Opening the door for new generations of immigrant journalists
Poles going back to Poland, a trend that was first noticed two years ago, may be getting a boost from the economic crisis in the U.S. Speaking recently on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, FI2W journalist Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska talked about the growing number of Poles who are returning to their home country for economic reasons.
A variety of factors have encouraged reverse migration, chief among them is Poland’s admission into the European Union four years ago. EU membership has opened up work opportunities for Polish citizens in a number of European countries. Ewa, who reports for Nowy Dziennik/The Polish Daily News, also noted that some younger Poles have moved to Poland in the belief that their American education gives them a competitive advantage in Poland’s economy. But she also said that like the U.S., Poland is experiencing an economic slowdown, so the benefits of moving to the Eastern European country may not be as great today as they have been in recent years.
Press play below to listen to Ewa on WNYC or click here to visit the show’s page.[audio:http://audio.wnyc.org/bl/bl112608epod.mp3]
Ewa was recently honored by New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. at a Polish-American Heritage Celebration. Thompson hailed Ewa’s “truly impressive record of achievement that augurs a great body of work still to come.”
From One-Party Rule to the Two-Party System: Polish, Russian Immigrants Cautious as they Register to Vote
It took Ryszard Klimek seven years to register to vote.
Since he became a citizen in 2001, American politics was not a subject of his interest. “Politics in my country is a parody. So I lost interest in it and I didn’t feel like getting involved here either,” says Ryszard, 35, who came to America in 1995 and works as an electrician. When he was 16, the Communist regime that ruled Poland for decades tumbled. Since then the newly-created Polish democracy has turned into a rampant form of pluralism where parties easily come into being, merge or cease to exist, amidst divisions and disagreements.
To Ryszard, American politics seemed very different than what he knew from his home country, and not being proficient in English, it was very difficult for him to understand it. But this year he decided to finally register and vote.
“The candidates are more interesting and the issues are important,” said Ryszard, pointing out the war in Iraq, immigration reform, and the declining economy.
This year’s election ignites excitement across American society, including immigrant voters who hope to see the issues they care about addressed by the candidates.
The courting of Latino voters by Senators John McCain and Barack Obama has been highly publicized because of the potential power of this group in the general election. Both candidates appeared at the National Association of Latino Elected Officials conference last week and will appear before another major Latino group, the National Council of La Raza, in the second week of July.
Smaller ethnic communities in the US rarely get that kind of attention from a presidential candidate. But when they do, it helps them feel appreciated and more involved in the electoral process.
Obama has won admirers in the Polish community for doing just that.
“Obama has said that he is in favor of including Poland in the Visa Waiver program and McCain has not,” said Polish American journalist and author Alex Storozynski, in a recent survey on presidential candidates by Nowy Dziennik/the Polish Daily News among members of the Polish community living in the New York metropolitan area.
Including Poland in the Visa Waiver Program would allow Polish citizens to enter the US for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa. The issue has been a long time goal of the Polish government and Polish American organizations such as the Polish American Congress. They insist that Poland, a member of the European Union and NATO which has sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, should also be able to participate because it has shown loyalty to America.
Obama addressed this issue in an interview with Nowy Dziennik that ran on January 26-27, 2008. “We should aim at eliminating visas for countries like Poland, which are members of both the EU and NATO. Current visa regulations are outdated and do not reflect strategic relationship between our countries nor historically close ties between our nations.”
Obama was the only presidential candidate who gave an interview to Nowy Dziennik. Obama also talked about another issue important from Poles’ perspective: the Bush’s administration plans to install 10 missile interceptors in Poland as part of the missile defense system (MDS). In exchange Poland wants to cover part of the cost of modernizing the Polish army and its defense system. Otherwise it may not agree to install interceptors; especially since the Polish public is unenthusiastic about this idea. Moreover, the Russian government warns that the plan could hurt the Polish-Russian relationship, if Moscow’s concerns are not addressed.
In the interview with Nowy Dziennik, Senator Obama questioned the logic of installing the missile defense system in Poland before its technology is fully tested. He also said the Bush administration did a poor job in terms of consulting on the plan and the location of MDS with other NATO allies. Obama stressed that even though this initiative posed no threat to Russia, Moscow should be fully informed about the plan.
On the other hand “McCain was an early and strong supporter of anti-missile defense and his website highlights “Effective Missile Defense,” says Professor John Micgiel, Director of Columbia University’s East Central European Center. “But as far I know, Senator McCain has not spoken about placing interceptors in Poland. Nor has he spoken about any other aspects of US-Polish relations, as far as I know.”
