August 2009

[You may have seen yesterday’s post on Gdynia Business Week, a program of Washington Business Week and the Seattle-Gdynia Sister City Association that the Embassy supported in a variety of ways.  Here’s the report on Friday’s events from my colleague Larry Grippo, who traveled to the event as part of the Embassy’s Speakers Bureau program.  If you are interested in inviting a U.S. diplomat to participate in your event in Poland, please visit this page for more information on Speakers Bureau.]

On Friday, August 21, I served as a judge for two events held at Ogolnoksztalace High School in Gdynia as part of Gdynia Business Week.  Approximately 80 students from 22 high schools in Gdynia, along with five students from Seattle, participated in a week long program that culminated in a stockholder presentation and trade show.  I and two other local judges first evaluated two student groups who presented the financial and operational results of their fictional companies.  Using hand drawn charts as visual aids, the students assumed roles as corporate executives and described their company’s performance over the past two years.  The students then answered our questions about their company.

 I then participated as perspective investor during a mock trade show.  This was a much noisier and more interactive part of the program.  I was given several thousand “investor bucks” to give to the companies with the best new product presentation at the trade.  I walked around the trade show venue, listened to students’ sales pitches and discussed the merits of investing his money in their companies.  I was very impressed by the students’ creativity, enthusiasm and high level of fluency in English.  I was not surprised that the “painless cure for liver cancer” won the trade show event.

After the competition, I joined the other judges and the U.S. and local organizers of Gdynia Business Week for a lunch reception.  Everyone was pleased with how the students performed during the week, and the organizers promised to look into bringing the program back to Gdynia next year.

Warsaw & Chicago, Illinois.  Minsk Mazowiecki & Lacey, Washington.  Krakow & San Francisco, California.  Gdynia & Seattle, Washington.  Chelm & Knoxville, Tennessee.  What do all these pairs have in common?  They’re Polish-American “Sister Cities” – associations designed to bring our two countries closer together by creating connections between an American and a Polish city that have a lot in common.

The Seattle-Gdynia Sister City Association links two thriving port cities through exchanges and cultural programs.  For the past six years, the association has brought students from Gdynia to Seattle to participate in Washington Business Week, a program for high school students that teaches entrepreneurial skills, teamwork, and creativity.  In 2009, with support from Washington-area businesses, the Foundation for Private Enterprise, and the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw (among others), the Sister City Association decided to bring this program to Gdynia.

For over a week, the City of Gdynia hosted 100 Polish students, 4 American students, 20 Polish teachers, and 11 advisers from companies based inthe Pacific Northwest.  Ambassador Victor Ashe traveled to Gdynia for the program’s opening, and over the week the students heard from such figures as Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament; Janusz Reiter, former Polish Ambassador to the United States; Mayor of Gdynia Wojciech Szczurek; Gdynia Deputy Mayors Michal Guc, Ewa Lowkiel, Boguslaw Stasiak, and Marek Stepa; and Michal Jaworski from Microsoft, Poland. 

Representatives from Washington Business Week at the U.S. Embassy

Representatives from Gdynia Business Week at the U.S. Embassy

On Monday, August 24th, we had the honor of  hosting many of the Americans who helped make Gdynia Business Week possible, including Mike Waske of the Seattle-Gdynia Sister City Association, Steve Hyer from Washington Business Week, and many other people who worked hard to make this program happen.  We thank them for giving the Embassy an opportunity to get involved in this program and wish the Seattle-Gdynia Sister City Association and Gydnia Business Week great success in their continued cooperation.


Gdynia Mayor, Wojciech Szczurek; Gdynia Deputy Mayors Michal Guc, Ewa Lowkiel, Boguslaw Stasiak, and Marek Stepa; former Polish Ambassador to the United States, Janusz Reiter; and Michal Jaworski from Microsoft, Poland.

Last week, Łukasz Szozda, the young Polish filmmaker who won the grand prize among European entrants in this year’s international “Democracy is…” Video Challenge, participated in a web chat with young people across the globe. His creative film was played again – for those who didn’t get a chance to see it when it came out – and Łukasz answered questions. We are presenting some of the most interesting questions and answers below and invite everyone to read the full webchat transcript here. To view other films by Łukasz, please visit his homepage:

Q: How did you develop the concept for your film?
Luke: I just took the simplest ideas of democracy that came to my mind and tried to illustrate them in an entertaining and interesting way.

