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June 09, 2003 ...


Bush's visit to Kraków: "God bless the Polish people"

"Poland is the most pro-American country in the world. It is more pro-American than America". - Adam Michnik, Former Political Dissident, Current Editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza
by Agatha Glowacka
When I first heard that President Bush was taking a trip to Kraków, I thought that the opportunity was too great to let pass by. I, therefore, used all my contacts to get involved in the visit. As it turned out, President Bush specifically requested to meet Americans who were in Kraków during his visit, including the U.S. Fulbright Scholars, especially since public diplomacy has become so crucial to American foreign policy now.
Unfortunately, as could be expected, his schedule was tightly packed (actually overpacked) and our meeting with him was one of the first to be cut. I managed, however, to get myself a job working with the "Advance Team," which is the team that coordinates all the logistics of the visit, including taking care of the White House Press Corps. This assignment, although behind the scenes, turned out to be more exciting than I expected, and made me realize all the tremendous work that goes into a presidential visit.
The White House Press Corps numbered 120 and they arrived on the morning of the 30th, a full day earlier than the president, who was due to arrive that night. As part of the Advance Team, it was up to me to help the State Department officials coordinate facilities for the journalists, including both their hotel and the "Press Holding Center" where they were headquartered.
Because the journalists were free for most of the day before the president arrived, they had an opportunity to tour the city and see sights of interest. Due to high demand, the State Department also put together an ad-hoc tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp for the journalists; since the trip was unofficial, they let me take charge and organize the trip. What an experience!
Roughly half of the Corps ended up coming, about 80 people, and the entire trip lasted four hours. All the biggest journalists were there that are often on TV; those from CNN, NBC, ABC, The New York Times. The trip itself was very solemn, and we basically did the same tour that the president was to do the following morning. My biggest fear was leaving a lone reporter behind by mistake, but thankfully we returned to Kraków with everyone on board.
I was not as lucky the following day. I had to get up at 4 a.m. and be ready to transport the Press Corps from their hotels to the motorcade, which was taking a select few, including the president, the First Lady, Secretary of State Colin Powell, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp for their private visit.
The president had arrived in Kraków late at night the day before, and was starting his day early because he was due to leave by 1 p.m. to catch a flight to St. Petersburg. The Press Corps was running late, so we left in a rush and accidentally left behind a lone reporter at the hotel. Quickly, in order not to miss the motorcade, we got a police escort to stop traffic and lead us back to the hotel and pick up the reporter, who had overslept. Turns out that even White House reporters are human!
Later, after the president and his entourage returned from visiting the camp, they were whisked into the Wawel Castle, where he was to give a speech to a select audience composed of an elite mix of Poland?s intelligentsia, politicians, diplomats, and businessmen. The sidewalks all around the Wawel were also lined with endless crowds of people, all of whom were waiting in eager anticipation hoping to catch a glimpse of the president. Many were holding flags and others had signs; the signs were all favorable and it was so refreshing to see pro-American feelings displayed for once. On one particularly memorable sign it was written, "Forever United We Stand ? Poland and America."
Bush?s speech was his first speech after the Iraqi conflict concerning world affairs, and it was to be a major foreign policy statement. Before the crowd on the sun-drenched castle hill, President Bush laid down a more expanded agenda for America than just the global war on terrorism that has been his focus up to this point. He mentioned issues such as famines, HIV/AIDS, and development aid, and how America and Europe must work together to solve these deep problems.
Bush also made multiple references to Poland?s history, mentioning Kosciuszko, Poland?s first democratic constitution, and Pope John Paul II. He also compared the events of Sept. 11th to the Nazi invasion of Poland, saying that the 9/11 attacks "were as decisive as the attack on Pearl Harbor and the treachery of another September in 1939."
Of course, he also strongly praised Poland for her past military contribution, saying that, "in the battles of Afghanistan and Iraq, Polish forces served with skill and honor." Mr. Bush said, "America will not forget that Poland rose to the moment,? he claimed, and ended by thanking Poland for her friendship.
Immediately after his speech was over, we had to get the White House Press Corps quickly back to the Press Filing Center, from which they "filed" their stories and broadcasts. Various news broadcasters reported live from a balcony overlooking the Wawel and Wisla River, while others quickly emailed stories to their editors from their laptops. After they all filed, they got ready to leave with the president and start this all over again in St. Petersburg.
As they were leaving, I talked to a journalist, who told me that this stop was only the first on a whirlwind tour that included six countries in seven days, covering both Europe and the Middle East! But he said that this stop in Kraków was a great way to start off the trip and that he enjoyed the city and people very much. I told him that it was due to the legendary "Polish hospitality," and, of course, the magical city of Kraków.
Although it was an exciting 24 hours, as I watched Air Force One take off, I was happy that I only had to do one leg of the entire trip, and was instilled with a new found admiration for all the behind-the-scenes work that goes on for a presidential visit.


