20110628-sonik-6894

A warm welcome to everyone,

To answer the question of who I am, let me say this: I am a Pole, born in Krakow and socially moulded by the experience of communism and struggle against it. Professionally I am a politician, a MEP, representing Małopolska and Świętokrzyskie regions in the European Parliament.

But let's start from the beginning, I was born in 1953 in Krakow, my mother is a highlander and my father was a soldier during WW2 in Bataliony Chłopskie (Peasant Battalions), and incidentally related to the famous Bishop of Kielce - Franciszek Sonik.

In the early 1970s I began my studies at the Jagiellonian University. This was a very important time for me, I was active at the Dominican Friars' University Chaplaincy Centre called Beczka. I also cooperated with KOR (Workers' Defence Committee). The early days of my clandestine activities ended with the murder of my friend Staszek Pyjas. Along with other friends from the opposition movement we then founded SKS (Students' Solidarity Committee). Staszek's death was a huge challenge, a testing time. The establishment of SKS was meant to show that we would not be intimidated. Until 1982 I was deputy chairman of Małopolska region Solidarity Trade Union, I was also head of Małopolska region representatives to the First National Solidarity Trade Union Congress. On the first day of martial law was interned. In 1983 I started working in Znak Publishing House, it was then that my friends and I founded a socio-cultural magazine called Arka which had to be published underground.

While still a student I married Liliana (nee Batko). Starting a family was then more than just a decision about sharing your life with your beloved, it was a distraction from what was happening around us. We have two adult children - a daughter Janeczka and a son Jacek.

In 1983 I went to Paris. I thought I was leaving for six months. The secret police wanted to get rid of me permanently, but I refused. But when my family joined me, we settled down and got involved in the local political activities. I also worked as a journalist for instance for Radio Free Europe and the BBC. We spent over ten years in Paris. After the fall of communism I became the director of the Polish Institute.

In 1996 I returned to Krakow. I got involved with the local government (I was President of the Małopolska Voivodeship Local Parliament) and director of Krakow 2000 Festival Office. The culmination of four years' of work was the year 2000 and Krakow's nomination as the European capital of culture. I founded Stowarzyszenie Maj 77 (May 1977 Association), which I still chair today, whose aim is to remind people of what was happening in Poland before the fall of communism.

In 2004 I was first elected Member of the European Parliament, five years later, the voters expressed their trust in me again and I was re-elected.

And what I do in my spare time? I spend it with family and friends, go hiking in the mountains, I read, and I go for walks with my dog Paris.