THE PRESIDENT’S PARENTS: WE WANT TO ACCOMPANY HIM
Milena Kindziuk talks with Janina Milewska-Duda and Jan Tadeusz Duda – parents of the president of Polish Republic, Andrzej Duda
MILENA KINDZIUK: - The first meeting of parents with their son president took place at Wawel on Monday 25 May 2015 in the evening. Why just there?
JANINA MILEWSKA – DUDA: - Next day after the announcement of the preliminary results of elections, Andrzej decided to lay flowers on the grave of Lech and Maria Kaczyńscy. When he was arriving in Cracow, he called us to ask us to arrive in Wawel. We were to meet there for a while.
JAN T. DUDA: - We were just at our daughter’s Ann then. My wife, wearing casual clothes, was ironing children’s clothes, and I was playing with our youngest granddaughter. We did not have any more time to go home to change clothes. We had to get into a car quickly and go.
- The President was coming back from Częstochowa then…
J.M.D.: - When Andrzej phoned us in his return way, he said that he had been at Jasna Góra and that he was going to Cracow from there. I got happy that he had such a feeling in his heart that he had prayed in front of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady at this breakthrough moment. It was the best present he could do for us then.
- You arrived in Wawel and…?
J.D.: - …and to our astonishment outside the cathedral there was a group of journalists. We felt a bit surprised because we expected that it would be a private meeting with our son. After a while the president-elect arrived. With his bodyguards. We had a strange feeling…
- What feeling?
J.M.D: - It is even difficult to name it. We were surely extremely moved.
J.D.: - We were greeted by the parish priest of the cathedral and nuns.
J.M.D.: - Exactly eight nuns in white aprons. It was really moving. They looked like little pigeons. They greeted the president, and then we all went to the cross of St. Jadwiga to pray there. Only from there did we go to the crypt where Andrzej…the president-elect…laid flowers on the grave of president Kaczyński and his wife.
- Is it difficult to get used to saying about son: ‘president’?
J.D.: - It is surely a big change. It seems to us that he is not ours any more. He does not belong to us…
- You went to your son’s from the cathedral at Wawel…
J.M.D.: - Yes, our son saw us off to our car, but came home a bit later, about midnight. It had already been 26 May, Mother’s Day. I remember that Andrzej was the first one from our children to say wishes to me.
- He was already with presidential bodyguards, wasn’t he?
J.M.D.: - Yes. However, bodyguards do not enter home. They only accompany to the door, check who opens it. So, we have a completely private time at home. Like before. Besides, we will not be able to sit and talk till the early morning hours, as we used to, because now, outside our home, bodyguards will be standing. We will not keep them stay there till the morning. (laughter).
J.D.: - In fact, nothing is like before. For example, because we do not talk about politics any more.
- Why not?
J.D.: - Firstly, we do not have time for it. We hardly have enough time to discuss current and family matters. Secondly, Andrzej is the president, he cannot speak about many matters and does not want to analyze them. We also think that he msut have some time, when he ‘is on loose’, among us. We are glad that he can spend time with us and talk with us like the son with his parents.
- ‘President’s Parents’ is a new institution in Poland now, as you defined it yourself.
- J.D.: - I said it as a joke but there is something in it. Because parents of the former presidents were not so shown. Very little or nothing was said about them.
- For many people Andrzej Duda was not a known person before the campaign.
J.D.: - Yes, indeed. It resulted from his life philosophy that – as he used to say – ‘he did not have any pressure on the glass’. We do not being shown publicly, either. Although appearances may say something different, as we are being interviewed now! (laughter).
J.M.D.: - At one moment we came to a conclusion that public speeches are our duty. It is not a whim but a duty.
J.D.: - If there appears a man on the political stage, who is not generally known, the public opinion has a right to know ‘where your home is, where your parents are’ as Mickiewicz wrote in ‘Ballads and romances’. And in this way we revealed ourselves. It was still during the presidential electoral campaign.
J.D.: - Yes. As far as I remember the first interview appeared in April on Internet. It was a sincere authentic talk. Completely spontaneous. We do not prepare on paper earlier what we are going to say. We are not afraid of being contradictory in our speaking, because we speak sincerely. And all the time (laughter). We try to be authentic. It was how interviews started. In a very natural way.
J.M.D.: - Although I experienced my premiere in giving interviews in the primary school, when my school won an athletic competition which took place in Warsaw. After the competition television came to us and asked me why I did sport. And, not thinking much, I answered: ‘Because I like our coach’. I have always answered sincerely (laughter).
- You treat being parents of the president as your duty and a new task, don’t you?
J.D.: - If our son was elected a president, it means that we have a duty to speak about him. Also in our family. So that people would know where Andrzej Duda comes from, what is important for him, what is his system of values. Poles have a right to it.
J.M.D.: - We cannot say that we do not care about it. We are glad if information about him is true, reliable. And we want to contribute to it, as much as we can. We want to serve to people also in the role of the president’s parents.
- You emphasized in your interviews that being the president’s parents is also service. In what sense?
J.D.: - This is a new duty for us and a new burden laid on us. Burden of responsibility. We are aware that our son is responsible for many things in Poland. And, to some extent, we feel his efforts. We are carrying this burden with him, but only in our hearts and mind.
J.M.D.: - He has taken over a lot of responsibility. And, as his parents, want to accompany him.
- You say that politics is a holy thing…
J.D.: - If we treat politics as care about the common welfare, it is holy. Because holiness is based on being ready to devote one’s life and serve to others, with honest intentions, even being exposed to criticism, and one’s life to a danger. After 1898 I wanted to join various civilian committees myself, thinking that the Catholics should take part in the public life. First I worked in housing estate committees, in the local government, then I was trying to work on the level of the city and the university. I was trying to be active in various ways because I wanted to be helpful and socially useful. I think that everyone should discover this kind of public mission in themselves.
- Were you worried when you son decided for political activity?
J.D.: - Andrzej entered politics in order to implement ideas which he had set as a clear purpose. He entered it where he could realize it, that is, to the group of Lech and Jarosław Kaczyńscy. On contrary, it seemed then that such a step closed everything from him. But he entered it where he had a chance to realize his ideas: of a strong country and also a ministering country. This is the main political thought. A strong country which also serves to people. He wanted to build such a country. During the presidential election in May 2015, many people positively responded to this political vision. We are very glad about it, but we are also aware how much effort he is taking up.
- You said that your son had taken a difficult burden onto himself.
J.D.: - Anyway, it is a serious burden.
J.M.D.: - Andrzej completely devoted himself to public service.
J.D.: - We had such a feeling when he became an MP, and then a euro-deputy. However, he was one of many people then. Now, as the president, he is the only one.