Welcome to the Gateway to Summer – the glorious month of June! If May is synonymous with Mother’s Day, communions and graduations, then June with Father’s Day, weddings, and barbecues! The official start of summer is June 21, but the summer feeling has arrived and oh, what a feeling it is! I hope that each and every one of you take the time to truly enjoy this summer – basking in the sun – soaking up all the natural Vitamin D, being a little bit lazy and just doing the things that bring you joy! Although it only seems that the winter season drags on and summer never seems long enough…give yourself permission to fully experience its power. As is true of all things wonderful, they always seem to pass by too quickly.
Speaking of passing by too quickly – April is a blur and May continues to challenge and yet, both months were full of lovely moments and events. Permit me to reflect on them. Richard and I travelled to Michigan to celebrate the “pandemic delayed” golden anniversary concert of the Tatry Dance School (Director Gail Esker, choreographer Karen Lubiarz) and stopped by the 64th annual dance recital of the Opole Dance School (Director Beth Thacker, choreographer Donna Skurski). At the former, 36 alumni joined the current Tatry dancers on stage much to the enthusiastic response of the audience. The emotions at such milestones, as with every jubilee concert, run high, but for Gail Esker this one was quite personal as her daughter, Leah, was one of the Tatry graduates; this was her first recital as director and it would honor the years of dedication of her predecessor, Rose Ann Lackey, who was in the audience with her husband and family. For Karen Lubiarz, it was equally emotional – the alumni were all her former students. Congratulations to Gail, to Karen on her 33 years of teaching, to Kaitlyn Belcher-Gordon as assistant instructor for 15 years, and to all the dancers – past and present – for a job well done!
As for the Opole Dance Recital, my dear friend, Donna Skurski, who celebrated her golden anniversary as a choreographer and dance instructor last year and her former student/current School Director, Elizabeth Thacker, celebrating 15 years as the director, once again, rose to the challenge and presented a lovely performance. Congratulations ladies and dancers on another successful dance year and program. I would like to acknowledge the attendance of the National Directors from the Michigan District, Colleen Bonkowski and Valerie Brumm, as well as past national director, Thomas Lisiecki, at one or both of these recitals.
During this same weekend, as the Treasurer of the Polish American Congress, I met with the President of the PAC Michigan Division, Ann Bankowski, to accept funds collected by the division for the Polonia for Ukraine campaign. The PAC Michigan Division joined the efforts of the Polish Roman Catholic Union, the Polish National Alliance, the Polish Falcons and many others under the umbrella of the PAC to collect a quarter million dollars for the cause. Thank you to all and special thanks to our PRCUA friends and family who alone collected close to $35,000. The funds were distributed to the Ukrainian Council on Aid and the Polish Red Cross.
On April 7, the Polish American Chamber of Commerce hosted its After Hours Gathering at the PMA sponsored by the PRCUA. Iwona Filipiak is the PACC President and our very own Sec-Treas. Agnieszka Bastrzyk is the PACC VP of Internal Affairs. The evening was a networking event featuring informative dialogue, camaraderie and Polish hospitality.
For some reason, this has been a more challenging year than usual, for me, at least – no doubt, the aftermath of the last two years, but also the uncertainty of its continued effect on our day-to-day lives. In any event, the efforts of the Michiganders I met with during this first weekend in April inspired me to take a leap of faith. In the end, the action taken met with impressive results, but exposed Richard and me to Covid and that deprived us of celebrating Easter with the family, partaking in the birthday bash for Sec.-Treas. Agnieszka Bastrzyk, attending the PRCUA Bowling Tournament and District 9’s Święconka. The doctor was right – it was not a cold, allergies or a sinus infection. I write this not for pity, but for awareness. When in doubt, check it out, take it easy and stay home!
As I mentioned, the 83rd National PRCUA Bowling Tournament was held from April 22-24, hosted by the incomparable Stan Pasko (President) and his amazing team of colleagues from PRCU 162. The article and photos on p. 14-15-16 of the June edition of Naród Polski will fill you in on all the details. Congratulations to Shirley Taraszkiewicz from PRCU 162, this year’s Joe Osmanski Bowler of the Year. Shirley’s first PRCUA Bowling Tournament was in 1969 in St. Louis. I want to make special mention of the fact that this tournament was a first for both Valerie Brumm as Bowling Coordinator and Conrad Wiecek as Fraternal Coordinator. I heard that they did a magnificent job in keeping “the ball rolling.” Ania Toboy was the youngest bowler at this event who also shared her vocal talents by singing the national anthems. It would be remiss of me if I did not mention the most seasoned bowler, Theodore Mack, 90 years young. I understand that “my bowling coach” Sally Klamerus came to the tournament. It was very nice of former PRCUA President Joseph Drobot Jr. to bring her. I am so sorry I missed you both. I am so sorry I missed all the great bowlers and their fans. Thank you to both President Robaczewski and Sec.-Treas. Bastrzyk for filling in for me in the opening ceremonies, to the bowlers for participating and to all who made 2022 Bowling a huge success! (Personal thanks to my bowling team, the Pink Ladies (Colleen Bonkowski, Basia Toboy, Marcia Pilkiewicz, Agnieszka Bastrzyk and, my replacement, Ania Toboy) for remembering me during the photo op (they facetimed me and included me in the team photo) and also for the get well gifts that were waiting for me when I returned to the office. You ladies are the best!).
