October 13, 2022
Palace on the Water
Marek, thank you for the kind introduction. What an honor to be here this morning as you begin this day of critically important dialogue. A very special welcome to the Kosciuszko Foundation Board members joining us from the United States.
“Za naszą i waszą wolność” or “For Your Freedom and Ours.” Those words are forever tied to Tadeusz Kosciuszko, the Polish-American hero for whom this organization is named. Two centuries later, you are living up to the words of this patriot who stood up for liberty and freedom. He would be so proud.
Poland, the United States, our allies and partners, the Kosciuszko Foundation, private companies, freedom fighters around the globe – we all have combined forces to stop Putin in his tracks by providing support to the Ukrainian people.
Now midway through the 8th month of Russia’s brutal further invasion of Ukraine, we must not give up our lifeline of assistance. What we are doing is working. That support is saving lives and lifting spirits.
The leadership the Kosciuszko Foundation has demonstrated since the very start of the war has been nothing short of remarkable. It is truly an inspiration. You took action that was both strategic and timely, decisive and collective.
You immediately shifted resources to Stand with Ukraine. Over $1.5 million has been raised for the Help Ukraine Fund, money that goes directly to the millions of refugees, mainly women and children, who fled the war for safety in Poland.
Some of that money was also used to host a camp for sixty children from Yavoriv, Ukraine, this summer.
Those kids have been through so much and have witnessed horrors no child ever should – they’ve seen schools and neighborhoods destroyed; families have been separated, they’re scared and anxious.
They came to Cieszanow, Poland, to find an escape through education, through fun, and for the simple joy of being a kid, free from fear. They took part in an English language immersion program alongside Polish children.
Ukrainian teachers and American educators led the instruction. It was a meshing of cultures.
After two weeks everyone returned home and brought those experiences with them. It is something they will never forget.
These educational and cultural exchanges evoke such a powerful level of understanding for both young and old. It can provide an openness and tolerance that changes perspectives.
The Kosciuszko Foundation understands this so well. You have been empowering young people for decades giving academics a chance to study and learn in a foreign country.
The academic exchanges between Poland and the United States are the cornerstone of what you are all about.
I can speak from experience of the value of this eye-opening approach. In the early 1990s, I was a Kosciuszko grantee.
As a 20-year-old living in the United States, I watched from thousands of miles away as the Berlin Wall fell and the divide between East and West crumbled.
This symbolized a new beginning in Central Europe. I knew I had to be here, and I was drawn to my father’s homeland in Poland.
I did some research and found the Kosciuszko Foundation. I applied for a grant, and you gave me an incredible opportunity. I spent the summer in Krakow learning about Polish history.
I discovered a deeper understanding of what it meant to be a Polish-American, to have the name Brzezinski.
That summer charted the course for the rest of my life. A year later I became a Fulbright scholar, and I would go on to write a book about Polish constitutionalism.
Though I did not know it at the time, those couple of years three decades ago were incredibly informative in preparing me to become the U.S. Ambassador to Poland.
Kosciuszko Foundation, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
And just as I was inspired here 30 years ago, this year the Polish people have risen to the moment, setting an example for the rest of the world with unparalleled generosity and overwhelming response to the crisis next door.
This is a very important point so I want to convey it in Polish language:
· Polska ma wiele mocnych stron.
· np. silną gospodarkę.
· np. potencjał innowacyjności.
· Teraz zobaczyliśmy jeszcze: zdolność do szybkiej reakcji całego społeczeństwa i mobilizacji.
· To znaczy: czasami kryzys może opóźnić reakcję.
· Ale nie w Polsce. Tutaj w lutym mogliśmy zobaczyć zdolność do szybkiej mobilizacji całego społeczeństwa.
· Ameryka miała podobne doświadczenia:
· Atak na Pearl Harbor zmobilizował Amerykanów do szybkiego działania w przemyśle wojskowym.
· Drugi przykład, to: lot na Księżyc w 1969 r. spowodował ogromny rozwój technologiczny.
· Kryzys na Ukrainie spowodował ogromną mobilizację w Polsce.
· To daje nadzieję na głębokie zmiany.
I am awed. I am amazed. And I am tremendously proud.
Young people have played an important role here. They are hosting fundraisers on social media, organizing clothing drives; they’ve volunteered their time and money to help the Ukrainian people.
This next generation of leaders are finding their purpose. They are learning what the words “For Your Freedom and Ours” truly means.
A young woman from Rzeszów who in 2022 organized a clothing drive for Ukrainians and could apply for a Kosciuszko Foundation fellowship in 2023, could go on to become the President of Poland in 20 or 30 years.
Marzena, an engineer from Poland whom I hosted at my residence in May, is now at Penn State University on a Kosciuszko Foundation Fellowship.
Her research on water and wastewater systems may propel her into leadership roles as we work to protect and ensure safe access to one of the world’s most critical resources.
Today we will hear about the consequences of the war but there are many unintended consequences that Putin didn’t count on. Ukraine’s resolve, the united effort of the free world, and the power that young people have to change it.
This is a moment of political awakening, and the Kosciuszko Foundation is investing in the next generation.
Thank you again for everything you’ve done for me and the next generation of leaders.