Landing at Chopin International
I didn't receive a classy welcome on a June day in 1980 when the Lot Airlines plane landed at Warsaw's Chopin International Airport.
It was really hot. Passengers received only a glass of orange juice moments before the touchdown. Then were herded on jammed buses by police armed with Russian-made AK-47 rifles. The guns were loaded.
We made it through customs where the uniformed didn't smile a bit.
Poland was under martial law, and the solidarity movement was under way, albeit making everyone nervous and jumpy.
The purpose of my visit was part of a humanitarian team loaded with boxes of shoes and spectacles, eyeglasses of all shapes and sizes. There were some religious books in Polish.
People from all over the United States had donated the shoes and used glasses. All items were in first class shape.
Our group included nine people, including a longtime television producer, several cameramen, three national humanitarian professionals, who collected all of items for distribution, a couple of Midwest businessmen and me.
The story was the plight of so many suffering Polish families. They were too. General Jaruzelski Wojciecki had placed the country under martial law.
This was no world-wide secret. Things were scarce in the country and trouble was bubbling to get rid of the Soviet shackles.
Some Protestant church people had the Americans come and bring help. A day after landing we were invited to Sunday services at a public building authorized by the government. After the allocated one hour services, distribution was permitted outside under the watchful eyes of soldiers and police.
Men and women, mostly elderly in their upper years, eagerly searched for the glasses. Many had been unable to see or read for long times. They couldn't afford to pay for spectacles. On this June Sunday, sight was restored to several hundreds.
Oh, many pairs of shoes shined and in first class condition were given to families, many with young teenagers. Smiles on the faces of recipients brought joy and thanks. There were lots of hugs, too.
Times have improved greatly in Poland since those days 37 years ago.
Several times daily in those days, hundreds of Poles filled Victory Square in Warsaw's city center. They formed a human cross with flowers in the square.
Camera crews frightened the people, many in tears, crying and holding loved ones tightly.
Many tried to scare off the cameras for fear soldiers and police would come and try to forcefully disperse them.
For some reason the people were allowed their silent protests. Not far away the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers could be seen. The Honor Guards marched in precision.
During our few days in the Polish capital, we passed by Holy Cross Church, where the heart of Frederic Chopin, the great pianist and composer, is located.
Chopin's remains are in Paris where he died October 17, 1849.
President Donald Trump arrived in Warsaw aboard his shiny Air Force One last night. I'm certain he received a terrific welcome.
He probably won't be doing any shopping. I remember that Lot Airlines lost my bags, in Vienna. It took five painstaking days for them to arrive.
In the meantime I visited a well-known Warsaw department store. Quickly I learned martial law is not good. There was no clothing available.
We weren't in Warsaw for vacation during that period. We didn't go hungry. The Hotel Europa, managed some limited culinary specials with bottled water and real Coca Cola, the trademarked famous brand.
Lessons of the Polish history ought to be taught to the leftist knuckleheads who think they have it so tough in the good old USA.
During my trip to Poland, Protestant churches shared the same building on Sundays. Each had only an hour for music and instruction.
One more thing, in those days the Golden Arches, the Colonel from Kentucky or others had not discovered how to invade Russian strongholds.
I think Mr. Trump will enjoy his dining pleasure. His favored meatloaf will outdo the real Polish cuisine, probably on the plane with Diet Coke.