Millions of Poles – emigrants „over the great water” – have been building America’s economic position, even before there were United States of America. First ships arrived there already in the 17th century. Washington has played an important role on the international area, helping Poland in returning to the maps as an independent state. President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration was of grave importance, which is why he was justly made a patron for a square in Warsaw’s Żoliborz during the 2nd Republic of Poland and has returned as one to his place, after the communist era.
Difficult times, hard memories
But there were also difficult moments in our common history – of two nations adoring freedom so much. One of the most exceptional presidents in American history, assassinated in 1865, Abraham Lincoln, unfortunately bet on a close cooperation with tsar Russia. John Appleton, his ambassador in Petersburg, praised the „enlightened reform” of Tsar Alexander II, as well as understood Russian frustration with the ‘stubborn Poles’.
The Secretary of State William Seward ill-spoke about the Polish people after the January Uprising and refused to support the French idea of sending out a diplomatic note to Russia’s authorities; the note called for a peaceful resolution to the „Polish Question”, guaranteeing independent Polish education, justice and administration systems, as well as granting freedom of religion. Lincoln himself has welcomed Russian fleet officers into the White House, revisited their ship „Aleksander Newski” and raised a toast to the tsar. Aleksander Milewski, a Pole and a sailor for the tsar naval fleet, who deserted and joined Confederate army, was given away to the Russian by the Americans. Our countryman was hanged. Whereas, the 20th century black dates in Polish-American history were November-December 1943, January-February 1945 and June-July 1945 r. During the conferences in Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with acceptance from Her Majesty’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill, gave away the Polish ally to Stalin and the Soviet influence. At the time, the author of the New Deal and the only president in the American history to be elected thrice for the same office, was a synonym of betrayal of friendship. However, three and a half decades later, another president, also a Republican– Ronald Reagan became a symbol of what is best in American history. The former actor, frowned upon by the New York and Washington elites, as much as their successors frown upon Donald Trump, has been justly perceived as a conqueror of communism and the Soviet Union, on par with the Polish Pope John Paul II. Meanwhile, America has once again become a symbol of freedom for many nations fighting Moscow’s influence.
Common heroes: military men and…. An actress
We, Poles and Americans, have common national heroes. Does it stem from the mutual love of freedom? When, in September 2017, Donald Trump passed October 11th as Kazimierz Pułaski’s Day in USA, we reminded ourselves about the role this extraordinary soldier and strategist, who died in 1779 under Savannah, has played in both countries on two continents. His short life was like a Hollywood movie scenario, which caused our countryman, who died for America, to fall deeper into American memory than builder of West Point, Tadeusz Kościuszko, who came back to Europe unharmed. It is characteristic that in 18th century our common heroes were great Polish military men, while in 19th century it was an artist and a great actress. Helena Modrzejewska (or, as Americans put it, Modjewska). On a side note, her son, Rudolf (Ralph) Modrzejewski, although born in Bochnia, Poland, became, at the beginning of the 20th century, the most renowned bridge constructor in USA– he created almost 40 of them. The impressive life biography of the great lady of American theatre brings us to another great character in shared history – Ignacy Jan Paderewski. I will refrain from writing about the affair of the American star of the stage of the 20-s with a 20 years younger virtuoso of the Polish piano. Instead, I will write how Paderewski, a pianist from Europe, became a celebrity among music connoisseurs of the United States. American girls passed out during his concerts, years before their granddaughters did the same druing another European group’s concerts – the Beatles. Who, among the fans of the first pop culture American star, knew that they were listening to the future Polish Prime Minster?
Better than ever
Talk about the devil, let us move into politics. Our bilateral relations are better than ever, I am writing this both as a historian and a politician. Warsaw and Washington have a common ground not only in terms of geopolitics but also economics. After a period of “errors and perversions” in the foreign policy of the first term of President Barack Obama, which saw a fatal reset in the American-Russian relationship and, consequently, lack of interest in the Central-Eastern Europe, came a return from the virtual into the real world with the second term. Warsaw NATO summit, whose arrangements exceeded those accepted two years earlier in Welsh Newport, was a breaking point when it comes to the presence of American troops in this region of Europe. Their number systematically rises and their stay shifts from “temporary” to more “permanent”. USA and allied forces also station in other three Baltic countries. It has significant meaning, knowing that Russians can take the Estonian capital, Tallinn, within less than twenty hours. This American military shield is beneficial to both sides. It strengthens Polish safety and American area of influence but also opens up the Polish arm market, with its great demands and offers, to the offers of our ally. They are an obvious priority but it does not mean that we will buy everything for any price. Friends can and should negotiate hard, as far as their interests go.
Community of business
Because nothing brings closer than common business. We are also close in matters of energy security. The Republic of Poland wants a diversification of energy resources, which – when translating from the language of diplomacy into concretes – means independence from Russia. And USA wants to sell Europe its natural gas: today liquefied, tomorrow shale. The new, 45th American president came with his first „national”, bilateral visit in Europe precisely to Poland. It is also important that the American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited our country as the only one in the region. But also canceled Donald Trump’s visit to London, planned for February. In the language of politics, this means one thing – Poland has replaced Great Britain as the ally no 1 on the Old Continent. This strengthens the position of our state very much – also within the European Union: they won’t pat us on the back, as the limit was reached by their predecessors, but we can count on more respect. It also facilitates our leadership in the region of Central-Eastern Europe. Polish-American alliance has a strategic character. It constitutes a solid frame of a picture, which remains to be painted with our everyday proceedings. The conference in Miami is an example of just that. g
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