ally of Stalin.
Although there is no street in Poland named after him, in 1972 Richard Nixon became the first presiding US chief executive to visit Poland and got the ball rolling. In the 44 years that followed there were nine more presisdential visits to our ancestral homeland. Most visiting US heads of state came more than once. Nixon had visited as vice-prdesident in 1959 but only once as president. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were in Poland but a single time.
George Bush, Sr and Bill Clinton paid two visits each, and George W Bush came three times. Barack Obama was a two-time visitor, and his successor Donald Trump has been invited to come in July. But the most popular American president, Ronald Reagan, did not visit while in office but in 1990 after Poland had thrown off the Soviet yoke. His staunch anti-communist philosophy, refusal to succumb to Soviet nuclear blackmail and unflinching support of captive nations like Poland has endeared him to the Polish people.
Just over five years ago a monument to President Reagan was unveiled in Warsaw not far from the American Embassy. It depicts the former movie standing behind a podium as if addressing a White House press conference, In addition, in Gdańsk there is a seaside Ronald Reagan Park, a Reagan Circle in Lublin and Reagan Streets in Poznań and Łódź.
On a lighter note, one day residents of Snopków in eastern Poland’s Lublin region woke up to find a new street sign in their village. It read: “Rondo im. Billa Clintona i Moniki Lewinsky” (Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky Memorial Circle). Though it looked like a regulation street sign, it turned out to be a practical joke. If caught, the hoaxste will face a hefty fine.