Let’s decide to make the most of this new beginning.

Build on what was before

and create something even better.

We are committed to working together

to make this year a year of progress and peace.

A year of possibilities and promises. Author unknown


Happy New Year, PRCUA Members and friends! It seems that the Christmas season just began and then “poof” it was over. Have no fear, there is much happening within the PRCUA and the Polish American community that you will continue to celebrate life, love, family and friends throughout this banner year for the PRCUA (just in case you forgot, 2023 marks PRCUA’s Sesquicentennial – 150th Anniversary).

Before I share with you the events spreading Christmas cheer throughout December, let me tell you of the traditional Barbórka event (12/2) hosted by the Union of Upper Silesians of America (Piotr Brzek, President; Halina Szyrzyna, Treasurer). Originally spelled Barburka, the feast day of St. Barbara of Nicomedia (12/4), patroness of a host of professions and people, including miners, geologists, and artilleryman. The Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company of PRCUA was invited to performed its suite of dances and songs from the Rozbark-Bytomski region in Upper Silesia. The audience was asked to participate, and the dance party was in full swing.

As is the norm, the past month was filled with holiday celebrations, and it began right from the start (12/2). PRCUA District 7 hosted the local PRCUA Opłatek at the Polish Museum of America. It was chaired by Mateusz Bomba and Ewa Cholewinski and you can read all about it in this issue of Naród.

The following weekend, beginning on Friday (12/9), Richard and I played Santa’s helpers and participated in the Christmas Sweater Day at the Maria Konopnicka Polish School in Oak Lawn, Illinois. We went from classroom to classroom, but all the sweaters were so unique that we could not choose a winner. We chose instead to distribute some candy, a letter from Santa and some PRCUA cheer. Special thanks to the Principal, Rafał Zachara; School Board: President Asia Niedzielski, Vice President Danielle Kroplewski, Treasurer Agnieszka Szeliga and Photographer Krystyna Królikowska, for their hospitality, and the teachers, for their patience and dedication to their students.

Early on Saturday, December 10, Richard and I delivered our PRCUA trinkets to the Jan Karski Polish School in Palos Heights, Illinois where Marek Adamczyk is the Director. As Santa visited the classrooms, Mr. Adamczyk discussed “business” with Richard and me. It was a very enlightening conversation that I hope will result in a better understanding of the mission and vision of the PRCUA.

Later that day, PRCUA President Robaczewski and First Lady Elaine celebrated the festive season by attending not one but two events – the Opłatek hosted by the Alliance of Polish Clubs (Łucja Mirowska-Kopec, President) and the PACC Annual Christmas Party and Awards Dinner. Iwona Filipiak is the President of the Polish American Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, and our very own Sec-Treas. Agnieszka Bastrzyk serves as the Vice President of Internal Affairs. Mr. and Mrs. Bastrzyk joined in the fun at the latter and my sources reveal that both the Robaczewski’s and Bastrzyk’s took center stage on the dance floor. Nothing like being the “life of the party.”

The PRCUA Michigan Women’s Division sponsored the Annual Opłatek hosted this year by the PRCUA Zakopane Polish Folk Dance Ensemble (Colleen Bonkowski, Manager and Thomas Lisiecki, Artistic Director/Choreographer). Director D-10 Valerie Brumm and many other familiar PRCUA faces joined in the festivities. Check this or next month’s issue for photos and details.

On the same date (12/11), the fun continued in Chicago as Director D-7 Ewa Cholewinski served on the Opłatek Committee of the Polish American Congress – Illinois Division. The festivities were held at St. Ferdinand Parish.

In commemoration of the 41st anniversary of the imposition of martial law in Poland, the Stowarzyszenie Pamięć invited all Polish schools, parishes, organizations and institutions to participate in the IPN’s “Light the Light of Freedom” campaign. The Institute of National Remembrance “Light the Light of Freedom” refers to the appeal issued by the President of the United States Ronald Reagan on Christmas Eve 1981 after the introduction of martial law. He called on Americans to put candles in the windows of their houses as a sign of solidarity with Poles. A gesture of solidarity towards Poles living under martial law was made by crowds of inhabitants of the then free world. Pope John Paul II also lit a candle in the window of the Apostolic Palace as a sign of unity with his compatriots. The Polish Diaspora was encouraged to light a candle in as many windows as possible on December 13, 2022 at 19:30 Chicago time.

The annual Sharing of the Opłatek at the Polish Consulate in Chicago was hosted by Consul General Paweł Zyzak and his consular staff on Thursday, December 15. Representing the PRCUA was President Robaczewski, also among the guests was Naród Polski Editor Lidia Kowalewicz, Executive Director of Polonia Ensemble – Anna Krysinski.

The weekend before Christmas was not for the faint at heart. Keep up with me now. Director D-8 Myron Cisło delivered PRCUA wishes and treats to the Holy Cross Polish School in Joliet, Illinois (Barbara Szuba is the Principal) on Friday (12/16) and to the Rev. Stanisław Cholewiński Polish School in Chicago, Illinois (Kinga Kościelniak, Principal) on Saturday (12/17).

Also on 12/17, the St. Raphael Kalinowski Polish School held its Christmas celebration. The day began with the students all singing carols together. After the caroling, the students went back to their classrooms where they shared the Opłatek, did art projects, learned about Polish Christmas traditions, sang carols and had their classroom parties.  After the school day ended, the teachers and school board gathered for their Christmas party.  Yolanta Czosnyka, School Principal began with thanking all the teachers and members of the school board for their hard work and dedication to the school.  After sharing the Opłatek and wishing each other health and happiness in the New Year, everyone shared in a traditional Christmas Wigilia and sang a few Christmas carols.  District 9 Director Elizabeth Sadus also joined in the festivities, as did Baby Kaja Wilgocki together with her mom, Agata, still on maternity leave from her position as Artistic Director/Choreographer of Mała Polska Dancers. (Conrad Więcek has been interim dance instructor).

Meanwhile, Director D-8 Elizabeth Dynowski and Sales Coordinator Marge Grzeszczuk attended the Jasełka at the Zbigniew Herbert Polish School in Palos Hills, Illinois. Our new Cinderella, Magdalena Truta, is a graduate of the school and, together with Prince Charming Eric Wildhirt, gave Santa a run for his money. Liz Dynowski reported that every child wanted to be photographed with the Royal Couple, after all it is not every day that you can be in the presence of a Princess. “(Principal) Pani Irena Woźniak welcomed Marge and me to her amazing Polish School where we viewed a traditional Jaselka. The young talented actors in the Jasełka shared with the audience the traditions of a Polish Wigilia, and sang carols. After the performance the staff welcomed us along with Cinderella and Prince Charming to a lovely luncheon with homemade bread. Then, we were able to visit all of the children in each of the grades, sharing gifts for the members of PRCUA, which included our calendar. Every student received a beautiful brochure with our $150 PRCUA Voucher created by the PRCUA Marketing Department and a letter from Santa. The ultimate goal would be for all children of the school to become PRCUA members, as well as their parents. The students were excited to take a picture with us, especially with Cinderella and Prince Charming thus reminding them of all the wonderful opportunities that being part of PRCUA entails”. PRCUA Sales Agent and Teacher, Joanna Kot, was on hand to welcome the entourage from PRCUA. Thank you, Mrs. Wożniak, teachers and staff of the Herbert Polish School for your Polish hospitality.

Richard and I attended the Kolędowanie hosted by the St. John Paul II Polish School in Lemont, Illinois, and performance by the Polanie Dancers (Michael Dziadkowiec is the Artistic Director/Choreographer, assisted by Dominika Gornikowski and Patricia Szyrzyna) on Friday (12/16). The Principal and a dear friend of ours, Halina Szyrzyna first went with us room by room to distribute our little treasures and take a few photos. Richard and I taught Polanie for many years, so it was a reunion to see the dedicated teaching staff. We were introduced to the new School Board President, Grzegorz Karkoszka, and wish him much success. Each class celebrated a “Wigilia” in their rooms before the Kolędowanie which was held in the Sts. Cyril and Methodius School Gym, placing the students in a festive mood. Each class selected a Polish carol or pastoral. Since the school offers Friday and Saturday classes – the Kolędowanie and Polanie performance would be repeated again on Saturday. The Christmas celebration does not end here for Polanie, as the Polish school together with the Polish Club of Lemont hosted its annual Opłatek on Sunday (12/18) morning.

