Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Nicholas A. Rey
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project
AMBASSADOR NICHOLAS A. REY
Interviewed by: Charles Stuart Kennedy
Initial interview date: September 5, 2002
Copyright 2003 ADST
Q: Today is September 5, 2002. This is an interview with Ambassador Nicholas Andrew Rey. This is being done on behalf of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, and I am Charles Stuart Kennedy. You go by Nick.
Let's start at the beginning. Tell me when and where you were borand something about your family background.
REY: Okay. Well, all of this is very relevant to my ultimate Ambassadorship, because I was born in Warsaw, Poland, in January of 1938 to a family which is quite famous in Poland, particularly since I am the direct descendent of the father of Polish literature. So going back to my ambassadorship, it would be like sending Jeff Chaucer or Bill Shakespeare to be ambassador to the court of St. James. His name was Nicholas also, but in Polish it was Mikolaj. Rey has been the name unchanged. I am probably the luckiest Pole who ever emigrated to the United States - with only a three letter last name.
Q: You didn't have one of those “Ski” names.
REY: No. It is a very short name. About 200 years ago it was changed from Rej to Rey, but that is the only thing. Now he, this Nicholas Rey, lived in the 16th. century, 1509 to 1565, something like that, and he wrote basically the Polish national poem that every schoolchild can repeat, plus he wrote a lot of very Rabelaisian, very dirty as well as scatological poems. Anyway he is quite famous, and I had an instant thing when I became ambassador. But the background is, going back to your original question, I was born in January of 1938. In September of 1939 my family, my mother, father and I, I am an only child, plus my aunt, uncle and their two children, left Poland literally in the middle of the blitzkrieg, the Germans coming in from one side and the Russians coming in from the other.
Q: Can you tell me about your father's background and your mother'background?