Hello September, my dear old friend! You are back again to remind us that summer is coming to a close, that a new school year is in full swing, and that Mother Nature will once again color our world in red, gold and orange. This month has special meaning for me as it is the time, I assess my own personal life. Looking for inspiration to share with you, I came upon words of wisdom authored by Father John Lantsberger in his piece, “Fuel for the Soul: The fall season brings reflection to one’s life,” (published 9/27/2019). “Each year, when fall rolls around, I feel a sort of quiet sadness about past days, and what has been. Perhaps my age is a part of this as well, as I approach my 70th year next month. The passing of the years does tend to make a person pause and reflect.  But just as the season of autumn brings a special beauty to the earth around us, so the “autumn” of our lives has its own special beauty as well. It can be a time to slow down and be a bit more reflective, something our world doesn’t take much time to do these days. It can be a time to reflect on where we have been, and what still lies ahead. There is a powerful realization that more years have already passed than still remain ahead of us, but that need not be a sad thought. All of life is a gift, even with those times that bring us challenge and struggle. Hopefully we can look back on the difficult times and realize that it was then that we grew stronger, and perhaps made deeper connections with God in our lives. God is the creator of the seasons – both those that mark the passing of time here on earth, as well as the “seasons” of our lives.  Whatever season you may feel that your life is in, take time to slow down and reflect upon it. The time of life that we each have is precious and fleeting, so take time to treasure it!  Have a blessed fall!” I echo these all-too-familiar sentiments and wishes for a blessed fall.

Since my last article in the July issue of the Narod Polski, Richard and I spent most of July in Poland, mainly with the Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company, but also spending time with family and friends and experiencing Polish hospitality from new acquaintances. Prior to the Rzeszów Festival, Wesoły Lud went on a performance tour beginning in Rogożno, a town just north of Poznan, and in the towns of Końskie and Sielpia Wielka in the Świętokrzyskie region. The performances were enthusiastically received and the dancers rose to the challenge, but the real treat was to experience different places in Poland. The welcome mat in each of the towns was laid at our feet and Polish hospitality was genuine and ever-so-gracious, thanks to the efforts of the Mayor of Rogoźno, Roman Szuberski, ably assisted by Director Anna Nowicka and Malwina Kmieciak from the Rogoziński Centrum Kultury; and the Mayor of Końskie, Krzysztof Obratański, ably assisted by Anna Wiaderna from the Konecki Centrum Kultury.

The XIX International Festival of Polonian Folk Ensembles commenced on Wednesday, July 12. Many familiar faces greeted us – Festival Director Mariusz Grudzień, and his trusty team spearheaded by Wiesia Czarnota and Piotr Kowalski, our Pilot from before Przemek Paśko, the Head Choreographer Janusz Chojecki, but what was different were the faces of so many new participants. There were half the number of dance groups than in 2019, but the 20 that came, including the three from PRCUA: Echoes of Poland (Toledo), Polonia Ensemble (Chicago) and Wesoły Lud (Chicago), danced their hearts out, at this Olympics of Polish Folk Dance. Although a condensed version of the original, the Rzeszów Festival still delivered the “WOW” factor. From the movement of colorful costumes parading through the streets of Rzeszów, the Opening Ceremonies in the city center, the glorious Mass at the Rzeszów Cathedral, to the performances in the city center, in town squares across the Subcarpathian Region, or on the great stage of the sports stadium “Hala RCS-W Podpromie” – the site of the Gala Concert, the dance ensembles delivered, bringing with them new adaptations of familiar Polish regional suites and national dances, innovative dances of the world, and their profound love and enthusiasm for this beautiful art form. And “the fans” reciprocated with thunderous applause. Of course, there were tokens of appreciation and impressive gatherings for the ensemble directors with the President of Rzeszów – Konrad Fijołek, and Vice Presidents – Jolanta Każmierczak and Krystyna Stachowska; with the President of the Rzeszów Branch of Stowarzyszenie Wspólnota Polska – Prof. Aleksander Bobko, and the Festival Committee; and with the Marshall of the Subcarpathian Region, Władysław Ortyl, and his associates.  These gatherings and the Gala Concert were attended by the above-mentioned dignitaries, as well as Małgorzata Gosiewska, the Deputy Marshal of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland; Dariusz Bonisławski, President of Stowarzyszenie Wspólnota Polska. Among those serving on the Honorary Festival Committee, there was past PRCUA Resident Vice President, Anna Sokolowski, and yours truly.

