It is my hope that the world has played a very cruel joke on us and that on April 1st, the war in the Ukraine and the pandemic of the last two years will just turn out to be bad dreams. Wishful thinking at best, for we have had a lot more to reflect on, but we have not sat idly by. In fact, I am so very proud of our family and friends in Poland who opened their hearts and homes to those fleeing their homeland. Here in the United States and throughout the world, humanitarian efforts are in full swing, but this is only the beginning.
Shortly after Russia invaded the Ukraine, I had a nightmare. In it, I needed to quickly pack what was most needed to survive and leave my home forever. As you would expect, I was confused and conflicted. I realized that it was only a dream and although my heart and head were pounding in a real panic, unlike millions of Ukrainians who have fled their homeland, I laid back down and fell asleep in the warmth and comfort of my own bed with a prayer for peace to comfort me.
Leading up to the invasion were months of discussion in anticipation of the war. The Ukrainian American Congress reached out to the Polish American Congress, of which PRCUA has been a member since its onset in 1944. A joint effort was launched to bring attention to what was happening in the Ukraine. Intervention was sought from the President of the United States and Congress to prevent the invasion. Letters were drafted and rallies were held throughout the Ukrainian-American communities, but the worst came to pass. The immediate response of Poland to accept the fleeing Ukrainians inspired the Polonian organizations to act as well and collect for the cause. On February 28, a meeting of the Polish American Congress, of which I am the National Treasurer, was held at which the Polonia for Ukraine campaign was initiated and, within days, in full swing. A radiothon was held during the second weekend of March through the efforts of WPNA.FM, which transmitted nationally with local Polish radio programs joining the cause. The PRCUA, PNA and Polish Falcons encouraged members to donate by matching funds – each up to $10,000. At this time, I would like to extend my personal thanks to all of you who were so generous. St. Stan’s PRCUA Society #718 made a substantial donation, but each and every donation has been appreciated. Pledged money and additional contributions are still forthcoming, but at the time you read this, we are hoping to have collected $200,000 to be divided between the Polish Red Cross and a Ukrainian relief fund. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
And yet, life goes on! March Madness may refer to a college basketball tournament trademarked by the NCAA, but I am going with the flurry of activities that were happening in March. I am not sure why this March was any different than others or even the months preceding, but for me, March 2022 was “maddening.”
The Adult Culture Group of PRCUA (Edward Muszalski, President) held its 46th Annual Broadway Fashion Brunch at Glendora Banquets in Chicago Ridge, IL on Sunday, March 6. Over 350 fashionistas attended the event to see what will be the buzz for the upcoming season. Performances by HHPD Dancers (Liz Dynowski, choreographer) as well as the Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company (Richard Jaminski, choreographer) graced the stage as well. Congratulations to the Adult Culture Group on another successful event, which was spearheaded by Liz Dynowski. Liz wears many hats – PRCUA District 8 National Director, secretary of the Adult Culture Group, chair of the Fashion Show since 2014, 2022 PRCUA Convention co-chair, as well as social worker by day, choreographer by night. Please see article and photos in an upcoming issue of the Naród Polski regarding the Fashion Show. I must mention that my granddaughters made their debut as models this year, so this Fashion Show was an added treat!
Immediately following the Fashion Show, the PRCUA Officers with spouses and families attended the Pulaski Day Banquet held by the Polish American Foundation (Anna Wierzbicki, President) and Illinois Division of the Polish American Congress (Mirek Niedzinski, President), at Mayfield Banquets, Chicago. Among other distinguished guests, the Polish Ambassador to the United States, Marek Magierowski and his wife; General Consul of Poland in Chicago, Małgorzata Bak-Guzik; Vice Consul, Agata Grochowska; and former Vice Consul and present Deputy Director of the Center for the Development of Polish Education Abroad, Piotr Semeniuk, were in attendance. This year, among the winners of the annual art contest was PRCUA’s very own Aleksander Bastrzyk (son of Secretary-Treasurer Agnieszka and Daniel Bastrzyk) who placed third. Congratulations, Aleks! Also, congratulations to Ewa Cholewinski, National Director of District 7, who chaired the successful event.
The Polish Museum of America and PRCUA hosted the annual Pulaski Day Program in the Great Hall of the Museum on Monday, March 7. The festivities, which boasted hundreds of dignitaries and guests prior to the pandemic, was held virtually again this year with a limited guest list. In attendance were among others: the Polish dignitaries from the evening before as well the Ukrainian Consul General Serhiy Koledov, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, and PAC-PNA President Frank Spula. Prior to the formal program, Mayor Lori Lightfoot met with Polish Ambassador Marek Magierowski in a private meeting followed by a press interview in the historic PRCUA Boardroom. PRCUA President James Robaczewski and PMA President Richard Owsiany emceed the program and then hosted our distinguished guests at a lovely luncheon in the PRCUA Social Hall. I direct you to the complete article and photos on p. 5 of this issue of the Naród Polski.
The PRCUA Quarterly Board meeting was held on March 10-11 and ended with a corned beef and cabbage luncheon. The PRCUA National Directors hosted an employee appreciation lunch on Friday, March 10 in the PRCUA Social Hall.
Please note that PRCUA’s 63rd Quadrennial Convention will be held this year from August 11 to 14 at the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center, Oak Brook, Illinois. Candidate forms for Officers and Directors are available now from Mary Jane Robles in the Secretary-Treasurer’s office. Society delegate packets will be mailed in May.
The Malbork Dance Ensemble, Grand Rapids, MI celebrated its 5th Anniversary on Saturday, March 11. Congratulations to Dance Instructor Michelle DeBeck, Director Amber Gillette and the dancers for a job well done! Representing the PRCUA was none other than National Director extraordinaire, Colleen Bonkowski.
