President Duda Addresses UN,
Holds Official Talks,
Poland’s First Couple, President Andrzej Duda and First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda, had a busy schedule during their recent three-day visit to the US.
In New York, Duda addressed the UN Security Council emphasizing the importance of international law in ensuring world peace. In Jersey City, the Dudas laid wreaths at the Smolensk Victims memorial and the local Katyń Monument which the city’s controversial mayor had wanted to put in storage to make way for a renovation project. Under strong combined Polish and PolAm pressure, he agreed to relocate it to a prominent site nearby.
Business ties, including the establishment of a Chicago office of the Poland’s Investment and Trade Agency, were discussed with the Illinois governor and Chicago mayor. And in the Windy City, the Dudas also toured the Polish Museum of America, The president also visited an Illinois National Guard base in Kankakee, IL, where he met soldiers who had fought alongside Polish troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A separate program for the First Lady, a former high-school teacher, included her participation in the graduation ceremony at one of Chicagoland’s Polish Saturday Schools. A high point of the Dudas’ stateside sojourn was their meeting with Polonia at Chicago’s Millennium Park, where Highlanders and other folk dancers provided the entertainment. Thousands of Polish Americans enthusiastically applauded the Polish head of state when he expressed his gratitude to Polonia for ”keeping Poland and Polishness in your hearts.” He also issued an appeal: ”I ask you to stay together and create a force supporting Poland and Polishness here in the United States.”
Poland’s First Couple was cheered and welcomed by Polonians wherever they went. Some held up signs saying ”Duda – Our President”, “Witamy!/(We welcome you!)” and “Tak trzymać! (Hang in there!).” But a few government-bashing hecklers also turned up accusing Duda of violating the Polish constitution. In a sign that Polish/Polonian opinion is not only polarized but tri-divided, a handful of disgruntled right wingers criticized Duda for replacing three Law and Justice hardliners – Prime Minister Szydło, Defense Minister Macierewicz and Environment Minister Szyszko – with moderate conservatives during last year’s cabinet shakeup.
By Robert Strybel