2007-07-27 / Community

Rare visit from Polish president draws far-off visitors to Simi

European leader honors Reagan's efforts to fight onslaught of Communism
By Robin Nasby Special to the Acorn

IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers INTERNATIONAL HONORS- Former First Lady Nancy Reagan accepts  the  Order  of  the  White  Eagle  from  President  Lech Kaczynski of Poland on Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library  in Simi Valley. The award, Poland's highest honor, was posthumously awarded to her husband, President Ronald Reagan. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers INTERNATIONAL HONORS- Former First Lady Nancy Reagan accepts the Order of the White Eagle from President Lech Kaczynski of Poland on Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. The award, Poland's highest honor, was posthumously awarded to her husband, President Ronald Reagan. Lech Kaczynski, president of Poland, visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library last week to induct the Cold War president into his nation's Order of the White Eagle.

The library's courtyard was filled with hundreds of guests waving Polish flags, speaking in their native language and sharing their enthusiasm over the arrival of the Polish president.

"(Kaczynski) is our hero. Our courage and solidarity is because of him," said Helena Krol, a Polish immigrant who attended the July 18 event. "He is a very good president. He has cleaned up the corruption and we are now safe. He is for the people. He is for Poland."

Upon their arrival, the president and his wife greeted the cheering crowd and shook hands with supporters of all ages while dozens of security personnel followed their every move.

Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz introduced Kaczynski and offered words of respect to the people of his country.

"You speak the truth plainly. You are true friends. . . . You have maintained stature in a tough neighborhood," Shultz said to a sea of applause.

"Reagan said that change is possible and bound to happen . . . now we see that Poland is free and democratic," Shultz continued. "It is a real power in the counsels of Europe."

Kaczynski, speaking in Polish inside the library's Presidential Learning Center, began with a discussion of Reagan's impact on his own country's efforts to resist the onslaught of communist Russia.

"Soviet intervention became a jeopardy, but a couple months later Ronald Reagan became president and there is no doubt that it helped our movement," Kaczynski said.

The foreign leader, who was an activist in the Polish anticommunist solidarity movement of the 1970s, said, "Solidarity was formally a trade union, but in real terms, it was a national movement against communism."

The 18-month revolution seemed an impossible feat, but Kaczynski credits the collaborative effort of the movement's supporters and the late president for helping bring about a positive resolution on the side of democracy.

"Of course the main reason was the strength of the people. But there were other reasons and President Ronald Reagan had a lot to do with our success," Kaczynski said, who's known in his country for his public campaign against corruption and for his focus on maintaining law and order.

According to Kaczynski, Reagan was being named to the Order of the White Eagle for his determination and relentless fight for a free Poland.

The award, the highest distinction of the Republic of Poland, is more commonly granted to citizens of that country. The 300year tradition of the Order makes it one of the oldest codes of arms worldwide.

Individuals from all over California traveled to Simi Valley to see the Polish president, listen to his lecture and express their support for his reforms.

Polishborn Zdzislaw Zakrzewski immigrated to the United States in 1951. He traveled from San Francisco to Simi Valley just to catch a glimpse of Kaczynski, he said.

"This is my first opportunity to see a Polish president in America," Zakrzewski said. "Kaczynski is the first one to see changes for our country. I really became a supporter after he took office and began the reforms for the people."

Carlos Getino of Long Beach said he attended the event because he is of Cuban heritage and understands the challenge the Polish people overcame.

"The Polish people have a warm spot in my heart," Getino said. "I come from a country that is still not free. They have a great success story and have done so much."

Much of Kaczynski's address focused on the struggles and triumphs of the Polish people during the Cold War. He commended the Polish for their strength and expressed much appreciation to the Reagan administration for its solid support.

"These events were huge achievements of my people. However, these achievements would not have been possible if it weren't for the tough mind, determination and feeling of mission of President Ronald Reagan," Kaczynski said.

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