Walesa Pitches Investments in Poland : Europe: Leader urges Polish-Americans not to forget their motherland. He also tours the Reagan library.
Lech Walesa appealed to California’s Polish-American community Saturday to invest in the motherland, telling an audience at a Beverly Hills brunch: “Many Poles came to America. I’m expecting, I’m hoping, they will now bring their money in the other direction.”
The Polish president, on his first visit to the Southland, was repeatedly applauded and twice serenaded with the song “Sto Lat” (“May He Live 100 Years”) as he delivered a speech that was largely an appeal for investment in his economically stricken country.
He does not expect any Americans, regardless of whether they are of Polish origin, to invest for sentimental reasons, Walesa said. “Come to Poland and make money,” he urged, adding that if the Polish and other Eastern European economies do not turn around, there is a danger of a massive emigration to the rich countries of the West and possibly of a return of communism.
More than 1,000 members of California branches of the Polish-American Congress, some of whom came from as far away as the Bay Area, paid $100 each to honor Walesa at the event at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, with half the money going to charities in Poland.
They were rewarded with a speech delivered entirely in Polish with no translation from the podium. Walesa leaned over the lectern and gestured vigorously as he spoke, a delivery in the style of the labor organizer he used to be, while a translator at the side of the room quietly told reporters what the English equivalent was.
Later, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and his wife, Danuta, went to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in the hills above Simi Valley for lunch with the former President and a private tour of the facility before departing for Chicago.
After the tour, Reagan and Walesa posed for the cameras, standing next to the slab of the Berlin Wall that is on permanent display at the library, which is not yet open to the public.
As cameras clicked, the stocky Walesa playfully pantomimed pushing the wall over and invited Reagan to help him. The symbolism of the gesture was not lost on Reagan, who immediately joined Walesa in pushing against the wall for the photographers.
“California is a beautiful land,” Walesa said through an interpreter. “I hope everything will be done to keep it as it is.”
In Beverly Hills, it was clearly a day that Polish-Americans had long awaited. “This is very gratifying,” said Jan Wojciechowski of Van Nuys as he waited for the founder of the Solidarity labor movement to appear. “It’s great for us to see a man of his stature in person and to realize that he comes from a free Poland.”
In the introductions, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley paid tribute to Walesa for having proved that “with courage and determination” one person can make a difference in the world. “You gave new meaning to the word solidarity , Bradley said. “That word came to symbolize a determination to come together and to realize worthy goals.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said that as a result of Walesa’s leadership, “we’ve been able to see the Iron Curtain crumble and the Berlin Wall come down.” California Secretary of State March Fong Eu called him “a man who sparked the flames of democracy, which engulfed a continent and inspired the world.”
Walesa, however, said the political leaders had given him far too much credit for the democratization of Poland, which he characterized as a great collective effort.
“I’m convinced this generation will lead Poland to a civilization similar to American democracy,” he said, going on to say that by lifting all visa requirements for Americans visiting Poland, he hopes to encourage economic participation in the effort.
When American visitors leave Poland, Walesa said, they will be asked, “Did you do any business here?” and if they say no, they will be asked, “Why not?”
The Polish leader also appealed for patience from his audience on the matter of Soviet troops that remain on Polish soil.
“Sometimes people ask me, ‘When do you finally throw out Soviet troops?,’ ” he said. “It’s a question of time. We have to be wise. We can’t play dangerously with a bear, so we have to be reasonable.”
Walesa began the day, as he always does, with a 7:15 a.m. Roman Catholic Mass presided over by his own priest, Monsignor Franciszek Cybula of Gdansk, who travels with him. It took place at Beverly Hills’ Good Shepherd Church.