It was the tenth Rzeszów Festival for Echoes of Poland (#11 if you count their participation in a multi-group effort one year). Paulina Tul-Ortyl is the founder and choreographer, and Mary Pat Antoniuk, ensemble director and first-time festival attendee. Echoes had the pleasure of performing full versions of their Sądeckie, Łowicz and Żywiec Mountain suites in the town of Brzozowa, and the latter was selected for the Gala Concert.

Polonia Ensemble, under the artistic direction of Jaclyn Krysinski who with Nicole and Nina Romek serve as the group’s choreographers, made an amazing impression with their Spisz suite and secured the coveted final position in the Gala Concert. Polonia also performed a Swing during the first act of the Gala Concert dedicated to dances of the world.  This was Polonia’s sixth Rzeszów Festival, and it had the honor of performing full versions of their repertoire which included Dances from Old Warsaw, Krakowiak, Spisz and Swing in the Podkarpacie town of Łąka, in the Gmina of Trzebownisko. Polonia, under the musical direction of Mieczysław Dziś, also beautifully sang “Panno Pszeniczna” at the Festival Mass.

It was #13 for the Wesoły Lud Polish Folk Dance Company of which Richard Jaminski is the Artistic Director and Choreographer, but the first for all these “Luders”. As the founder and past Artistic Director and Choreographer, I have travelled to the Rzeszów Festival with the group since 1980. Always proud of the achievements of every generation of our dancers, I was extremely impressed with how courteous and cooperative this particular group was, and how far they came together as a performing group in such a short time. Full versions of the dance company’s Nowy Sącz, Eastern Kraków, and Lubuski suites together with the Polish American polka, “Celebration Polka” by Eddie Blazonczyk and the Versatones were performed in Ropczyce. Sharing the stage with Wesoły Lud was the group “Polacy Budzaka” from Moldavia and the Kapela Kurasie from Lubzina. I would like to personally thank the Mayor of Ropczyce, Bolesław Bujak, and the Director of the Dom Kultury for their hospitality. Wesoły Lud was proud that its Polka Celebration and Lubusk suite were selected, the latter, to conclude the third grouping and on which that grouping’s finale was performed. Victoria Pikul, Wiktor Kuzmiuk, Cinderella Magdalena Truta and Prince Charming Eric Wildhirt participated in the Mass at the Rzeszów Cathedral as a reader, petitioner, or presenter of gifts.

There is something magical about performing in Poland, especially in Rzeszów, where it matters little where in the world you are from, but that you celebrate the Polish in your heart and “sole”! PRCUA is proud of all its dancers, their directors, choreographers, chaperones, and in Rzeszów, you made us prouder than ever! Bravo Polonia, Echoes of Poland and Wesoły Lud! Encore! Thank you to all that made this Festival happen – sponsors, organizers, participants! See you in 2026!

Some much-needed rest and relaxation was the order of the remaining time spent in Poland following the festival, and after the customary visit with Richard’s family, we took Richard’s mom, Maria, and his brother, Jacek, on a short but sweet vacation to Iwonicz Zdrój! The weather thankfully cooled down and the beautifully manicured ambiance of this spa town, lent itself perfectly to our mission.

