ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF AIPA, 28 NOVEMBER 2017
There is no doubt that fifteen months that have passed since the last Annual General Meeting in August 2016, was the period of particularly intensive work for our Institute. Perhaps its intensity had a lot to do with the breadth of activities undertaken by AIPA during this time.
I would like to group these activities in four categories:
- AIPA-sponsored lecture tours that are our signature activities.
Since the last AGM, AIPA organized three visits of distinguished guests:
- Andrzej Rzońca, 31/10 /2016 – 11/11/2016, a prominent economist of younger generation, chair of the Polish Society of Economists and now the key economic advisor to the Civic Union, the main opposition party in Poland.
Whilst I won’t be going through the entire program of each of our guests, I would only like to highlight that during his visit, Dr Rzońca met with the officials from the Reserve Bank of Australia, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with Sydney University’s Sydney Democracy Network, and had a lecture at the University of Melbourne - to name just a few most important engagements.
- Janusz Onyszkiewicz, 20/3/2017 – 4/4/2017, a former vice-president of the European Parliament, former defence minister in Polish governments and last but not least, a legendary Solidarity activist from the 1980s.
The program of Janusz Onyszkiewicz’s visit included, among others: meeting with the officials from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, presentations at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, University of Melbourne and Institutes of International Affairs both in Sydney and Hobart.
- Janusz Makuch, 3/11 – 14/11/2017, a co-founder and director of the Krakow Jewish Culture Festival, one of the biggest festivals of its kind in the world.
The program of his visit included public meetings at Sydney Jewish Museum, Melbourne Kadimah Cultural Centre and media interviews with ABC Radio National and Australian Jewish News. This program was shortened due to illness of our guest.
It is evident that our organization and our members put in place for our guests programs of activities that can only be described as sophisticated and well-targeted. For example, meetings with DFAT officials in Canberra have become a norm for our visitors who specialize in socio-economic, security and political issues. The same can be said of such influential organisations as Centre for Independent Studies or University of Melbourne. We’re developing promising contacts with the ABC radio.
In the area of Polish-Jewish relations I was particularly pleased to see a very successful liaison with the Sydney Jewish Museum and deepening of relations with Australian Society of Polish Jews and their Descendants. I should also mention that our last guest, Janusz Makuch, had an opportunity to listen to the best Melbourne-based Jewish musicians eg. Deborah Conway and her husband Willi Zygier who gathered to perform in front of him. This does not require any further comments.
- Two commemorative functions marking 25th anniversary of AIPA
- The first took place in the Warsaw-residence of Australian Ambassador to Poland, Paul Wojciechowski on the 22 September 2016. It was a memorable event that attracted presence of many luminaries of Poland’s public life and former guests of AIPA, including: Adam Michnik, Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, Janusz Onyszkiewicz, Prof. Jacek Purchla, Chair of UNESCO World Heritage Committee and many others. The significance of this event arises from the fact that it was largely organized by the Australian Embassy and held on their premises. The following day, on the initiative of the Australian Ambassador, the Polish Television station Polonia ran an interview with both the Ambassador and AIPA President about the 25th anniversary.
- The second event took place in the premises of Sandringham Yacht Club on 1 February 2017 and was attended by the Federal MP for the seat of Goldstein, Tim Wilson, Polish Ambassador to Australia, Paweł Milewski and the Director of Melbourne Cinematheque, Michael Koller. 80 AIPA members were also in attendance.
- Launch of the Polish-Language edition of the book about Jerzy Zubrzycki
The promotion of the book written by John Bond and the late John Williams, both associated with the Initiative of Change (John Williams served also as Secretary of AIPA in the late 1990s) took place on 29 September 2017. It was held in the the Hall of Mirrors of the Staszic Palace which is the headquarters of the Polish Academy of Sciences. One could not find a more prestigious venue for such event. The current Ambassador of Australia to Poland, Paul Wojciechowski, was one of the speakers. Two former Polish Ambassadors to Australia – Agnieszka Morawinska, currently the director of the National Museum and Ambassador Pawel Milewski, who ended his mission in August this year, were also present. The launch attracted attendance of a number of Polish academics and artists. Prior to the event Jan Pakulski and Wojtek Zagala gave, separately, interviews to the Polish radio. Also interviewed was the author of the book, John Bond.
- Fifth Congress of Polish Academic Societies in the World
Between 16th and 21st October 2017, The Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (Umiejętności in Polish) organized the 5th Congress of Polish Academic Societies in the World which attracted attendance of a large number of Polish academics and community leaders from around the world as well as from Poland. The President of AIPA was invited to join the Honorary Committee of the Congress as sole representative from Australia and was also the only speaker from Australia presenting paper at the Congress. The title of his presentation was: “The Australian Institute of Polish Affairs”. The text is available on AIPA website. The President of AIPA was also interviewed, as one of only two participants, by the Polish Press Agency PAP. In total, around 40 speakers delivered their presentations during the Congress.
What do these four events tell us about AIPA. First of all, they tell us that AIPA brand is recognizable both in Poland and Australia and is associated with such qualities as professionalism, dedication, broad-mindness but is also associated espousal of values of modern patriotism – with its stress on forward-thinking, inclusiveness and concrete action rather than on pretentious celebration of the past. How else would we be able to attract so many eminent public figures to our events. How else would be able to gain trust and respect of both Polish and Australian diplomatic missions? But rather than me speculating on this subject, let me quote from the farewell letter that AIPA received from the departing Ambassador Pawel Milewski in August this year: I quote “ During my 4 year mission in Australia I have concluded on numerous occasions that AIPA is an organization whose role in the promotion of Poland in Australia , I value highly. You are the symbol of all those good changes that led Poland to its independence and sovereignty..…. The fact that for more than 25 years of your existence you have persevered with explaining those often complex changes that took place in Poland to Australians and more than anything else, that you have promoted the indisputable successes and achievements of our country…. is for me an important value in itself. I thank you greatly for this as Polish Ambassador and Polish patriot….”end of quote.
As I end my 2 year term as President of AIPA today and will not be seeking an extension in this role, I would like to thank all my colleagues from the Executive Committee for their dedication, support and great collaboration during the last 2 years. I am for ever indebted to you, to the regional representatives: Marek, Olek, Ola and Janek for making such value-adding contributions to the programs of our guests; to Janek for organizing almost single-handedly the very successful promotion of the book about our first President; to Malgosia for your wise counsel and your skillful handling of our finances that continue to be in such a good order; to Ania for organizing this great event in Sandringham Yacht Club earlier this year and last but not least to Stefan for keeping us all informed through the regular Newsletters and for your great support with everything else. Thank you all and I wish AIPA and all the members another fantastic year of activities.