Polish American Community Welcomes President-Elect Obama, Expects Attention to Issues of Interest

Polish stores in Greenpoint, Brooklyn -- Anna Majkowska

Polish stores in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (Anna Majkowska/Flickr)

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, Polish Daily News and FI2W reporter

Alex Storozynski, a Polish American writer, describes the victory of President-elect Barack Obama as “a victory for intellectualism over ignorance.” He pointed out that it could be very beneficial for the Polish American community:

Obama’s choice of congressman Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff offers Polish-Americans great optimism, because Emanuel, whose Chicago district is heavily Polish, is familiar with our issues, like the missile defense shield, and he has been an outspoken advocate for including Poland in the Visa Waiver Program.

Barack Obama himself has also supported Poland’s inclusion into a Visa Waiver Program, which would allow Poles to enter the U.S. for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa.

Many Polish Americans, regardless of their political views, embraced Obama’s win, hoping he will quickly start working on improving the economy and moving the country in a new direction.

Some community leaders, like Frank Milewski, president of the Polish American Congress Downstate New York Division, were hoping that Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, would get a position in the Obama administration. Brzezinski endorsed Obama as early as August 2007.

In a letter of congratulations sent to Obama the day after he won the election, Milewski’s organization wrote: “The Polish American Congress has for more than six decades fought for freedom and the equality of man in Poland, the United States and around the world. We look forward to working with you and the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate to move forward an agenda that reflects that tradition and carries it forward under your leadership.” [See in pdf]

Other Polish American organizations expressed their support. In an interview with Nowy Dziennik/the Polish Daily News, Bozena Kaminski, director of the Polish & Slavic Center (PSC), who identifies herself as a Republican, said that under an Obama administration she expects community organizations such as PSC to get a lot of support. “Of course, we will be watching the new president very carefully,” she said. “But considering that he’s got Congress behind him, he can do a lot of things.”

Piotr Pachacz, president of the Society of Polish American Travel Agents, said he hopes that Obama will make things easier for small businesses –which prevail in the Polish community– by extending them lines of credit.

But some business owners were skeptical.

Adam Bak, the owner of the prosperous Brooklyn-based Adamba Imports International Inc., told the Polish Daily News that he expects the economic situation to further deteriorate under Obama.

“American power was created based on individual freedom and minimal influence of the government on the economy,” he said. “Obama wants to regulate the financial sector, contrary to the previous state.”

Bak was skeptical of Obama’s campaign promise to lower taxes. He described the president-elect as a socialist and a populist who told people whatever they wanted to hear.

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