During my absence, there were two events that I sadly missed. The first, the Michigan celebration of PRCUA’s sesquicentennial at the place that started it all – St. Albertus Parish in Detroit – hosted by Directors Colleen Bonkowski and Valerie Brumm, with Mass officiated by National Chaplain, the Very Rev. Walter J. Ptak. I extend my sincere thanks to you three and all the dancers, directors, families and friends for making this event so special. A week later, the PRCUA National Golf Tournament, hosted by Society 162 and chaired by none other than Stan Pasko, was held at the Riverview Highlands Golf Course, and of course, the pre-game and post-game festivities were on home turf at the PRCU 162 Lounge. But you know this already, as it was reported to you in August together with photos. I just wanted to put my two cents in and congratulate Stan and his go-getters for another “Hole in One!”

As for August events, with our staff working diligently on the upcoming October 1st celebration of PRCUA’s 150th, the month was rather subdued, giving pause while the excruciating heat wave plagued most of the country, if not the world. Thankfully, the temperature soon was enjoyable. This year the PRCUA was one of the sponsors of Festival Polonaise, held in Niles, Illinois – August 18-20. Among different attractions for both children and adults were educational, military booths as well as Polish cultural offers and music. The event was well attended, including Secretary-Treasurer Agnieszka Bastrzyk and her lovely family on opening night. The PRCUA was glad to support this popular festival.

The annual Polish American Chamber of Commerce (PACC) boat outing took place on Sunday, August 20th on beautiful Lake Michigan. Representing PRCUA was Secretary-Treasurer Agnieszka Bastrzyk, who also serves as PACC’s Treasurer. A good time was had by all on this gorgeous day where participants of the outing were able to enjoy the scenery as well as the Air Show.  The PRCUA is a member of the Chamber for several years and both organizations value their connection with one another as well as the ability to connect to others in the Polish American community. (Note to Agnes: I ordered the perfect weather for you and Daniel to celebrate your wedding anniversary. Sto Lat!)

Speaking of wedding anniversaries, BEST WISHES to all celebrating in August, especially Ed and Loretta Dykla, Wally and Joann Ozog, Joe and Judy Drobot, Tadeusz and Krystyna Lech, Danielle and Rob Kroplewski, Teresa and Wacek Pazdziora, and to my soulmate, Richard (35 years and counting). Happy birthday to President James Robaczewski, grandson Cole Pearson (15 – when did that happen), 5-year-old grandnephew Cooper Coltri and to some very special friends! Sto lat, sto lat, niech żyją żyją nam!

Łucja Mirowska-Kopeć, President of the Alliance of Polish Clubs in the USA presented a special recognition to the PRCUA on its 150th Anniversary during the Polonia Harvest Festival on August 27th. President James Robaczewski was given a harvest wreath, symbolizing the success our organization has reaped throughout its history. The Polish tradition of Dożynki is a special thanksgiving feast celebrating the end of a successful harvest. Although, initially “the wreath was in fact a decorated sheaf of grain, decorated with field flowers, ribbons and braided straws, with time other forms of wreath became more popular, including the now-typical round wreath, but crown-shaped, oval or rectangular wreaths are also popular in various regions” (Wikipedia). Secretary-Treasurer Agnieszka Bastrzyk was also in attendance, representing the PRCUA.

While in Poland, at the beginning of the Rzeszow Festival, the Lech family invited us to their grandparents’ home in Stobierna (right outside of Rzeszow). It was a lovely gathering with this extraordinary family. Shortly after their return from Poland, their cousin took ill and unfortunately passed. Condolences to the Lech, Lepionka and Wisz families on the passing of their cousin, Edward Lepianka, two weeks shy of his 89th birthday. Richard and I attended the funeral and were quite moved the impact “Uncle Eddie” had on their lives, but moreover, the impact they had on his – especially, the last 16 years. You are a model of how to treat our elderly relatives. May he rest in peace.

You will have to wait until next month’s issue to see how President Robaczewski’s birthday luncheon went as this issue is going to print! HAVE A WONDERFUL SEPTEMBER! (Happy September birthday to Wally Ozog, Anna Sokolowski, Michael Turkiewicz, Mary Jane Robles, Elaine and Tommy Robaczewski, Loretta Dykla, Elżbieta Sawczuk, and to my younger self!)