Another aspect of Obama’s popularity among Poles has to do with the fact that he got the support of Zbigniew Brzezinski, currently a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, which makes him the highest ranking Polish American in a US administration in American history.
As early as August 2007 Brzezinski said: “Obama is clearly more effective and has the upper hand. He has a sense of what is historically relevant and what is needed from the United States in relationship to the world.”
For Poles, Brzezinski’s support sends a clear signal that Obama will be friendly toward issues important to their community. This opinion was also expressed by representatives of the Polish entrepreneurial world, many of whom support McCain’s approach to economic issues.
Bozena Kaminski, Director of the Polish & Slavic Center and one of those interviewed in Nowy Dziennik‘s survey, identifies as a Republican and says she will vote for her party’s candidate.
Nevertheless, she stressed that “from the point of view of Polish immigrants, Obama’s program is currently friendlier. His approach to undocumented immigrants is considerably more lenient than McCain’s, who is rather conservative. Even though McCain supports legalizing their status in an attempt to win more support among the conservative electorate, he has recently been very tight-lipped on the immigration issue.”
Talking about issues important to ethnic communities may turn out to be a good strategy for Obama. Many immigrants are often more interested in the politics of their home countries. Bringing up issues vital to them is a way to get them involved in American political scene. It could possibly translate into higher turnout among naturalized citizens of various origin.
From the Society of Profesional Journalists:
Indianapolis — The Society of Professional Journalists announced today the recipients of its New America Award. First-place recipients are Karen Frillmann from WNYC, New York Public Radio and Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska of the Polish Daily News for the series, “Polish Immigrants in a Changing City.” No other places were awarded in the contest.
This is the fourth year for the award, which honors public service journalism collaborations that include ethnic media in order to explore and expose an issue of importance to immigrant or ethnic communities in the United States. The award will be presented at the society’s annual Sigma Delta Chi Awards banquet July 11 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The winning work was a two-part series about New York’s Polish immigrant community produced for WNYC, New York Public Radio by Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, a reporter for the Polish Daily News. The first part of the series, “Feet in Two Worlds: Greenpoint, Brooklyn,” examined the impact of gentrification on the residents of a Brooklyn neighborhood that is the hub of New York’s Polish Community. Through the piece, broadcast on May 23, 2007, Kern-Jedrychowska was able to bring a fresh perspective on the story of old-age neighborhood transformation to public radio listeners.
Read more about Ewa’s win here:
Talking to New Hampshire voters
By Ewa Kern Jedrychowska
Reporter, Nowy Dziennik/Polish Daily News
On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, we went to 3 rallies – John McCain’s, Mitt Romney’s and Barack Obama’s. People that I interviewed in all these places were passionately sharing their views and expressing support for their favourite candidates. Almost as if they were trying to convince me that they are right. “This election is about one issue only – war on terror, and John McCain is the only candidate that can deal with it,” said Christine Liska, 57, a resident of Epping, during the rally in front of the Exeter Town Hall. “I’m tired of politics in Washington. I believe Obama will bring this country together and change its foreign policy,” said Heidi Page, 41, who lives in Deering and attended an Obama rally at Concord High School. These people had made up their minds. They were determined and the message they were trying to put across was almost as strong as the one of the candidates’ themselves.
Then I realized yet again how much I liked interviewing Americans. Whenever I talk to them on the streets of New York, I am amazed how open and enthusiastic they are. How they have no problems with sharing their views, and how they don‘t mind giving me their names and being photographed, unlike people from the Polish community that I cover for my newspaper. Poles usually don’t want to talk to the press, or if they do they prefer to stay anonymous. I can usually forget about taking their pictures. Some of them are undocumented and do not want to be exposed. Others say that, “this community is too small and they do not want their friends to recognize them in the paper.” As if having an opinion was something embarrassing.
So I was very surprised to get a “Pole-like” attitude on primary day in front of the polls in Exeter, right where the McCain rally
happened the night before. Most of the people that I tried talking to did not want to reveal who they voted for. “This is my private matter,” they would simply tell me. Only a handful agreed to share their thoughts with me. How strange… It did not seem to be their private matter the night before.
But then I understood that people going to the polls are not the same people that I met at the rallies. Most of the people who attend rallies are the convinced and determined voters who go there to express their support. Coming to rallies, I think, requires more involvement in politics than just going to the voting booth.
I also realized what should have been obvious right from the beginning: Americans from New Hampshire are not Americans from New York. I had always known they had different political preferences and voting patterns, but now I understand that probably some of them also had a different intimacy level.