NEW BRITAIN - Piotr Wilczek, Poland’s ambassador to the United States, visited the city Friday to celebrate the grand opening of an honorary Polish consulate here - the first in Connecticut.
Wilczek began his day with a lunch at the Belvedere Café and Restaurant, where he met with Honorary Consul Darek Barcikowski and local Polish-American entrepreneurs.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal also attended the lunch.
The ambassador toured the city, visited local manufacturer Polamer Precision, met with entrepreneurs and visited Central Connecticut State University.
At 5 p.m., Wilczek joined community leaders at the Pulaski Club for a roundtable discussion on economic and political relations between the United States and Poland. Led by Barcikowski, city, state and national officials discussed relations, trade and the Polish community in Connecticut. Local and national politics also were discussed.
“This is my first-ever visit to Connecticut,” Wilczek told the group. “I already feel like I’ve learned a lot.”
The consulate celebrated its grand opening Friday night with a reception at Haller Post 111.
After the playing of the Polish and U.S. national anthems and a prayer from Msgr. Daniel Plocharczyk, people congratulated Barcikowski on his appointment.
“This is an important day for Connecticut, and New Britain especially,” said state Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain.
On behalf of the Connecticut General Assembly, state Rep. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, presented certificates of congratulations to Wilczek and Barcikowski.
“This is certainly a historic day,” Gerratana said.
Wilczek then had some kind words for the city.
“During my tour of my city earlier today, I had the opportunity to see and hear about the incredible work being done here in New Britain - to not only maintain, but in fact to enrich and further promote our Polish heritage,” Wilczek said. “The Polish-American community has been a cornerstone of this city for over a century.”
Wilczek congratulated Barcikowski on his appointment and said he looked forward to working with him.
“For someone who has worked on behalf of the Polish-American community and Polish-American affairs my entire adult life, assuming these responsibilities to me is a natural extension of my work,” Barcikowski said.
Barcikowski and his family came to the U.S. from Poland in December 1987. At the time, he didn’t know English or much about life in America. Now, he said, he is honored to work as a connection between Poland and the United States.
“Our generation has reaped so many benefits of the hard labor and love for their ancestral homeland from the generations that came before us,” Barcikowski said. “It is my ultimate goal to motivate and inspire my generation.”
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.