Speaking of Sunday (12/18), President and Mrs. Robaczewski joined Directors D-8 Cislo and Dynowski, as well as Fraternal Coordinator Conrad Wiecek at the Christmas Recital of the Southwest Center of Polish Song and Dance under the artistic direction of Master Choreographer Richard Jaminski and management of Anna Winkler. The choreographers and/or dance instructors are: Danielle Kroplewski, Kalina Gorczyca, Virginia Stekala, Renee Kroplewski, Camilla Steczek, and Michael Dziadkowiec, ably assisted by Karolina Slomba, Magdalena Truta, Jessica Wenc, Emilia Kroplewski, and Kuba Niedzielski. As is customary, Wesoły Lud performed at the concert as well. Congratulations to all the participants for a job well done! Krystyna Lech, District 8 Vice President and PRCUA Sales Agent; Edward Muszalski, President of the Adult Culture Group and PRCUA Sales Agent, and I were also in attendance to support not only Southwest Center and our grandchildren.

The Great Family Christmas Festival “Magical Christmas” is behind us – organized for 12 years at the Copernicus Center in Chicago. This year it was held on Sunday, December 18. The folk element of the concert was colorfully presented by the Polonia Song and Dance Ensemble under the patronage of PRCUA (Jaclyn Krysinski, Artistic Director/Choreographer; Mieczysław Dziś, Music Director; Anna Krysinski, Executive Director). Also participating in the concert were the “Little Stars” Theater Workshop and the Paso Music Academy. A unique book, titled “Anielskie Kolędowanie”, made its debut to the public. The illustrations included were painted by children from the Patrycja Stępniak’s Art Studio, a dear friend of the PRCUA. At the Christmas market in the Copernicus Center, Marketing Director Ela Sawczuk who manned the PRCUA promotional table, distributed our beautiful historical PRCUA calendars for 2023, other Christmas publications and current PRCUA financial offers to the many guests in attendance. Congratulations to the organizers and participants of this magical event.

One question that I have heard a lot lately is the about Polish Christmas carols – what is the difference between the traditional and “some new ones” that many never heard before. To answer this: there are “kolędy” and there are “pastoralki.” “Kolęda” – a carol – is a New Year’s, Christmas song that is kept in a religious motif, so the songs sung in churches at this time are carols. In Poland, they are sung to the tune of polonaise, oberek and krakowiak. Thanks to this, Polish carols are considered one of the canons of the national style in music…kz1.pl. “Pastorałka is a different type of Christmas carol. As the name suggests, the term pastoral comes from the word ‘shepherd’, who were the first to hear the wonderful news of the birth of the Savior. Pastorałka is a specific type of carol, in which, apart from Christmas, biblical and Christian themes, there are also moral motifs. Pastorałki are cheerful, lively songs referring to the theme of Christmas, New Year. These are more folk in nature. A few of the most famous Polish pastorals are: “I my też przychodzim ubodzy” (I also come poor), “Hej, w dzień narodzenia” (Hey, on the day of birth), “Rano powstali, na pole wygnali” (They rose up in the morning, they banished to the field), “Kolędujmy, przyśpiewujmy” (Let’s sing carols), or “W Betlejem sławnem” (In Bethlehem famous). Zapytaj.onet.pl.

It was Christmas all the way in December, but there was one event that still involved a baby and that was the Baby Bomba Shower. New Business associate, Mateusz Bomba, and his wife, Victoria, are expecting a baby in February of 2023. The banquet hall at the Cog Hill Golf Course in Lemont, Illinois, was filled to capacity with family and friends of the parents-to-be as well as well as their parents. Victoria’s mother, Irena Gavaghan, is a very dear friend whose gentle nature has been a great source of peace and love. Her giving heart encourages others to be generous. When we were collecting funds toward the Polonia for Ukraine campaign, she alone raised over $2,500. She supported the local Ukrainian Church and is a major supporter of all things Polish. We wish the future mom and dad, all the best! To both sides of the family, much love! Since January 6 is right around the corner, I would like to take this opportunity to wish Irena Gavaghan a very happy milestone birthday! Sto lat!

Among the many birthdays in December, including former PRCUA President Joseph A. Drobot, Jr. (12/20), Conrad Więcek – Fraternal Coordinator and my Chief-of-Staff – celebrated his birthday on December 15. Congratulations to Janusz and Małgorzata Krysinski (and Babcia Anna) on the birth of their daughter, Hanna, on December 7. The couple met while dancers in Polonia Ensemble, married during the pandemic, and now “Baby makes three.”

“Here’s to the year past and friends who have left us. Here’s to the present and the friends who are here. Here’s to the New Year and the new friends who will join us.” — EMILY POST