Dziennik Związkowy: Attorney Piotr Wachowski Interview

Published on June 24th, 2021

Translated As Featured on dziennikzwiazkowy.com

Author: Tatiana Kotasinska

June 18, 2021

Piotr Wachowski – zodiac sign Sagittarius; an attorney who discovered that his vocation is to fight for disadvantaged Polish immigrants. In practicing law, he has zero tolerance for deals and shoddiness. He openly admits to crises and family tragedies that taught him respect for health and spiritual life. With courage and a sense of humor, he looks into the masterfully built FUTURE.

Tatiana Kotasinska: When I first approached you with a request for an interview, you readily agreed. Can you explain your eagerness for why you are so eager for people to get to know you?

Piotr Wachowski: – The reason may be that recently, I have felt like a newborn. At this stage in my life, I have been enjoying what I do just like I did right after I had graduated from the Law School. I may have been more concerned about what people thought of my performance back then. This is no longer so important to me. I want to share with my Polish clients who I really am, also privately. I do not need awards or approvals, or to satisfy my ego in any way for that matter.

Some time ago during a conversation with a coach specializing in career development, you concluded that you wanted to work for the Polish community. Where did this certainty come from?

– I don’t know where, specifically, this great certainty came from. It may have come from “up above”. Throughout my whole life, I have had contact with Polish people, mainly through my various jobs. I have always understood members of this particular ethnic group. Although I myself was born in Chicago, I have always identified as a Pole. When I was almost finished with my law degree program, I briefly wanted to recreate myself. I thought I should branch out in an entirely new direction. I may have struggled with a strong sense of my Polish identity. However, at the same time, I was not sure what kind of formation this would be. I was 26 at the time. I reached out.

Later on, during a session with my carrier coach, I realized, clearly, I did not need to run away. I understood my calling was to get involved in supporting our local Polish communities. Although it may sound silly, I can say that at that moment, I felt as if I received a kind of a spiritual message. It was an amazing feeling. It made me feel emotional. I cried like a baby during our sessions with a career coach throughout the various activities we performed.

Career development coaching, a “Strategic Coach” – what does all that mean?

– I have benefited from advice from a strategic coaching genius whose classes I took, on a regular basis, once a year, for the last 17 years. All workshop participants want to improve their career and this is why they participate in these workshops. They plan for their futures.  I try to think that my future is bigger than my past. All participants of the workshops usually do well in business through implementing improvements in their family relations, believing in reaching a balance, and growth. What we think about the future reflects the present – if I thought I had an uninteresting future, I wouldn’t have the strength to go forth.

Your CV is a busy one. You started working as a 10-year-old boy. Do you sometimes feel like you may have lost your childhood?

– No. This is because I never knew what childhood was supposed to be otherwise. In my teens, I was happy to have a job. Although, at times, other construction workers told me I was a kid and that I should be backpacking around Europe, like they did when they were my age, I was not bothered. I must have inherited my industriousness from my parents.

You lived in a Polish neighborhood and your parents were involved with the Polish labor market. Please tell us about this.

– My dad, Kazimierz, ran a butcher store on Belmont Avenue. Later on, he moved to Florida. My mom, Maria, was able to find her way in every field, from waitressing and housekeeping to carpet sales and her own cleaning service. Finally, she ran a construction company that was very successful. This was a very unusual occupation for a woman at that time.

It is said that strong mothers can either weaken or strengthen sons. What kind of influence did your mother have on your life?

– Thanks to my mom, I learned that when I take anything up in life, I have to do it well. Always, to the best of my ability. She made me who I am today. I also inherited some positive traits from my dad. Our family problems only made me stronger. There was never a time that we had no money in the house. My mom never thought of ways to just get some aid money. She always knew she had to earn it.

I remember the day when my mother made me wash the bathroom at the age of ten. When I thought I was done, she made me go back and correct my shortcomings several times. These repeated attempts, at the end, taught me what it meant to wash a bathroom well. Based on this one event I learned that whatever I do in my life, I must be as thorough and conscientious as I was when tackling that bathroom cleaning task in my childhood.

 But there was more at stake here than the question “why B’s and not A’s”?

