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 up 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, alreay 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.