The PRCUA Święconka held on April 24 was postponed twice much to the frustration of National Director of District 9, Elizabeth Sadus, but it was “worth the wait.” Beth Sadus never disappoints and neither does her committee, which is mainly comprised of the talented and creative individuals of the St. Rafał Kalinowski Polish School (Monika Otworowski, President) and Agata Wilgocki (Artistic Director and Choreographer of the “Mała Polska” dance group). The dancers have risen to the challenge thanks to the efforts of Pani Agata who enhanced her knowledge of Polish folk dances by completing the 4-year Choreographers Course in Rzeszów in 2019 adding her determination, skills and ingenuity. Keep an eye on this powerhouse – she is destined for success! Congratulations to all for a job well done!
April concluded with the 53rd Annual Dance Recital of the Rogalin Dance Troupe. Congratulations to Lisa Kret-Brandt on her 5th Anniversary as School Director, choreographers Janet Vilag and Barbara Raczynski-Toboy, and all the dancers for another successful recital!
On May 1, the Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company and the Southwest Center of Polish Song and Dance commemorated their 45th and 35th Anniversaries respectively with a concert celebrating 80 years of Polish dancing on the stage of Mother McAuley Theater in Chicago. Details and photos will follow in the July issue of the Naród Polski, but for now, permit me to share my thoughts as the founder and past artistic director and choreographer of both. The last 45 years of Wesoly Lud and, to some extent, Southwest Center as well, have been like riding a roller coaster. The highs are exhilarating, the lows challenging. This concert was a challenging high and I could not be prouder of the different generations of dancers, their teachers, SWCPSD director Anna Kraszewski-Winkler, the emcee Niki Bencik-Turkiewicz, and, of course, the Artistic Director and Choreographer of both, Richard Jaminski. Thank you for all the additional happy memories. (Special thanks to my earth angels – Elżbieta Sawczuk, Anne Moschopoulus, Lisa Terlecki and Conrad Wiecek, who served as an unofficial committee). I wore several hats that day including the personal ones of wife, mom, sister, aunt, and BABCIA. PRCUA gave me (and so many others) an opportunity to connect our family members with our passion for Polish culture through dance and song. I applaud each and every person who embraces their Polish pride through their thoughts, words and deeds – even if the words are in English only. You are Polish and proud. Thank you to Consul Agata Grochowska from the Polish Consulate in Chicago; Sec.-Treas. Bastrzyk; National Directors Ewa Cholewinski (D-7), Liz Dynowski (D-8) and Mirek Cislo (D-8) and former Resident Vice President Anna Sokolowski for attending this event and to President Robaczewski for his video message. Congratulations to all the dancers and those that made this show another “one for the books!”
Also on May 1, but in Michigan, the Polskie Maki Dancers had their recital guests dust off their passports as they took a trip throughout Poland – all from the comfort of their seats. Through dance and song, they brought the various regions of the homeland to the stage. Kudos to School Director Maria Jalkiewicz, Choreographer Kelly Malinowski, and all the dancers!
It was full steam ahead from May 1 until the evening of May 10 as the Polish American Community celebrated Polish Holidays including the Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791. PRCUA President was in Parma, Ohio on May 1 participating in the Polish Constitution Day parade at the invitation of PRCUA National Director Mitch Bienia (D-6). As a proud sponsor of the festivities, PRCUA did its part to help the PAC-Ohio Division revitalize after the pandemic and establish a scholarship fund at the Polonia Foundation.
May 2 found the PRCUA Executive Officers and Director D-7 Cholewinski at Daley Center in Downtown Chicago celebrating Polish Flag Day and Polish Diaspora Day with a flag raising and program. In the evening of the same day, Consul Małgorzata Bąk-Guzik of the Polish Consulate in Chicago hosted a reception in honor of the May 3rd Polish Constitution Day featuring a special concert by the Air National Guard Band of the Midwest. PRCUA was represented by President Robaczewski, Directors Cholewinski and Krysinski, Naród Polski Editor Lidia Kowalewicz, Richard and me.
