My Story - Zdzislaw Nagengast

In 2007 I was working as a business consultant. My partner asked me to join him at a meeting to see how we might be able to help a small non-profit develop a strategic plan. I had to travel to a small town outside of Atlanta, Georgia and had another in a long string of bad travel experiences. I was tired and frustrated. John Mroz met us at my partner’s residence and we proceeded to dinner, a 30 minute drive. I sat in the back in sullen silence and struggled to screw up the energy to engage this potential client.


John was his usual energetic self and started to tell us about his work and the Institute. Not wanting to be rude and trying to find a connection I asked John if he happened to be of Polish descent. His name gave me the clue, and he said he was. I am of Polish origin and I asked John if he spoke any Polish. He said not really, but immediately shared with us a story about a meeting he had in Warsaw with General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland’s leader.


He had been trying to persuade him to agree to an important meeting and was not having great success. In a moment of inspiration John bet Jaruzelski that he could sing more stanzas of a very popular Polish Christmas carol than he could. If he succeeded, Jaruzelski would participate in the meeting; if not, he would drop the subject. Well, it turned out that that he could and the rest is, as they say …. I asked John which Christmas carol he chose and he answered by singing it. I immediately joined in. Here we were, on the back roads of Georgia, singing a Polish Christmas carol in the middle of summer. My partner, a gentleman from the South drove in amazement. From that moment I was hooked and have been involved with the Institute ever since.


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