NEW BRITAIN – As the U.S. Ambassador to Poland Piotr Wilczek sampled a strawberry pierogi at Euro Plate Saturday afternoon, he admitted that he was very at home on Broad Street.
“It feels like I’m back in Poland,” Wilczek said. “The Polish grocery store was very impressive. I’m very impressed overall.”
Wilczek went on a whirlwind tour of Little Poland Saturday as part of the festivities surrounding the appointment of Darek Barcikowski as the first Honorary Consul for Connecticut. Barcikowski, publisher and managing partner of White Eagle Media, will have office hours and conduct consulate affairs at the newly opened Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Poland in the Polam Federal Credit Union building at 55 Broad St.
As an honorary consul, the 39-year-old Barcikowski, who is very involved in New Britain’s Polish community, will help Polish nationals and others with consulate issues and connect with universities while promoting student exchanges and represent the Polish government in the community. One of his duties will be to promote trade between Poland and Connecticut, which is already blossoming, said Sabina Klimek, Trade and Investment Section Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York.
“Poland exports to Connecticut one-half billion dollars yearly,” she said. “It’s one of our most important states.”
The reason Little Poland was attractive for an Honorary Consulate office is that it has a large population of Polonia, Polish individuals outside Poland, and Polish businesses, she said. The Ambassador toured two Polish factories Friday and held a round-table discussion with state and local dignitaries including Senator Richard Blumenthal and State Rep. Elizabeth Esty. He also met with hundreds of Polish residents during a reception.
After a breakfast Saturday morning, he was treated to a taste of Little Poland as he toured businesses that were packed with customers. Roly Poly Bakery & Deli provided a stunning backdrop for the kick off of the tour with general manager Anna Piotrkowicz explaining the various fresh and smoked delicacies, many of which are store made or imported from Poland as customers bustled by.
Customers are of all nationalities, said manager Sylwia Kaczorek. “We have lots of customers, not just Polish, but Jewish, Hindu, Asian.”
Wiczlek made it a point to say he was very impressed with the bakery which was fully stocked with traditional Polish Easter treats before he explained that he discussed issues facing Poland and other parts of the world on Friday. “Everyone knows in Connecticut Poles are 10 percent of the population here,” he said. “Poles are politically important here.”
Former Mayor Lucian Pawlak showed Wilczek the Falcon club on Broad Street before the group headed to take a look at the Honorary Consulate office before stopping at Euro Plate for a sampling of the pierogi. “My first thought is, it’s about time,” Pawlak said when asked how he felt about New Britain being chosen for a consulate office. “I thank Darek for recognizing the significance and the value of the Polish community in New Britain. To me it’s the heart of Polonia in the United States.”
As the President of the Polonia Business Association, for Adrian Baron the opening of the office and the designation of Barcikowski as the first Honorary Consul in Connecticut, was a victory after years of investment in the community by encouraging businesses to grow and promoting Little Poland with Stanley The Dragon and other attractions. “We have 106 businesses on Broad Street and 70 are Polish owned,” Baron said.
The tour headed to Poldarex to look at the Polish goods including baptism and communion gowns, sparkling vests for folk dancing and a variety of clothing. The owners have been in business on Broad Street for 48 years. Across the street the Ambassador stepped into a fresh market where deli meats and other Polish goods were sold along with vegetables and fruit. “He is very pleased,” Barcikowski said. “I think he didn’t expect how vibrant this community is.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.