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Tuesday, 8 November 2005

A visit of the President of the Republic of Poland and the First Lady to London

On 8 November 2005, the President of the Republic of Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, and the First Lady began their two-day farewell visit to the UK.
The visit began with a meeting between the President of the Republic of Poland and the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at 10 Downing Street.
In the course of the meeting, the two politicians discussed Polish-British bilateral relations and the situation in the European Union and in the world. The Polish President offered thanks for the invitation to London and underlined the fact that the visit was the crowning of the decade of his personal efforts to promote Polish-British co-operation. During that period, Poland became a NATO member, and thus our relations turned into relations between allies. Furthermore, the Polish President thanked the Prime Minister for being especially friendly to Poland and the Polish people and called for continued interest in our country. At Prime Minister Blair’s request, the Polish President presented his assessment of the political and economic situation in Poland. He assured the PM that the course of Polish foreign policy, oriented towards strengthening Poland’s position within the European Union and NATO, would remain unchanged. He recommended co-operation with Poland’s new authorities and expressed the hope that Prime Minister Blair would soon meet with the new Polish Prime Minister. Subsequently, the two politicians assessed the informal meeting of the European Council at Hampton Court. The Polish President thanked the British Presidency for its strong commitment to reaching an agreement on the EU’s New Financial Perspective. He stressed that Poland was anxious to see a compromise among the Twenty Five as early as possible, for the present situation was conducive to cutting down the funding Poland was eligible for, for investments in the expansion of the Polish infrastructure and rural development. The Polish President congratulated Britain on its success in bringing about the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia. Another issue to be addressed at the meeting was the situation in Europe, including the recent developments in France and the political situation in Germany. Also, the prospects for stabilizing the situation in Iraq were discussed and the future of the international stabilization mission to the country. The Polish President emphasized that Poland, as a responsible partner and ally, was fulfilling its obligations arising from UN resolutions, NATO decisions and bilateral agreements. However, it will be up to Poland’s new government and new President to decide on the future of the Polish involvement in the stabilization mission in Iraq.
Subsequently, the President of the Republic of Poland participated in a meeting with representatives of the Polish community in the UK held at the Polish Embassy in London.
In the course of the meeting, President Alexander Kwaśniewski awarded State decorations to members of the Polish community in Britain in recognition of their outstanding service.
In the afternoon, the President of the Republic of Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, took part in a meeting devoted to the plans for the construction of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, held at the office of Prudential plc.
Addressing the meeting, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski said, among other things:
Let me welcome warmly all the participants of our meeting. I wish to express my sense of gratitude to the organizers: the Prudential Insurance Company, the Prudence Foundation and the association of friends of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in the United Kingdom. Following up on your initiative, I am very happy to be able to personally brief the representatives of the British Government, Ambassadors, representatives of the British business community who are active in Poland, members of the Jewish Community, historians and cultural milieus who are gathered here on this unprecedented project. The museum in Warsaw is a great venture to document the almost one-thousand years’ presence of Jews in my home country, in our common home country.
Today, more than half a century away from the dark years of war and the Nazi occupation, not only do we wish to remember, to pay tribute to the victims, but also to build new bonds between our peoples. The Jews arriving in Poland, especially young ones, more and more often tend to visit places of martyrdom as well as towns and cities where their forefathers used to live centuries or decades ago. They look for tangible proofs of the living presence of their ancestors, they want to get an insight into this microcosm where they had lived. And also the Poles, especially young ones, show an increasing interest in the Jewish tradition, Jewish history and customs which are inextricably linked to our own history.
This mutual interest is invaluable. In my opinion, we should do our utmost to keep this interest growing, acting in the name of mutual understanding and to promote closer ties. The very idea of building a Museum is an excellent way to cater to this bilateral need. This is why it gave me great satisfaction to lend the Honorary Patronage of the President of Poland to this initiative. Two months ago, at the donor meeting in San Francisco, I spoke about our intention to build a facility where the tragedy of the Holocaust, treated with all due respect, would feature prominently at the exhibition. But as a nation who more than once in history has raised itself to live again we also want to share with the whole world our profound belief that life will always prevail!
Ladies and Gentlemen!
In the Museum so wonderfully designed by Finnish architects, we want to restore the memory of the Jewish world, of the Polish-Jewish world.  This will be a unique tour to see the traces left by many generations of Jews who have lived among us. State-of-the-art multimedia techniques will be used in arranging the exhibition and presenting the exhibits. Aided by these, we will commemorate great religious leaders such as Baal Shem Tov or Mordecai Alter, the political leaders of the Bund and many other Jewish parties, the founding fathers of the state of Israel: David Ben Gurion, Menachem Begin and my friend Shimon Peres who chairs the International Committee for the construction of the Museum.
We want to restore the picture of poor shtetl’s as well as rich palaces of industrialists, we want to recall the memory of Polish patriots: Colonel Berek Joselewicz who died for Poland in combat against the Austrians and heroic Jewish soldiers in the Polish army fighting on the slopes of Monte Cassino. We want to bring back to memory the theatre of Estera Rachela Kamińska, the achievements of the illustrious pianist Artur Rubinstein and the exquisite literary works of Isaac Bashevic Singer: the Jews descending from Poland without whom Polish culture and, indeed, world culture would be unimaginable.
Certainly, this pantheon will also include persons so well known here, in the United Kingdom, such as the excellent artist Feliks Topolski, the famous poet Marian Hemar and the prominent publisher Mieczysław Grydzewski, to mention just three names out of a much longer list.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
The Polish initiative has attracted a lot of interest. I discussed the Museum project with President Moshe Katzav, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, with American and European leaders of Jewish communities and each of them gave me encouragement and tangible support. Noteworthy is that the idea meets with equally vivid response in Israel and in the Jewish community in the US and in many countries on our continent, such as Germany and Sweden to mention but a few. This is bracing since the museum should serve not only the Poles and the Jews but also the new Europe as a whole, our common home. The home where there must be no place for xenophobia, racism or anti-Semitism.
I am very happy that also in the United Kingdom, the country which now presides over the work of the European Union, the general public wish to play a meaningful role in the establishment of this institution. At this point, let me convey our warmest thanks to the British committee which supports this project, the body which has on board former British Ambassador to Poland Sir Stephen Barrett, Mr Ben Helfgott, President of Survivors 45-Aid Society, as well as Mr Shannie Ross, Mr Jan Chodakowski, Lady Levene and Professor Zbigniew Pełczyński.
Not all of you present here may know that the committee is very efficient in raising the funds for the state-of-the-art exhibition in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. This will be developed by Event Communications Ltd. This firm, one of Europe’s best, specialises in providing content and interior design for permanent exhibitions for interactive educational museums. Thanks to the funds from the Hanadiv Charitable Trust and Polonia Aid Foundation Trust, it was possible to start the design work for the Warsaw project. I wish to thank wholeheartedly those two institutions for their noble gesture.
I know that in this distinguished gathering whom I am addressing there are potential new donors ready to support the construction of this unique establishment which has no precedence in Central and Eastern Europe. I warmly encourage you to lend your support to this unique project.
Last but not least, I wish to offer once again my warmest thanks to our hosts tonight: to Mr Mark Tucker, Prudential Group Chief Executive in particular. This time not only for your hospitality and for organizing our meeting, but also for your generosity. I am referring to the assistance that the Museum construction project has obtained from the Prudence Foundation established by Prudential. Thanks to this assistance, we could continue with historical research and prepare the terms of the international competition for architects. I am very pleased to find out that among the many projects sponsored by the Foundation, the one in support of the Museum is the most important. Many thanks once again!
Ladies and Gentlemen!
We would very much like to make the Museum of the History of Polish Jews a major source of information and education for the young people world-wide, also for the young people from the United Kingdom. We would like it to close the gap in memory between the generations, the gap felt more acutely now than ever, not only in Poland, as I was telling you. We would like it to serve the cause of bringing the Poles and the Jews closer together, and on a broader scale: the cause of bringing many various nations closer to one another. And at the same time, in its part devoted to the great tragedy of the Holocaust, we would like it to be a meaningful sign of warning against the destructive power of evil, hatred and xenophobia.
As President of the Republic of Poland during whose term this excellent idea has begun to materialize, I wish to take this opportunity today to invite all of you, Ladies and Gentlemen, to visit the Museum. I trust that many of you present here will come directly to its inauguration in 2009. So see you in Warsaw in four years’ time! I look forward to seeing you again in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, to whose creation you have so greatly contributed.
On 9 November 2005, the second day of the visit, the President of the Republic of Poland and the First Lady will be received at a farewell audience by HM Queen Elisabeth II.
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