Hello June! Hello Friends! Here we are almost in the middle of 2023! Each month brings so much to the table of life that sometimes it is a bit overwhelming. At times, it is difficult to savor each and every moment when it’s go – go – go, but that is why this article is so important. It is an attempt to sum up what is happening in the PRCUA as well as report to you, our members and friends, the efforts made by your PRCUA leaders to “get involved, stay involved, and get others involved” (the mantra of our PRCUA President). So, without further ado, let’s start where we left off in the last issue…
The end of April celebrated the 50th Anniversary of PRCU Society 162 Gymnastics (Mary Ann Davis, Director and Instructor, ably assisted by Abby Simmons). At this April 27th gymnastics exhibition, held at the PRCU 162 Hall in Wyandotte MI, Director Colleen Bonkowski and Society 162 President Stan Pasko presented Mary Ann with an award on behalf of the PRCUA for this golden anniversary. Congratulations to Mary Ann, Abby and the gymnasts! . On Friday, April 28, PRCUA’s Officers and Staff celebrated the birthday of IT Director Kevin Ryba. “What does the IT person do? They study, design, develop, implement, support, and manage computer-based information systems, including both software applications and computer hardware”. In other words, keeps the business safe, current and efficient. Thank you, Kevin, and Sto Lat! On Saturday, April 29, the St. Raphael Kalinowski Polish School (Principal Yolanta Czosnyka, President Magdalena Sojka) hosted its annual Family Day at the Carmelite Fathers Monastery in Munster IN. The school’s Mała Polska Dancers (Artistic Director Agata Wilgocki) performed song and dance selections during the program, together with the kindergarten through 4th classes reciting poems for their parents. It was my pleasure to attend the event accompanying District 9 Director Elizabeth Sadus. Bravo to the performers and the teaching staff! PHOTO 3. Meanwhile, Sales Department Coordinator Marge Grzeszczuk attended the Graduation ceremony at the Zbigniew Herbert Polish School (Principal Irena Wożniak, PRCUA Liaison Joanna Kot) in Palos Heights IL. Congratulations to the graduates, parents and staff! The PRCUA weekend festivities ended on Sunday, April 30, with the Southwest Center of Polish Song and Dance Recital (Manager Anna Winkler, Artistic Director and Choreographer Richard Jaminski) together with Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company at Mother McAuley High School Theater, Chicago IL. Representing PRCUA were District Directors: Ewa Cholewinski, Elizabeth Dynowski and Myron Cislo (the latter two alumni of SWCPSD), and yours truly. Bravo to all who made this recital possible!
May begins, especially in the Chicagoland area, with many events celebrating the May Third Polish Constitution of 1791. This year, these festivities commenced with the annual PNA wreath-laying at the Kosciuszko Monument near the Shedd Aquarium, Flag Raising at the Daley Center and Reception hosted by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, all on May 2 which is Polonia (Polish Diaspora) Day and Polish Flag Day. PRCUA was represented by Sec-Treas. Agnieszka Bastrzyk and yours truly. On May 4, the PAC-PNA President hosted a meet and greet with the U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Mark Brzezinski at the PNA headquarters. An extremely eloquent presence, the Ambassador entertained questions from Chicago’s Polonian leaders as well as guests and the media. He praised the Polish people here and abroad, laying out the welcome mat to come visit Poland. Attending the event from the PRCUA was President Robaczewski and yours truly in my dual role as VP and PAC Treasurer. Director Ewa Cholewinski was also in attendance, representing the PAC Illinois Division. Later that same day, Consul General Pawel Zyzak hosted an evening of awards, music and dining at the Polish Consulate in Chicago. Attending the event from the PRCUA was Naród Polski Editor Lidia Kowalewicz, Marketing Director Elżbieta Sawczuk and yours truly. “The Brotherhood of the Rooster, one of the oldest civil defense associations in Europe, has existed in Poland for over 750 years. Known as the Bractwo Kurkowe, its original responsibility was to defend Kraków and other major Polish cities against invaders. The Bractwo Kurkowe and the Knightly Order of St. John Cantius have established an affiliate in the United States of America based at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago, IL. It held its first investiture on Friday, May 5, 2023. The Grand Chancellor and other dignitaries from Poland were present for the ceremony, which was followed by Mass according to the 1962 Missal”. (St. John Cantius Website). In attendance was Bishop Andrew Wypych, auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. President Robaczewski, as the Vice Marshal of the May Third Parade, was honored with a medal. Later that evening, President Robaczewski, Sec-Treas.Bastrzyk and Director Cholewinski attended the PAPA (Polish American Police Association) Annual Awards Banquet at Allegra Banquets in Schiller Park, IL. Łucja Mirowska-Kopeć, Parade Committee Chair and President of the Alliance of Polish Clubs, and her husband, Jan, past president of the APC, were honored that evening together with Polish American police officers that served with distinction. On Saturday, May 6, preceding the main event, the Chicago Society of the PNA hosted its annual brunch at the Hilton in Chicago, IL where government officials meet with Polonia to applaud its contributions to the city, the county, the state and the nation. And finally (although not the end of these festivities) the 128th Polish Constitution