Home / Heads of mission  / Europe / Poland


Central European Time Zone  UTC+01:00

 Capital City Warsaw

 Currency Polish złoty

National Day  November 11

His Excellency Piotr Wilczek
Embassy of the Republic of Poland
47 Portland Place
London W1B 1JH
T: 020 7291 3520
F: 020 7291 3576
E: london@msz.gov.pl

Poland’s new Ambassador Piotr Wilczek comes to the UK following a five-year posting in the United States. As part of Poland’s energy diversification, his major task there was “to strengthen Poland’s energy cooperation with the US. We had an ambitious plan not to extend the Yamal Contract with Russia in 2022.” Indeed, last month a section of the Russian Yamal-Europe pipeline reversed flows, with gas heading eastbound to Poland from Germany. “Poland also signed some major energy contracts with the US. So together with Norwegian and Qatar gas, this makes our gas supply independent from Russia.” Establishing a stronger American military presence in Poland was also on the agenda. “These were important, long-term decisions for Poland. When we look at things from today’s perspective, we see how important these decisions were.” He notes, “My appointment to the UK was made long before the invasion of Ukraine this year, when the world was a different place. But all the same, my government wanted me to use my experience in this new role, which was quite rich after Washington DC.”

Since his arrival in the capital in mid-February he has been non-stop since his first meeting, which significantly, was with Ukrainian Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko. “Poland has a special role in this conflict – we are a frontline country that borders not only Ukraine and Belarus, but the Kaliningrad region of Russia. Poland is hosting approximately 1.7 million Ukrainian refugees, and they are very welcome.  Around 30,000-40,000 refugees cross the border each day, but a few weeks ago that figure was over 100,000.” He continues: “Poland is a hub for humanitarian help, and we appreciate assistance from other countries. The UK has been especially helpful, as it understands that this is a crisis about European security. For that reason, our cooperation with the UK is of crucial importance, and is intensive at all levels. We have had many high-level bilateral meetings and visits; indeed, our President is coming to London tomorrow [this interview occurred before the President’s visit]. Together with the US, we believe the UK is a key partner in Nato.”

With such a significant diplomatic role, it’s surprising to learn that Ambassador Wilczek is not a career diplomat. Indeed, he remarks, “I’m still an academic at heart – I’m on the sixth year of a very long sabbatical!” The son of a graphic artist and a physician, he recalls a modest upbringing in southern Poland. “Unusually, my parents insisted that I learn English from a young age, even before I started learning Russian. As the only pupil learning English at my school, I wasn’t happy about it!” Looking back, he realises this decision hugely influenced his future. “I not only became acquainted with the English-speaking world, and with all things British, but became internationally aware at a time that Poland was under the Communist regime.”

It has been a welcome return to the UK, as Ambassador Wilczek conducted his postgraduate research at Oxford University, the University of East Anglia and the University of London between 1996 and 1998. Before joining the foreign service, Ambassador Wilczek taught at the University of Warsaw as a tenured professor. From 2009 to 2016, he served as the Director of the University’s Collegium Artes Liberales, an innovative college of liberal arts and sciences. From 2002 to 2008, he was the Dean of the Faculty of Philology at the University of Silesia in Katowice, overseeing a faculty with two campuses, 7,000 students and 400 staff. Prior to that, he’d spent three years in the US as a visiting professor at various leading US universities. During this time, he was supported by The Kosciuszko Foundation, focusing on promoting academic and cultural exchange between Poland and the US. Passionate about music, he has been involved in organising cultural events and festivals since the start of his career. As a young assistant professor, he recalls his ambition to become the Director of a Polish Cultural Institute somewhere. “It hasn’t quite worked out that way!”

Security, however, remains high on the agenda now he is Poland’s Ambassador in London. “We are in close cooperation with the UK government on cyber security and Russian disinformation. Everyone in the world should have access to accurate information; there’s a lot of disinformation and provocation on social media on how this war is presented.”

Poland and the UK are also exchanging information on energy corridors. “We can learn a lot from each other. But I think governments have realised that there is a lot to learn from Poland about Russia too. And also from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and of course, Ukraine. Poland has been warning the West for some time about Nord Stream 2. During my time in the US, I explained that if finished, this pipeline would make Ukraine and the whole of Eastern Europe vulnerable, and this is exactly what happened. Our concerns about Russia were not taken seriously enough in the West. The assumption was that if Nato was not extended to the East, the West could maintain good relations with Russia. We never believed this to be true.”

His other ambitions include to “bring more British investors to Poland, and more Polish investors to the UK. We also have good cooperation in agri-food, and the food industry in general.”  With such a big Polish diaspora – about one million people – he explains “it is essential that we work with this community to strengthen UK-Polish relations. Polish is the second most spoken language in the UK, and we have an important shared history that includes the Polish role in the Battle of Britain and breaking the Enigma code. Our cultural projects are also important: we plan to have exhibitions at some major galleries in London, and to present Polish music in places like Wigmore Hall and other similar venues.”

With so many items on the agenda that are constantly in the daily headlines, it might be easy to forget Brexit. Ambassador Wilczek says “Brexit is an opportunity to have more bilateral projects. Of course, we are a member of the EU, but we understand the British position. There is some bureaucracy as far as customs are concerned, and issues surrounding the Irish Protocol, but we are not directly involved. There are no major obstacles for us.”

In terms of climate diplomacy, Ambassador Wilczek notes that Poland has “very ambitious climate goals: including to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030. Achieving these goals will not be an easy task for Poland, but the Polish government is determined to achieve it and we are working hard to help the Polish transition to a low carbon economy. The impressive development programme for offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea is just one example of our efforts.”

What does he think is Poland’s greatest diplomatic challenge? “Of course, the war in Ukraine, and the close role that Polish diplomacy must play in that. We must help Ukraine and work together with other countries who might have different views on the situation and pass on our first-hand knowledge. Our Ambassador is still in Ukraine – as the last foreign Ambassador remaining in the country. Our Prime Minister initiated a visit to Kyiv a few weeks ago (together with the Czech and Slovenian Prime Ministers), encouraging other world leaders to visit in person. This is Polish diplomacy setting an example to the world.”

Despite his high-profile and challenging start to his London posting, Ambassador Wilczek notes that presenting his credentials to the Queen, at Buckingham Palace will remain a highlight of his career. “The ceremony was historic and picturesque, but also very real. It was a moving experience to have a long, face-to-face conversation with the Queen.”


  • all
  • Countries and continent
  • articles

Countries and continent