Welcome to the beautiful month of the Blessed Mother, our mothers, and the Polish Constitution of 1791 and Memorial Day. Right from the start of May, the “Majówka” heralds a three-day celebration of International Labor Day (5/1), Polish Flag and Polish Diaspora Day (5/2), and the anniversary of the enactment of Europe’s first modern codified national constitution (5/3). This year, the Polish May Third festivities in Chicago commence on 5/4 and end 5/7. Then there’s Mother’s Day in the U.S. (5/14) and in Poland (5/26), First Holy Communions and graduations, in addition to birthdays and anniversaries – including PRCUA’s 150th Celebration weekend in Western Michigan (5/20-5/21) and Polish-American Heritage Night with the Tigers (5/26). The long Memorial Day weekend will be marked by family barbecues and picnics, but please don’t forget the reason for this national holiday. Remember in your prayers the U.S. military personnel who gave their lives while serving in the United States armed forces.
The months seem to fly by quickly – April was just here and now it’s gone. It started off very promising with a kiermasz at the Jan Herbert Polish School in Palos Heights (Marek Adamczyk, Principal). Representing the PRCUA was Sales Coordinator Marge Grzeszczuk and Sales Agent Edward Muszalski.
What an emotional April it was, especially the first week and especially for three of our PRCUA families and their friends. We share in the sorrow of the passing of Eugene Sadus, 84, father of Elizabeth (Director D-9); Dariusz Kowalewicz, 62, husband of Naród Polski Editor, Lidia Kowalewicz; and Ron Houle, 54, husband of Adella Pietrzyk Houle. If you doubt the importance of living every day to the fullest and that the unthinkable doesn’t happen when we least expect it, their untimely deaths make you stop and think otherwise. Each of us has a story to tell and the way we live our lives is our epitaph. I learned from Father Ron who led us in prayer at the final service that Mr. Sadus was a high school teacher for 38 years whose students still remember him fondly, a City Commissioner for Chicago Heights for 16 years, in his youth played saxophone andclarinet in the polka band “Bal-Aires.” A great fan of St. John Paul II, he was dedicated to the Sister Cities of Wadowice-Chicago Heights project. (Wadowice is the birthplace of the Polish pontiff.) Eugene passed on the18th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s death.
Dariusz and Lidia Kowalewicz were married for 32 years before he was tragically taken from this earth on April 5th. They met at an English as a Second Language Class in Chicago 36 years ago and have a lovely daughter, Natalia. As a truck driver, Darek was also on the road, but when it was time to relax, they went on vacations – sometimes with friends and sometimes just the two of them, but always to relax and unwind. Lidia was quite adventuresome and challenged Darek to try something different.
Ron Houle, “Buck” to his friends, was a great, go-with-the-flow guy who loved his family and friends and sports, especially baseball. His wife, Adella (Pietrzyk), is an active PRCUA member and when the two met and married, Ron became a member as well. Both were welcomed faces at the PRCUA tournaments, the last one was the 2023 PRCUA National Basketball Tournament. Married for 11 years, the Houles have two lovely daughters – Aniela and Ewelina – who are members of the Opole Dance School. This 100% PRCUA family suffered a tragic loss when surrounded by his wife and best friends, Buck collapsed leaving Opening Day at the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park on Thursday, April 6. Quoting one of the tributes posted and shared by many: “Rest in Peace Ronald Douglas Houle. They don’t put much finer people on this earth than you.”
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Elaine Burkhardt. Elaine was an employee of the Union of Polish Women in America (UPWA) and became one of our members when the UPWA merged with the PRCUA in 1998. She was very involved at the society level in Philadelphia, holding many positions for many years. We lost a wonderful woman and fraternalist.
The month ended with the sudden passing of Kazimierz Szyczygiel, father of Sandy Szczygiel-Zeglin. So hug your loved ones every chance you get and pray for those who are no longer with us. They will be sending you blessings from heaven. May their soul and the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Hugs and prayers to the families of these and all mourning the loss of a loved one.
In light of the sadness, Easter once again brought its message of hope and everlasting life. I trust your Easter with the smiling faces of your loved ones around you, was a happy and memorable one for you.
Speaking of happy – PRCUA Secretary-Treasurer Agnieszka Bastrzyk celebrated a very happy birthday with a delicious luncheon for the PRCUA and PMA employees on her actual birthday (4/13). We had a guest from Lublin, Poland who happened upon the celebration, blessing both Agnes and the food. Rev. Prof. Mirosław Kalinowski, Rector of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, was in town and came to visit the Polish Museum of America, noting its many additional works and changes. Thanks to Małgorzata Kot, he visited with us as well! Many happy returns, Agnieska! Sto lat, sto lat, niech żyje żyje nam!
PRCUA District 8 held a Święconka luncheon on Sunday, April 16, at Candlelight Banquets in Chicago Ridge, Illinois. Krystyna Lech, D-8 Vice President and past National Director, chaired the event, ably assisted by her daughter, Danielle Kroplewski, granddaughters – Emilia, Karolina, and Aleksandra, as well as Joanna Niedzielski, Elizabeth Dynowski, Richard Jaminski, Myron Cislo, Wiesia and David Wildhirt. One of the younger groups “Mały LUDek” from the Southwest Center of Polish Song and Dance (Anna Winkler, Manager) performed a suite from Nowy Sącz (choreographer/instructor Kalina Gorczyca; assistant Magdalena Truta) and a suite of dances and songs from Lubusk was performed by the Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company (Richard Jaminski, Artistic Director; Danielle Kroplewski, Assistant). There was a surprise choral performance by the newest addition to the PRCUA Dance Schools, “Śpiewające Nutki” (Maria Jazowska – teacher; Aleksander Jazowski – accompanist) from the Henryk Sienkiewicz Polish School in Romeoville,. There were money and basket raffles, as well as games and prizes for all the guests. Dignitaries included: Secretary-Treasurer Agnieszka Bastrzyk, National Directors Ewa Cholewinski, Elizabeth Sadus, Elizabeth Dynowski and and Myron Cislo, D-8 President and former Director James Rustik, the Adult Culture Group with Edward Muszalski at the helm, H. Sienkiewicz Polish School Principal, Ilona Sobiech and President Renata Kaleciak, and PRCUA Sales Coordinator Marge Grzeszczuk. It was a lovely afternoon spent with family and friends and I throroughly enjoyed it. Great job, Krysia and the District 8 team!
The following weekend found the PRCUA in Toledo, Ohio at the 84th National PRCUA Bowling Tournament. The Toledo Societies hosted the event with D-5 Director VikkiJean Mixon at the helm. Bowling Coordinator, D-10 Director Valerie Brumm, and Fraternal Department Coordinator, Conrad Wiecek, were busy with the responsibilities such a tournament entails from the USBC and PRCUA side. I would like to congratulate William ‘Yogi’ Okorowski, who was bestowed the honor of being the Bowler of the Year and would like to extend a special Thank You to Robert Szczublewski, who led the bowlers in the singing of the Polish and American National Anthems during the opening ceremony. The hosts wined and dined the bowlers and their guests for a fun-filled weekend. The festivities included a banquet on Saturday night celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the PRCUA (the award ceremony was part of the program) with a performance by the Echoes of Poland Dance Ensemble (Paulina Ortyl, Founder, Artistic Director and Choreographer; Teresa Gibala, School Director) and a Mass at Sts. Adalbert and Hedwig Parish on Sunday. Team Champions are St. Stan’s Strikers (Women) and the Five Kaps (Men). Thank you to all who made this another successful bowling tournament! Toledo, we will see you next year for the National Golf Tournament!
The Rogalin Dance Troupe (Lisa Brandt, Manager; Janet Vilag and Basia Toboy, Choreographers and Instructors) held its 54th dance recital, this year entitled “My Favorite Things” on Saturday, April 22, at Riverview Community High School. The following day, the Wieliczka Dance Ensemble (Kristi Mihalic, Director; Tommy Schemanski, Choreographer and Instructor) held its 67th recital as well as the Polskie Maki Dance School (Maria Jalkiewicz, Manager; Kelly Malinowski, Choreographer and Instructor) its 47th recital titled “Polska Zabawa” at Van Dyke Auditorium, Lincoln High School in Warren, MI. Thank you to Colleen Bonkowski (D-10 Director) for standing in for me and presenting Kelly with a token of PRCUA’s appreciation for her 40 years of teaching. Richard and I are great fans of Kelly and we wish her many more years!
The month came to an end with the Southwest Center of Polish Song and Dance recital at Mother McAuley High School, Chicago, Illinois, on Sunday, April 30 at which the Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company made a guest appearance. Anna Winkler is the Manager; Richard Jaminski – Artistic Director and Choreographer; individual group choreographers-instructors/assistants: KrasnoLUDki 1 and 2: Virginia Gavaghan-Stekala, Karolina Slomba, Renee Kroplewski, and Jakub Niedzielski; LUDziki: Kalina Gorczyca, Magdalena Truta; Mały LUDek: Michael Dziadkowiec, Emilia Kroplewski; Młody LUDek: Danielle Kroplewski, Jessica Wenc; Wesoły LUDek: Richard Jaminski, Camilla Steczek.
Happiest birthdays to all May babies including Claudine Wicker (Treasury) and Richard Sutton (Member Services) who share the date with our daughter, Nicole – May 31st! Mr. Sutton’s best birthday present ever was special delivered on April 7 – daughter Aria Grace weighing 5 lbs. 14 oz. and 19.5 in. long. Mommy, Danielle, and baby are doing great! Sto lat!