On March 18, President Robaczewski and I attended the funeral of Susan Jesionowski, wife of National Director Thomas Jesionowski, in Toledo, Ohio. Our condolences to Tom and the entire family. Susan was the loving mother of five daughters, 13 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren and was very proud of her Irish heritage. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. May she rest in peace.
The 87th PRCUA National Basketball Tournament was hosted by Society #162, Wyandotte, Michigan. I want to commend Stan Pasko, President of PRCU 162, and his co-chairs, Ryan Mahalak, John Bobrowski and Dan Budzyn on pulling off a “slam dunk” and making this tournament happen in literally a little over than a month. Considering PRCU #162 is hosting this year’s PRCUA National Bowling Tournament as well, I thought that Dan Budzyn’s suggestion for Stan and #162 to host the Basketball Tournament as well was a bit ambitious, but you know what they say, “you want something done, ask a busy person.” Kudos to Stan and PRCU #162 on an excellent tournament! Congratulations on great sportsmanship and athletic prowess by all the players, especially to the champions: PRCU 162 (Men); 162 Polka Cherries 1 (Women); and 718 White Team (Men 50+). A speedy recovery to Christina Huerta, who sustained an injury while giving it her all. Check out the details and photos on p. 20-21 of this issue.
Also on March 19, the Zajaczek Dance Ensemble held its 17th Recital in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Bravo to Director Colleen Bonkowski and the Choreographers, Tricia Dennis and Rachael Kasperek. Bravissimo to the dancers! Tradition dictates within the Zajaczek family to precede the recital with the Family Prayer.
PRCUA tradition dictates celebrating St. Joseph’s feast day (3/19). This year, the luncheon for the PRCUA and PMA employees was held on Monday, March 21. Blessing of the St. Joseph Table was done by Rev. Andrzej Totzke, SChr, director of the Holy Trinity Polish Mission in Chicago. The delicious catered feast was organized by Conrad Wiecek, assisted by Anna Grabowski, Anne Moschopoulos, and Mary Jane Robles. Read all about it in the next issue of Naród Polski.
A very dear friend of Polonia, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, was honored as the Person of the Year by the Dziennik Związkowy (Polish Daily News) at a gala event held on Wednesday, March 23, at Allegra Banquets, Schiller Park, IL. Maria Pappas is an energizer bunny, setting an example of how to celebrate and balance life, career, family and community. I think I want to be like her when I grow up – LOL! Congratulations, Maria! Representing the PRCUA was President Robaczewski and Secretary-Treasurer Bastrzyk. Ewa Cholewinski, Director District 7, also attended.
Congratulations also to Aleksandra Wozniak, a member of PRCUA and a student at the Maria Konopnicka Polish School, Oak Lawn, Illinois, who won first place in the Polish Daily News “2021 in 365 Words” Writing Contest.
On Saturday, March 26, D-7 Director Ewa Cholewinski represented the PRCUA at the Queen of the May 3rd Parade Gala. Selected Queen of the 2022 May Third Parade is Julia Baranek and Miss Photo (sponsored by PRCUA) is Natalia Porebska. In 2007, Ewa’s daughter, Monika, won Queen of the May 3rd Parade. At the onset of the invasion of Ukraine, Monika, a medical doctor, joined a team of doctors providing medical care at the Polish-Ukrainian border. She has since returned home. We are all proud of Monika and all who care to act on behalf of those in need.
Both the Gwiazda and Halka Dance Groups held their recitals on March 27. Bravo to Gwiazda’s Director Jessica Urban and instructor Basia Nowakowski as well as to Halka’s Director Laura Hejza and choreographer Thomas Lisiecki. Bravissimo to all the dancers for a job well done through a very trying year. National Director from Michigan (District 10) Colleen Bonkowski attended both events.
Among the upcoming events: the Tatry Dance School (Director Gail Esker, choreographer Karen Lubiarz) will be celebrating their golden anniversary at its 51st recital and the Opole Dance School (Director Beth Thacker, choreographer Donna Skurski) will host their 64th annual dance recital.
April 21-24 will boast the 83rd PRCUA National Bowling Tournament by Soc. 162 – Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, MI. Society #162 (President Stan Pasko) is chairing this event.
On April 24, District 9 will host the PRCUA Święconka (Director District 9 Elizabeth Sadus, chair).
The Rogalin Dance Troupe Recital will be on April 30 and Polskie Maki will hold their recital on May 1.
The Southwest Center of Polish Song and Dance (Managing Director Anna Kraszewski-Winkler) will finally celebrate their 35th Anniversary (postponed in 2020) and Wesoły Lud (Director and Choreographer Richard Jaminski) its 45th Anniversary with a joint concert on May 1st at Mother McAuley High School in Chicago. Together there will be 80 years of Polish dancing on one stage. See invitation in this issue of the Naród Polski.
April has always been a very festive month for my family, beginning with the birthdays of my parents, maternal grandparents, father-in-law, daughter Alina (4/15), son-in law Ben (4/2), BFF Teresa Pazdziora (4/27), and wedding anniversary of daughter Niki and Michael (4/24). With Easter as the main event and it is truly a festive month. The PRCUA family also has many birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate, but I will mention only a few. Happy Birthday wishes to Secretary-Treasurer Agnieszka Bastrzyk and President Emeritus Edward G. Dykla – 89 and going strong (4/13), Joey Robaczewski (4/15), PMA President Richard Owsiany (4/24), and IT Director Kevin Ryba (4/29). STO LAT to all those celebrating their April birthdays!
We thank the Lord for his blessings and wish you an Easter full of joy and peace!
Wesołego Alleluja! Smacznego Jajka! Mokrego Dyngusa!