Parade, once again down Columbus Drive in Downtown Chicago. The parade boasted a cast of thousands from the Polish American community including organizations, schools, dance groups and businesses. Polish pride in the United States was front and center, and you could feel and see the energy. The parade commenced with a presentation of dignitaries including the 144th Illinois Army National Guard Band, the Parade Queen Marianna Mosz and her court, Grand Marshal Col. Andrew Adamczyk of the IL Army National Guard, Vice Marshal PRCUA President and Mrs. James Robaczewski, followed by the aforementioned cast of thousands. As the oldest Polish organization in America, the PRCUA – in tribute to its 150th Anniversary – was front and center, securing the first 12 positions which included: Officers, staff and members; the Adult Culture Group with 2023 Cinderella, Prince Charming and Runners-up; Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company; Southwest Center of Polish Song & Dance; St. Rafał Kalinowski Polish School; the Maria Konopnicka Polish School; the St. John Paul II Polish School together with its Polanie Dancers; Henryk Sienkiewicz Polish School; Stanisław Cholewinski Polish School; Holy Cross Polish Catholic School; Jan Karski Polish School; Polonia Song and Dance Ensemble; and the Polish Museum of America. Bravo to the entire Parade Committee which included our very own Director of Marketing, Elżbieta Sawczuk! In addition to countless meetings, she took on the role of PR Director and spearheaded the art contest. Congratulations to all the participants, especially our PRCUA affiliates – your unselfish efforts to serve the Polish community in America gives us the impetus to continue to serve our community and perpetuate our rich Polish culture! I direct you to p. 1-8-9 of this Naród Polski for all the details and wonderful photos from the parade.
Bright and early Sunday morning, President Robaczewski attended the annual Polish Constitution Mass at Holy Trinity Parish in Chicago IL and later that afternoon, Sec-Treas. Agnieszka Bastrzyk, Elżbieta Sawczuk, Richard and I joined Mr. and Mrs. Robaczewski at the Parade Banquet held at Jolly Inn Banquets in Chicago IL. Awards were presented to the contest winners, including the Henryk Sienkiewicz Polish School for the most creative float. Medals, commemorating the weeklong event, were bestowed upon the Grand Marshal, Vice Marshal and Friend of Polonia. Dignitaries from Poland sang the praises of Chicago’s Polish community throughout the week and their gratitude resounded at this banquet as well. A performance by the Lechici Dancers of the Polish Scouting Organization of Illinois with Artistic Director and Choreographer Conrad Więcek (my very talented Chief of Staff and Fraternal Department Coordinator) at the helm, entertained the audience with a dance suite from Przeworsk. Bravo to all who made this and all the weeklong events a major success!
In the midst of the above events and throughout the month thereafter, there were many graduations. Director Myron Cislo represented the PRCUA at three such events: on May 3, at the Graduation Ball of the Henryk Sienkiewicz Polish School (Principal Ilona Sobiech, President Renata Kaleciak) at Crystal Grand Banquets, Lemont IL; on May 7, at the St. John Paul II Polish School (Principal Halina Szyrzyna, President Grzegorz Karkoszka) Graduation Mass at ss. Cyril and Methodius Church and Ball at Crystal Grand Banquets, Lemont IL; and on May 12, at the Holy Cross Polish School in Joliet (Principal Barbara Szuba). On behalf of the PRCUA, Director Myron Cislo presented the graduates with tokens of our appreciation and wishes for much success. I, on the other hand, attended the Graduation Masses of two Polish Schools in honor of Rev. Stanisław Cholewiński (Principal Kinga Kościelniak, President Angelika Bochenek) and Maria Konopnicka (Principal Rafał Zachara, President Sylwia Raj) both on Saturday, May 20. The first was at St. Faustyna Kowalska Parish in Chicago IL with Mass officiated by the Pastor, Rev. Tadeusz Dzieszko, and the second at Our Lady Mother of the Church – Cistercian Fathers Polish Mission in Willow Springs IL officiated by the Prior and Mission Director and Custodian of the Sanctuary: Father Michał Blicharski. Meanwhile, in Munster IN, Director Elizabeth Sadus attended the graduation at the St. Rafał Kalinowski School, while Prince Charming Eric Wildhirt visited the Jan Karski Polish School in Palos Heights, IL (Principal Marek Adamczyk) during its graduation at St. Alexander’s Parish. The weekend was far from over. On Sunday, May 21, while President Robaczewski attended the 150th PRCUA Anniversary Mass, organized by the Malbork Dance Group at St. Isidore Parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Sec-Treas. Bastrzyk in her secondary role as President of the Holy Trinity Polish School attended the Polish High School Mass at St. Hyacinth Parish in Chicago, IL while Naród Polski Editor Lidia Kowalewicz represented PRCUA at Polonia Ensemble’s Mother’s Day Recital at Allegra Banquets in Schiller Park, IL. I made a valiant effort to attend the beautiful and impressive Polish High School Mass sponsored by the Polish Teachers Association (President Ewa Koch, Vice President Ilona Sobiech). Alas, it was not to be, but I have a snapshot in my mind of the white caps and gowns on the steps of this beautiful Polish Basilica. I have attended several of these Polish High School Masses in the past and it is truly a testimony to the dedication of so many educators and parents to perpetuate the Polish language passing it onto the next generation. Congratulations, graduates, and do not forget your role in keeping Polish culture alive in the U.S.!
