Among his numerous contributions to the cause of Poland was an initiative that led to the establishment of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation. In July 1989, during his speech delivered to the Polish Parliament, President Bush announced that the USA would lend active support to the development of a market economy in Poland, including creating the Polish-American Enterprise Fund. Following the President’s declaration, in November 1989, US Congress adopted the Support for Eastern European Democracy (SEED) Act, under which the Polish American Enterprise Fund was established in 1990. By investing in more than 50 enterprises, the Fund set up and developed many companies and other institutions which have been playing important roles in the Polish economy since then. Loan programs for small and medium businesses initiated by the Fund embraced almost 100,000 entrepreneurs. With the Fund’s assistance five banks were established, including the first financial institution in Poland to offer mortgage loans.
In 1992, at the initiative of the Polish American Enterprise Fund, the Enterprise Investors Group was created to manage the Fund’s investments. Today EI is the leading institution managing private equity funds in the region. Thanks to its effective investments, the Fund’s initial capital of USD 240 million was increased by over 50 percent.
In 1999, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski awarded the Special Economic Award to the Enterprise Fund “for its significant contribution to the development of Polish economy”. That same year, President George H. W. Bush visited Poland and took part in the conference on the Polish American Enterprise Fund’s achievements and its legacy that was soon to be evidenced by creation of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation.
In 2001 half of the original grant awarded to the Enterprise Fund, USD120 million, was returned to the US government —it was the first such example in the history of American foreign aid. Before that, with the agreement of the US Congress and in accord with the government of the Republic of Poland, a gradual transfer of the remaining funds to the Polish-American Freedom Foundation established by the Fund had begun. Eventually, the Foundation’s endowment reached USD 255 million.
In 2005, on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Polish-American Enterprise Fund and the 5th anniversary of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, President Bush sent his best wishes to the authorities of both institutions via video.
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We will remember Him as a figure who contributed greatly to the historical changes that started with the Polish breakthrough in 1989. “It is here, in the heart of Europe, that the American people express their deep hope for Europe to be united and free,” he said during his visit to Warsaw. In 1992, he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by President Lech Wałęsa. In 2005 he received the Jan Nowak-Jeziorański Award for his “contribution to overthrowing communism and regaining independence by Poland.”
Andrew Nagorski, Chairman of the Board of Directors
Jerzy Koźmiński, President of the Foundation
The Polish-American Freedom Foundation Board of Directors and Staff