Monday, December 21, 2009

NEWS: Polish Police Find Stolen Auschwitz Sign

The Auschwitz sign which had been stolen a couple of days ago has been found in northern Poland. Police detained five men aged between 25 and 39, who are being transported to Kraków for questioning.

The sign was cut into three pieces, each containing one of the words.

A police news conference to explain the issue is planned at 08:00 GMT (3 a.m. EST) Monday. The police refused to divulge any details of the circumstances in which the sign was found or to speculate on the motive.

The sign that topped a main gate at the Auschwitz memorial site was stolen before dawn on Friday. State authorities made finding it a priority and appealed to all Poles for assistance.

More than 1 million people died in the gas chambers or from starvation and disease while performing forced labor at Auschwitz, which Nazi Germany built in occupied Poland during World War II.The camp was liberated by Soviet troops on Jan.27, 1945.

The museum is preparing for solemn observations of the 65th anniversary of liberation.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Polish Consulate Observes Independence Day - NYC

by Staś Kmieć

The National Independence Day of the Republic of Poland (Narodowe Święto Niepodległości) was celebrated at the Polish Consulate in New York. The commemorative event began with the national anthems of Poland and the United States of America - Mazurek Dąbrowskiego and The Star Spangled Banner sung a cappella by mezzo-soprano Marta Wryk.

“Since the gloomy days of November begin to mark the end of the year, we traditionally use our National Independence Day for the reflection of the time-passing and the joy of where we came to and what we achieved,” said Consul General Krzysztof W. Kasprzyk. “2009 has been truly significant year. In Berlin our Polish living legend of Solidarity, Mr. Lech Wałęsa, pushed the first brick of a domino taking us twenty years back to the unforgettable moments of happy crowds demolishing the Berlin Wall. But the fall of that infamous wall started half a year before, with the Round Table negotiations in Poland which led to the first free elections in the Soviet bloc and forming the first non-communist government within the Soviet bloc.”

Independence Day is a public holiday in Poland celebrated on 11th November to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Poland's independence in 1918. After 123 years of partitions, Poland reappeared on the map of Europe as a sovereign democratic state. The Independence Day is strongly connected with General Józef Piłsudski. Ninety-one years ago the Regency Council appointed Piłsudski Commander in Chief of Polish forces entrusting him with the task of creating a national government for the newly independent country.

“We face the same challenges as entire global community but we look into the future with self-confidence and our collective pride of the unprecedented achievements of the past 20 years of freedom and progress,” said Kasprzyk.

The Consul General recalled the seventy year anniversary of the horrific event of November 6, when the Nazi Gestapo entered Collegium Novum of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Aimed as an extermination of the Polish intellectual elite, 144 distinguished professors and scholars were deported to the concentration camps of Dachau and Sachsenhausen. A small exhibit was on a display in the main foyer.

State distinctions from the President of Poland were bestowed upon a Polish American and two Americans. The Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland was awarded to Vincent Brunhard Jr. – founder and owner of “Polonaise Terrace” restaurant and banquet hall and founder/operator of the former movie house – the Chopin Theater in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Brunhard worked as a lobbyist to gain Poland’s entry into NATO and is Executive Vice-President of Downstate Division of the Polish American Congress.

Gold Crosses of Merit were awarded to Eric and Suzanne Klara Walther – members of the Board of Directors of the New York Dance and Arts Innovations; they are co-organizers and co-sponsors of the annual “Chopin and Friends” Festival. In the past, both were editors of Magazine Art.

A sculpture exhibit - The Spirit of Polonia – a Legacy to Mankind the work of artist and sculptor Tracy H. Sugg was unveiled. These pillars of Poland’s national identity, heritage and culture included Kopernik, Kościuszko, Pułaski, Chopin, Madame Sklodowska–Curie, Sienkiewicz, Modrzejewska, Plater, Mickiewicz, Paderewski, Queen Jadwiga, King Sobieski, and the beloved Pope John Paul II.With a lifesize statue tribute to Kościuszko for the Redbud Springs Park in Kosciusko, Mississippi, Sugg (who is not of Polish descent) began a passionate fascination with Polish historical figures and research. Alex Storozynski, President of the Kosciuszko Foundation noted that the pieces would be for purchase at the Foundation.

Kasprzyk displayed to the audience the original copy of the invitation that the pioneering Consul General of Poland sent out in 1919, when the Consulate of the re-born Poland opened in New York.

Polish American pianist Violetta Koss played classical selections, while theinvited guest were treated to fine Polish cuisine prepared by the chefs employed by the Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Among the distinguished guests were Andrzej Towpik, Ambassador of Poland to the United Nations and Honorable Consuls General from several countries.

In Poland, officials remembered 91 years after regaining independence during a ceremony at the Piłsudski Square in Warsaw, the streets in Poland’s capital city hosted the reenactment of events which took place in 1918 with historical army formations marching along the Royal Route, jazz artists performing “Marsz Pierwszej Brygady” (“We of the First Brigade”), one of the best-known songs of the Polish Legions. The Museum of Polish Army held a large event entitled Touch Independence.

Clockwise from Top left: -- Consul General Krzysztof W. Kasprzyk; Mezzo-soprano Marta Wryk; Pianist Violetta Koss; the guests; Paul T. Sosnowski, Executive Vice President Polish & Slavic Credit Union, Consul General Krzysztof W. Kasprzyk, Rep.Michael McMahon, and Counsel Carmen J. Cognetta; Tracy H. Sugg; Kasprzyk honoring Suzanne Klara and Eric Walther; Vincent Brunhard Jr. in the background

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

CONCERT: Legendary Punk Band in NYC

As part of Performing Revolution in Central and Eastern Europe Festival, The Polish Cultural Institute of New York, in collaboration with The Hungarian Cultural Center will present Poland's legendary punk band Dezerter in Rebel Waltz: Underground Music from Behind the Iron Curtain on Saturday, November 7 – 11:00 pm at (Le) Poisson Rouge - 158 Bleecker Street at Thompson Street, NYC.

In spring 1981, the heyday of the Solidarity movement, the young musicians came together as SS-20, a name provocatively referring to a Soviet nuclear missile. A month after the group's debut concert, the regime imposed Martial Law, temporarily ending Solidarity's gains. When their name was then banned from posters they changed it to Dezerter. Despite censors' restrictions they officially released the first punk single to critique the system, which sold 50,000 copies before a re-issue was cancelled. The band is still going strong after three decades.

At 4:00 pm there will be a public discussion with the bands and a screening of Beats of Freedom, a documentary on Polish music of the 80's at The New School, Arnhold Hall, 55 W. 13th Street, Rm 531.

CONCERT: Warsaw Village Band’s Antique Instruments

Photo: (clockwise from top left):bębenek, lira korbowa, fidel Płocka, bas, cymbały, suka Biłgorajska; Maja Kleszcz (center)

Under the auspices of The Polish Cultural Institute of New York, The Warsaw Village Band (Kapela ze Wsi Warszawa) has been touring the United States.

The last dates to see them are:
Friday, Nov. 6 – Somerville, MA at Somerville Theater
Saturday, Nov. 7 – Washington, DC at National Geographic
Sunday, Nov. 8 – New York City at World Music Institute - Highline Ballroom

Antique traditional Polish instruments are a major inspiration for the Band which infuses contemporary rhythms and haunting cutting-edge vocals into folk forms. Among these are: cymbały (hammered dulcimer), bębenek obrzęczowy (cymbaled hand drum), baraban (double-headed side drum), lira korbowa (hurdy-gurdy), fidel Płocka (chordophone violin) and the suka Biłgorajska – a 16th century knee four string fiddle with and archaic wide but short neck, flat bottom, resonance case made from one piece of wood. A shout singing style, biały głos (white voice) accentuates the folk tunes.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

THEATER: US Premiere of Wormwood – New Haven and NYC

The Polish Cultural Institute of New York, the Yale Repertory Theatre, and the World Performance Project at Yale present the US premiere of Wormwood by Theatre of the Eighth Day (Teatr Ósmego Dnia) of Poznań on November 5-7 at 8:00 pm at the Frederick Iseman Theater -1156 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT For tickets: (203) 432-1234.

Related programs, Free and open to the public are: a lecture The Poetics of “Going against the Tide”: 45 Years of the Theatre of the Eighth Day on Monday, November 2, 5:30-7:00 pm at the Whitney Humanities Center and a workshop with the company on November 3, 6:00-8:00 pm at the Theater Studies Ballroom.

In New York City, as part of Performing Revolution in Central and Eastern Europe, a performing arts festival marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe, The Polish Cultural Institute and the Abrons Arts Center will present the New York premiere of Wormwood on November 11-15 - performances are at 8:00 PM, except Sunday at 3:00 PM at the Abrons Arts Center, Henry Street Settlement - 466 Grand Street, New York, NY. For tickets: 212.352.3101 or

Founded in 1964, the legendary Theatre of the Eighth Day was one of the most uncompromising theater groups in Communist Poland and remains just as uncompromising today. The revival of their celebrated production Wormwood, with the original cast was first presented in Poland in 1985. It was famously banned at the time because of its open and frank depiction of life in Poland during Martial Law. The Polish Communist Party shut down the production, and the would-be audience was met by a police barrier at the scheduled premiere. The ensemble outwitted local party officials and the police by organizing a secret premiere the following day at a different time in the same location. Performances in churches and clubs of the independent culture circuit in many Polish cities, followed.

Wormwood will be performed in Polish with English supertitles. Wormwood has a running time of approx. 60 min., and each performance is followed by a talk back with the artists.

PERFORMANCE ART: The Communist Future, if it still existed

Performa in association with The Polish Cultural Institute of New York will present Christian Tomaszewski, in collaboration with video and performance artist Joanna Malinowska in Mother Earth Sister Moon on November 4 – 21. An installation, with special live performances on: November 6, 14, and 21, 6:00 & 8:00 pm at Performa 09/Chashama - 679 Third Avenue at 43rd Street, NYC. Installation admission free. Hours: Installation on view Tues.-Sat. 12:00 - 6:00 pm.
Performance tickets: 212-366-5700.

Tomaszewski and Malinowska consider how the future was imagined by the Communist regimes of the former Soviet Bloc. Mother Earth Sister Moon explores this theme by examining the fashion and style elements of a diverse range of Eastern Bloc phenomena, including the Soviet space program, sci-fi film and literature, and the cults surrounding the mysterious 1908 explosion over the Tunguska River Valley in central Siberia.

Both Polish-born, the two are New York-based artists.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

FROM POLAND: Mazowsze Opens New Center

Mazowsze has written a new chapter in its history. Years in the making, the song and dance company recently opened a new facility – Matecznik Mazowsze as a cultural center for visitor exchange between folk artists from around the world. Located on the premises of their picturesque Palace and complex in Karolin (near Warsaw), Matecznik is comprised of a rehearsal center, meeting rooms, wellness area with personal gym and sauna, a 98-person Guesthouse Inn, an 80-seat traditional Polish cuisine tavern– Karczma Staropolska, and a 3766 sq. ft multi-use amphitheatre arena – created for both indoor and outdoor concerts, which seats 563.

Matecznik Mazowsze will help us foster the spiritual and cultural dimension of our lives,” said the main advocate of the project, Mazowieckie Voivodship Marshal Adam Strużik. “This is a unique opportunity for Poland and the Mazowsze region to promote our country’s culture and art.”

The opening ceremony was entitled Inspiracje Chopinowskie (Chopin Inspirations) featured pianist Krzysztof Jabłoński and the Polish Radio Orchestra under the direction of Tadeusz Kozłowski playing Piano concerto in F minor op. 21; a presentation of a fragment of the film Podróż Sentymentalna about Polish-born conductor Arthur Rubinstein’s 1979 return to Poland and connection to Mazowsze; and an excerpted performance by the Song and Dance Ensemble. In addition to its repertoire the company performed Witold Zapała’s ballet impression to Frédéric Chopin’s Rondo à la Krakowiak and folk songs by Chopin: Życzenie, Laura i Filon and Hulanka.

Among the invited guests were Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak and Cardinal Józef Glemp, Primate of the Poland.

FOLKLORE: Virsky Dance Company - Bronx, NY

Virsky Company to Perform in the Bronx
As plans are underway to bring Mazowsze back to North America for a more extensive tour in 2010, folk dance enthusiasts can fill the void by experiencing the renowned Virsky Ukrainian National Dance Company.

The spirit of Ukraine will come alive in swirls of color and precise patterns of dance when the company makes a return visit on Sunday, November 15 - 6 pm at the Concert Hall at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx. This stylized folk-inspired troupe was created in 1937 by Pavlo Virsky and Mykola Bolotov, and guided by Virsky until his death in 1975. In 1980, the company's artistic direction was overtaken by Myroslav Vantukh, Virsky’s disciple, who is creating new dances.

Many similarities and historical connections and shared boundaries can be found between Poland and Ukraine, not to mention the once-Polish city of Lwów, and the plight of the Eastern Carpathian Hutsul ethno-cultural group. Culturally and anthropologically the Hutsuły comprise a mix of Ukrainian, Hungarian, Rumanian, Polish and other types. Depending on the ever-changing boundaries, their inhabited territories sometimes included Poland - the last time being during the interwar period, when their land divided between Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania.