Hope continues for Corpus Christi

by Glenn Gramigna
A prominent Corpus Christi parishioner has reported to the Am-Pol Eagle that he was told by local Catholic Church officials that the Diocese will take over management of the parish complex in some form after the end of this month.
The Franciscan Order had announced that it was leaving Corpus Christi as of June 30, a stance which remains unchanged. The parishioner asked that his name not be used in connection with this story.
"The Diocese did send its building committee to take a look at the Corpus Christi complex and they gave a favorable report," the parishioner said. "They found that the buildings are basically in good shape, which is very important. We don?t know exactly what will be done, whether it will be an administrator or if maybe some retired priests will say Mass at Corpus Christi. But, I have been told that there will be some continuance of Corpus Christi after June 30."
This disclosure follows a reported meeting last week between Buffalo Bishop Henry Mansell and Franciscan Provincial Rev. Michael Kolodziej in the bishop?s downtown office.
A meeting between Corpus Christi parishioners and Rev. Kolodziej has been scheduled for June 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the church rectory. Also scheduled to be present is Southeast Buffalo Episcopal Vicar Msgr. Matthew Kopacz. However, no change in the Franciscans' plans to leave is expected to emerge from this session.
In other Corpus Christi news, parishioner Jim Serafin is currently working on a business plan for the facility which would propose keeping the parish viable after June 30. Also, another parishioner, Fred Jablonski, is seeking a meeting with East Side Pride executive director Kim Harmon to learn the results of her groupls meeting this week with Rev. Kolodziej in the Franciscan headquarters in Ellicott City, Maryland.
"I want us all to be working together rather than going off in different directions," Jablonski said.


For Sikorskis the end of Grandison's Candy is bittersweet

by Glenn Gramigna
The year was 1941 and the prospects for world peace were gloomy when the late William Grandison opened up his Grandison's Candy Store in the Broadway Market. As the years passed and World War II was followed by the "long twilight struggle" of the Cold War, Grandison?s remained a local landmark, thanks largely to its chocolate covered marshmallow and nut treats, known as "Charley Chaplins."
And, there were those delicious chocolate covered strawberry and pineapple treats, without which Easter would have been a letdown for thousands of kids.
Now Grandison's stepson, John Sikorski and his wife of 44 years, Patricia, will be closing the stand soon due to their mutual desire for a well deserved retirement. Still both they and their many customers continue to treasure wonderful memories of those glory days of the Broadway Market when John was active in the running of the Board and the whole world seemed to beat a path to Grandison?s every Christmas and Easter.
"I started working at the store in 1959 when I was only 20," recalls Mr. Sikorski. 'It was a lot of hard work and we were very busy most of the time. But, we always enjoyed seeing all the people who would come, often bringing their children. We would see one generation come and then we would see their children bringing their children and then their children bringing their kids. It was a wonderful thing."
Actually, it was a scene built as much on hard work as childish delight. In those days the store would be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, until 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, until 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturdays. During the holidays, the hours would be even longer.
Actually, long hours in the store were only part of the story. When the store wasn't open, the Sikorskis could often be found spending their time making the molds needed to form their uniquely shaped confections from chocolate bunnies to sponge candy treats.
"All of those molds would be made by hand," recalls current Broadway Market executive director Dick Fronczak. "It was all done by them and every single piece of candy would be filled with their love and desire to give only the best to their customers. You just can't find that kind of high quality candy these days. Also in those days, John was very active in the running of the Broadway Market and did very well in that capacity, serving as president and always working hard to make things better."
These days John and Patricia's main desire is to spend more time with their growing family including their four daughters and two grandsons. Yet, they still remember their Market years with great fondness.
"Like I've said, it was a lot of hard work but we will definitely miss our customers and the other merchants," says John Sikorski. "They were all nice people and we were happy to serve them all these years."


Butler Library to be home for Slawinski mural

by Edward S. Wiater
Professor Józef Slawinski's marvelous sgraffito mural St. Joseph Calasanctius, on death row for years at Graycliff Conservatory in Derby, NY, has not only gotten a reprieve but a warm home at the Butler Library at Buffalo State College on Elmwood Ave.
The permanent home was acknowledged by Buffalo State President Dr. Muriel A. Howard and Dr. Peter Gessner during a ceremony Friday outside the Butler Library. Dr. Gessner is president of the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo, the prime mover in the rescue of the sgraffito which faced destruction as a result of the historic restoration on the site which includes a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house.
The sgraffito was on a building on land purchased by the Piarist Order. A significant number of the priests came from Hungary with refugees after the Soviets crushed the Hungarian revolt in 1956. The Piarists founded Calasanctius School, one of the premier educational facilities in Buffalo.
However, with no further flow of Piarists from Hungary, the school was forced to close in 1998. With only three aging priests left in the Derby facility, the site was sold to the Graycliff Conservatory. Saving Professor Slawinski's great work of art became a major issue.
Strong initial urging to save the mural came from Bronislaus Trzyzewski, a long time activist in Buffalo Polonia. Additional pressure came from people such as Buffalo Councilman Joseph Golombek. The Polish Arts Club undertook the challenge to save the St. Joseph Calasanctius sgraffito and succeeded.
Dr. Howard, undeniably excited about the development, said the 12 by 18 foot sgraffito was an invaluable addition to Buffalo State. Because of the mural being at Buffalo State, she even went as far as to say, "I would not be surprised if some of our art students may not undertake the sgraffito form of art during their studies at our facility."
Jósef Slawinski was born in Poland in 1905 and died in Buffalo in 1983. His work can be found in Erie County Hall and Niagara Falls, as well as sites near Buffalo State College such as West Hertel Middle School and Assumption Church. Slawinski was also a member of the faculty at Buffalo State.
In her soft manner, his widow Wanda, who now works at Butler Library, thanked all who took part in saving the mural and those who found a home for it in Buffalo State. She called the effort a "Herculean" task.
Of all the speakers at the event, Bruce L. Fisher, a Calasanctius School alumnus, delivered without notes the most effective historical account of the Piarists, the Buffalo school and of Professor Slawinski's mural.

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