LINDEN, NJ — Polish President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda caused quite a stir when they visited Linden’s Polish community, following Mayor Derek Armstead’s invitation. The couple’s visit to Linden High School led to bumper-to-bumper traffic, as security made sure the area was airtight. Approximately 600 people packed the auditorium to enjoy Polish performances, a distribution of international awards to those who have made contributions to Poland and speeches made in Polish to honor the couple’s visit.
“Today, we had the president of Poland come to our great city,” Armstead said on Thursday, Sept. 23. “We were celebrating the Polish community. Linden is a town that had a very large Polish population.… They had a tremendous part in the development of the town, and those of them who are still here still contribute tremendously to our town. (President Duda) gave some awards to the people who continue to make contributions to our society and to keep the Polish presence strong and to continue the teachings of the Polish tradition.
“This is the first time that a head of state has ever come to visit and be at a functional venue in Linden,” the mayor continued. “It feels magnificent to have him here, and we’re just delighted.”
“The president was speaking to his people; perhaps he was also speaking to his people back home,” 4th Ward Councilman Imam Alfred Muhammed said on Thursday, Sept. 23. “When you’re the leader of a national group, wherever one travels, one may be speaking overseas, but they’re always speaking to their local audience.
“I feel quite honored of the Polish president being here today,” he continued. “It’s a privilege that we have a powerful mayor that is strong enough to attract the president. Leaders just have to choose where they come, and there are a lot of towns, but it’s significant. It says a lot about Mayor Armstead, and it says a lot about those (with whom) he chooses to keep company. I know a lot of political leaders and … Mayor Armstead is the only one that could’ve invited me into politics. I was always asked to come into politics, and I took my role as a religious and race leader. So, for the mayor of the city of Linden to ask me to come in, I accepted, where I have turned other people down. It just says a lot about Mayor Armstead.”
Industrial painting company business owner Daniel Gabryszewski, who does a great deal of work with Bayway Refinery and local power plants, such as Linden PSE&G, is of Polish descent and attended the event to hear Duda speak.
“The mayor set up a beautiful event with the Polish president and a lot of … Polish Americans had a beautiful visit with the president,” Gabryszewski said on Thursday, Sept. 23. “Both my parents were born in Poland. I was raised here, but, as they say, ‘born in America with Polish parts.’ I went to a Polish school as a kid, and I had the luck of having that culture and being a part of it and to also be an American as well.
“I was amazed to see him here. It just made me like him even more,” he continued. “When you get to see someone that took his time to visit a small town such as Linden and really goes out of his way to see his constituents and make himself present is amazing. During his speech, what he said about being so thankful that we continue the Polish schools and speaking Polish and carrying on that culture and tradition here, as well as the American values, that was beautiful to hear, and it meant a lot to me.
“He reminded us of how hard my parents’ generations had it coming here and making it easier for us,” said Gabryszewski. “A lot of things hit home, and just hearing him talk without a teleprompter for that long, you could see how intelligent he was. This was an amazing sight to see.”
“I came to see the president of Poland,” said Plaza Family Haircutters hairdresser Agnes Blizniak, another Linden resident of Polish descent, on Thursday, Sept. 23. ”This event was really nice. That was the first time ever for me, so it was different and interesting. I felt like I was back in Poland.”
Second Ward Councilman Barry Javick, who is of Polish and Ukrainian descent, also attended the huge event and expressed a great deal of enthusiasm about hearing Duda speak to the Polish community.
“I had to come out to see the president of Poland. I think this is a great thing for our town,” Javick said on Thursday, Sept. 23. “We just had the Polish festival in town and we had such a great turnout. Every year, it gets bigger and bigger. The president was wonderful and he is a great president and I welcome him to the United States.
“I would say about 600 people were here. I think Linden is going to entertain a lot of people, because Linden is up-and-coming and it’s a terrific town,” he continued. “Development is going through the roof; we’ve kept the municipal tax and (are) always bringing it down every year. It’s one of the towns we’re winning awards for, so I just foresee this town as continuing to do great things, and everyone wants to live here right now.”
Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman