We turn to the last page of the calendar and see that the end of another year is upon us. The memories flow through us – some good, some not so good, and realize that life continues with the hope of the true meaning of Christmas. So, take a deep breath and enjoy a moment of peace before the Christmas tree, decorations, gifts, and cards, take over.

The holiday season, including the Christmas marathon of songs on the radio and movies on tv, the former beginning in November and the latter, in October, putting us in the mood for giving (and shopping). Excitement is in the air, but never should we forget the reason for the season from honoring our predecessors to giving thanks to the here and now, through the joy of Christmas and the anticipation of a happy and healthy New Year! As cozy as it is to sit by a warm fire and watch those Christmas movies, the season is meant to gather and enjoy good company, good times, and good food! (All in moderation, of course). Check the PRCUA Calendar of Events – for local Opłatek luncheons (Gwiazda is hosting the Michigan Women’s Division annual event on December 3 and District 8 together with Southwest Center of Polish Song and Dance is hosting the tradition on December 10). I am more than sure that there are countless others in your area as well. Wishing you the best of the holiday season!

As promised in my November article, here are details and photos of two of the three events held the last weekend of October – just as the Narod went to print. The third one – PRCUA Cultural Workshops in Michigan – you can find on page 7 of this issue.

On October 28, James Robaczewski was a speaker at this year’s edition of the NEXT Conference: Talks for the Future Generation, which took place at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois. PRCUA was proud to be a patron of this event once again, but this time it had a slightly greater contribution in the form of an inspiring lecture by our president. Mr. Robaczewski talked about his professional achievements and the career path that led him to his current position, giving personal tips that guided him. The event gathered mainly young people from Polish high schools, who listened with curiosity to the motivating success stories of significant figures in our community. Bravo to the Polish American Youth Council for organizing this event. You can watch President Robaczewski’s entire speech on the PRCUA Facebook profile.

PRCUA member Veronica Wilgocki, 16, of Chesterton, Indiana, won the women’s 5K at the 2023 Independence Run on October 29 in Chicago. Her brother Oliver (17, also a PRCUA member) finished 2nd in the men’s race (same distance 5km). Congratulations! Once again, PRCUA took part in this year’s Independence Run. Traditionally, the entire Bastrzyk family (Agnieszka, Daniel, Aleksander, Natalia, Karolek, Wiesława, Krzysztof) went for a 5-kilometer walk. They were accompanied by the Robaczewski family (James, Elaine, Tommy and Joey). The PRCUALife flag crossed the finish line! Applause for the Bastrzyk ladies for their original headgear!

Last month came and went with many events involving our PRCUA members. The first began with a performance of Młoda Polonia (Anna Krysinski, Executive Director; Jaclyn Krysinski, Artistic Director/Choreographer; Mieczyslaw Dzis, Musical Director) at the Gift from the Heart picnic on behalf of Antos Płocieniczak in Atlanta, Georgia.

That same date but in Sterling Heights, Michigan, the Zajączek Graduate Ball (Colleen Bonkowski, Director; Rachael Kasperek and Tricia Dennis, Choreographers) was held at the American Polish Century Club. Adorned in beautiful evening wear, the graduates: Natalya Bonkowski, Brady Courtney, Noah Desmond, Cecilia Lawrence, Cecelia Mackowiak, Ana Moskwa, Jacob Tuzinsky, and Madison Withers were presented, photographed, and featured in their dance performances. Congratulations to the Graduates and their parents, as well as the Zajaczek committee. I cannot wait to see you all at the Michigan State Ball on February 24, 2024.

Meanwhile in Illinois, the Holy Cross Polish School Autumn Dance (Barbara Szuba, Principal), was held at Camelot Banquets, Hickory Hills. Representing the PRCUA were National Directors, Elizabeth Dynowski, and Myron (and Elizabeth) Cisło; together with Richard and yours truly. Thank you for the invitation and for a lovely evening.

The following day, President Robaczewski, together with former National Director Sharon Haberski, attended the Polish Independence Day Veterans Day Luncheon, hosted by the Wisconsin Division of the Polish American Congress (David Rydzewski – President), at the Polish Center of Wisconsin. Mr. President was asked to sing the national anthems.

The induction ceremony for 40+ first graders (Pasowanie na pierwszaka) from the newest addition to the PRCUA contingent, the Henryk Sienkiewicz Polish School in Romeoville, Illinois, was also held on November 5, at Crystal Grand Banquets in Lemont. The occasion was a perfect setting to also celebrate the 10th Anniversary as the School’s Principal and 30th as a Polish language teacher of Mrs. Ilona Sobiech. Pani Ilona is also the Vice President of the Polish Teachers Association of America. It was an honor to attend together with Marge Grzeszczuk, Sales Coordinator. Thank you for the warm welcome and hospitality. Congratulations Pani Ilona! (Wielkie ukłony dla Pani Ilony!)

A discussion on “Heritage and Language in Contemporary Chicago” was organized at Loyola University on November 7, moderated by Professor Reinhard Andress, Director of German Studies at Loyola; with panelists: Janka Pieper, Senior Director of Communications and Intercultural Learning, Office of the Vice President for International Relations at Northwestern University, representing DANK-Haus German American Cultural Center;  Nancy Cometa, Events Coordinator, Casa Italia Cultural Center; Geoffrey Ruiz, Director of the Learning Center, Alliance Francaise de Chicago; Erika Erdely Ruiz, Academic Coordinator at UNAM in Chicago; and yours truly, representing the PRCUA and PMA. It was an interesting exchange of ideas all centered on the importance of maintaining the ethnic presence of our forefathers here in America, especially in the cultural mega centers such as Chicago and its suburbs.

President Robaczewski accepted the invitation of the Consul General of Poland, Pawel Zyzak, in celebration of Polish Independence Day which this year, was held at the Copernicus Center in honor of the Year of Mikolaj Kopernik. 2023 marks Copernicus’ 550th birthday and 480th of his passing. The event was held on November 9th and boasted many leaders of local Polonian organizations.

November 11th found dancers, parents, grandparents, and supporters of the PRCUA Southwest Center of Polish Song & Dance at Brookfield Zoo for “Zoo Lights,” starting a new tradition for the holiday season by decorating one of the many Christmas trees at the Zoo. Decorations included personal drawings by the dancers, and a PRCUA topper! There was hot apple cider and hot cocoa as well as pastries – all courtesy of Managing Director, Ania Kraszewski-Winkler and her elves (Mama Sophie Kraszewski, Ciocia Mary Presz and Ciocia Helen Kraszewski). Although Richard is the Artistic Director/Choreographer of SWCPSD, he and I were there as Dziadzia and Babcia to be with Ariana and Mila. Thank you, Ania, for thinking of this! It was a bright sunny day with a little nip in the air, but a lovely opportunity for families to get together and visit the zoo.

Later that day, Wesoly Lud of PRCUA made a guest appearance at “Na Góralską Nutę,” an annual event featuring many of the Góralski groups of the Polish Highlanders Association at the PHA headquarters in Chicago. Thank you to Vice President of Cultural Affairs, Jan Krol, for the invitation.

Same day, but in Michigan, the PRCUA Tatry Polish Dancers Graduate Ball was held presenting 2024 Graduate Brendan Walters. School Director is Gail Esker and Artistic Director/Choreographer is Karen Lubiarz. Congratulations!

The 51st Cinderella-Prince Charming Ball was held at Camelot Banquets in Hickory Hills, Illinois, on November 18. Hosted by the Adult Culture Group of PRCUA, the event presented 27 Candidates (high school students and PRCUA members). 2023 Cinderella Magdalena Truta and Prince Charming Eric Wildhirt have proudly represented our PRCUA youth here in the states and in Poland at various events during this 150th Year of PRCUA. There were mixed emotions as they reflected on their experiences this past year, ending their reign, and congratulating the new Royal Couple to be selected later in the evening. Bravo to the Candidates who executed the Polonaise effortlessly with their parents, the Waltz with their partners, and elegantly bowed during their presentations to society. After 30 years+ years of leadership, Edward Muszalski, John Frankowicz and Walter Dynowski, stepped down as President, Vice President and Treasurer respectively, to make way for a new generation of leaders. As Elizabeth Dynowski, Nathalie Skowyra, Desiree Sacinski, Ricky Skowyra and Jolanta Stanek assumed their respective roles as Officers of the ACG earlier this year, I commend them and their entire committee for a wonderful event. On behalf of the PRCUA National Officers and Directors, we are very proud of their efforts on behalf of our youth. Thank you. Richard, as always, the choreography was breathtaking and your attention to detail exemplary. Bravo to you, the Candidates, and the Committee! 2024 Cinderella and Prince Charming are Daniela Gal and Dylan Skowyra with Runners-up: Amelia Szwajnos and Konrad Kiernia. Congratulations!

As PRCUA closed for the Thanksgiving Holidays, we took a moment to celebrate our friend and colleague’s special birthday. A very wise gentleman once told me that you only age until 50 and then you subtract the years. Happy 40th birthday, Lidia Kowalewicz! Sto lat!  Warm birthday wishes also to our other dear birthday celebrants: Bob Bielenda (Nonagenarian) and Joann Ozog (Octogenerian). I wish you the best of health and much happiness!

What better way to celebrate the Christmas holidays, but with the birth of a bouncing baby boy. Of course, Jesus is the main reason for the season, but I would like to congratulate Teresa and Edward Rogala on the birth of their second grandson, Liam Francis Stoklosa, and to the parents, Veronica and Jason, born November 13. This Christmas will be super special for this family.

As this article comes to a close, so does this spectacular year! Thank you to all who made it magnificent! On behalf of all of us at the PRCUA together with our families, to all of you – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!