CU Supporter Elected President of Poland

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A long-term supporter of this country's emerging credit union community has been elected as president of Poland. Lech Kaczynski, the leader of the Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (Law and Justice) conservative party and acting mayor of Warsaw, won the office with approximately 55% of the vote.

The World Council of Credit Unions reported that since the rebirth of the Polish movement in the early 1990s, he has been actively involved in the development and strengthening of the country's credit union system. Kaczynski's relationship with credit unions first began in 1989 when he worked for Lech Walesa, the former leader of Solidarity. WOCCU reported that Kaczynski charged one of his staff members, Gzergorz Bierecki-who is now the CEO of the national association for credits union in Poland and a World Council board member-to find United States banks that would open in Poland.

At the time Poland needed assistance with the improvement of the financial services sector. Banks in the United States were not interested, but suggested Bierecki meet with credit unions, WOCCU said.

In 1991 World Council met with members of Solidarity, including Lech Walesa and Kaczynski, the Ministry of Finance and the Catholic Church to talk about the differences that credit unions could make in the lives of Poles and assist in the development of their country. World Council conducted credit union development programs in Poland from 1992-1999.

Between 1990 and 1991, Lech Kaczynski was the president of the Supervisory Board of the Foundation for Polish Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions, created by WOCCU upon request from Solidarity.

Kaczynski has participated in many national conferences organized by the Polish cooperative savings and credit unions. In 1995, in recognition of his long-term support of the cooperative savings and credit union movement, Kaczynski received the Feniks Award, the most prestigious award of the Polish Cooperative Savings and Credit Union Movement, awarded annually for exceptional service.

Today, Polish credit unions have accumulated more than (U.S.) $1 billion in consumer savings. There are 77 credit unions in Poland with more than 1,500 branches serving more than 1.2 million members. Savings of credit union members are insured up to 22,500 Euros, which is better protection than that offered by banks.

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