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Poland loses key CU movement leader in plane crash
WARSAW and MADISON, Wis. (4/13/10)--The death of Poland President Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash Saturday with 95 others, including political, military and religious leaders, has stilled the voice of a key credit union supporter in that nation.
Poland President Lech Kaczynski, right, posed with Bobby McVeigh, World Council of Credit Unions board member, during a meeting with credit unions in 2003. Kaczynski was killed in a plane crash Saturday. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
"Polish President Lech Kaczynski has been a powerful force in the growth of Poland's democracy," said Pete Crear, president/CEO of the World Council of Credit Unions. "He worked side by side with Solidarity movement leader Lech Walesa and helped his then youthful associate Grzegorz Bierecki, who now sits on the World Council board, determine that credit unions would be the key to Poland's economic future," said Crear. "Since his election, President Kaczynski has been a strong supporter of credit unions in Poland and his tragic death will touch all credit unions everywhere." Bierecki, who is president of the National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU), WOCCU's member organization in Poland, and WOCCU's second chair, will miss WOCCU's board meeting later this week in Madison, Wis. In February, Kaczynski had named Bierecki to Poland's National Development Council, a nonpartisan advisory body that offers input on social and economic issues to Kaczynski (News Now Feb. 23). Kaczynski was elected president on Oct. 23, 2005, with almost 55% of the vote. Since the rebirth of the Polish movement in the early 1990s, he has been actively involved in the development and strengthening of the country's credit union system, with the goal of building a financial network that would provide Polish citizens with access to affordable, high quality financial services. He charged Bierecki to find U.S. banks that would open in Poland. Banks were not interested, but suggested Bierecki meet with credit unions. WOCCU conducted credit union development programs in Poland from 1992 to 1999, which played a large role in forming today's credit union system, one of the fastest growing movements in the world. In 1990-1991, Kaczynski was the first president of the Supervisory Board of the Foundation for Polish Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions, created by WOCCU upon request from Solidarity--a fact he mentioned during a visit at the Polish & Slavic FCU, Brooklyn, N.Y., in September when he was in New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. There he shared stories of his credit union roots and the role U.S. credit unions played in Poland's march toward democracy 20 years ago (News Now Oct. 9). He has participated in many national conferences organized by the Polish cooperative savings and credit unions. In 1995, he received the Feniks Award, the most prestigious award of the Polish credit union movement. Also killed in the crash were Kaczynski's wife, Maria, and Poland's army chief of staff, the navy chief commander, the heads of the air and land forces, the national bank president, the deputy foreign minister, the head of the National Security Office and the deputy parliament speaker.
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