Polish medical team will work with National Guard

CHICAGO - A team of medical experts from Poland is assisting the Illinois National Guard with the state's COVID-19 response, an extension of Illinois' long-standing cultural and political relationship with the European nation.

The 9-member team of four doctors, three nurses, an EMT and a logistical coordinator will assist the 1,120 deployed Guard members. Soldiers' tasks have included running drive-through testing sites, distributing personal protective equipment to hospitals and local health departments and supporting medical operations at two correctional centers.

"I am incredibly humbled by the gracious spirit of these citizen soldiers who have left their families and their civilian jobs to assist their fellow Illinoisans," Pritzker said.

Illinois' partnership with the Polish military dates back to 1993.

Since then, Polish forces and the Illinois National Guard have fought together in Iraq and Afghanistan, and leaders have made multiple trips to each other's nations.

The Polish team will be able to bring to Illinois their experience of fighting COVID-19 in their native country, as well as Italy, one of the nations hardest hit by the novel coronavirus.

"We have fought side-by-side for many years, and now we fight the pandemic together," said Adjutant General Richard Neely, head of the Guard.

Piotr Janicki, Poland's Consul General for Chicago said the city is the most polish city in America and that 8 percent of Illinoisans are of Polish descent.

"We have to fight coronavirus, and I cannot imagine a better place for military personnel from Poland than Chicago to come and help," he said.