Grzegorz Bierecki became a chairman of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). This honorable mention is not only for a person of the new chairman of WOCCU of our Credit Unions, but also of Poland. Cooperative financial institutions are addressed to not wealthy and excluded people, as they have been functioning in 101 countries now and comprise 200 million people in 56 thousand unions. Their assets are 1.6 billion dollars. The fact that among the group our compatriot was elected is a sign of time and the emphasis of the role, which was played by the Polish Credit Unions and in getting organized by people for the common welfare.

A Pole will manage the world financial organization!

The election of Grzegorz Bierecki for a chairman of WOCCU was surely influenced by the fact that the financial chaos, spreading in the world, the collapse of unimaginable fortunes, a galloping crisis of economy did not touch our native credit unions - the Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions, but, on contrary- they caused their development. Poles, losing their trustfulness to private financial institutions, started trusting cooperative institutions, transferring their little savings into them. They did not even get discouraged by the campaign against Credit Unions, which was started in the recent years by governmental and financial groups.
When in 2012 in Gdańsk, in the birthplace of 'Solidarność' and of Polish Credit Unions, there were debates of WOCCU, in lobbies one could hear that 20 years of work of Polish Credit Unions raises astonishment of delegates and is the base for legal solutions for credit unions in the world. In the talks the surname of Grzegorz Bierecki, as a candidate or the chief of WOCCU was mentioned. If today this choice was realized, it puts Poland in the best light. We all remember how the crisis influenced the world economy and households all over the world.
Grzegorz Bierecki himself is aware of the fact that the 'election for this post is the most prestigious choice in the sector of credit unions', and the World Council of Credit Unions is an institution whose superior role is representing credit unions towards institutions of the global character. An example, here, can be a cooperation with the G - 8 group, which decides about strategic directions of the world development - emphasizes Grzegorz Bierecki. This engagement of WOCCU in the activity of international structures is extremely important for keeping their unique character.

A new chairman of WOCCU

Grzegorz Bierecki has been related to the financial market in Poland for over 20 years. He established Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions with a group of friends and with the support of Lech Kaczyński (the late Lech Kaczyński was awarded after his death with the Supreme Award given by WOCCU - the Award of DSA - Distinguished Service Award. In the years 1990 - 2011 he was a president of the Foundation for the sake of Polish Credit Unions. The author of the developmental program of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions in Poland, for which he gained support from the American government, the European Community, United Nations Organization and many national organizations of credit unions, among the others, from the United States, Canada and Ireland. From 1992 to October last year, he was functioning as the chairman of the Management of the National Credit Unions, since October 2012 he has been the chairman of the Supervising National Council of Credit Unions. In the recent parliamentary elections he was elected a senator of the Polish Republic.
In his pronouncements after being elected a chairman of WOCCU, he emphasizes his attachment to Poland and the idea of 'Solidarność' and Cooperative Movement. I am a Pole, I feel pride in my origin - he says. - I feel I am a social activist. I have always been asked why we had chosen cooperative formula for building Polish Credit Unions. After all, we cannot be their owners - I am not an owner. We share them with people. I was persuaded to construct it in a different way. I did not use this advice. I think that it was a good decision, which made my work possible for the sake of the society. All this what we were doing, while establishing Credit Unions in Poland, we were doing by continuing the mission initiated by 'Solidarność'. At that time, we did not expect any prize, we wanted the social welfare - emphasizes the newly elected chairman of WOCCU.

In order to serve

Credit unions are financial cooperative organizations gathering members who have the common place of residence (a cooperative comprises, for example, inhabitants of a city district), expressing a particular religion (for example, believers of Hinduism in London), workplace (for example, taxi drivers in London), or belonging to the national minority (for example, Poles in Lyon). Credit unions are ownership of their members, who control them, use their services (for example. loans or credits), keep their savings there. The slogan of credit unions is: 'Not for profit, not for charity but for service'. Credit unions give their members a possibility for development, establishing their companies, investment into the development of households or building family houses. They are engaging in the activity of small homelands, supporting initiatives directed towards the development of local societies.

