Bordered by Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and Russia, this Eastern European country became independent in 1918 after World War I. This lasted two decades, before Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. At the end of World War II, the Soviets occupied Poland and began imposing Communist control over the government, first turning around a difficult post-war economy and then almost destroying it, due to over-borrowing and mismanagement. In 1978, a Polish bishop became Pope John Paul II, instilling pride among his countrymen. But rising prices of consumer goods, including meat, created considerable hardship among workers, prompting coal miners and shipyard workers to stage a series of strikes across the country. Lech Walesa, one of the Solidarity movement’s leaders, went on to negotiate an end to the strike and ensure workers’ rights throughout the country.
Lay of the Land: This Eastern European nation stretches low and flat from the Baltic Sea in the north, rising gradually to the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and the Sudeten range in the south.
According to its written history, Poland began with the reign of Mieszko I, who brought Christianity to the country in 966 AD. However, archeological evidence suggests that the Slavic people, who originally settled the area, had already been in Poland for thousands of years. Culturally, these tribes were Celtic, Germanic and Baltic, and migrated throughout the territories constituting Poland from about 400 BC.
There is evidence of Polish immigration to America as early as 1609, when some Poles were contracted as skilled craftsmen for the Jamestown colony. One of the most famous early Poles was the nobleman Casimir Pulaski, who fought on the American side during the Revolutionary War and whose death is still celebrated on October 11 by the American Polish community.
From 2004 to 2008, US imports from Poland included other industrial machinery, increasing from $124.1 million to $165.3 million; electrical equipment, rising from $65.5 million to $207.2 million; other parts and accessories, moving up from $48.4 million to $80.3 million; and furniture, household items, and baskets, increasing from $107.5 million to $195.0 million.
US Missile Defense System in Poland Raises Controversy with Russia
The State Department reports that conditions inside Polish prisons and detention centers remained generally poor. Overcrowding and inadequate medical treatment were among the main problems.
Robert Kupiecki serves as Poland’s Ambassador to the United States. Kupiecki obtained his master’s degree in history with distinction and a PhD in Political Science at Warsaw University. He specializes in international relations. He is also a graduate of the National School of Public Administration and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.
Getting expelled from the country is usually a disastrous way for a young foreign service officer to end only his second foreign posting, and would seem to foreclose a return assignment—unless your name is Stephen Mull. Nominated by President Obama on July 10 to be the next ambassador to Poland, Mull was expelled by the communist government there in 1986. Mull appeared at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on September 12.
Born April 30, 1958, in Reading, Pennsylvania, to mother Faith M. Spracklin, Stephen Mull recalled for a hometown reporter that he wanted a diplomatic career as early as elementary school. Mull graduated from Reading High School in 1976 and earned a BS in International Politics at Georgetown University in 1980.
Mull joined the Foreign Service in March 1982, and holds the rank of Career Minister. His first overseas assignment was to serve as a consular officer in the Bahamas from 1982 to 1984, where he met and married Cheri Stephan, herself the daughter of career diplomats. His second overseas posting was as second secretary in Poland from 1984 to 1986, during the period of martial law and the repression of the Solidarity labor union movement, where he did such a good job of reporting on Solidarity activities that the Polish government accused him of espionage and ordered him to leave the country three weeks before his term was up; he stayed and left on schedule.
From Poland Mull was sent to do a similar job in apartheid South Africa, where he served as political officer in the Black Politics Unit at the embassy in Pretoria, from 1986 to 1990. Back in the States, Mull was deputy director of the State Department Operations Center from 1991 to 1993. He then returned to Poland to find the dissidents he had been reporting on were now part of the government; he served as political counselor at the embassy in Warsaw from 1993 to 1997.
Back in Washington, Mull was director of the Office of Southern European Affairs from 1997 to 1998 and deputy executive secretary of state from 1998 to 2000. For his first posting to Asia, Mull was deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 2000 to 2003.
Mull served his first ambassadorship as ambassador to Lithuania from 2003 to 2006. He then took a series of headquarters assignments, starting with service as acting assistant secretary of state for Political-Military Affairs from January 2007 through August 2008, as senior advisor to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns from August 2008 to June 2010, and as executive secretary of the State Department from June 2010 to August 2012. In addition, at the beginning of the Obama administration, he exercised the authority of the Office of the Under Secretary for International Security Affairs and Arms Control pending the arrival of the permanent under secretary.
Mull is a member of the Policy Council of the Una Chapman Cox Foundation, a private non-profit dedicated to a strong Foreign Service. Mull and wife Cheri Stephan have one child, Ryan,.
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