2022 marks the 225th anniversary of the original lyrics to Dąbrowski’s Mazurek by Józef Wybicki and the 95th anniversary of its official adoption as the Polish national anthem. In commemoration of these anniversaries, the “Next Stop History” of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance together with the Polish Daily News in Chicago organized a singing contest “I know and sing the Polish National Anthem.” On May 5, the winners were awarded first, second and third prizes in three age categories which were sponsored by the PRCUA, PNA and PAC Illinois Division. Representing the PRCUA at this event were President Robaczewski and Sec.-Treas. Bastrzyk.
On Friday, May 6, I had the distinct honor of representing the PRCUA at the 50th Anniversary of Polish Airlines LOT’s maiden voyage from Warsaw to Chicago. The festivities were held at the Renaissance Chicago Hotel. Hosting the event was LOT CEO Rafał Milczarski and Magdalena Pantelis, Director of Sales USA and Canada. There were dignitaries from Poland, the General Consuls of Poland and Ukraine in Chicago – Ms. Małgorzata Bąk-Guzik and Mr. Koledov Serhiy respectively, representatives of the Polish American organizations and travel agencies, as well as the LOT staff from Poland, Canada and the U.S. An eloquent speaker, Mr. Milczarski touched on the history of Poland and LOT, and its connection with Chicago. Following was another outstanding speaker, the Vice Marshall of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland, Ms. Małgorzata Gosiewska, who related recent events in Poland, the effects of the war in Ukraine and the ongoing Polish humanitarian effort for the Ukrainian refugees. Winners from an art contest sponsored by LOT were awarded round trip tickets to Poland. Among the three winners in separate age categories was one of the students from the Jan Karski Polish School sponsored by PRCUA, Zofia Skóbel. Congratulations to all three contest winners and to Lot Polish Airlines on this auspicious occasion.
On the same day, but, in another part of town, President Robaczewski and Sec.-Treas. Bastrzyk attended the 56th Annual Awards Banquet, Installation of Officers and Celebration of Polish Constitution Day organized by the Polish American Police Association of Chicago and Illinois (Thomas A. Sieja is the current President). The festivities took place at the White Eagle Banquets in Niles. The awards for Law Enforcement Person of the Year went to Detective Adam Wazny (Chicago PD), Officer John Cebulski (Aurora PD), Officer Steven Kotlewski (Bensenville PD), Officer Kenneth Tworek (Oak Park PD), Officer Michael Kocerka (CPD), and posthumously to Sergeant David Rucci (CPD). The Civilian Person of the Year was awarded to the dynamic duo of the Polish Museum of America, Managing Director Małgorzata Kot and President Richard Owsiany. Congratulations to those who serve and protect our community and the treasures of our heritage.
On a crisp, beautiful, and sunny day, the Windy City lived up to its name and provided a lovely stage for the Polish Constitution Day Parade. Preceding the event was a wreath laying ceremony at the Tadeusz Kosciuszko Monument by artist Kazimierz Chodziński that is located in the median of East Solidarity Drive, near Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium by the lake. The statue was sculpted in 1904 and was originally located in Humboldt Park, where the original parade route would end. All in attendance were welcomed by PNA-PAC President Frank J. Spula as the event has been organized by the PNA for many years. Polonian leaders, politicians and dignitaries from Poland and PRCUA President James Robaczewski were asked to say a few words. Following this event was the annual brunch hosted by the Chicago Society of the PNA at the Hilton Hotel with a program of well-wishers to the Polish American community. Provided here are photos from the wreath laying ceremony as a separate article and photos regarding the Parade and Brunch are located on p. 8-9 of the June edition of Naród Polski.
The evening of May 7 found the Executive Committee at three separate events: President and Mrs. Robaczewski attended the Parade Banquet at Jolly Inn; Sec.-Treas. Bastrzyk at the Graduation Ball of the Polish High School Students at Oakbrook Drury Lane; and yours truly, at the wedding of Wesoły Lud alumni Kacper Szumiec and his lovely bride, Katarzyna Niezgoda at Venuti’s in Addison.
