President George Bush phoned Poland’s ambassador to Iraq last week to wish him a speedy recovery from burns he suffered in a bombing in Iraq.
Ambassador Edward Pietrzyk, 58, who suffered burns on 25 percent of his body in the Oct. 3 attack, left the Gryfice Burn Center on Nov. 10, two days after the phone call from Bush. Poland has had forces in Iraq since 2003, making it a target of insurgents and terrorists.
Pietrzyk, a former army general, described the chat he had with Bush, whom he has met, as a courteous and pleasant “men’s conversation.”
“President Bush wished me a full and speedy recovery,” Pietrzyk said. Bush also said he hoped that he and Pietrzyk would be working together again soon. In fact, Bush said he was “counting on that,” the ambassador said.
Bush may have a limited time to work with Pietrzyk, however. The man who will be Poland’s new prime minister, Donald Tusk of the Civic Platform Party, has indicated Poland will pull its troops out of Iraq in 2008.
Twenty-two Polish soldiers have died in the conflict so far. Pietrzyk told the Polish Press Agency that he has met Bush a number of times, the first when Bush was governor of Texas.
During the phone call, Pietrzyk said, “I thanked him for American help after the attack. The immediate help from American soldiers saved my life.”
The attack that wounded Pietrzyk killed one of the government men protecting him, Bartosz Orzechowski, and wounded six other Poles.
At a press conference on the day he left the hospital, Pietrzyk thanked his doctors for giving him a second chance at life. “I am so grateful for everything you have done for me,” he said.
The doctors, in turn, praised the ambassador’s grit. “We were satisfied with the way the healing went,” said Dr. Andrew Gorzka, the director of the burn center. “But this success isn’t just ours. The general’s determination ‘helped us.'”
Pietrzyk, his wife and their two sons flew from Goleniow, near Gryfice, to Warsaw, where he planned to rest a few days before returning to work in Iraq.
“I want to go back to Iraq and carry on my mission,” Pietrzyk said. “We went to this country not to conquer it but to stabilize it,” he said. We must not leave it too soon, he added.
Pietrzyk was the Polish army’s commander in chief from 2000 to 2006. He commanded Poland’s military contingent in Iraq for six months before being named ambassador in May 2007.