Polish Bilingual Cultural Day Reinforces “the Polish Dream”
By Richard Campbell
The Polish American Networking Association (PANA) teamed up with the church community of Our Lady of Częstochowa Sunday October 21, to celebrate Polish Cultural Day, with a little evidence of bilingualism on hand, and plenty of Polish culture. Held in Saint John Paul II Hall, just outside of Andrew Square, the event was beautifully staged and well attended. After opening remarks by parish priest, Father Jerzy Żebrowski and a symbolic cutting of the ribbon, there was a very cool video presentation showing Polish cultural centers around the world with colorful choreographed street scenes, and inspiring music that underscored Polish contemporary life. Sylwia Kloczkowska was the official Mistress of Ceremonies who kept things rolling smoothly, exchanging pleasantries, and congratulating attendees on stage with community service awards. Among them the Krakowiak Polish Dancers of Boston sported their traditional costumes, and members of PANA jostled to make speeches.
One very brave and talented first grader of the church school Alex Krol sang Polski Hymn Narodowy , the Polish national anthem a cappella in perfect key. The history of this state anthem is rather complex owing to the number of times Poland was occupied during its long struggle for independence. According to various histories the original author was Josef Wybicki, an aid to General Dabrowski, who penned it in 1795 when Polish troops went off to fight in the Napoleonic wars. In translations over time it assumed different forms up until its adoption in 1927. All this being said, the song is nicer sounding in Polish than its English translation.
This was an appropriate warm up for pianist Barbara Łysakowska’s performance of the Chopin piece: “The Revolutionary Etude in C Minor, Opus 10, no .12”, which is not at all like how we often think of the romantic Chopin, but a much more defiant- thundering piece. No wonder as the piece was composed around the time of the 1831 uprising. Chopin is quoted as saying of the time before he escaped to Paris: “All this has caused me much pain. Who could have foreseen it?” Saint John Paul II Hall has very good acoustics, and Ms. Łysakowska’s classical training was well evidenced, but it may well be time for a real baby grand piano to honor such talent.
The stage picture was set with an assortment of other instruments for the children’s chorus “Promyki JPII”, under the direction of Marta Saletnik and accompanying adults. WOW! The musical ability of these students, the clarity and vibrance of their voices skillfully articulated phrasing are on a level not normally heard in school performances. They held up their share of the bilingual deal, singing favorites in both Polish and English. They made “We Are the World” sound genuinely inspirational. The parents of these kids maintain a kind of proud, but quiet authority that is almost as endearing as their well-behaved charges. Whatever they put in that soup, keep it coming!
One comes to an understanding that the Polish community knows its history and selects programs very carefully to cement a memory of their home and look forward to what is termed: “the Polish dream”. This is the idea of second-generation Polish immigrants to continue to celebrate their culture, and to return to the mother country. One of the speakers encouraged the audience-which was largely bilingual- to consider learning a third language and spoke specifically to the students about the importance of being conversant in several languages in order to be leaders in business and government when they grow up. Quipping that: “one never knows… one of the kids in the audience might become an Ambassador someday.” No pressure there!
This event reveals the close attachment to their home country in this community. There were art demonstrations and plenty of food, as both church pastors circulated chatting up their congregation and posing for selfies. The artwork of Anna Leliva was more inspiring than the monument photos boards, though if you’ve never seen the monuments in Boston dedicated to great Poles who have helped shape our nation, they are informative. This is largely a family celebration of the parishioners, centered around Polish culture. Like most events in the Polish Triangle they are not heavily advertised, though families in South Boston interested in future cultural exchange who put this kid-friendly event on their calendars will not be disappointed.