Słopnice’s mayor first heard of Bernie Sanders in 2013. “The foreign ministry called from Warsaw. They asked if the village could accommodate a visit from an American,” said Adam Sołtys. “My question was ‘why is he coming?’ I did not know he was a senator. I expected a retired guy, who was getting old and looking for his roots.”
Bernie Sanders and his elder brother Larry wanted to visit their grandmother’s village – the one their father, Eli, emigrated from aged 17. But for Sołtys, the visit was a daunting prospect requiring much diplomacy. He feared Poland’s painful history of occupation, mass emigration and the Holocaust might feed suspicions among the 6,500 villagers that the Americans were coming to claim property in the Beskid valley.