Silver jubilees are rare occasions to be savoured in the knowledge that the golden jubilee is still 25 years away. And so it was with the BPCC’s Silver Jubilee Gala Dinner, a glorious sell-out affair!
Warsaw’s Intercontinental Hotel was the venue for the formal black-tie event, attended by over 270 BPCC members and their guests. It was a great chance to catch up and mingle over a welcome glass of celebratory champagne. Once guests had been invited into the grand ballroom, the evening’s compere, Tamara Arciuch, opened the night’s proceedings. The official opening and welcome was from Antoni Reczek, BPCC chairman, together with the two BPCC honorary presidents, HMA Jonathan Knott, and Arkady Rzegocki, the Polish ambassador to Britain.
After the starters were served, British-Polish historian Adam Zamoyski, author of best-sellers such as The Polish Way, The Forgotten Few and The Phantom Terror, delivered his speech. Focusing on the history of his noble family, he showed the centuries-old ties between Britain (indeed England!) and Poland. Queen Elizabeth I’s adviser, Robert Cecil, exchanged letters with Jan Zamoyski (in Latin of course), which are currently at Hatfield House. A later Zamoyski visited Porthmadog in Wales to see the latest in Victorian steam technology, which inspired him to launch a steamship service up the Vistula from Warsaw to Gdańsk. The Zamoyski family would regularly employ governesses from England, and one of them persuaded them to plant hedgerows across the Roztocze hills so that they would remind her of her native Kent. As an aside, Adam Zamoyski mentioned that English governesses were very popular across the Russian Empire; as it collapsed in the fury of the Civil War, the Royal Navy found itself rescuing English governesses from ports along the Baltic coast. His speech proved that the links between Poland and Britain via his family were as deep and interesting as the shared history of our two countries.
Main course (roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, prepared with Polish flair by the InterContinental’s executive chef, Mariusz Jeznach) was followed by a special B’P’CC Question Time, presented by Kasia Madera, one of the anchors on global TV network BBC World News, watched by 99 million people around the world. Her guests were Antoni Reczek, and ambassadors Jonathan Knott and Arkady Rzegocki, and her task was to tease out some interesting personal facts about them. We learned that Mr Knott had served at the British Embassy in Havana just as the Soviet Union was crumbling, and that his biggest extravagance was buying a classic MGB GT sports car (which he has to this day), and his worse job was a holiday stint as a swimming pool lifeguard. Antoni Reczek talked about his global search for fine vines – and some very expensive and disappointing bottles he had tried, as well as his early days in Poland with Coopers & Lybrand. Arkady Rzegocki displayed his passion for Polish history and his love of academic tradition, as seen at his Alma Mater, the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and Cambridge. A quick-fire round of questions ended the session, which was followed by dessert.
Live music from young Polish music star, Mateusz Grędziński, winner of The Voice of Poland 2016, together with his band, brought guests down onto the dance floor, while and alternative attraction was on offer in the lobby, a whisky bar courtesy of Diageo, with four quite different malts to sample.
This year’s charity, Habitat for Humanity, raised 8410 złotys in the prize lottery raffle, money which will be used to open the first Habitat ReStore charity shop in Poland to be accepting and selling building and decorating materials, interior fittings and furnishings.
Thanks to the sponsors of this most memorable event – HSBC Bank Polska, Provident Polska, British Automotive Centrum, Poland’s main dealer of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles and Diageo for contributing to an evening that was up to the task in hand – celebrating this significant milestone of the British Polish Chamber of Commerce.