History of credit unions

History of credit unions goes back to the mid of XIX century. In poor regions of German lands, farmers, merchants and craftsmen did not have any chance towards market economy and usurious loans. The idea of self-help, unity and cooperation, introduced by cooperative movement, allowed them to keep competitiveness. The first cooperative bank was founded by Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch (the 50s of XIX century), and the first credit union was founded by Fredrich Raiffeisen (in the beginning of the 60s of XIX century).
The idea of financial cooperative movement was taken to America with emigrants from the Old Continent. It spread to other continents from here. Its purpose was getting with financial services to those social groups which were excluded from banking financial services because of their low income. In this way, credit unions were counteracting dangerous usurious phenomena, especially in poor developing countries.
Credit unions are popular all over the world. From the Bahamas through Trynidad and Tobago, to Belarus and Romania. In Latin America 2 446 unions are functioning, which comprise over 20 million members. In the North America there are 7731 unions in total, which comprise over 105 million members.


In the end of the 60s of the last century, the financial cooperative movement in USA, Canada and Australia started aiming at establishing the international organization. In this way, in 1971 the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) was established which is functioning on behalf of financial institutions included in it. The World Council, through education, cooperates with other unions which promote ideas of cooperative movement, economic freedom. It is managed by the council, which represents local unions. The main headquarter of WOCCU is in Madison in USA, although it also has its headquarter in Washington and delegations all over the world. Its purpose is an access to the high quality of financial services. WOCCU is functioning for the global system of credit unions, cooperates with governments in the issue of legal regulations concerning financial cooperatives. On 17 October the International Day of Credit Unions is celebrated all over the world.

Credit unions in Poland

Ideas of cooperative movement were brought to Poland during partitions by Franciszek Stefczyk (Galicia) and Fr. Piotr Wawrzyniak (Prussian partition). They were supposed to be a defence against usury and denationalization of Poles. Credit Unions of Stefczyk contributed not only to the development of their members, but also the issue of independence of Poland (they financed among the others, equipment of 2 thousand Legionnaires). Their motto were the words: 'Not for profit, but for the common welfare'. In 1939 there had already been 3.5 thousand credit unions comprising 1.5 million people. After the war, communist authorities were systematically destroying financial cooperative movement. In 1975 it was finally finished, passing its estates to cooperative banks. Credit Unions, which feel to be heirs of the Polish cooperative movement from the period of partitions and interwar period, at present comprise 2.6 million households with assets over 18 milliard zlotys. This powerful financial institution, similarly as its prototypes, is functioning for the sake of its members, local societies and patriotic values. It actively supports establishment of credit unions in Middle-Eastern Europe. Its patron is Franciszek Stefczyk, for whom economy was in the second place, after love to neighbour. At present, there are works on preparing the beatification process of the patron of Credit Unions.

We can be an example for the world

The new chairman of WOCCU from Poland is aware of the fact that the position of Polish Credit Unions among 200 million members of credit unions is high. The representatives of credit unions in the world come to Poland, in order to find examples of our legal regulations and systems of credit unions organization. It is surely a promotion of our country - says Grzegorz Bierecki. - We show that we can offer the world the solutions in the sphere of finances development, administration of big organisations, implementation of innovative solutions. I hope - he emphasizes - that this choice, this decision of the World Council of Credit Unions will contribute to even higher popularity of financial institutions for the common welfare.


- It was 24 years ago, when on the wall of a building in Kansas, I saw the inscription: 'Not for profit, but for service'. From this sentence I started my study of credit unions. Not from management, not from accountancy, not from technology - all this came later. I started from what is the most important: from the question about a purpose. For this purpose, it is worth devoting one's strength and devote one's heart. Only in this way it is possible to achieve results.
This election is the greatest award, which can be received in the global society of credit unions. Being elected by the elected is a great honour. We differ a lot from financial institutions, because we attract special people, sensitive people who join the activity not only of their local societies, but they are also sensitive to calling for help from very distanced parts of the world. Those people do not ask themselves the question why they should help others somewhere far away, if in their country there is so much poverty. They are emotionally moved by every voice of those calling for help and they want to help everybody.
I am glad that here, in Ottawa, during this conference, nearly 2.5 thousand of them gathered. People from wealth countries, who have money and things which can buy, but are here, in order to make sure whether they have not lost a thing which is impossible to buy for money. But there are also people from poor countries, who know that we are never so poor that we could not help others.
Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical 'Caritas in veritate' wrote that credit unions are an example of love functioning in economy. 'If love is intelligent, it can also find a way of functioning which is predictive, righteous and beneficial'. It seems to me that during this conference we find such solutions for our task which is the international development of credit unions. The Canadians helping Malawia, Poles helping Belarus, the Irish helping Albania, the Americans in so many places…
This help ennobles us. If somebody asks us for help, it means that we are valuable.

The ceremony of taking over the function of the chairman of WOCCU, Canada - Ottawa, 15 July 2013.


"Niedziela" 30/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: