2020 - Start of a Grand Adventure

2020 - A Sentimental Journey

Interview with Gayle Smolinski 3 Aug. 2020


Q: How did the idea of a Sister City got Roselle come about?

A: In October of 1999, Carol and Vic Dawley (former Roselle residents) came to a Village Board meeting and introduced the Sister City program and asked if we were interested.  The Village Board was supportive of the idea and Trustee Ron Sass and Village Clerk Linda McDermott volunteered to head a committee to proceed.  They placed an article in the Village Newsletter and asked for volunteers.  Krystyna Wojcik, Mark and Yolanta Kaftanski and Tom Kocur came forward.  Originally the thought was for a German Sister City, but Tom suggested Bochnia, Poland because he was familiar with the town. In July 2000, after much correspondence, the Village Board approved the plan to form a Sister City with Bochnia, Poland.


Q: Can you tell us some of the calendar events as the process continued?

A: In April 2001, Bochnia invited a delegation from Roselle to witness their signing of a Sister City agreement with Bad Saldzetfurth, Germany. I attended, along with Linda McDermott, Ron Sass, Krystyna Wojcik and Yolanta Kaftanski.  This gave us a chance to understand what the Sister City Program was all about and to meet the representatives of Bochnia in person.  It was then that we pledged to become Sister Cities with Bochnia. In preparation of our official signing we had two peace poles made.  In July 2003 we installed our peace pole in the municipal complex and sent the second peace pole to Bochnia.  Two delegates from Bochnia arrived in August and on August 3, 2003 Mayor Wojciech Cholewa and I formally signed the Sister City agreement in the ballroom of the Itasca Country Club. Also present was Bochnia Council President Jan Olszewski.   This occurred during out Taste of Roselle and both men enjoyed this festival.  They were not able to travel with their wives as Poland had travel restrictions at this time. In June 2004, a large delegation from Roselle traveled to Bochnia to again formalize our agreement.  Witnesses from Kezmarok Slovakia and Bad Salzdetfurth Germany traveled to Bochnia to also witness the signing.  We were able to visit our Peace Pole, which is installed in Bochnia’s Town Square.


Q: What are some of your favorite memories?

A: On our first visit to Bochnia, I saw a nation coming out from under Soviet rule.  The stores were pretty empty, with few groceries on the shelves and most residents did not speak English.  But the people were very friendly and generous with their meager resources. Another memory was of Ron Sass.  After touring Bochnia he came back and wanted a cold glass of water.  It took a while, but he was finally presented a glass with one ice cube!  Everyone was so proud that they had found the ice cube and Ron was just overwhelmed by their pride in what they could do for their guests. In 2001, when I arrived to witness the Sister City agreement between Bochnia and Bad Salzdetfurth, I thought I would just watch.  Instead I was asked to give a speech and was a little freaked out.  There were about 300 people there and I had nothing prepared. Krystyna had to translate my English into Polish and she was also nervous.  I spoke of Roselle and the similarities between our two communities.  I got thunderous applause when I mentioned that Roselle had its own winery! One of the most moving memories is our visit to the town cemetery, for a tree planting ceremony.  The cemetery contained the graves of Bochnia residents who died during the German invasion in WW II. The Mayor of Bad Salzdetfurth apologized for the atrocities committed and pledged that this Sister City bond would never let that happen again.  Everyone present was moved to tears.


Q: Have we had visitors from Bochnia here in Roselle and what do you recall?

A: When the Bochnia representatives came for the first official signing in August 2003 they stayed at the Lynfred Winery and went to the Taste of Roselle.  Mayor Cholewa and President Olszewski spent a great deal of time with Fred Koehler, owner of the Winery, who was happy to show how his award-winning wines are made.  Fred loved the opportunity to share this with our overseas partners. In August 2013, new Mayor Stefan Kolawniski, and his wife, (travel restrictions were relaxed by then) visited and enjoyed Roselle, Chicago and the Taste of Roselle.


Q: Tell us about the signing in 2004, In Bochnia.  How did that go?

A: Bochnia Mayor Cholewa and President Olszewski, plus the members of their town council were there, as well as representatives from Bochnia’s other Sister Cities.  There was much excitement and anticipation in the air.  We were about 600 feet down in their salt mines.  We began with a Mass, held in the Chapel, and proceeded to their large gathering hall.  I had Barbara Raiska-Kulig translate my speech and then she read in into a tape recorder.  I wrote in back down phonetically, so I could say the words properly and make all the natural pauses. It worked!  After the speech, the audience came up to me and spoke in Polish, thinking that I could understand them. They were impressed that I memorized a speech just for them. The delegation from Roselle needs special recognition as they were so supportive.  They are Vic & Carol Dawley, Joe & Mary Ann Allivato, Mark & Yolanta Kaftanski, Ron Sass, Linda McDermott, Barbara Raiska-Kulig (our member who grew up in Bochnia), Krystyna Wojcik, my husband Don and me.


Q: Any other visits you recall?

A: My husband and I went with Jim and Lina McDermott, Barbara Raiska-Kulig, and Wayne and Joan Domke in 2008.  We were invited for Bochnia’s Partnership Days.  The Mayor then was Bogdan Kostekevitch.


Q: Any other funny stories?

A: The last day of our initial trip in 2001, we had a BBQ.  The Mayor brought out the vodka and was going to propose a toast—not the sipping kind—but a throw it back in one gulp kind.  I don’t drink so Linda McDermott came to my aid.  She got a shot glass and filled it up with water.  About eight “toasts” later, I was still standing and everyone was amazed! Two years later, when Bochnia was here in Roselle we had an American picnic in my backyard.  Linda again helped me with the water shots, until my husband brought out the Jack Daniels.  I was discovered and we all had a good laugh.


Q: From your unique position and viewpoint of the Roselle Sister Cities, how do you see us moving forward?

A: I see the present organization continuing to thrive because of the dedicated and interested people involved.  The opportunity to add other Sister Cities should help pique the interest of other residents with ties, or interest, in those cities and strengthen the program. Hopefully the Sister Cities program can come back under the Village umbrella as representation by members of the Village Board give it status to other countries.


Q: Can you share future plans?

A: Don and I would love to continue our travels once this pandemic abates.  I’d like to go to Europe once more.  We’ve been to Germany, England, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Italy, France, Croatia and Poland.  I’d like to visit Ireland and Scotland, and Bochnia once more. I have seen how connecting with people, understanding each other and seeing their culture taught me that we have more in common with others than we have differences.

2016 - Bochnia Visits Roselle

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.

2013 - Bochnia Visits Roselle

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”

2004 - Roselle Visits Bochnia

June 2004 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.

2003 - Bochnia Visits Roselle

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.

2001 - Roselle Visits Bochnia

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.