The World Council of Credit Unions' Board has unanimously voted to award Poland's Lech Kaczynski the 2010 Distinguished Service Award. The former president died with 95 other government officials and their spouses in an airplane crash April 10.
The honor, conferred during WOCCU April board meeting, recognizes the significant contributions the late statesman made to Poland's credit unions, which WOCCU President/CEO Peter Crear called "one of the world's most successful and progressive" systems.
"Lech Kaczynski was one of the founders of our movement, but his interest in credit union development was not limited to Poland," said Grzegorz Bierecki, second vice chair of the WOCCU board and CEO of the National Association of Co-Operative Savings and Credit Unions. "His encouragement resulted in the development of credit unions throughout Central and Eastern Europe."
Kaczynski's relationship with credit unions first began in 1989 when he was a direct report to Lech Walesa, the former leader of Poland's Solidarity movement that helped secure the country's freedom from Soviet rule. Kaczynski charged WOCCU's Bierecki, one of his staff members at that time, to find U.S. banks that would help Poland stabilize its financial services sector.
No bank was interested, but several suggested Bierecki meet with credit unions.
In 1991, WOCCU officials met with members of Solidarity, including Walesa and Kaczynski, the Ministry of Finance and the Catholic Church to examine the role that credit unions could play in helping Poland's financial services development. WOCCU conducted credit union development programs in Poland from 1992-1999, which played a large role in the formation of the vibrant Polish credit union system of today.
Between 1990 and 1991, Kaczynski was supervisory board president of the Foundation for Polish Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions created by WOCCU at the request of the Solidarity movement. Since then Kaczynski, who was a professor of law prior to his political involvement, had been committed to developing and strengthening Poland's financial cooperative movement. He was elected Poland's president in 2005 and continued his vigorous support for Poland's credit unions while in office.
WOCCU's Distinguished Service Award, the international credit union system's highest honor, will be awarded to Kaczynski posthumously in a special presentation at The 1 Credit Union Conference, the jointly hosted conference of WOCCU and CUNA, its U.S. member. The conference will convene July 11-14 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.