NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — A missile strike in Poland killed two people Tuesday and Connecticut's Polish community is reacting to the tragedy.
The Polish government says it was a Russian-made missile, but it is not clear yet if it was launched in Russia. Russian leaders say they are not behind it.
The attack hits close to home for the Polish community in New Britain's Little Poland neighborhood. Pulaski Deli Owner Marzena Izydorczak's family is in Poland. She's owned the deli for 30 years on Broad Street.
"It’s very sad because my family's there and I’m just worried about them. I don’t know what’s going to happen from this missile if that was an attack on Poland," she said. "I really don’t want to see nothing big coming from this."
Poland is a NATO country. The deadly incident happened the same day as Russian bombing of parts of Ukraine as the war continues. Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy said what happened in Poland is “a very significant escalation” of the war. If it is confirmed the strike was a Russian attack, it would be the first time Russian weapons entered a NATO country since the invasion in February.
"I’m just so worried about my family over there," Izydorczak said.
President Joe Biden tweeted Tuesday he had spoken with the Poland president and "will remain in close touch to determine appropriate next steps as it proceeds." The president called for an emergency G7 and NATO meeting Wednesday. After that meeting, Biden told reporters preliminary information of the trajectory may show the missiles were not from Russia, calling it "unlikely." He pledged his support for Poland's investigation into what happened.
"There is preliminary information that contests that. I don’t want to say that until we completely investigate. But it is -- I -- it’s unlikely, in the minds of the trajectory, that it was fired from Russia," the president said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted the organization is "monitoring the situation and Allies are closely consulting" adding it's important all the facts are established.
Adrian Baron is the Polonia Business Association president in Little Poland. His wife is from Poland and he has many relatives in the European country. His aunt lives not far from where the strike happened in the Eastern part of Poland.
"It really hit close to home," he said. "My first thoughts were with them."
The city of New Britain has about 20,000 Polish residents, Baron says. A majority of businesses in Little Poland are Polish-owned. He said the city is considered "the heart of New England's Polish community."
Since World War II, he said Poland and Ukraine have grown closer together. After Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, the New Britain community has shown their support for their neighbors with fundraisers, taking Ukrainians in, and even renaming the neighborhood Little Ukraine for a period of time. Polish President Andrzej Duda visited the Hardware City in 2019.
"It’s sad to see Poland in this situation now because of opening up their borders to help Ukrainians and then it just seems like again history repeating itself with Russian aggression," he said.
Baron says the deadly incident in Poland, just a matter of miles from the Ukraine border, will lead to increased fear in the country and back here in Connecticut.
"Poland is still a big part of their hearts, and to have this happen to where their parents and grandparents came from, it’s tough," he said. "It’s your friends, your neighbors, your family members, so they still feel that connection to their homeland."
Baron said it is now a wait-and-see game if the strike is determined to be a Russian effort and, if so, how NATO will respond.
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