GREENPOINT, NY – Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, Polish Daily News and FI2W reporter
A long line of voters crowded around P.S. 34 on Norman Avenue in Greenpoint, a predominantly Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn. The line was at times so long –in the morning at any given moment there were around 300 voters– that some people just gave up, saying they would have to come back later. Others were hoping that their employers would understand and would not punish them for coming late to work.
“I’ve never seen anything like that here,” said Krystyna Holowacz, a Greenpoint activist, while waiting for her turn to vote. “Usually it takes five to ten minutes to cast a vote in Greenpoint. Today it’s more than one hour.”
Some voters were very excited to take part in this historic election, others looked very serious and described their participation as a duty.
Older Polish immigrants stood in line among numerous young Americans who have recently moved to this increasingly trendy neighborhood. And while election fever has strongly held the country in its grip for a long time, among Polish residents of Greenpoint this was a new phenomenon.
In the past, Polish immigrants, while deeply involved in their home country’s politics, were barely interested in the American electoral process. This year, however, despite differences in their opinions on who should be the next president, Poles were showing up at polling sites in much larger numbers than in previous years, with a new feeling of empowerment.
FI2W reporter Aswini Anburajan interviewed Polish voter Darius Gieczeweski in Manhattan. He voted for the first time in a U.S. presidential election this morning.[audio:http://www.jocelyngonzales.net/FI2W/fi2w_DariusG.mp3]
“This is our adopted homeland and we, as the Polish ethnic group, have to be engaged in what’s happening here,” said Danuta Posluszna, 74, a citizen since 2002 who is retired from her job as a cleaning lady. “Voting in large numbers will help us to be seen by the American politicians.”
Posluszna said she has always voted for Democrats because they care about the poor. She also hoped for the introduction of a universal health care system.
Some Polish immigrants decided to vote for the first time, even though they have been citizens for years.
Ludwik, 61, who declined to provide his last name, is a case in point. “Something has to change in this country,” he said. “Now I feel that America needs a strong leader and to me Barack Obama can play this role. That’s why I decided to participate.”
Ludwik has been a citizen for ten years and describes himself as a supporter of peace. “What America did to Iraq is terrible,” he said. “The U.S. has to change its foreign policy, because if it continues, I don’t think America will ever regain the trust of the world.”
For many, the economy was a deciding factor. Edward Galazka, 68, who used to work for the airline industry, said he has always considered himself an independent voter. “I was leaning towards McCain for many months. But everything has changed for me after the financial crisis,” he said. “My 401k savings were affected and I realized I don’t want Republicans to be in power when I’m old, even though I do not expect miracles from Obama.”
There were also some who simply knew John McCain better than Obama. “Even though I’m afraid that McCain will continue the Bush policy, I simply could not vote for Obama. I don’t know him well enough and I don’t know what to expect from him,” said Janina, 70, a caterer, who also did not want to reveal her last name.
The voting process went smoothly in the area. Amy Z. Cleary, who was monitoring approximately a dozen polling sites in North Brooklyn on behalf of the New York City Board of Elections said that, apart from a few broken machines that were fixed within one or two hours, there were no major problems.