The Village of Roselle Sister City Delegation, Mayor Gayle Smolinski, Trustee Ron Sass; Village Clerk Linda McDermott, and two members of our Sister City Commission-Krystina Wojcik and Yolanta Kaftanski-flew from Chicago to Krakow on April 19, 2001.
They left not knowing what to expect of what Sister City relationships cand accomplish, and returned in awe.
The officials of Bochnia, Mayor Wojciech Cholewa (executive function) and Council President Jan Olszewski (legislative function) invited Roselle to their “Partnership Days” (Bochnia City Hall), which are held yearly to celebrate their Sister City Partnerships. This year they were signing their third agreement with Bad Salzenfurth, Germany and the Roselle delegation was invited to witness the signing, and to meet their other partners from Croatia and Slovakia.
The adventure began with a 9+-hour flight to Krakow. Luckily, a delegation from Chicago Heights was on board, visiting their Sister City of Wadowice, Poland. The delegations passed the time learning about their common experiences with Sister City International and were pleased with their positive responses. The guides for the delegation greeted them at the Krakow airport. The cars in Europe are much smaller than what they are used to, but the guides managed to secure a Dodge Caravan to drive them to Bochnia, over 30 km (18 miles) away.
The city of Bochnia is a mix of historical architecture, communist utilitarianism and new growth. Its large, open town square is the place for concerts and festivals, ringed by quaint shops, services and museums. These buildings are hundreds of years old and reflect the glorious past of Poland-before Communist rule. Surrounding the inner circle of town are the post-war buildings of the last 50 years, mostly serviceable apartments and multi-family units, built during a time of economic frugality. All the Sister City delegations were housed in a new hotel-in fact, it had not yet been open to the public. It was a first-class facility with art deco styling-evidence of the emerging entrepreneurship of a people no longer under oppression and a community serious about moving forward and rebuilding.
As U.S. delegates, they were sought out, to have questions answered and to trade stories about their towns. While the officials of Bochnia were busy with all the formal activities, the Roselle delegation still had many opportunities to discuss with them how the Sister City partnership would work.
The signing of the agreement between Bochnia and Bad Salzenfurth took place in an abandoned salt mine, which is their main tourist attraction. It is now used as a spa and recreational center. The signing ceremony was held in a chapel, 23 stories below the ground. They were transported in a double-decker mineshaft elevator, which held five people in each car.
Poland is 95% Catholic and now that Communism is gone, government officials begin every formal function with a mass. The chapel is carved into the side of the salt mine and holds about 250 people. Beautifully carved religious statues, of salt, are set into the walls.
They enjoyed the bands from Germany and Bochnia as they entered the gymnasium to witness the signing. Present were representatives from all Bochnia’s Sister City partnerships, officials from Bochnia, members of the International Sister Cities Commission, residents of the town and the five-member Roselle delegation-about 200 people in all. Polish and German translators repeated the speeches for the public and the Sister City Commissioners translated for the Roselle members. Being told they were witnesses, Mayor Gayle Smolinski did not expect to speak. She was caught off guard when Mayor Cholewa unexpectedly asked if she would like to “say a few words” to those present. The Mayor did the requisite thank-you’s, but her biggest applause came when she announced that Roselle’s tourist attraction is the Lynfred Winery. No matter what nationality, they all approved!
Later that day, they were part of a ceremony at the memorial for those Bochnians killed in two mass executions, during the German invasion of the town in December 1939. Trustee Ron Sass, Clerk Linda McDermott and Mayor Smolinski laid a wreath at the base of the memorial. Then Mr. Sass, representing Roselle and the United States, along with a representative from Poland, Germany, Croatia and Slovakia each planted a tree. It will serve as a reminder of our pledge to move forward in understanding and that our friendship will grow as our trees do. The ceremony ended with the Mayor of the German city apologizing to the Bochnians for the atrocities committed by his grandfather’s generation and a pledge to never let it happen again. They were truly honored to be part of that historic moment.
The Roselle delegation learned that the officials in Bochnia are interested in our education system, our water and sewer distribution systems, and our use of community-oriented policing to deliver services. There is an opportunity for some of our businesses to explore new markets and to be part of the revitalization occurring there. The Roselle public officials found out that the challenges of being an elected official are not so different, no matter where you live in the world. More importantly, it was an opportunity for them to listen to opinions of world events through non-American voices, to open doors for educational exchanges and to establish the personal connections which will humanize our ever-expanding global community.
The Mayor and Council President of Bochnia hope to visit Roselle within the next year. It is much more difficult for them to obtain permission to travel here. The Village will publicize the details of their visit as soon as it is finalized. The Roselle Sister City Commission wants them to meet the wonderful people that make up Roselle and have a chance to return their gracious hospitality.
The Village Board and Sister Cities Commission welcomed two representatives from our Sister City – Bochnia, Poland during the Taste of Roselle. What a great time it was for them to visit and for us to showcase our Village! Mayor Wojciech Cholewa and Jan Olszewski, Chairman of the Bochnia Town Council, arrived to sign the formal agreement making us official Sister Cities. The Roselle delegation met both the Mayor and Mr. Olszewski in Bochnia in 2001.
During their visit, they stayed at the bed and breakfast courtesy of the Lynfred Winery.The delegation was treated to an all-American picnic, an evening at the Taste of Roselle,a day sightseeing in Chicago and a formal dinner where the official agreements was signed.They also toured Village facilities and other government facilities. Highlights of the Bochnia Delegation visit included the dedication of the Peace Pole Friday, August 1, 2003; which is located near the Village Hall.
The Dinner/Signing Ceremony was Sunday, August 3 at the Itasca Country Club.
