Each year Western New York is becoming more and more a melting pot of various cultures and ethnicities from around the world. Since the mid-1800’s, Buffalo, the “City of Good Neighbors”, has been home to a large population of people of Polish decent. In fact, Western New York boasts the distinction of claiming the largest concentration of Poles outside of Poland, approximately 300,000.
That distinction landed Buffalo the honor of hosting July’s 60 Million Congress Global Polonia Summit during Buffalo Polonia Weekend, July 18th – 21st. While July might seem a ways away, organizers from Poland were here this past weekend to work on details of the Summit.
60 Million Congress founders Kamil Szymanski and Zbigniew Klonowski met with local Summit organizer Joseph Mikolaj Rej Jr., President of One Polonia Inc., Polonia advocate, and WNY native. Szymanski and Klonowski explained that the 60 Million Congress was established as a result of discussions between Polish dignitaries and representatives of Polonia from around the world, with a goal of globally building a community of Poles working together to boost the economies of Poland, as well as other nations through business collaborations. “60 Million” represents the number of Poles throughout the world who they consider to be part of one community – Polonia.
Summit locations for 2019 include Miami in February, London in May, Berlin in June, Buffalo in July, Rzeszow (Buffalo’s sister city in Poland) in August, and New York City in October. While Buffalo may look like the odd man out on this list of high-brow cities, its large concentration of Polish-Americans and welcoming community earned it a spot for a second year in a row.
During Buffalo Polonia Weekend, over a dozen buildings, structures, and sites, including Niagara Falls, will be lit in traditional Polish colors of red and white throughout the weekend. Tentative plans for the Summit and the weekend include:
- Friday morning and afternoon – business conference to boost tourism, trade, and investment between nations as well as medical and biotech conferences between doctors from Poland and Buffalo. Attendees to include Anna Marie Anders, Secretary of State of the Republic of Poland; Rafel Milczarski, CEO of LOT Polish Airlines to discuss a potential relationship with the Buffalo International Airport or the Niagara Falls International Airport; Lukasz Szumowski, Poland’s Minister of Health; Piotr Wilczek, Polish Ambassador to the U.S.; and Daniel Kawczyski, the first Polish born member of British Parliament.
- Friday evening Polish Happy Hour will be open to the public and the official kick-off to the weekend.
- Saturday morning and afternoon – continuation of medical and economic conferences from previous day.
- Saturday evening gala with General Pulaski Association, at The Mansion on Delaware Avenue.
- Sunday mass at St. Stanislaus Church, the mother church of Polonia in Buffalo.
- Sunday afternoon weekend conclusion with the 81st Annual General Pulaski Day Parade, the theme of which will be the 100th anniversary of Poland and United States relations.
Dr. Pawel Kalinski is the Director of Cancer Vaccine and Dendritic Cell Therapies at the Center of Immunotherapy at Roswell Park. Born in Poland, Dr. Kalinski received his medical degree from Warsaw Medical Academy in Poland and his PhD in Immunology from the University of Amsterdam. Now a proud Buffalonian, Dr. Kalinski was invited by Rej to be part of the 60 Million Congress. Dr. Kalinski helped to organize meetings between Roswell leaders and partners with counterparts in Poland. According to Dr. Kalinski, Poland’s growth since the demise of communism 30 years ago has enabled Poland to invest significant funds in the U.S. for medical training and research. He sees many opportunities for collaboration between the two countries in biomedical and biotech fields and looks to the Summit in July to build on those opportunities.
Like Dr. Kalinski, organizers of the Summit see abundant opportunity for collaboration with Poles around the world, including Buffalo. In an article published on Emerging-Europe.com, Marcin Piatkowski of World Bank stated, “Poland has become by far the most successful economy in Europe. Since 1989 (fall of communism in Poland), it has increased its GDP per capita by almost 150 percent, more than any other country on the continent.” He continues, “Given its high quality of human capital, relatively high level of productivity combined with low wages, macroeconomic stability, improving infrastructure, open borders to trade and capital and so on, Poland’s economy is just too competitive to slow down any time soon.” Furthermore, The Brookings Institute states, “Over two decades, Poland experienced the most stable high growth in the European Union with an average rate of 3.7 percent a year, earning it the nickname of the European Tiger.”
Aside from economic and medical opportunities, Poland has grown into a thriving tourist destination, with English spoken by nearly everyone.
Bleak, decrepit buildings have been replaced with architectural skyscrapers, while historic landmarks have been restored, and infrastructure has been modernized. Situated along the Baltic Sea, coastal cities lure visitors from around the world.
Several mountain ranges throughout the country offer ample hiking adventures and ski resort destinations, with magnificent vistas and loads of fresh air. Cuisine is not all pierogi and sauerkraut, Michelin rated restaurants can be visited throughout the country, while traditional faire is easily found and still a favorite.
Western New York stands to gain from this tourist boom if LOT Polish Airlines does indeed decide to add Buffalo or Niagara Falls to their route map. This is one of the many discussions that will take place at the Summit in July. If LOT were to service Buffalo or Niagara, there might be a potential for Western New Yorkers to take advantage of inexpensive flights to other cities in Poland and Europe via LOT’s main hub in Warsaw.
As venues are secured and special guests are planned, details will be updated with another posting closer to the weekend. In the meantime, organizers want to welcome one and all to the festivities, parties, and regalia of the Buffalo Polonia Weekend. Mark your calendars for July 19th – 21st. While you’re eagerly waiting, catch a Polish Happy Hour to embrace your Polish heritage if you are a Pole, or to learn more about Polish culture if you are not.
An old Polish proverb goes, “Guest in House is God in House.” As the “City of Good Neighbors,” it is fitting that Buffalo cherishes and celebrates its close ties to Poland.