Martha Stewart has been banned from Britain — but she got a warm welcome Friday in Poland, her grandparents’ homeland.
The lifestyle guru was planning to visit Britain in the coming days for business engagements, but the Daily Telegraph and other British newspapers reported Friday that she was denied permission to enter because of her 2004 conviction for obstructing justice.
Stewart’s assistants confirmed the visa denial, but they gave no other details beyond saying they hope the decision will be reversed.
“Martha loves England; the country and English culture are near and dear to her heart,” said Charles Koppelman, chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. “She has engagements with English companies and business leaders and hopes this can be resolved so that she will be able to visit soon.”
On Friday evening in Warsaw, it would have been hard to tell that the headache was hanging over her head.
In an elegant home goods shop in the glistening Golden Terraces mall in downtown Warsaw, Stewart was feted by fans eager for a glimpse of the homemaking expert turned business tycoon.
She was in the Polish capital to promote her Martha Stewart Living magazine, which was recently launched in Polish, and to open an exhibition of her photographs, scenes of landscapes and gardens that she took herself.
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During a brief speech, Stewart made a point of stressing the link she feels to the country where all four of her grandparents were born — and crediting its hearty cuisine for providing inspiration in the kitchen.
She said that her mother, who was “a fabulous cook,” taught her to make traditional Polish delicacies like pierogies, the traditional Polish stuffed dumplings; kielbasa, the Polish-style sausage; and babka, a spongy yeast cake popular at Easter.
“As a Polish-American, I feel a strong connection to this beautiful country and to its people,” she said. “This trip is a wonderful opportunity for me to connect with my heritage.”
Despite her roots, Stewart is not widely known in Poland — though her legal troubles brought her a degree of attention for the first time.
In 2004, Stewart was convicted in federal court of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements related to a personal sale of ImClone Systems Inc. stock. She got a five-month prison sentence, and also served an additional five months and three weeks of home confinement.
A Home Office spokeswoman, however, refused to comment about Stewart’s entry to Britain, but added: “We continue to oppose the entry to the U.K. of individuals where we believe their presence in the United Kingdom is not conducive to the public good or where they have been found guilty of serious criminal offenses abroad.”
British and U.S. citizens generally enjoy visa-free travel between their countries. However, people with certain convictions must apply for visas.