Adrian and Aldona Baron
Adrian and Aldona Baron ()

Attorney Adrian Baron is the son of Polish immigrants. He met his wife while studying in Poland. Many of his clients speak Polish, and he does charitable work in New Britain’s Polish community.

His deep involvement in that ethnic group recently earned Baron and his wife, Aldona, an invitation to the White House, to participate in an immigration law-based program called Ethnic Day. They were the only two Connecticut lawyers included in the Feb. 7 gathering.

“To be there was pretty neat,” said Baron. It was a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

About 75 community leaders from throughout the country were invited to the event, which was hosted by President Barack Obama’s senior advisers and his chief of staff, Denis McDonough.

“We basically spent the whole day there, discussing everything from immigration to health care,” said Adrian Baron, a partner at Podorowsky Thompson & Baron, which has offices in New Britain, Stamford, and Westport.

The participants took a private tour of the residence and then headed to the Executive Wing, where they went into a big room for a “town hall”-type meeting. Baron said community leaders representing immigrants from other countries – Germany, Ireland, Serbia, Syria, Italy – all had input at the White House session.

“Every immigration group has its own horse in the race,” he said. “Too often the immigration issue is portrayed only as a Hispanic issue. The room represented a broad spectrum of Americans.”

Baron said one issue that he brought up at the meeting is the travel restrictions placed on Polish residents who want to vist America. “If someone has a grandfather in Poland who has to come here for a wedding … you have to jump through hoops,” Baron said.

In order to come to Amercia, Polish resident have to first travel several hours to the U.S. Embassy in either Krakow or Warsaw. Once there, they have to wait in long lines and then show their plane ticket. Even then, their travel request are often turned down, he said. “It’s really a convoluted process,” Baron said.

He said that the difficulties Polish citizens face are surprising given the long history of good relations between Poland and America.

Consultations In Polish

Adrian and Aldona Baron met during an American Bar Association Program held in Poland, at a program sponsored by the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

In New Britain, both Barons work at Podorowsky Thompson & Baron. Adrian handles mostly criminal law while Aldona focuses on civil litigation and personal injury law.

“The firm is one of handful of law firms in Connecticut that offers Polish-speaking attorneys,” Adrian Baron said. “We often do consultations completely in Polish. We’ve even done real estate closings in Polish. The firm is active in the Polish community with charity work and volunteer efforts.”

Although they were the only Connecticut lawyers present at the event, the Barons were joined by two other state residents. Lisa Wisniewski is involved with several Polish-American groups in the state. Also attending was Martin Dunleavy, the Clerk of the House in the Connecticut General Assembly; he represented the Irish community.

Adrian Baron said he did not meet Obama but did have an encounter with the president’s dog, Sunny, a female Portuguese water dog, who came in from a walk and stepped on his foot. He also saw the president’s helicopter taking off that morning for Michigan. “We were waiting in line in the morning and Marine One was taking off,” Baron said.

Aldona Baron found the experience just as exhilarating as her husband did. “It was very exciting, especially because I’m an immigrant, to be in the White House,” said Aldona Baron, a graduate of the University of Connecticut Law School who also has a master’s of law degree from the University of Szczecin Law School in Poland.

She found it particularly interesting to see the wide variety of issues that people from different countries have with the United States. “Everybody expects America to solve their problem,” she said. “You can see how the administration is pulled in different directions.”