Medical Tuesday Blog
Why Poland Matters
Why Poland Matters:
Do Your Shopping in Paris, but Back Polish Entrepreneurs
I started off the week with a lot of ‘other stuff’ on my mind. I boarded the flight to Warsaw on Monday morning sort of asking myself how it was that I was going to spend my entire week in Poland. My good friend, Pawel Tomczuk, who is a leading entrepreneur in Poland, having built a financial communications firm and sold it to Publicis, had graciously organised for me to speak at the Innovation Forum in Gdansk and then a series of meetings from Warsaw to Sopot at the annual financial conference EFNI. . .
But was Poland worth a week?
I didn’t expect at all to have confronted some of the great questions of history in this country of 40 million people, or to be so massively impressed by its people. How did I miss this before, I was asking myself by Day 2?
As I stood there in the shipyard where Lech Walesa led the Solidarity movement to bring freedom to Poland as I awaited giving my keynote on stage at the Innovation Forum in Gdansk, I met Anna Hejke, a leading venture capitalist, who happens to have been one of Walesa’s interpreters. Now for Americans, Walesa is a hero of freedom, so I was already intrigued. Anna *did* *not* disappoint.
Anna soon realised I was a sponge for historical information, and history I got. Poles broke the Enigma code, and gave it to the Brits. They flew valiantly and to great effect in WWII, and in many cases, made the difference decisively in battles that otherwise would have been lost. They helped Jews to survive and get to freedom. On the 1 of September 1939, the Poles were invaded by Nazi Germany, and 17 days later by Soviet Russia, but despite being divided by these invading enemies, the Poles didn’t surrender.
In fact, for 50 years, they didn’t surrender. Their government went into exile in the UK for 50 years until it was returned to Lech Walesa in 1989 (less 1/3 of its treasury that the Brits took for the Polish use of British aircraft that the Poles had ‘used’ in defending Britain)!.. Throughout the entire cold war, the Poles never surrendered.
But this fighting spirit is not new. Despite having been wiped off the face of any map, for more than 120 years, the sense that there was a Polish nation and people continued to live on, only to re-emerge in the 20 century. Talk about living in a reality distortion field.
Many if not most people will say that their country has great people, but the Poles can say this with confidence. I have learned this week that the essence of being Polish is to be unbelievably persistent and determined: to never give up, never accept no, and never go away. Despite what the world may say.
That character has been forged through hardship and tragedy, and it makes a national character worth backing bigtime. As an investor who believes wholeheartedly that capital follows ideas and that history is changed only by ideas, and those who execute them, I will spend a disproportionate amount of my time backing Polish entrepreneurs as they have grit, ambition and stamina.
Oh, and I learned another thing too. This week while I would get ready in my hotel room each morning, there was a backdrop of Hong Kong protestors and French deficit reaching 98% of its GDP leading to strikes on the streets. The average Polish person loves free enterprise in a way that the average French person doesn’t I am sad to admit. I lived in France for 7 years, and they don’t get it. France manages to sell a vision of the country as a wealthy European leader despite being essentially bankrupt. Its people don’t understand why it’s got the wealth that it has. Through free enterprise hundreds of years ago, and through its entrepreneurs today and the ingenuity of its business people, France created wealth. But it has been sold a lie by its political establishment that government can take the rough edges off of life, and provide risk-free security. Today, that lie has been exposed. Instead of creating a national identity where its citizens pull together for the greater cause of building France, with everyone willing to sacrifice in order to create a country which works for all, the people squabble over how to ‘protect’ their rights, oblivious to how the world is changing around it, leaving it in the dust.
And this is why Poland matters.
They have had no silver spoon. Their freedom started in a shipyard. They were treated abominably in WWII and its aftermath. I had tears in my eyes, and I haven’t even read Norman Davies and Edward Gibbons yet. Patton tried to march to Moscow, but Roosevelt wouldn’t let him finish the job. They have no accumulated capital, so they must rely on their human capital. The world enjoys a Polish joke at their expense occasionally. But they have what Darwin says make you fit: adaptability. The Poles have had to. They know how to fight. They love their freedom. And they understand how wealth is created. . .
Poland is open for business. If we want to be optimistic about the future of Europe, look to Poland.
They are the future – of Europe and the world.
Read the entire article at EntrepreneurCountry . . .