Q: How difficult was it to do an animation video?
Luke: For me… easier than to make a normal video. It depends on what you are good at. I am an animator, so I express my thoughts this way. Animation takes time but that’s the way I like to describe world.

Q: I have read that the people of Poland are somewhat disappointed with the way things have turned out in post-communist Poland. Do you think Poles are disappointed with democracy?
Luke: I think it depends on the people. There will always be some that are unhappy, whatever the system. I think it’s good we were able to win Democracy in Poland after all years of communism and even though it might not be perfect, it is still better than it was before.

Q: How long did it take you to make the movie?
Luke: It took a couple of days to figure out the concept, we were having a brainstorm with my fiancé which ideas of democracy would be best to outline, then how to illustrate them, then another couple of days to make the animation, and another to add the sound. I would say it took about three weeks.

As part of our American Experts in Poland program, Professor Robert Shapiro  from the Judaic Studies Department at Brooklyn College, will visit Łódź from August 17 through 31, 2009.

Professor Shapiro will give lectures and conduct workshops in conjunction with the 65th anniversary of the uprising of the Lodz Ghetto.  The topic of his presentation will be the pre-war history of Jewish self-government in Lodz and the history of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto. His seminar on the “Litzmannstadt Ghetto” on August 28 at 15:00 is open to the public, and will be organized by the Center for Jewish Research at the University of Łódź’s Institute of History. Those interested in participating should email

36 Hours in Warsaw by Denny Lee appeared in the weekend edition of the New York Times and immediately sparked controversy. Some like it because the author describes more than the obvious “must see” tourist sites. Others criticize Lee’s portrayal of Warsaw as a city slowly emerging from the gray cloud of communism still hovering over it.  Magdalena Górnicka, the talented columnist and writer who won this year’s edition of the Wprost and U.S. Embassy essay contest, was clearly outraged. “According to Denny Lee, a weekend in Warsaw is a challenge for those brave men who are not afraid to venture out to this faraway city at the end of the world, where Coke billboads started to appear only after accession to the EU,” she writes.  In fact, the tone of Lee’s article can be disappointing to those who came to appreciate Warsaw for its cosmopolitan chic, rich cultural scene, excellent restaurants, and truly unique character. Contrary to what Lee writes, contemporary Warsaw doesn’t need to aspire to be like other European capitals, including Berlin. It is mesmerising in its own way, not a carbon copy of other cities Denny Lee deems great. “The next Berlin?” he asks and concludes (having visited just two galleries and one museum) that “reports of Warsaw’s up-and-coming art scene may be exaggerated.”

Warsaw is a unique, truly fascinating city but to discover this, one has to spend some time here, definitely more than 36 hours.  I don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing the writer spent a very disappointing weekend in Warsaw. It was probably late fall, raining and cold, and Mr. Lee clearly missed the opportunity to enjoy some excellent traditional Polish cuisine.  In a paragraph titled “No Pirogies” he writes that “Poland isn’t known for its gastronomic delights” (excuse me?) and while he praises the famous U Kucharzy restaurant, he focuses on the “freshly slaughtered” dishes which include veal brain on toast, stuffed beef and baked perch.  Dinner anyone?

ConxOn Friday August 14, the European winner of the Democracy Video Challenge, Łukasz Szozda, will participate in a webchat—a great way to connect audiences across the globe. The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw encourages everyone to participate. For details on the webchat, please click here. Łukasz Szozda won the grand prize among European entrants in the YouTube/U.S. Department of State Democracy Video Challenge.   He will travel to New York, Washington DC, and Hollywood in October, where he and the five other grand prize winners from other regions around the world will meet with democracy activists and members of the film and television industry.  To see Lukasz Szozda’s winning entry, click here. For more information on other webchat series please follow this link

Mr. Szozda’s video is one of over 900 entries from 95 countries that competed for six grand prizes. The Democracy Video Challenge ran from October 2008 through January 2009, promoted in Poland by the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, the U.S. Consulate General in Krakow, MTV Poland, the Center for Citizenship Education, and POLIS – the association of young journalists.   Three Polish semi-finalists were selected by an open vote and were announced by legendary Polish film director Andrzej Wajda at the New Media/New Democracy Forum in March 2009 at Warsaw’s Fabryka Trzciny. A jury chaired by award-winning director Michael Apted and renowned economist Hernando de Soto selected three finalists from each region, with Mr. Szozda’s film competing for the grand prize from Europe. From May 15 to June 15, 2009, people from all over the world voted through YouTube for their favorite films.