From Mayor Smolinski:
It was with high spirits that 12 of us arrived in Bochnia on June 24, 2004 invited by Mayor Cholewa, to affirm the Sister City agreement we signed here in August 2003. At that time, Mayor Cholewa and President Olszewski experienced our Taste of Roselle, visited all the Village departments, schools, and library, and spent a day sightseeing in Chicago. Now it was our turn to tour Bochnia and its surrounding area, and participated in a second formal signing, witnessed by the residents of Bochnia. We were pleased to meet those we considered old friends.
Joining me was my husband, Don, Trustee Ron Sass, Village Clerk Linda McDermott and members of our Sister City Commission: Mary Ann and Joe Allivato, Mark and Yolanta Kaftanski, Carol and Vic Dawley, Barbara Rajska-Kulig, Krystyna Wojcik, and Joe Czyzyk. From the arrival at the hotel to our final dinner, the people of Bochnia opened their homes and hearts to us.
The Sister City program is an international movement, to promote peace through partnerships between communities through education, cultural and governmental exchanges. Roselle is Bochnia’s third Sister City, already having established partnerships with Bad Saldzenfurth, Germany and Kezmorek, Slovakia. Bochnia is our only Sister City.
We began our adventure the evening of our arrival at Barbara’s childhood home. We are fortunate to have someone born and raised in Bochnia on our Sister City Commission. We enjoyed a beautiful evening relaxing from our travels, meeting Barbara’s family, and eating traditional Polish food.
On Friday we walked around Bochnia and learned about its history, including a stop at City Hall. The City’s master plan looks very much like Roselle’s and includes areas for residential and industrial development, as well as the sites for water and sewage treatment plants. We ended the evening at a cookout hosted by Mayor Cholewa and his wife. Representatives from Bochnia’s other Sister Cities joined us to help celebrate our partnership.
Saturday was the official signing ceremony. We were all taken 600 ft. down into Bochnia’s salt mine, which is over 700 years old. It is still a working salt mine. The mine includes a chapel, a gymnasium, and a spa. We began the ceremony with a mass at St. Kinga’s Chapel – one of the differences between Poland and USA. In Poland, there is little separation between church and state and most of their official ceremonies begin with a mass. Over 250 people attended the signing ceremony, which was broadcast on Polish television. Mayor Cholewa and I signed two identical documents and ours is on display at the Village Hall.
Roselle presented Bochnia with a peace pole, very similar to the one “planted” during the signing ceremony here. It was donated by the Roselle Chamber of Commerce and is installed in their town square. In return, Roselle received a beautifully carved statue of a salt miner that symbolizes Bochnia’s beginnings and current heritage. It is carved from. . . salt of course! The statue is on display in our boardroom. My most nerve-wracking moment came when I made my speech. I do not speak Polish but chose to say the last paragraph of my remarks in that language. With much help and practice, I successfully delivered my message!
Sunday our group traveled to Zakopane, a resort town at the base of the Tetra Mountains. While on the bus we saw the Polish landscape dotted with fields of poppies, small well-kept farms and charming towns. A short tram ride to the top of the mountain resulted in a panoramic view of the countryside, followed by great shopping opportunities in the town itself. That evening we ended our visit with a lovely dinner, where we said good-bye to the representatives of Bad Saldzenfurth and Kezmorek. After dinner we enjoyed a concert and fireworks at the town square. This was also the end of Bochnia’s Festival days and it was nice to be part of their celebration.
We began our trip back home on Monday morning. Mayor Cholewa and President Olszewski came to see us off with many hugs and a few tears. Partnerships are established person by person. Through our relationship with Bochnia we’ve expanded our friendships to towns in Germany and Slovakia.
The Mayor of Roselle Gayle Smolinski, Roselle Village Board and the Sister Cities Commission, invited mayor of Bochnia Stefan Kolawinski to visit Roselle in 2013. The objective was to meet the new mayor of Bochnia and introduce him to our town. The visit lasted one week and included the Taste of Roselle weekend!
The mayor and his wife had a great time – packed with formal meetings with Roselle’s Government Officials, attending Roselle Village Board meeting, as well as with entertainment to celebrate our Sister Cities Partnership.
During the visit they were treated to sightseeing tours in Chicago, Museums, a trip to Lake Geneva, a full day at the Taste of Roselle, backyard picnic at Joan and Wayne’s home to celebrate the Mayor’s Birthday, and a wine tasting party at Lynfred Winery – just to name a few. We were invited to visit Bochnia this year for World Youth Day but decided to visit some other time”
This year we decided to invite the Director of Park District and Cultural Center in Bochnia Anna Kocot-Maciuszek. The reason for the invite – she is with us from the very beginning of the Sister Cities Organization! It was Anna who always arranged the visits between Mayors – both ways. She always was the person to prepare all details of the trips and visits. We had the pleasure to have her in USA since August 4th and the 15th, she arrived right in time for Taste of Roselle! This was the reward for all the years of her commitment to the organization.
The members of the Sister Cities made sure that she would see all there is to see in Roselle, Downtown Chicago, the suburbs and even the country side. We all had a day or two with her to take her around interesting places. Just to name a few: The Roselle Village Hall, The Library, The Roselle Park District, a boat ride on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, Millennium Par, Navy Pier, Lake Geneva, Morton Arboretum, Cantigny Park in Wheaton, shopping malls, Boomers baseball game and a drive out into the country including a variety of point of interest, not to mention the variety of food Anna got to enjoy. She was also invited to members’ homes for drinks and a relaxing evening to complete her busy days.
She learned a lot about our community and said she will want to implement some of it in Bochnia. She was impressed that the citizens of Roselle could come to the meetings and voice their opinions!
Anna enjoyed every bit of it all! She is a wonderful person and we look forward to visit Bochnia in a couple of years. We know, she will arrange a perfect stay for us.