A man with French ties will keep flying a French flag no matter how many times it's stolen.
Clairemont resident Daniel Smiechowski, 56, said Tuesday that he has had five of the small flags stolen since early August. He put up the latest last Thursday. He’s not sure who the thief is but said he suspects a male neighbor.
“It’s very aggravating to me,” Smiechowski said. “I … pardon me, but still waters run deep. It’s an issue of free speech, but it transcends free speech. It’s a personal issue to me."
Smiechowski's mother fled to France from Italy during World War II, where she met his Polish father in Normandy. The French and their nation, which he has visited more than 20 times, are close to his heart, he said.
“I have a very good connection with France, but during August I had five French flags stolen while my cousin was here [visiting from France],” Smiechowski said.
The former substitute schoolteacher has lived at his home for more than 30 years. Six years ago, he flew the flag of France to protest his opposition to the war in Iraq.
“In my opinion, to be perfectly honest with you … I probably come across as anti-American in my neighborhood due to my political activism, particularly due to [the initial wave of heavy bombing in Iraq called] shock and awe,” Smiechowski said. “It didn’t make any sense to me … It didn’t wash, it didn’t work.”
Nobody has confronted Smiechowski since he started putting up the flags in August, but things were different in 2002, when their was a backlash against the French government, which did not support the war.
“I was ridiculed, and there were horrible epithets hurled at me, and a note put in my garage: ‘I should move to France,’ " Smiechowski said.
He did report the thefts to the police.
"During the month of August ... I called San Deigo police no less than five times or six times, maybe more," Smiechowski said
A police spokeswoman said the information in the case was forwarded to the area station, but there was no indictation as to who stole the flags and no evidence to be collected in the case, significantly limiting the officers' ability to pursue the petty-theft investigation.
The Francophile didn’t give up in 2002, and he’s not going to give up flying his flag now, either, he said.
“It’s going to be there until I’m long gone,” he said.