Presidents’ visits to Poland

The months of May and June were rich in interesting and important events for Poland. Intense international discussions on the situation on the Iraqi front, final phase of the European integration, and numerous travels of important and less important international leaders – these were the topics that did not leave the front pages of newspapers, small cafes, and even household kitchens.
In Poland, special significance was given to the international visit of President George Bush in Krakow. About its causes and results many things were said and written already. That is why it is important to look at this visit in historical context and remember other visits of United States presidents to Poland.
The present resident of the White House is the 43rd President of the United States, has already been a guest in Poland twice. The record was set by his father, Bush Sr., who before taking office, during his presidency, and after his presidential term visited Poland all together seven times.
But the first president who traveled to our country was Richard Nixon. He did this in May/June of 1972. He returned again to Warsaw as a former president in February of 1993. He was interested in the existing situation in Poland and its neighboring countries. Lech Walesa and Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka welcomed him. Year later, Richard Nixon passed away.
Toward the end of July 1975, we welcomed Gerald Ford, and two years later, in December of 1977 – Jimmy Carter. Both were on official visits, but spent only about 48 hours in Poland.
In July of 1990, Ronald Regan traveled privately to Warsaw and Gdansk. By the sea, he met with Lech Walesa and in the capital, with Wojciech Jaruzelski. Gdansk showed it appreciation by naming the former president an honorary citizen of the city in 2001; the title was awarded for his support in the Polish struggle toward democracy and for his “historical role in taking down of iron curtain”.
George Bush Sr. for the first time visited Poland as a vice president in October of 1987, and next as a president in April and July of 1989. He stayed in Warsaw and Gdansk and gave a speech for the National Body. In July of 1992, also as a president of USA, he participated in a ceremony of lying to rest the remains of Ignacy Paderewski at St. John’s Cathedral. Remaining visits were as a former president: 1995 – Krakow, private visit; 1997 – Gdansk, the city’s 1000th Anniversary per invitation from Lech Walesa; 1999 – Warsaw, private visit per invitation of Vice-prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz. At that time, George Bush called Lech Walesa “electrician who was brave enough to start the light in the darkness of communism”. Thanks to his support for Poland, the Paris Club decided to forgive about $33 billion of Polish loans.
Bill Clinton was the fifth US President, who traveled to Poland. The first time in 1994, Lech Walesa invited him to Warsaw. The American leader stated at the Parliamentary Forum that Poland would be one of the first countries to enter NATO because of its many reforms. During his second visit in 1997, he officially invited our county to join NATO while standing on the Royal grounds in Warsaw. Clinton’s third stay in Poland, as a now a former president, was for personal reasons and significant for his presentation on  “Globalization of World’s Economy”. It is important to note that all (230) of the paid tickets for this even were sold, each at the cost of 6,000 zlotych.
The current president of the United States came to Poland the first time in 2001. With his speech at the University Library in Warsaw, he received applause from the gathered crowd. The latest visit of Bush Jr. to Poland was very mush publicized to the whole world, as the President was underlining the importance of Poland as a solid partner of the US.
The most important fact in all of this is that recently many positives are being said and written about our Country.

Translated by Monika Glazar

Forum, 6/2003