Roman Cisek’s journey from Poland to the United States is an example of how the gear trade has become one big international community. A few weeks ago I posted about my employer taking on the distribution of worm boxes made in the United Kingdom. At the same time, Mr. Cisek’s firm was licensing American designs to make in Poland. Twenty-five years after WWII, the real peace dividend was the opening of markets so consumers could enjoy the best products available — not just whatever local factories wanted to churn out.
Not everything went smoothly. In Milwaukee, we learned what “if in doubt, ask” meant. Behind the Iron Curtain, Mr. Cisek was challenged to find steels that could match the performance of highly alloyed grades, but without the “unavailable alloys.” Everyone had to learn to compete with new competitors and understand gear geometry in a different light.
Most of you reading this posting are too young to appreciate the shock that “Solidarity” was to the accepted world order. Chicago already had a large Polish immigrant community and it rallied to support the fledgling labor movement. At Chicago Gear [where Mr. Cisek later worked], management even decided to match the funds raised by our Polish employees. We recognized that history was being made while we watched from the safety of our living room couches.
Forty years later, no one thinks twice about open markets. Products come from all over the world; we expect American products to be welcome everywhere as well. There have been many “winners” from this system and more than a few “losers,” too. Once the “genie” of free trade is out of the bottle it is very difficult to put it back. Our current “trade war” will eventually fizzle out as a result.
For those with an interest, James Mitchener’s novel Poland is an excellent primer on a wonderful country that has sent so many talented people to these shores. From Casimir Pulaski during the American revolution to Roman Cisek in the post-Solidarity days, our community is better for their contributions.
(Full disclosure — my Polish co-workers at Brad Foote Gear Works pointed out that my great grandpa Otto’s home village is now a suburb of Gadnz — birthplace of Solidarity. According to them that makes me of Polish, not German, lineage.)