“Spring is made of solid, fourteen-karat gratitude, the reward for the long wait. Every religious tradition from the northern hemisphere honors some form of April hallelujah, for this is the season of exquisite redemption, a slam-bang return to joy after a season of cold second thoughts.” — Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

Good day, PRCUA friends! Hope this issue of the Naród Polski finds you all in the best of health and spirits! May the longer days of Spring bless you with the vim, vigor and vitality needed to keep up with your fellow PRCUA “energizer bunnies.”

March began on a truly high note. Just a few weeks earlier, Sandy Szczygiel-Zeglin, a mother of four young sons, approached Krystyna Lech (seasoned PRCUA Sales Agent, former District 8 Director, former director of the Southwest Center of Polish Song and Dance- SWCPSD) about becoming a PRCUA Sales Agent and promoting the PRCUA at the Henryk Sienkiewicz Polish School in Romeoville, IL which her sons attend. Sandy’s sons also dance at SWCPSD. She stated that she had fond childhood memories as a student at Maria Konopnicka Polish School and a dancer at Southwest Center (she was in one of my classes). After meeting with School Director Ilona Sobiech and School Board President Renata Kaleciak and they with the School Board, it was full speed ahead. Sandy took the insurance license class (3/1), passed the state exam (3/3) and signed her first 8 PRCUA members later that evening. PRCUA Sales Coordinator Marge Grzeszczuk, Sandy’s Mentor Pani Lech, and Marketing Director Elzbieta Sawczuk have assisted Sandy in promoting PRCUA at the school throughout the month of March which meets on Fridays and Saturdays. Congratulations, Sandy! We are so proud of you! Keep the momentum going for you, the School and PRCUA!

Also during the first weekend of March were the productive meetings of the Budget and Grievance Committee (Chair Jerry Lubiarz, Gerry Tarka, Eileen Hanley, Desiree Sacinski, and Michael Smigiel) and of the PRCUA Board of Directors.

In the evening of March 4, Sec-Treas. Agnieszka Bastrzyk and her husband, Daniel, represented the PRCUA at the annual White and Red Ball sponsored by the Legion of Young Polish Women (Kathy Lesny-Evans, President) which was chaired this year by Jaclyn Krysinski (Artistic Director and Choreographer of the Polonia Ensemble of PRCUA). Three PRCUA members were presented at this ball: Emilia Redlinski, Veronica Chudoba and Julie Chyzynski.  Mrs. Bastrzyk looked especially exquisite in her gold ball gown and found her “maiden voyage” to the event, a wonderful experience. Also at the ball were Director D-8 Elizabeth Dynowski and Desiree Sacinski, representing the Adult Culture Group of PRCUA, and former PRCUA Vice President Anna Sokolowski.

With cautious optimism, the Pulaski Day Program at the Polish Museum of America (3/6) was livestreamed with select speakers, guests and performers in attendance. Please see the detailed article and photos on pages: 10-11 of this edition of Naród Polski. Later that evening, the Polish American Congress – Illinois Division hosted its annual Pulaski Day Banquet at Lone Tree Manor, Niles, IL where President Robaczewski sang the national anthems. Richard and I also attended the event on behalf of the PRCUA.

March 11 found all three PRCUA officers and their spouses at the Queen of the May Third Parade Banquet at Allegra Banquets, Schiller Park, IL. President Robaczewski was formally presented as the Vice Marshal of the Parade, receiving his sash. PRCUA Director of Marketing, Elzbieta Sawczuk, served on the committee for this and all events pertaining to Chicago’s Polish Constitution Day Parade as the Public Relations Spokesperson. Twelve young ladies were presented and based on their command of the Polish language, presentation, and talent, four won titles, three are members of PRCUA. Queen of the Polish Parade 2023 (also Miss Publicity) Marianna Mosz & Second runner up Victoria Czarnik are both Polonia Ensemble dancers and, as part of the talent competition, both performed Polish folk dances. Marianna performed a song accompanied by Musical Director Mieczyslaw Dziś followed by an Oberek which she danced with her partner. Victoria and her partner performed a beautiful suite of dances from Warmia after a moving tribute to the founder, honorary artistic director and choreographer of Polonia Ensemble, the late Cecylia Roznowska. The title of Miss Photo went to Claudia Walkosz, an alumna of both Polanie Dancers of St. John Paul II Polish School and the Wesoly Lud Dance Company. Dressed in her ice-skating costume (skates and all), she began her recitation with “Too bad there isn’t an ice rink here” and continued about her accomplishments as an ice skater, presenting her awards, medals and photos. As Miss photo, Claudia was presented with a monetary award by President Robaczewski – it was the award funded by the PRCUA.

The following day, the Executive Officers attended the 47th Fashion Show “Disco Polo” sponsored by the Adult Culture Group of PRCUA (Edward Muszalski, President). The fashionable event included for all generations. It was the consensus of all in attendance that the moms, candidates and future candidates did an exceptional job. Emcees Wieslawa Wildhirt and Andy Sacinski together with performances by Wesoly Lud and the HHPD (Hickory Hills Park District) Dancers complemented the program which was held at Crystal Grand Banquets in Lemont, Illinois. Among those making their debut as models were Natalia, Aleks and Karol Bastrzyk. Bravo to all the stars on and off the runway, including Elizabeth Dynowski, Chair and Choreographer, for a job well done! Details and photos will be published in the next issue of the Narod Polski.

