Winds of March, we welcome you. There is work for you to do. Work and play and blow all day. Blow the winter cold away” (author unknown). What special holidays, traditions and annual PRCUA events make the month of March unique? We know it is the third month of the year, but did you know that it was the “Happy New Year” month around 150 B.C.? At that time, the calendar year was only ten months long and began with March. In 45 B.C., Julius Caesar changed it to a twelve-month year to coincide with the solar year. March is one of three months named after Roman gods. Its Latin name is Martius, after the god of war, Mars. Ironically, the milder weather which we all await also made it conducive to the start or continuation of many wars. Other than this, here’s to the month that embraces Women’s History and International Women’s Day (3/8); Casimir Pulaski’s birthday (3/4); daylight savings time and Pi Day (3/14); St. Paddy’s Day (3/17), the first day of spring and St. Joseph’s Day (3/19), and, sometimes like this year, Easter (3/31). There’s nothing like the hope that “springs” up during this time of year. Breathe in the crispness of a warm spring day, replenishing your heart and soul with renewed positivity, and let’s “March into Spring” together!

Our PRCUA members will be springing into action from the get-go as the Board of Directors meets in Chicago on the 1st and 2nd. Some may attend the White and Red Ball hosted by the Legion of Young Polish Women later on Saturday evening (3/2) or the Polish American Congress Illinois Division Casimir Pulaski Day Banquet (3/3). A week later, there will be the Annual Fashion Show hosted by the Adult Culture Group of PRCUA at Crystal Grand Banquets in Lemont IL, while the Gwiazda Dancers will present their 64th recital at Fitzgerald High School Auditorium in Warren MI – both on Sunday, March 10. A few days later, the PRCUA sports tournament season officially begins in Livonia MI with the 83rd PRCUA National Basketball Tournament hosted by St. Stan’s Society 718, chaired by Bob Hojnacki (3/15-16). Continuing right along, the 2024 PRCUA Dance School recital season continues with the Zajączek Ensemble on March 16, and three other PRCUA Michigan Dance Schools: Malbork (Grand Rapids), Tatry and Opole on March 23. Check the Naród Polski calendar, the website and social media for details on these events as they become available. [SAVE THE DATES: PRCUA D-8 Święconka (4/7) and PRCUA National Bowling Tournament in Nashville TN (4/18-21)]

Here’s the recap of PRCUA events that took place since my last article went to print. On January 31, the PRCUA was bestowed the title “Person of the Year” by the Dziennik Związkowy (Polish Daily News), an honor celebrating our 150 years as the oldest Polish American organization still in existence. The Executive Officers accepted the award on behalf of all past and present leaders and members of our organization, as we know there is no “I” in team. Thank you again to DZ Publisher Frank J. Spula, General Manager Lukasz Dudka, and Editor-in-Chief Alicja Otap for this honor.

The next day, PRCUA Headquarters were visited by Henio, the mascot of the Henryk Sienkiewicz Polish School and Principal Ilona Sobiech to congratulate PRCUA on its “Person of the Year” distinction. In his book, “In Desert and Wilderness,” Henryk Sienkiewicz wrote a fictional story about two siblings who are kidnapped and taken across the African continent where they come upon “water elephants.” Hence, the elephant as the school’s mascot.

The first Saturday of the month (2/3) found Richard and me, joined by Directors Elizabeth Dynowski (D-8) and Elizabeth Sadus (D-9), and D-8 VP Joanna Niedzielski in Munster IN, at the 55th anniversary celebration of the St. Rafał Kalinowski Polish School. The school was founded by PRCUA Lady Vice President Stella M. Nowak together with D-10 Lady Director Helen Kucharski, and Casimir and Barbara Pawlowski. This 100% PRCUA Polish language school, its principal, Yolanta Czosnyka, her teaching staff, and the School Board with President Magdalena Sojka at the helm organized a wonderful event at the Social Hall of the Carmelite Fathers Monastery, home to the school since 1994. The food was plentiful and delicious with a lavish sweet table, many raffle prizes (our table was one of the really lucky ones) and the charming company at our table, which included the Vice Consul of the Polish Consulate in Chicago, Michał Arciszewski, and Małgorzata Czachor, the former principal of the school and current teacher. A short artistic program performed by the youngest up to the fourth-grade students and the 2024 graduates adorned the festivities. We thank all the performers, staff and parents for their hard work, hospitality, and wish the school continued success. Sto Lat!

That same evening, Secretary-Treasurer Agnieszka Bastrzyk and husband, Daniel, represented PRCUA at the Maria Konopnicka Polish School Zabawa at Paradise Banquets in Bridgeview IL. D-8 Secretary Danielle Kroplewski and husband, Robert, also attended the event – both are alumni of the school and their children are following in their footsteps. Danielle held the offices of president and vice president of the Konopnicka School for many years up until 2023. The Lech and Kroplewski families have been affiliated with the school for close to 40 of the 50 years the school has been in existence. PRCUA is looking forward to the Golden Jubilee of the Konopnicka School, which is in its planning stages. PRCUA was instrumental in founding the school originally located at Five Holy Martyrs in Chicago IL and has been its patron continually. Rafal Zachara is the principal, Sylwia Raj, the president.

Meanwhile, in Lemont IL, D-8 Director Myron Cislo and wife, Elizabeth, represented PRCUA at the St. John Paul II Polish School Zabawa at Crystal Banquets. Principal is Halina Szyrzyna and school board president is Grzegorz Karkoszka. The Polanie Dancers of JPII Polish School performed at the event (Michael Dziadkowiec, artistic director/choreographer; Patricia Szyrzyna and Dominika Gornikowski, instructors).

Before we go on to the second weekend of February, PRCUA employees were treated to Kasia Deli’s pączki provided by the Polish Museum of America (thank you, Małgosia Kot) AND chruściki (thanks to Marge Grzeszczuk for picking them up from Racine Bakery) to celebrate Tłusty Czwartek (in Poland, Fat Thursday is celebrated). Do not worry, PRCUA employees also celebrated Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) with delicious pączki from Shop and Save (thanks again, Marge).

Now, onto February 10. The newest addition to the PRCUA schools – the Henryk Sienkiewicz Polish School in Romeoville IL hosted its “Lady in Red” Zabawa at Crystal Grand Banquets. With over 300 attendees, the event was an amazing success and a fun-filled evening. Representing PRCUA were yours truly in the company of my handsome husband, D-8 Director Elizabeth Dynowski, and Sales Coordinator Marge Grzeszczuk. The thirty high school graduates from the school’s Class of 2024 were taught a waltz by Richard Jaminski to the favorite melody of Principal Ilona Sobiech, The Second Waltz by Dmitri Shostakovich. This performance was followed by a circle dance “Belgijka” by Lais-‘t Smidje, popular among the youth in Poland, led by none other than Pani Ilona. The energy of this principal is matched only by that of her staff and the school board whose president is Renata Kaleciak. In addition to this entertainment, there were the customary raffle baskets, but also large ticket items such as United Airlines tickets (I won one!), a silent auction, donations for lemon “spirits”, and food galore – customarily there are appetizer and sweet tables, and czerwony barszcz and krokiety, but they even had a roasted pig. PRCUA was featured front and center throughout the evening. Another highlight of the evening was the announcement that PRCUA insurance agents Sandy Szczygiel-Zeglin and Samantha Barcikowski, who signed up 85 students to PRCUA in 2023 alone, donated the total amount of their commissions to the school. Bravo, ladies! I have known Sandy since she was a child dancing at the Southwest Center of Polish Song and Dance (she also attended M. Konopnicka Polish School). Her experiences as a child laid the foundation of what her four sons would follow. She has many roles at the Sienkiewicz School and it is due to her effervescence and drive, together with the support of the school’s administration, that this “Dynamic Duo” has succeeded and continue their mission.

Literally right next door to the “Ladies in Red” was the zabawa of the Zbigniew Herbert Polish School, also under our patronage. D-8 Director Myron and Elizabeth Cislo represented the PRCUA, together with members of the Adult Culture Group. Of course, our entourage visited with the gracious hostess, Principal Irena Wozniak, and her guests. I have the highest regard for all the principals, teachers and school board officers of all the Polish secondary schools in the country and applaud them for their efforts and dedication to their mission.

Meanwhile, but also on February 10, D-10 Director and Zajączek School Director, Colleen Bonkowski, was busy with Zajączek’s Polska Zabawa at the American Polish Century Club in Sterling Heights MI. Attendees, including D-10 Director Valerie Brumm, were encouraged to wear their best Polish football attire. I am curious – did they wear Polish piłka nożna or good old American football attire? Colleen, I’m interested in the details! We all know that Tommy Lisiecki wears many hats, but picture this – he’s also DJ Tommy!

On November 1, 2018, Elżbieta Sawczuk came to work for PRCUA as the director of marketing. She brought with her 18 years of experience in the media, a profound familiarity about Chicago’s Polonia, a wordsmith with an eloquent literary flare in Polish and English, creativity, vision, and professionalism which made working with her an absolute pleasure. For 5 years and 3-1/2 months, it was my pleasure to collaborate with Ela and build a strong marketing team. On Friday, February 16, Ela moved on to the next chapter of her career and all of us at PRCUA wish her all the success and happiness she deserves. Thank you, Ela. Good luck! Our new marketing coordinator is Angelica Koziana, who joined the marketing team last year. A gifted graphic artist, her credentials in website design and Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic communications speak to a promising future for her and the PRCUA. Congratulations, Angelica! Working together with Angelica are graphic designer Elizabeth Dziadulewicz and marketing associate Anne Moschopoulos.

On Sunday, February 18, Richard and I attended the screening of the documentary film about the life and artistic credits of Feliks “Ref-Ren” Konarski (born in 1907 in Kiev, passed in 1991 in Chicago) at the Polish Museum of America. He was a Polish poet, lyricist, composer, actor, director, theatre manager and great Polish patriot “whose heartrending songs helped to sustain a nation torn apart by conflict.” The song, words and original melody by Ref-Ren, “Czerwone Maki na Monte Cassino,” has often been referred to as the second national anthem of Poland. Written literally in the throes of World War II and through the eyes of a Polish soldier, it is a first-hand account of the bloody victory of the fourth major assault by the Allied forces, this time with the Polish II Corps sent to capture the German stronghold at the ancient Benedictine monastery atop Monte Cassino. His biography would make an inspiring movie, not only because of his journey and life’s mission, but that of the turbulent twentieth century in the history of Poland and the Polish people strewn throughout Europe and America. I had the pleasure of studying under Feliks Konarski and his wife, actress Nina Oleńska, not in Chicago, as one would think, but at a Polish Youth Course at Alliance College, Cambridge Springs, PA. In fact, I met my forever friend, Gosia Chciuk Niemiec, at the course when we were selected to perform Ref-Ren’s “Humorystyczny Dialog.” Gosia played the role of my Polish cousin who came to visit me in Chicago, and I, the Polish-American who spoke “pół na half.” I have never forgotten that comedic skit, which was a sign of the times. Among the many songs he composed, favorites taught to my students were “Rozmowa” and “Antoni Kociubiński.” His songs ran the gamut from melancholic to playful, some laced with satire and parody. Thank you, Basia Kożuchowska, who was one of the performers in the Ref-Ren Theatre Group in Chicago (see photo), and a manager at the PMA, for telling Richard about the film. It was a lovely tribute to an amazing talent. My only wish is that it would have been made sooner.

