Roselle Visits Bochnia 2001


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, and returned in awe of what Sister City relationships can accomplish.

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.
 2001 DelegationBochnia Architecture
 
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 of 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.
 Mayor Smolinski in BochniaTown Square
 
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 general 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!
 Bochnia MayorBochnia Architecture
 
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 up doors for educational exchanges and to establish the personal connections which will humanize our ever expanding global community.
 MemorialPartnership Days
 
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.
 President Olszweski