Ambassador Brzezinski’s Interview with Polvision TV

14 July 2022

Justyna Dobrzynska, Polvision TV: Good morning, Mr. Ambassador

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: and hello from Poland. Hello from Warsaw. Thank you, Justyna for having me.

Justyna Dobrzynska, Polvision TV: My name is Justyna Dobrzynska and I work for Polish Television. And thank you for having the time to speak with us.

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: Thank you for giving me the opportunity. I’m happy to make the time.  It’s an honor to be with you. So thank you.

Justyna Dobrzynska, Polvision TV: First, I would like to ask how you would characterize the current relations between Ukrainians and Poles?, how are Ukrainians finding Poland? And can they find work? Are the kids adjusting to school?

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski : That’s a great place to start. Because what is happening here Justyna, is a first ever. Never before has a country had as a national policy receiving refugees in mass number and placing them as part of a national policy into people’s homes and apartments. So your question in essence is: “Is it working?” And I have to tell you it is. And it’s working in the millions. More than 4 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed the Polish Ukrainian border into Poland. Millions have been placed into people’s homes. I recently read that over 300,000 have found work in Poland. Many of them are children, but there are working age adults, primarily women, because men of fighting age have to stay back in Ukraine. And so more than 300,000 have found work. I think many American states would be proud to announce that 300,000 basically jobs have been found in a matter of 120 days. That’s an impressive development. I can also tell you that morale is high.  Morale is high in Poland, as Poles undertake this important work that they’re doing. It’s my thinking, Justyna, that for young Poles who have gone to the border to help Ukrainians, for them this is 1939. And every Polish American who I’m speaking to, through your channel, understands what I mean when I say that, that in 1939 Polish resistance was tragically and traumatically crushed. And this is a chance once again, for Polish people to stand up against foreign oppressors, doing something for their next door neighbor. It is an awesome thing to witness. And I think the relations are extremely strong. I just met with the new Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland Vasil Zvarich, and I think he probably told me in the course of 40 minutes 40 times how much the Ukrainian people thank the people of Poland.

Justyna Dobrzynska, Polvision TV: The situation is changing.  What kind of help does Ukraine need now in Poland. Are the citizens of Poland providing it as enthusiastically as they did at the beginning of the war.

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: I am sure, as there is in every undertaking, there are challenges that have to be met every day. One important date coming up, Justyna, is September 1, the first day of school. And that will be an important marker. Can we have every school age Ukrainian child in school on day one. And I think that will be a logistical challenge that I pray and hope and trust the Polish educational system, the Polish government and the Polish people can meet, because care for children is the central organizing thesis for families that have children. And I think that that’s being worked on assiduously right now. Also finding jobs for other working age Ukrainian adults who are here. And so these and other challenges will continue to be manifest. One thing I did hear is that the four largest cities in Poland: Warsaw, Poznan, Wroclaw, Krakow in certain ways those are at capacity in terms of receiving so many Ukrainian refugees. And the government’s been trying to guide arriving Ukrainian refugees to villages in the countryside. And many refugees want to be in the city, as opposed to in the countryside. So there are logistical challenges that have to be met. And I’m sure there are others. But by and large, this is a runaway success story. Because what Poland has done is made sure there aren’t millions of additional refugees looking for someplace to go every night elsewhere in Europe.

Justyna Dobrzynska, Polvision TV: As ambassador, what did you see your role as after the war broke out against Ukraine? I’m sure your role has changed as you have taken on many unexpected responsibilities.