While on the subject of graduations – of course, American schools had their share of graduations as well. Here’s to one of our part-time employees – Congratulations, Emilia Wiecek! All the best to you and all graduates everywhere!
In addition to the aforementioned events, there was the AFA (American Fraternal Alliance) Spring Symposium, attended by both President Robaczewski and Sec-Treas. Bastrzyk. Mrs. Bastrzyk served as a speaker on the panel titled, “The Fraternal Future – The Class of 2023: What Tomorrow’s Fraternal Leaders Are Challenged by Today.” Other panelists included: Michael Cesario (Member Engagement Team Lead at Catholic Order of Foresters), Derek Hohn (Director of Fraternal Programs at Croatian Fraternal Union of America), and Lauren Rainey (Director of Operations at KSKJ Life) – all “graduates” of the Fraternal Career Development (FCD) program offered for the first time by AFA. The panel was moderated by Tom Meier, Executive and Management Coach at Equis Consulting who also led the FCD and quoting Agnes, “doing a great job at it”. Each person was asked to talk about what was gained from the FCD program, their short history within their fraternal, how they will be taking what was presented and sharing their organizations, what they feel are the challenges for fraternals today and why such programs are important to offer and build on with more advanced programs.
On Friday, May 19, President Robaczewski attended the opening of Back Home–Polish Chicago, an exhibit at the Chicago History Museum, as guest of Donald Lassere, President and CEO of the Chicago History Museum. At the invitation of PMA President Richard Owsiany and Managing Director Małgorzata Kot, Richard and I also attended. The first hour was spent viewing the exhibit which included memorabilia, written and audio narratives of individuals and their place in the evolution of Polish Chicago. For some, it was a walk-through memory lane and for others, a revelation of sorts. From loaning artifacts to sharing information, the input of our Polish Museum of America was acknowledged several times throughout the exhibit and throughout the program which followed. It was during this second hour that we enjoyed a conversation with Professor emeritus Dominic A. Pacyga, a renowned author on Chicago’s Polish Community and one of the exhibit’s project historians and Peter T. Alter, the Museum’s chief historian and curator of the exhibit. The exchange between them was fluid and it was interesting to hear references to places of my youth – the church where my parents were married, and I was christened – or the how it all began and evolved. Following this “meet and greet” was a performance by a quartet of singers from the Lira Ensemble, one of whom was one of our very own Southwest Center of Polish Dance and Song alumna, Alexandra “Ola” Rafało. The vocal performance included a favorite of my father, “Góralu, czy Ci nie żal,” so I was doubly misty-eyed and elated. After the performance, Ola came out to meet with us. We were so proud of her. Wishing Ola all the best, we proceeded to where a delicious and elegant Polish dinner was served. Sitting with the PMA personnel and meeting up with friends within Polonia, we had a most enjoyable evening. Bravo to the committee which included PMA Board Secretary Victoria Granacki, a noted historian and author, who served as one of the co-chairs, and PMA Board member, Virginia Cudecki. I would love to continue on the subject of this wonderful evening, but I think it best to make room for the photo that tells a thousand words.
The month was not without its birthdays, anniversaries, and Mother’s Day celebrations and now we look to those in June. Happy birthday to all June babies including Elizabeth Dziadulewicz (Marketing Associate) and our 6-year-old granddaughter Mila (6/3), my sister Jeanine and Victoria Bomba (6/7), the Jaminski women Anna (6/18) and Maria (6/20), and, my soulmate Richard (6/26). Sto lat! Happy Father’s Day! Happy Flag Day! Happy Summer! Enjoy until the next time.