As we flip the PRCUA calendar to the month of October, we see the painting by Patricia Stępniak of the world’s largest known natural bridge – the Rainbow Bridge in San Juan County, Utah. Its rich earth tones evoke memories of the changing season with the structure itself inspiring a deeper connection to culture and ethnicity. How apropos, considering October is Polish American Heritage Month.
So how did October become Polish American Heritage Month? Sources I have researched credit Michael Blichasz, President of the Polish American Cultural Center (ACPC) in Philadelphia with organizing the first celebration in August, 1981 at various locations in Pennsylvania. ACPC, together with the Polish American Congress lobbied politicians at the state and national level to make August the month dedicated to Polish heritage which happened when House Joint Resolution 577 was passed in 1984. The month was changed to October in 1986 to support schools interested in organizing such events during the school year. The month is also synonymous with the arrival of the first Polish immigrants, including skilled artisans, in Jamestown, Virginia on October 1, 1608. In 2008, the 400-year anniversary of Polish settlement in the United States was observed and 2019 was heralded as the 400th celebration of the Jamestown strike, considered a fight for civil liberties such as voting rights and equal recognition regardless of ethnicity. The spark and the inspiration resulted in another reason to celebrate being Polish and Proud!
On October 3rd to be exact, the PRCUA will observe its 149th Anniversary and honor the memories of its founders, Reverend Vincent Barzyński, C.R. pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Chicago, Illinois; Reverend Teodor Gieryk of St. Albertus Parish in Detroit, Michigan; and Jan Barzyński, editor of the Pielgrzym (The Pilgrim) Polish-language newspaper in Union, Missouri. Others influential in its founding were Reverend Leopold Moczygemba, founder of the first U.S. Polish settlement (Panna Maria, Texas) and Piotr Kiolbassa, a Civil War Veteran and politician. These early leaders provided the foundation for countless others to follow either at the helm or by supporting the mission. PRCUA is the oldest Polish organization in the United States still in existence.
Over lunch on a lovely September afternoon, I was given a refresher’s course on the subject of Polish organizations in the USA by friend and Polish culture authority, Staś Kmieć. Before I shared his findings with you, I had to do a little research of my own and here is what I found out. Before the mass migration to the USA in the late 19th century for economic opportunities – “za chlebem” (for bread), well-educated political exiles who participated in patriotic actions against the foreign occupiers in partitioned Poland (primarily in 1830-31, 1846-48 and 1863-64), found sanctuary in America, albeit dispersed to such big cities as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, among others. Their mission was to advocate for the freedom and independence of Poland and so they founded the first formal organization of Polish Americans in this country in March of 1842, known as the Association of Poles in America (Towarzystwo Polaków w Ameryce). Establishing formal communication among its members and with other political exiles in Europe, it fostered its mission in America. As more Polish exiles arrived, other organizations were founded to accommodate the various philosophies. Thankfully, our founders included in their cause the love of God and Poland, supporting the hard-working immigrants and their communities to live, work, pray and play, as well as provide financial security for their loved ones. We continue this philosophy to this day as we continue ON THE ROAD TO 150 – thanks to all our members!
So, what else will be happening during this 10th month of 2022? I direct your attention first and foremost to our PRCUA calendar of events in this issue of the Naród Polski and on our prcua.org website, then highlight the dates of October 2 to celebrate the Blessing of the Dance Schools at St. Albertus Parish (birthplace of the PRCUA) in Detroit, Michigan as well as the 27th Annual Celebration of Polish-American Heritage in the Calumet Region (Gerald Tarka, coordinator); the “ŚLĄSK” Song and Dance Ensemble of Poland is on tour and will be in the Chicago-area on October 8 and 9 (see local listings if the group will be in your area); October 14 and 15 for the PRCUA Volleyball Tournament in Shelby Township, Michigan (if you are unable to play, then come to cheer the players on). On October 23rd, the PRCUA Gwiazda Dance School will be awarded the Central Citizens Committee’s Pulaski Award for excellence in maintaining and promoting Polish Culture in Hamtramck, Michigan. The award banquet will be held on October 23rd. For those in the Chicago area, mark October 30 for the Polish American Congress – Illinois Division Heritage Banquet and come join the celebration as our PRCUA President, James J. Robaczewski, receives the Polish Heritage Award. Jim is a fifth generation Polish American on his father’s side, third generation from his mother’s side and “became involved, stayed involved and encouraged others to be involved” in the Polish community. Alice would be proud! (Alice Robaczewski worked at PRCUA for 39 years).
Other “events” in October include Sweetest Day (10/14); Bosses Day (10/17); and All Hallows Eve (10/31). Best wishes to all who celebrate October birthdays, especially past First Lady of PRCUA, Judy Drobot, celebrating the 59th Anniversary of her 21st birthday (10/20); my niece Joline (10/15); PRCUA long-time employee, Judy Hoffman who will be a Septuagenarian on the 31st. Sto Lat!
Let’s recap the events of the end of August and September. Michigan was the site of two parades within a week of each other in which our PRCUA Schools participated. The First City of Warren Polish Parade was held on August 27 with the Opole Dancers, Polskie Maki, Wieliczka, Zajaczek Dancers and Parents proudly participating. The Polish Parade was a part of Warren’s Birthday Bash event. The change in locations from Hamtramck after 40 years was explained by Parade committee member and PAC-Michigan Division President Ann Bankowski, “We found that more and more, people were on vacation during Labor Day and some of the dance groups and bands that typically participated in the parade were not able to do so. This is kind of an experiment this year so we will see how it goes. Hopefully a lot of people come out to cheer us on.” And the crowd did not disappoint.
As for the Hamtramck Labor Day Parade, I found out that Jessica Urban (school director of Gwiazda Dancers) joined the Committee and was named the chairperson that organized the parade. It was called “Hamtramck’s 100th Anniversary Parade.” As Jessica explained, “I envisioned a truly ‘Hamtramck’ parade that included the various ethnicities within the city as well as local businesses, and other organizations like the Hamtramck Beautification Committee and Hot Club (a group of musicians that play unique instruments). The ethnicities that were invited were dance groups representing Bosnia, Yemen, Poland, Albania, Pakistan and Iraq.” Both PRCUA Gwiazda and Polskie Maki. And again, the crowd did not disappoint.
Meanwhile, President Robaczewski attended the performance of Polonia Ensemble during the Taste of Polonia in Chicago, Illinois (9/3) at which its Honorary Artistic Director/Choreographer and Founder, Cecylia Roznowska, received the Copernicus Foundation Award posthumously. The PRCUA congratulates the Ensemble and its leadership, Anna and Jaclyn Krysinski at the helm, for this recognition.
September seen a return to school of our PRCUA Polish Language Schools and Dance Groups. On behalf of the officers of the PRCUA, we wish all students and dancers a productive and memorable school year.
This Babcia is thrilled to drive her granddaughters, Ariana and Mila to dancing every Thursday at the Southwest Center of Polish Song and Dance in Orland Park, Illinois and am grateful to their parents for their cooperation. Both girls started in the footsteps of their mom last year. The first dance class was September 8th and since we arrived a little earlier, there was a stop at McDonald’s. A little incentive goes a long way and it is a win-win for all concerned.
On September 10, I was invited by the St. Rafael Kalinowski Polish School to attend Mass in honor of the new school year at the Carmelite Fathers Shrine in Munster, Indiana. The President of the School Board is Zofia Buksa and the Principal is Yolanta Czosnyka. Director from District 9, Elizabeth Sadus, was in attendance as well.
On September 16, I visited the Holy Cross Polish School in Joliet, Illinois with Principal Barbara Szuba at the helm. One of our dedicated sales agents, Edward Muszalski, was invited to speak to the parents about PRCUA Sales products. Thank you Pani Basia and Mr. Muszalski.
Once the headquarters of the PRCUA, St. Stanislaus Kostka holds a significant place in the history of the PRCUA and it was only fitting that it was the location of the Inaugural Mass on Sunday, September 11. The Mass was celebrated by National Chaplain, Reverend Canon Walter J. Ptak, during which he also administered the Oath of Office to the newly-elected (or re-elected) PRCUA Officers and Directors of the Board of the PRCUA. Current and past officers and directors; friends and family; dancers from Polonia Song and Dance Ensemble, Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company, and Southwest Center of Polish Dancing; students from the Maria Konopnicka and St. Rafal Kalinowski Polish Schools; and young adult representatives from Illinois, Indiana and Michigan joined together in the celebration of Holy Mass. The new Consul General of the Republic of Poland, Paweł Zyzak, honored us with his presence. Special thanks to Reverend Anthony Buś, C.R., pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish for use of his church and to organist and singer Maryna Shutovich for adding to the grandeur of this occasion, as well as to all who attended.
Invited guests were then received at the Great Hall of the Polish Museum of America housed in the PRCUA headquarters. The short program was emceed by Director of Marketing Elzbieta Sawczuk and included blessings by Father Ptak, greetings read by Secretary-Treasurer Bastrzyk, a toast by yours truly, remarks by President Robaczewski and a most amazing artistic program by vocalist Alan Królikowski and violinist Nicole Kwasny. Alan is a graduate of the Maria Konopnicka Polish High School and Nicole, an alumna of the Polonia Ensemble. The reception was beautifully organized by the President’s Executive Assistant, Anna Grabowski, and my chief-of-staff, Conrad Wiecek, returned from Poland just in time to help her out. I want to take this time to thank all our guests, especially my friends and family who always support me, for attending this event.
It seemed to be one party after another as we next celebrated the 20th anniversary of Mary Jane Robles’ 50th birthday (9/16) and then my own – first at the “best beach party ever” (9/17) with the family, then with the PRCUA family (9/20) and concluding with dinner with my BFF Teresa Pazdziora (9/21). Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the lovely wishes, beautiful flowers, and very thoughtful gifts. (In last month’s issue, I missed wishing one very special birthday girl – Natalia Bastrzyk – a very happy birthday (9/3). May all your wishes come true!)
Days later, President Robaczewski attended the American Fraternal Alliance Executive Summit in Washington, D.C. Together with other Presidents of other AFA member organizations, President Robaczewski exchanged dialogue about the future of the fraternal benefit society and visited with members of Congress.
The month ended with the annual Orientation Luncheon for candidates of the upcoming 50th Cinderella-Prince Charming Ball which will be held at Belvedere Chateau on November 19, 2022. Richard, as Artistic Director and Choreographer of the Ball, and I attended the luncheon at Camelot Banquets in Hickory Hills, Illinois. With over 30 possible candidates and their parents in addition to the energetic committee members, it was a wonderful afternoon. The Adult Culture Group of the PRCUA, organized in 1969 by the National Vice President and her three lady directors (one of which was the founder of the Ball – Regina Ocwieja), continue to host the beautiful event. This year, the Committee with President Edward Muszalski and District 8 Director/ACG Secretary at the helm, welcome the participation of past Cinderellas, Prince Charmings, and Candidates. If you were a former participant of the Ball and have not received your invitation or are interested in attending the Ball, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call Vickie Kroplewski at (708) 698-1505. Also, please remember that this is a “golden” opportunity for all to place best wishes, congratulations and memories in an extra special commemorative program book. For information, please contact the email above.
Following the luncheon, there was a short committee meeting at which Joanna “Asia” Niedzielski was surprised for her birthday. Pani Asia is not only a member of the ACG, President of the Maria Konopnicka Polish School, and talented seamstress for Wesoły Lud and SWCPSD, but an innovative persona who resembles Pani Jesień – Lady Autumn, a surprise guest at the Konopnicka School last Friday. Happy Birthday, Asia, and Sto Lat!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank three lovely ladies who took on the profound task of judging the PRCUA Scholarships this year. Thank you, Maria Ciesla, Elizabeth Sadus and Elaine Robaczewski!
On that note, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish for you a lovely October. Enjoy Polish Heritage Month! Enjoy the changing season! Enjoy the moment! (Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner!).