Radek Sikorski is an extraordinary politician, journalist and a visionary for the future of Poland. His clear and pragmatic ideas, composure, integrity and patriotism have always impressed me. Since I can remember, I’ve admired his diplomatic skills as a Foreign Policy Minister and a Minister of National Defense. He is one of the strongest role models in Polish politics and as such he has exerted a significant influence over my career choices.
Mr. Sikorski has lived through many struggles of the Polish history. He lived through the Polish fight for democracy, experienced the oppression of liberties under the martial law. He was at the center of the democratic transition of the 90s and was present at the triumph of Poland in the 2004 European Union enlargement. He has also experienced the life of an émigré while studying at Oxford and understands the international complexities well. Most recently, he has been recognized for his plea to German leadership in the European Financial Crisis and his appeal to support Ukraine in their struggle for democracy.
He is a self-made man and that’s what I like about his story the most. His parents, much like my dad, worked as civil engineers. His family has some loose ties to the military, but his accomplishments are attributed to his own ambition. My favorite fun fact about Radek is that he worked in a pub and at a hotel reception to support his life in England.
But it wasn’t until recently that I realized that Radek has achieved as much as he did because of his first mentor, Zbigniew Pelczynski – Oxford politics professor who helped Polish students pave their way to success in academy and politics. After much research, I realized that it was by complete accident that Radek landed in Oxford and it was the push of Mr. Pelczynski that made him realize his potential. His first nomination as a Deputy Minister for National Defense was certainly a result of his professional accomplishments, but it came at a favorable time – when Poland needed a global leader to serve as a gate to the West.
It was his determination and courage what made this great man, but the help of luck and mentors certainly made it easier. Here’s an excerpt from the Foreign Affairs Journal, interview with Mr. Sikorski:
“You’re a proud and passionate Polish patriot. You are also a proud European. You’re a proud Westerner. How do such overlapping identities play out in the twenty-first century?
Being European does not supersede one’s national identity; it adds another layer. In Europe, we have regional patriotisms and local patriotisms. Europe is another locus of our identification. Often, you discover your European identity while traveling or living abroad, just like Americans have discovered the reverse while staying in Europe. Being in the European Union helps us to build a successful Poland and therefore strengthen a new Polish pride based on success rather than on the wrongs that we suffered in the past.”
I could not agree more. And, I cannot wait to get to start his book ‘The Polish House’ on our upcoming vacation to the Dominican Republic.