Among the festivities of the first event (Parade Banquet), President Robaczewski was asked to speak. As well as a presentation of awards to the winners of the art contest marking the events relating to the Polish Constitution. PRCUA’s Marketing Director, Elżbieta Sawczuk, who served on the parade committee as the PRCUA representative, was this year’s contest coordinator, and the awards funded by PRCUA, the art workshops of PatriciaArt, and the organizing committee of the parade. The theme of this year’s contest was “2022: The Year of Maria Konopnicka and Józef Wybicki.” Younger participants were asked to create illustrations or covers to Konopnicka’s children’s stories, and students in the older category illustrated the words of the Polish anthem “Poland is Not Yet Lost,” authored by Wybicki. Entries were received from young people from over a dozen schools in metropolitan Chicago. Among the laureates with a PRCUA connection were Milena Antol from the Jan Karski Polish School and Natalia Bastrzyk from the Holy Trinity Polish School. Congratulations to the winners and all participants as well as to Ela Sawczuk on a great job coordinating the contest!
At the second event, the program included, the presentation of $1,000 scholarships – the PRCUA check was gifted to Elizabeth Bukowski of St. Fabian Polish School in Bridgeview, IL by Sec. Treas. Bastrzyk, and a performance by the Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company of PRCUA (Richard Jaminski, Artistic Director and Choreographer). The host school of the Graduation Ball, a PRCUA sponsored school, Rev. Stanisław Cholewinski Polish School (Kinga Kościelniak, Principal) invited Wesoły Lud to perform as part of its artistic program. The dancers performed suites from Eastern Kraków and Spisz, and, as a lead-in to the social dance portion of the evening, a Polonez joined by the dignitaries and guests.
On Monday, May 9, the PRCUA Officers were honored to join the PMA President Richard Owsiany, Managing Director Małgorzata Kot and staff and welcome the delegation from the Podkarpackie (Subcarpathian) Voivodeship of Poland who toured the Museum and enjoyed a short pause in the marathon of events over the weekend. Our guests included: the Vice Marshall Ms. Ewa Draus; Chairman of the Parliament Mr. Jerzy Borcz; Mr. Jacek Magdoń, Councillor and Chairman of the Committee for Liaison with Poles Abroad; and Ms. Katarzyna Gieroń, from the Marshall’s Office of the Podkarpackie Region – International Cooperation Section.
On Tuesday, May 10, the Consul of the Republic of Poland in Chicago, Małgorzata Bąk-Guzik, hosted a meeting with the First Lady of Poland – Mrs. Agata Kornhauser-Duda, and representatives of Polonia. Also in attendance was the Secretary of State in the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland – Mr. Adam Kwiatkowski. The purpose of this meeting was to acknowledge the efforts of Polonia in support of the Ukrainian crisis and to underscore the continuing need for additional financial assistance. Prior to this meeting, Poland’s First Lady had a private conversation with PAC-PNA President Frank Spula. Among the guests was yours truly as PRCUA VP and PAC Treasurer. Included in my remarks, I noted that PRCUA is the oldest Polish organization in the USA celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2023 and referenced the fundraising campaign of the PAC under the banner of POLONIA FOR UKRAINE initiated by Mr. Spula and his staff at WPNA-FM and Polish Daily News. Among the largest contributors, was the PRCUA (and I have all of you to thank for that) in addition to the PNA, the Polish Falcons (Tim Kuzma, President) and the Michigan Division of the PAC (Ann Bankowski, at the helm). This beautiful act of solidarity with Ukraine, which, under the PAC umbrella, united the entire Polish community and showed one of the ongoing goals and need for the Congress and our Polish organizations. On behalf of PRCUA and my own, I presented the First Lady with a symbolic gift – a cup and a scarf both hand-painted in Polish-Ukrainian colors. The visit was followed by a ceremony awarding state decorations to selected Polish Americans. I thank Consul Bąk-Guzik for the invitation and the hospitality extended by the entire staff of the Polish Consulate in Chicago, including Consul Agata Grochowska.
President Robaczewski attended the May 14th Mala Polska recital in Munster, Indiana. The dance group, under the artistic direction of choreographer Agata Wilgocki, is affiliated with the St. Raphael Kalinowski Polish School (Małgorzata Czachor, Principal) – a 100% PRCUA school. The dancers and chaperones, including District 9 Director Elizabeth Sadus, left immediately after to travel to Indianapolis where they participated in a Polish heritage program. I am more than sure that we will read all about it in the next issue of the Naród Polski. The school year ended with Holy Mass at the Carmelite Fathers Monastery on May 21.
Also on May 14, President Robaczewski attended the graduation at the Jan Karski Polish School in Palos Heights, Illinois where Marek Adamczyk is Principal. Congratulations to the high school and 8th grade graduates! See article and photos on p. 31 of the June edition of Naród Polski.
