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WARSAW, Poland – The conservative Law and Justice Party, which won Poland's general elections, has tapped Beata Szydlo to become the nation's next prime minister — the second woman in a row to hold the post. Here are key facts about the 52-year-old politician.
In the spring, Szydlo ran the presidential campaign of Andrzej Duda, then a little-known figure who pulled off a shock upset of the widely-favored incumbent.
On the heels of that success, party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski named Szydlo the Euro-skeptic party's candidate to lead the government in the fall parliamentary elections.
Szydlo says her success lies in listening and talking to ordinary people, and she won much support by criss-crossing Poland in her campaign "Szydlobus." That personal touch may be a key asset as she attempts to bridge a widening divide between Poles who have benefited from the nation's economic boom and those who feel they have been left out, and look to her party for help.
Szydlo was born Beata Maria Kusinska in 1963 to a coal mining family near Oswiecim, in southern Poland, where she was raised in the shadow of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz. Her maternal great- grandfather died in Auschwitz as a Polish inmate. Her maternal grandfather suffered burns in a fire in the nearby Brzeszcze coal mine. Her father, also a coal miner, wanted her to be a mining engineer. She once told The Associated Press that she sometimes regrets she did not follow that advice.
At the age of 35 she became southern Poland's youngest county mayor in Brzeszcze, and developed key road infrastructure there. She was also the town's deputy chairman of the firefighters, a role traditionally held by men. It was a first sign Szydlo could succeed in Poland's male-dominated political world. She became Law and Justice lawmaker in 2005, and later deputy to Kaczynski.
In 2003, Szydlo, as Brzeszcze mayor, spent almost three months traveling in the U.S. on a State Department visitors' program on revitalizing post-industrial areas. She visited Washington D.C., New York, San Diego and other cities. "I have very good memories from that visit and I would be very happy to repeat it," she said in an interview with the AP over the summer.
A practicing Catholic, Szydlo is married to her university sweetheart, Edward Szydlo, who as a student shared her passion for handball. They have two sons: Tymoteusz, who is studying to be a priest, and Blazej, a medical student.