More than 100 people packed into Greenpoint restaurant to hear a Polish nationalist politician speak on June 5th. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

This story was originally published on 6/6/19 by THE CITY. (By: Claudia Irizarry Aponte)

A Brooklyn restaurant owner said her staff was blindsided when a Polish nationalist politician showed up with 100 followers Wednesday — spurring a backlash that may force her to permanently close.

“There was someone there who shouldn’t be and no one was expecting,” the woman, who asked not to be identified by name, told THE CITY through tears. “I don’t have nothing [to do] with this, I didn’t do anything… I don’t even agree with this.”

“We are not evil,” she added. “We didn’t do anything to bring this guy.”


Robert Winnicki, leader of the National Movement (Ruch Narodowy), a nationalist Polish political party, spoke at French Epi in Greenpoint after being barred from nearby St. Stanislaus Kostka Church.

The restaurant’s manager, Jolanta Filip, said she received a reservation for 15 Wednesday night. Filip and her mother were the only two people working when a huge crowd rolled in to the small restaurant.

“In a matter of 15 minutes, we had a full house,” she said. “We weren’t prepared for this mass of people.”

More than 100 people packed into French Epi, overwhelming the staff. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Filip said she called the owner, who told her to eject Winnicki and his supporters. But the crowd — which threw out two journalists from THE CITY — wouldn’t leave.

“We are not a platform for anything,” added Filip, a single mother of three who was hoping to buy the restaurant from the recently widowed owner.

Online Outrage at Eatery

Now French Epi’s fate is uncertain, the owner said. Opponents of Winnicki flooded Facebook and Yelp with negative reviews of the Greenpoint Avenue bistro as word of the Polish nationalist’s appearance there spread.

In a statement released last night in fractured English, the Polish-born owner said: “Our mission was to establish place and open door to all and most important to everyone feels welcome. Because of recent unforeseeable circumstances, we became victims of harsh accusations. By no means we meant any harm or disrespect to any one. We are committed to sort it all out and while we take necessary steps to deal with the issue our door will be closed until further notice.”

Earlier this week, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio cancelled Winnicki’s planned appearance at the Humboldt Street church following an uproar.

On Thursday night, the far-right politician was slated to speak at the Polish Cultural Foundation in Clark, N.J.

In a joint statement released ahead of the event, the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Federation said: “In a time when right-wing extremists feel emboldened, it is concerning that a party known for anti-Semitism, homophobia and Islamophobia is being given a platform in New Jersey.”

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