The annual St. Joseph Table hosted by Home Office for the employees of the PRCUA and PMA was held on Friday, March 17. Special thank you to Rev. Andrzej Totzke, SChr Director of the Polish Mission of Chicago for his prayers and blessing, Conrad Wiecek for organizing the event, assisted by Anna Grabowski and Agnieszka Dobrzycki. Please see details in the article and photos on page 27 of this edition of Naród Polski.

2022-2023 Dance School Recital Season officially began on Saturday, March 18 with not one but two such events and both in Michigan. It was the 65th Recital for the Opole Dancers at Lincoln High School Auditorium (Elizabeth Thacker, School Director; Donna Skurski, Choreographer) and the 18th Recital of the Zajaczek Dancers at Warren Woods Auditorium (Colleen Bonkowski, School Director; Tricia Dennis and Rachael Kasperek, Choreographers). On Saturday, March 25th there were three Michigan dance school recitals: the 6th for Malbork Dancers in Grand Rapids (Natalia Szczygiel, School Director; Michelle Marcinowski, Instructor); the 52nd for Tatry Dancers (Gail Esker, School Director; Karen Lubiarz, Choreographer and Instructor); and the 63rd for Gwiazda Dancers (Jessica Urban, School Director; Basia Nowakowski, Instructor). The Halka Dancers held their recital on Sunday, March 26 (Laura Hejza, School Director; Thomas Lisiecki, Choreographer). Look for articles and photos of these recitals in this or upcoming issues of the Narod Polski. Bravo to all the groups for a great school year and successful recitals to prove it! (I was able to attend the dress rehearsal for Gwiazda on Friday, March 24, just before the hospitality reception for the Basketball Tournament. What a treat it was to see the dancers, and of course, Jessica and Basia!

On March 19, 150 dancers from several Michigan Polish folk dance groups – including our PRCUA schools, took part in the 20th Annual Blessing of the Dance Ensembles at St. Hyacinth Roman Catholic Church in Detroit. The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Zbigniew Grankowski and the Gifts presented by each group during the Offertory were symbols of Polish heritage and our faith.

The XIX International Festival of Polonian Folk Ensembles in Rzeszow, Poland (Mariusz Grudzien, Director) listed the groups that qualified to attend the July 12-20, 2023 “Olympics of Polish Folk Dance” on Facebook. Three of the 20 listed are PRCUA sponsored: Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company of Chicago – for lucky #13; Echoes of Poland Folk Dance Ensemble, Toledo Ohio — for #10; and Polonia Ensemble of Chicago — for the 6th time. The PRCUA ensembles will join other groups from Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, England, Lithuania, the Ukraine, and the United States.  Congratulations!

President Robaczewski met with Paul Vallas, candidate for Mayor of Chicago at the invitation of PNA President Frank Spula on March 22 at the PNA Headquarters in Chicago. Leaders of the Polish American community as well as the press gathered to discuss concerns within the community.

Our “March madness” ended with the PRCUA 88th National Basketball Tournament hosted by the Opole Dancers (Deann Kujawski, Chair; St. Rita Society 1368 members: Jen Vernon and Patty Johansen, together with committee members: Elizabeth Thacker and Karen Pietrzyk). In addition to the friendly atmosphere, the hospitality reception boasted the best clam chowder I have ever tasted – homemade by Marina Losinski (Deann’s mom). It was mmmmm-good! The next morning at around 9 am, the official opening program commenced with welcome remarks, anthems led by President Robaczewski, opening jump ball (Mr. and Mrs. Kujawski did the honors) and then the games began……3 on 3 men over 50 in one gym and the ladies in the auxiliary gym. Sportsmanship continued and soon there were the champions – St. Stan Red (Men over 50) and St. Rita Eliminators (Ladies). Then it was time for the Men’s division and the games continued until PRCU 162 from Wyandotte edged out Taskforce from East Chicago with a score of 62-54.  The evening ended with dinner, awards and dancing. I commend Keith Kujawski (President of St. Rita’s 1368) and the ladies from Opole and St. Rita’s for taking on the Basketball Tournament and hosting it a week after the Opole Recital. Here’s a few photos of the champions. More to come in next month’s issue.

March was not without its sad moments. There were too many wakes and funerals. We hold in our memories and prayers – Amy Lynn Gmiterek (41); Ludwik (88) and Teofila (93) Kowalczyk who passed within days of each other; and past Director D-7 Shirley M. Dudzinski (88). Shirley was the School Director of the Wisla Dancers (1977-1990) and Zalipie (1986-1989), an active member of the Adult Culture Group of PRCUA presenting both her daughter, Kathy, and son, Larry, at the Cinderella-Prince Charming Ball as well as chairing the event; and a dedicated member of the Legion of Young Polish Women, chairing its Red and White Ball in the early 1990’s. On the day of her funeral, the sun shone as bright as her smile used to. It is her smile and spirit I will remember. Condolences to the families of all those who have lost loved ones and may they rest in peace, Amen.

My deepest wishes for your Easter to be a joyous occasion to celebrate God’s greatest gift to man, our families and the customs we hold so near and dear. Happy Easter!

Special birthday wishes to all April babies, especially to former PRCUA President Edward G. Dykla on his 90th as well as Secretary-Treasurer Agnieszka Bastrzyk (both on 4/13), Joey Robaczewski (4/15), PMA President Richard Owsiany (4/24) and IT Director Kevin Ryba (4/29). [Personal greetings to Alina (4/15), Ben (4/2), Teresa (4/27) – Happy Anniversary Niki and Michael]. Sto Lat!