– I remember once showing my mom a school report with very good grades on it. However, there was also a C. She appeared not to have noticed it and instead praised me on my good grades. I wondered why. I asked her about it in the last days of her life. She admitted that knowing me, she knew I would want to improve that grade myself anyway and that she did not need to say anything. My mother had many employees in her businesses who still talk about her with great affection.

You have survived an illness and passing of five people over the course of several years: your wife, parents, and in-laws. What impact did that have on your career?

– It all started when my dad passed away… I kind of turned my back on my career and my clients. I continued to work. I tried my best the way I always have. However, my job did not make me happy, then. The biggest blow was the death of my wife who passed away at the age of 49. We had a very good marriage. Then my professional situation got even worse. This went on for a while. Then, a friend of mine suggested I should go to therapy. I did. It helped me a great deal. For two years now, I have my life back and I have been able to enjoy my days, again.

Thousands benefit from therapy, but men are reluctant to admit it…

– When my clients are going through difficult times, I always suggest talking to a professional. Women are stronger and are not shy to reach out for support. However, men should also dare to do so. Polish communities are often torn by dysfunctions arising from alcoholism, violence. People simply get hurt.

At that time in your life, you also decided to take health very seriously. What did this consist of?

– I’ve been exercising quite a bit since I was 16. I work out up to 10 times a week. Even a 40-minute-long brisk walk I consider a workout. I have also been reading and learning a lot about health lately. I believe there are things that are reversible, that we are able to heal ourselves. This is not to say that we can take 30 years off our backs. However, there are ways we can use it to extend it and make it more enjoyable.

Taking my health seriously came about after the death of my loved ones. I want to give myself a chance to live a better, longer life. I also went to see a very knowledgeable physician. On a positive note, I realized that even if my whole family died of cancer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to, also. If I don’t give the disease a foothold, it just won’t develop.

When it comes to health care options, we live in times of abundance.

– Exactly! Peter Diamandis, an excellent life coach, also wrote about abundance. We complain constantly, but life has never been as good as it is in our times. Everyone has electricity nowadays, bathroom, water etc. We need to think positive. Negative thinking can cause real illness, even a wound on the body…

You are perceived in the Polish community of Chicago as an important attorney, one who wins big cases for compensation for damages resulting from accidents. Indeed, you have won quite a few of them. Which of them influenced your career the most?

– My personal success, not in a financial context, was winning against the 7-Eleven franchising system. I finally felt I could fight the biggest ones. I felt good about myself. I felt I was an accomplished attorney. My intention was to fight for a young female who worked at 7-Eleven and was raped by a newspaper delivery man. Following that event, many downtown attorneys I met in courtrooms acknowledged my success. This was very reassuring.

You run a law firm with a partner. Do you recommend being in partnership in this profession?

– I consciously chose my field – accident cases. By working for myself, I have more flexibility and can create what I want. I have previously handled many cases in many fields and believe my experience and knowledge are more than average. My partner at the firm, due to his age and years and experience in the profession, has been a good mentor to me.

George Bellas, a partner with whom you have worked for over 30 years, said: “Piotr Wachowski is an attorney who has the utmost respect for his clients; he simply treats them like his family. He is totally committed to every case and dedicated to people. Over the years, as our cooperation and friendship has matured, Piotr has become a top-notch attorney, constantly looking for new ways to fight for his clients. I have full confidence in him and I am proud to be his partner.” What do you think when you hear this?

– I’m happy he thinks so. We have both invested a lot in our partnership. I find it a little strange to hear compliments about the way I do my work. I don’t really need them because I honestly believe that high quality work is my responsibility.

Is it true that doctors would recommend your services to their family members, but that they don’t like working with attorneys in your line of work?

– This is true and it happens because I fight for my client to the end. When I see inflated medical bills at the end of a case, I have to fight those bills, as well. Otherwise, my clients would end up with less than what their cases are really worth.

Do you feel disliked in the community because of this?

– No, I feel respected because I’m not playing someone else’s game.

Does your stature and the fact you are tall help you in court?

– I don’t know. It’s funny that you ask. I have always thought that my height is just average. I only notice a difference when I may stand next to someone in a mirror.

How do you feel about those big tables in courtrooms when one attorney is facing an entire team of attorneys representing a corporation you are up against?

