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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » April 28, 2011
America in Poland
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Krzysztof Kolombowicz, the undiscovered Pole
April 28, 2011   
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Poles have a long history of going west. Recently one historian suggested that Władysław III was not killed by the Turks in 1444, but escaped and married into Portuguese nobility. Their son, Krzysztof, also married well and 15 years later in 1492 discovered America, which, to many, became the promised land.

The earliest records of Poles relate to descendants of slaves freed by their leader Moses who parted the waves with divine intervention 3,500 years ago, whilst on the way to their promised land. Much later the Lech made their long journey west to settle along the river Wisła. The first Israelites became Poles during the time the nation was forming in the 10th century, eventually making up 10% of the population.

2,500 years later or 500 years before Kolombowicz, Świetosława, Mieszko’s I daughter and sister of Bolesław the Brave went west, changed her name to Gunhilda and married in 994 Sweyn I of Denmark, a Viking. Two of her children became Kings, one was Canute who invaded England with a contingent of Polish warriors. He tried and failed to part the North Sea. It is rumoured that these Poles knew of the New Found Land in the west and, possibly as stowaways, arrived on Labrador with the Vikings.
More recently, not to be outdone by the Pilgrim Fathers, Poles seeking work went west arriving in Jamestown (without Visas) in 1608, 12 years earlier. They worked for John Smith as glass blowers, pitch and soap makers and timber men. The Polish plumbers came later.

In the late 18th century, many Poles, such as Jakub Sądowski, headed west. Some fought for freedom, including Kazimierz Pułaski and Tadeusz Kościuszko. During the partition of Poland between 1795 and 1917, 3.6 million Poles went west. 2.6 million of these parted the Atlantic and were a driving force in developing the promised land of America.

Poles have talent; discovering the first paraffin lamp, a revolution then in 1853 and the first oil field in 1854 in Bóbrec, 5 years before Texas. In 1897 Jan Szczepanik discovered the television tube. These and other Polish discoveries went west. The descendants of Polish emigrants seeking freedom ran the film industry. More recently descendents had their hand in developing the media world including major Internet applications which control our lives today.

With the wave of Polish immigrants, coming through Ellis Island, came the forefathers of those contributing to the modern Accounting Profession as CPA’s. Baker Tilly network firms, 5th largest in the US, are no exception as many of the Partners can trace their roots to Poland.

Baker Tilly Poland has 3 Polish and 5 British Partners with over 400 staff. Having grown on the wave of client success, we also had to move west to larger Warsaw premises - 2,500 metres up the road. We also have offices in Wrocław, Kraków, Łódź, Prague, Brno and Bratislava.

In closing, I heard, from a reliable source (CIA), that a few generations ago Bartek Obamowski also travelled west to America. The journey was completed earlier this century. A descendent recently decided to visit Poland without a visa.

Joe Smoczyński, Partner, Baker Tilly Poland
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