Welcome to our Grand Ball. We are here to honor the Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union and to commend them for their effort, involvement, and financial and social activities. Even though it mainly serves the Polish community, the Credit Union also contributes to the American community at large. The activities of the Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union contribute to the effort of many generations of Polish immigrants in this Land.
Probably even most Poles do not know that the first Polish immigrants landed in Jamestown, Virginia, exactly four hundred years ago. The majority of these had been invited as craftsmen skilled in making glass, tar and wood products. This was the beginning of our presence here.
During the next centuries, millions of Poles came to the U.S. Keep in mind that ninety percent of these people were farmers and fresh from the serfdom system, which had been abolished in Eastern Europe only in the middle of the twenty-first century. Since these immigrants had gone through the American melting pot, their ties to Poland are currently much different from those of the immigrants I who came within the last few decades. The settlers who came here centuries ago brought with them a strong work ethic, ethos of self-sufficiency, and - most importantly- the polka dance, pierogi, kiel basa, and Polish vodka.
Afterwards came the turbulent twentieth century, when a lot of our countrymen had chosen to stay abroad since Poland was under Communist rule just after the end of World War II. In Poland, meanwhile, the occupants had exterminated the vast majority of educated Poles, as was portrayed recently by the Oscar nominated movie "Katyn."
Then came the 1950's and 1960's, a period of time during which a majority of Poles worldwide were coming to terms with the horrible events of the previous decade. One group of Poles residing in New York City, who were not accountants, lawyers, or financiers, but rather priests, travel agents, engineers, contractors, erc., formed grass roots organizations. This organization was set up to help themselves and others like them achieve success in this country. In order to attain success the Polish community needed a safe place to live and call it home. The Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union recognized this need and during the 1970's and 1980's it fought hard to keep Greenpoint and Wil liamsburg from deteriorating. These neighborhoods were shunned by other banks, but The Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union invested a lot of money here, which proved to be a financially sound decision. When you look at the area now you can't help but notice that Greenpoint and Williamsburg are booming. In fact, according to my daughter, they are even considered hip places to live. This is, of course, not due only to the Credit Union, but also to a large variety of organizations active in this community.
All of you who even glance at any sort of newspaper nowadays are aware of the large number of banks and other financial institutions that are either losing billions of dollars or laying off large numbers of employees. To their immense credit, The Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union is not among those troubled organizations, and is still going strong. Unfortunately for those of us who wish to strengthen our own investments, you cannot purchase stocks in the Credit Union.
From such humble beginnings, an institution arose which now has one billion dollars in assets, who currently employs a few hundred professionals, and is constantly growing. This achievement is a prime example of the real Polish spirit that we should all be proud of. Future generations of American Poles will be able to look at the success of the Credit Union as an example of entrepreneurship to follow.