– I believe that stage fright is a natural process if we are doing something we care deeply about. If someone is doing something new, something they have never done and says they are not afraid, I don’t believe that person. It’s natural to be afraid. However, we need to be courageous.

Being a Sagittarius, you have achieved professional success, have a happy family, and a second beautiful wife. You are open-minded and declare a spiritual life. Is this what being a Superman is like? Do you have any weaknesses?

– I can be weak when it comes to my diet. There are times when I can’t control my emotions. I can sometimes explode or speak before I think. I have been working on it very hard, though. I am a lucky man. I got a second chance in my personal life. A year and a half ago, I married a Polish woman – Klaudia. My wife is the face representing a cosmetic company. She travels around the world. We complement each other. While I may sometimes have immature thoughts, she is the one who always keeps us in line.

You said: I can be alpha if I want to be alpha, but at the same time I am a very sensitive guy. Do they teach balance in law school?

– They taught me in school to think as an attorney. However, before college, one has to develop some predispositions. Everything in life should have a balance. I find it easier to fight in life for someone than for myself.

When I was younger I always fought for the weaker guy. I felt I had to. I never provoked a fight. In high school, there was this one tall student. As he walked by, he always hit a petite Polish student in the head. He annoyed me so much that I finally challenged him to pick someone of his stature. He said I was of his stature. I reacted right away – I hit him so hard that I thought his head would spin around. I was sent to detention for that. However, it turned out that at my Catholic high school, some priests were grateful I was able to whip a troublemaker student in line.

You are a person of faith. You went through the entire Catholic education system. What influence did it have on your life?

– From the moment of my first communion, I have always felt the Holy Spirit working in a real way. Without all of my Catholic formation, I would not have been able to formulate, define the things that I have experienced. Most of the time I go to churches to pray when they are empty. Especially the most beautiful church in Chicago – Our Lady of Angels. When I sit there, I imagine that I am back to the 1950s and that there are several thousand Polish people there.

Are you comfortable talking about death?

– I am not afraid of death and we all need to accept that. Memento mori… Through my philosophy readings, I have understood why people would repeat that phrase several times a day in the Middle Ages.

What will Piotr Wachowski say about his children?

– I have good, smart, healthy children. This really makes me “the richest man in the world.” If I had money and lost my family, I would be the poorest. This is my interpretation of St. Paul’s “Hymn to Love” quote.

All three of my children (24-year-old Filip, 22-year-old Krystyna, 20-year-old William) have great, specific sense of humor. They laugh a lot; they want me to tell jokes; they are smart. So we make fun all the time, we make faces. I love my children very much; I feel that everything I have done in my life has been to set a good example for them. To help them build good futures for themselves.

I can’t imagine life without them. Many of my life decisions were made with them in mind. My children have given me a lot of motivation to succeed; they have given me a purpose in life. My career has always been secondary to home and children. Family has always been one of the core values I would ever compromise.

Are you an idealist?

– I was before, although it may be hard to believe. I can see it now in my oldest son….

You have established the Polish Perpetual Educational Fund. What is its aim?

– I may not fully realize this dream until I retire. I will choose very talented young Polish people who cannot afford school and try to find resources to send them to colleges. If some universities in California get involved, they may turn out to be outstanding scientists…

“Pleural mesothelioma” is your new professional plan for the future?

– It’s a plan I really want to spread the knowledge throughout the Polish communities. If readers of the journal have relatives who have already returned to Poland and they are sick with something that looks like lung cancer, chances are they have been misdiagnosed and it is not lung cancer but pleural mesothelioma. If these individuals worked in America in the 1970s and 1980s as asbestos removers, painters, contractors, or even mechanics, I could definitely help these people. I will gladly see them in my law office.

And what gives you pleasure, what makes you laugh?

– I take pleasure in learning. I am passionate about reading anything that motivates me and makes me grow. I find simple things funny, funny bits of reality. I have a sarcastic sense of humor. I am a goof. For example, I’ll call Sam’s Club and pretend to speak another language, with a heavy accent. My children have grown up witnessing this fooling around. I love comedy and comedy clubs. We go to see comedy shows often. A great day is when you have laughed, cried, learned something new, and reflected upon life.

Thank you very much for the interview.

Interviewee: Tatiana Kotasińska



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