GDANSK, Poland – Two Polish credit unions have responded to help members whose lives have been torn apart by recent flooding. Over 600 people were recently made homeless and five people died when torrential rains caused two rivers in Radunia and Strzy and a number of local streams to overflow. Mostly residential areas in Gdansk, Orunia and Wrzeszcz were affected. The worst hit of the three was Gdansk and the neighborhoods that suffered most in Gdansk have been described as poor working class. The city’s infrastructure including, power lines, sewerage system, roads and the railroads, have been badly damaged. Final damages have not been made but preliminary estimates vary from $20 to $55 million. Although the credit unions themselves were undamaged by the floods, Stefczyk Credit Union has offered a special loan to members at a cost about 20% lower than normal rates. No commissions or surcharges will be applied to these loans. The amount is limited to US$2500. Unlike other loans, limited collateral will not be required, although they are asking for one co-signer. Stefczyk Credit Union opened in 1993 and now is the largest credit union in Poland with over 100 branches throughout the country. St. Anthony’s Credit Union, which has six branches in Gdansk, is considering a special loan program, but has not reached an agreement on terms. However, any member affected by the flood may renegotiate the terms of any loan they have. A typical parish credit union, St. Anthony’s has 6,000 members. Outreach of help to credit union members was communicated through the press and radio stations that were still operating. Flood victims have been issued special identification. To date no Polish banks have made any attempt to help. Although credit unions were very popular in Poland before Communism, they became almost extinct after World War II. They were revived through the activities of Grzegorz Bierecki who now leads the National Association Of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU). Bierecki is a director of The World Council of Credit Unions. St. Anthony’s and Stefczyk are the only two credit unions with branches in the affected areas. -

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