The St. John Paul II Polish School (Halina Szyrzyna, Principal) held its Graduation Mass at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in Lemont, Illinois, on May 8, and both the 8th grade graduate luncheon and high school graduate ball on May 15th at Crystal Grand Banquets in Lemont. District 8 Director Myron Cislo attended the latter while his counterpart, Director Elizabeth Dynowski attended the Maria Konopnicka Polish School graduation mass the following week. Elżbieta Żegleń is the Principal and Joanna Niedzielski, President of the School Board. Congratulations to all the graduates from all the Polish schools, the parents, and the teaching staffs. Bravo!
The Officers attended a Lunch and Learn networking event sponsored by the American Fraternal Alliance (Allison Koppell, CEO) at the Westin O’Hare on May 25. The AFA hosts several events annually to keep the fraternal benefit societies “in the know.” You can never learn too much!
We bid farewell to one of our PRCUA Lady Vice Presidents and former District 9 Director who passed away on Tuesday, May 17, at the age of 92. Dolores Spejewski was VP from 1990-1998. An avid sports lover, she embraced the PRCUA tournaments, engaged with the dance and language schools and loved bingos and casinos. She was the first woman to run for President of PRCUA. Please read her obituary on p.1 of the June edition of Naród Polski. President Robaczewski, Director Sadus, Richard and I together with both current and former editors of the Naród Polski, Lidia Kowalewicz and Kathryn Rosypal, her former Executive Assistant Mary Jane Roble, and her friends from Society 413 including Richard Sobilo. Our sincere condolences to her children, Sharon, Brian and Amy, their spouses and families. I mentioned that Dolores loved casinos, well I just happened upon a photo of her with Wesoly Lud when the group performed at Trump’s Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, NJ in 1995.
That same day, Richard and I attended the wake of one of our former Wesoły Lud dancers, Joseph Kowalkowski, who passed away on Sunday, May 22, after a courageous fight with cancer. Joe was only 59 years of age and is survived by his wife, Debbie; four children and one granddaughter in addition to other family members and friends. Our deepest sympathies to Joe’s family and friends.
Our deepest condolences to District 10 Director Valerie Brumm on the passing of her father, Dave Grabowski, at age 80. Valerie told me her parents’ story. Connie Bonin grew up with Valerie’s mom, Jean, on Chicago’s south side and signed her to the PRCUA. Jean met Dave at the 1969 National PRCUA Bowling Tournament in St. Louis. Jean was a great bowler. Jean passed away from leukemia in 1983 within two months of her diagnosis, leaving Dave to raise four children (ages 8, 6, 5 and 3). Seven years later, he met another great bowler, Celeste, and the two were married. At the 2022 Bowling Tournament, Dave was there, chatted with Connie, Celeste bowled and Valerie performed her job as Bowling Coordinator. Then their lives were turned upside down when he suffered a stroke. He passed away on May 18 and was laid to rest on May 26th. Wishing his wife and the family strength and prayers. May the memories keep his spirit alive in your hearts and minds.
Condolences are also extended to PMA employee, Basia Kozuchowska, on the loss of her father, Wacław Kożuchowski (93) on May 9 and to Jolanta Sokołowska, PRCUA New Business Specialist, on the passing of her mother, Danuta Florczyk (81) in Poland, on May 16. To all those mentioned here and others who have been called by God to return home, eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed, rest in in peace. Amen.
On a lighter note, the Michigan Polish folk dance schools gathered together on Sunday, May 22, for the annual Blessing of the Schools Mass at St. Albertus Parish in Michigan. Dancers from the following groups participated in the event: Gwiazda, Halka, Opole, Polskie Maki, Rogalin, Tatry, Wieliczka, Zajaczek, Zakopane, and Centennial. Details to follow.
Our niece, Kayla Leonhard, graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee – College of Nursing – on May 22. Congratulations Kayla and to all graduates on their path to continued success! Also, Happy Sapphire Birthday, to our daughter Niki Bencik-Turkiewicz who shares a birthday with PRCUA Employee, Claudine Wicker! Sto Lat!
Upcoming June events include the PMA Ball (6/10) and the PRCUA Sacred Heart Mass (6/12), as well as June birthdays – our little granddaughter, Mila Turkiewicz (6/3); Jeanine Leonhard who shares a birthday with Victoria Bomba (6/7); Ania Jamińska (6/18); Maria Jamińska and Anna Grabowski (6/20) and Richard Jamiński (6/26). Happy JUNE Birthdays and Sto Lat to all!
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S DAY (6/1)! HAPPY FLAG DAY (6/14)!
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! (6/19) HAPPY SUMMER – ENJOY!