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: Well, thanks, Justyna, for that question. When I was in Ambassador school in Northern Virginia in October, I did think that my mission would look differently than it turned out. But I would say that I see my role as developing constructive alignments and engagements between American government and institutions, and their counterparts in Poland, and that started day one, after I was sworn in on December 22 of last year.  I’m glad I started on day one, because there wasn’t a moment to lose before the invasion of February 24. But alignments had already been developed, and that was, first and foremost, thanks to President Biden. President Biden made the decision that US intelligence should be released to our allies on the eastern flank, which of course includes Poland, but also the Baltic states, Slovakia, Romania.  An intelligence collaboration, and information sharing, and data sharing was well underway before war broke out.   That was a prescient, brilliant decision by President Biden, not to hold that intelligence close, but to share what we knew about the defensive and offensive structures of the Russian military, and to share what we knew about what the Russian political elite intended to do with those defensive and offensive structures, and they were spot on. It was the finest hour in recent times for our intelligence, and it was a courageous decision by President Biden. And since then, just to answer your question, what I do day in and day out, including today, is to create alignments between our militaries; given the designation recently of “permanent”, to the V Corps Forward Command, US Army headquarters in Poznan that has ever more significance; to make sure there’s alignment between our development and assistance agencies like USAID, and what is happening in Poland in terms of humanitarian relief; and then, of course, creating alignments between businesses. And that’s where, quite frankly, I turn to you, Justyna, and to Polish Americans, and I say to you, “Poland is open for business.”  You more than most, as Polish Americans, understand the business opportunities and the economic possibilities in the American Polish relationship. The natural resource of Poland is not oil, or some mineral that is mined.  The natural resource of Poland is the Polish people who are gifted in the sciences and technology. This is, after all, the land of Marie Curie-Sklodowska and Nicholas Copernicus.  The natural resource are these incredibly educated, young Polish people, hungry to work with global and international employers, eager to learn and very loyal. I think in certain ways the full potential of the American Polish business relationship has not been fully exploited. And I’d love to see you here now – especially now, because we want this relationship to be multidisciplinary, not just military to military or government to government, but people to people and business to business. And that’s where Polish Americans come in, so catalytically and so importantly.

Justyna Dobrzynska, Polvision TV: So we’re comparing relations between Poland and the USA have improved, especially given the prospects of a permanent American military base.

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: Justyna, never before have America and Poland been more meshed together, because never before have American soldiers been stationed either on a rotational basis, or a permanent basis in Poland. And we’re talking about over 10,000 soldiers, over 10,000 US soldiers all on Polish bases.  Something that I want to share is I go meet with US soldiers who are deployed in Poland all the time.  I meet with American soldiers who have “polskie pochodzenie” – the Polish background or Ukrainian background, and of course, they are the heroes that our grandparents wanted them to be.  Something even more heartwarming are the American soldiers, men and women, who have no connection with Poland, who never thought that they would be in Poland, and for whom Poland wasn’t wasn’t really something that they thought they would have as part of their lives. And when I meet with them, and they say, “Ambassador, we love it here. The people are so hospitable. They’re so friendly. They’re so embracing to us, as US soldiers.” I really love hearing that.

Justyna Dobrzynska, Polvision TV: Mr. Ambassador, do you think Poland is an intolerant or homophobic country?  We are often perceived this way by other countries. Is there a way to change this image?

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: Well, let me be very clear, as President Biden’s permanent representative, I say three words:  “America embraces equality.”  That’s who we are and what we stand for.  I feel that as I’ve made that messaging around Poland, it has been heard loud and clear.

Justyna Dobrzynska, Polvision TV: And the last question: What do you like best about Poland? What do you do in your free time? Have you discovered any interesting places?

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: What I love about Poland is the Polish people. There’s something warm, something genuine.  “Rzeczywiscie”, there’s something about Polish “gościnność” hospitality, that is very, very special.  Whether I’m in Gdynia or Rzeszow or Przemysl or Krakow or Wroclaw or Poznan or Gdansk, I feel that same warmth, and that same gościnność.  I feel that I have almost 40 million friends in this country. If you have one friend, you’re lucky.  To have 40 million friends, oh, my goodness, I have died and gone to heaven. So yes, I’m very happy here. Thank you.

Justyna Dobrzynska, Polvision TV: Thank you. And the last question, what cuisine do you like the most?

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: What cuisine do I like the most? Well, you know what?  My favorite restaurant now in Warsaw … Justyna, have you been to Mielzynski’s?  Mielzynski’s is a restaurant in Warsaw, there’s actually several of them: one in Mokotow over here and one there’s another one in another part of Warsaw. And Mielzynski is a Polish Canadian former hockey player. And he has set up a couple of restaurants. And it’s just lovely kind of “farm to fork” healthy food, some of it not so healthy. I try to say that it’s healthy. I love that restaurant.  So I would say that’s my favorite place to go for food and I love the seasonal quality of the food here: the cherries that have just come out now, the early summer strawberries, the apples in the fall. That’s something that to me, as someone who loves the outdoors, is very, very special.