February ended with the beautiful Shirley Ann Galanty Michigan State Ball, which featured the 2024 graduates of the PRCUA Michigan Dance Schools. The ball is organized by the PRCUA Michigan School Directors spearheaded by Kelly Malinowski who is chairperson, artistic director and choreographer, with co-chair Pat Steven. The lovely event now in its 33rd year, embodies the legacy of its founder: Shirley Ann Galanty (former D-10 Director, organizer of many PRCUA dance schools, and choreographer) and continued by her daughter, Kelly Malinowski. This year, the event was held at the Crystal Gardens Banquet Center in Southgate MI and once again, we enjoyed the music of Duane Malinowski and his orchestra. Representing the PRCUA were President Robaczewski, yours truly and my husband Richard, D-10 Directors Valerie Brumm and Colleen Bonkowski (whose daughter Natalya is one of the 2024 Graduates). The artistic program includes the Polonaise, presentation of each graduate by their parents, distribution of scholarship awards, a waltz and ending with a modern dance number. Emcee for the evening is none other than Thomas Lisiecki – former D-10 Director and the Artistic Director and Choreographer of Zakopane Polish Folk Dance Ensemble and Halka Dancers. On behalf of the PRCUA, congratulations to each and every graduate, their parents and families for being Polish and proud. The 2024 PRCUA Michigan Dance School Graduates are: Parker Keaton Baranski (Gwiazda Dancers: Jessica Urban – School Director; Basia Nowakowski – Choreographer); McKenna Bergt Dingeldey, Allison Marie Krass, Dakota Jean Litnianski, Adam Pawlikowski, Quinten Josef Schell, and Charles Joseph Shick (Halka Dancers: Laura Hejza – School Director; Thomas Lisiecki – Choreographer); Katherine Daly, Cora Kujawski, and Natalie Vernon (Opole Dancers: Elizabeth Thacker – School Director; Donna Skurski – Choreographer); Anthony Joseph Rebeaud (Polskie Maki Dancers: Maria Jalkiewicz – School Director; Kelly Malinowski – Choreographer); Autumn Pelowski and Ania Victoria Toboy (Rogalin Dance Troupe: Lisa Brandt – School Director; Janet Vilag and Basia Toboy – Choreographers); Natalya Elizabeth Bonkowski, Brady Ryan Courtney and Jacob Christopher Tuzinsky (Zajączek Dance Ensemble: Colleen Bonkowski – School Director; Rachael Kasperek and Tricia Dennis – Choreographers). Others on the Ball Committee include School Directors: Kristi Mihalic (Wieliczka Dancers), Natalia Szczygiel (Malbork), and Gail Esker and Mary Skurnit (Tatry).

Happiest wishes to all March birthdays, especially: former Secretary-Treasurer Josephine “Joyce” Szarowicz (3/17); our beautiful granddaughter Ariana Turkiewicz on her 8th birthday (3/4); our niece, Kayla Leonhard RN on her GOLDEN birthday (3/24), and my brother-in-law Jacek Jaminski (3/26). Sto lat!

Condolences to Teresa Rogala, President of Society 1634, and her family on the passing of her mother, Krystyna Kocoń, on February 6 in Poland. Eternal rest grant onto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen

Waiting for Easter…we journey through Lent,
Prayerfully, carefully, our time is spent
Reflecting quietly on things within,
Renewing, repenting and turning from sin.
Waiting for Easter…we seek things above,
Reaching to others, we show them God’s love,
Helping and giving to those near and far,
All peoples our neighbors, wherever they are.
Waiting for Easter…we greet the spring rain,
Accepting sufferings, trials and pain,
Trusting the promise to those who endure,
Thinking of those who have gone on before.
Waiting for Easter…we offer our praise,
Thanking the Lord for these chill Lenten days,
Watching the earth as it breaks into song,
Lifting our voices and singing along.
(written by Sarah M. Menkin for Maureen)

Happy and Blessed Easter to each and every one of you!

Wesołego Alleluja! Smacznego Jajka! Mokrego Dyngusa!

  • EC, Henio and Principal of Sienkiewicz