Tickets for Virsky can be purchased at or 718-960-8833.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NEWS: Nowy Dziennik Makes Endorsement in NYC Mayoral Election

Today is Election Day, so go out and vote!

In the NYC election - The Polish-language Nowy Dziennik - Polish Daily News has strongly endorsed incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his bid for an unprecedented third term re-election. Nowy Dziennik has a circulation of roughly 22,000 and is distributed across the five boroughs.

The Mayor’s total number of newspaper endorsements now totals 60 with a broad group of publications from across the city including: The New York Times, The New York Daily News, New York Post, community and ethnic media.

Excerpts in translation of the endorsement Nowy Dziennik printed:

· “With no hesitation Nowy Dziennik – Polish Daily News, the voice of the New York Polish community, endorses Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the third term.”

· “In the last eight years Bloomberg has proven himself as a skillful mayor, whose comprehensive experience in managing such a big city does not compare to any of his opponents.”

· “The Mayor's achievements, especially during the second term, are outstanding and incomparable.”

· “We applaud Mayor Bloomberg for his continuous efforts to improve the quality of life in New York City. Unquestionably, the Big Apple has turned a beautiful and friendlier city thanks to the recent improvements…”

· “Bloomberg has introduced a gamut of immigrant friendly initiatives like interpreter services in city agencies and has recently promised further integrative and language programs for foreign born New Yorkers. Polish ethnic group profits greatly from all initiatives meant to improve the lives of immigrant communities.”

· “Personally speaking, Michael Bloomberg won our gratitude with his attendance at the recent Pulaski Parade. We hope that when chosen for the third term he will be a more frequent guest at Polish events and he will tighten alliance with our community.”

Exercise your civic right and VOTE!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

ART: Aleksander Grzybek on Exhibition in Greenpoint-Brooklyn, NY

Starbucks Coffee in Greenpoint is the place to see contemporary art by Polish artists. Aleksander Grzybek is presenting his paintings in an Art Exhibition entitled WALKING...November 1- 30, at Starbucks Coffeehouse, 910 Manhattan Ave in Greenpoint-Brooklyn.

Grzybek was born in Białystok, Poland, where he lives and works. He graduated from the UMCS University in Lublin. His works can be found in the collections of the Podlaskie Museum, the Gallery "Arsenal" both in Białystok, the Association “Stopka” in Łomza, and in private collections at home and abroad. The main theme of his work is man - the human figure is reduced to a graphic symbol. The artist paints on canvas and on the boards or parts of the old beams from abandoned houses and barns.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

FOLKLORE: Goblins, Ghouls & Baba Jaga

by Staś Kmieć
It is Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) and while Poland does not celebrate this very American holiday directly, it does have subtle cultural similarities. Two days later on November 2, Poles honor those who have passed on the Catholic observance of All Soul’s Day (Święto Zmarłych, Dzień Zaduszny or Zaduszki) . Foretelling and magical occurrences take place on St. Andrew’s Eve (Andrzejki).

Poland has its own monstrous folklore figure with the mythical, archetypal witch – Baba Jaga. Any Polish child would be very upset if there were no fairy tales with Baba Jaga. This character exists in several cultures. She is the Hindu Goddess of Death, Kali, In Macedonia she is Baba Pora, in Serbia she is Baba Roga.
In Slavic folklore Baba Jaga is a witch-like character. She flies around on a giant mortar or broomstick, kidnaps (and presumably eats) small children, and lives in a house which stands on chicken legs. In most Slavic folk tales she is portrayed as an antagonist; however, some characters in other mythological folk stories have been known to seek her out for her wisdom, and she has been known on occasion to offer guidance to lost souls, although this is seen as rare.
In Polish folklore Baba Jaga’s house rests on a single chicken leg and she wears the the black and red striped weaved cloth of the Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross) Mountains. She is an unofficial symbol of the area’s Kielce region, which has a folklore rich in legendary witches Sabbaths on Łysa Góra (the famed Bald Mountain).
Баба Яга is used as a stock character by authors of modern Russian fairy tales, and from the 1990s in Russian fantasy.
The name Baba Jaga is composed of two elements: Baba means "old woman, grandmother" used in most Slavic languages; and the second Jaga, is from Proto-Slavic (j)ęgа, which may be related to Lithuanian ingis meaning ‘lazybones, sluggard', Old Norse ekki – 'pain', and Old English inca – 'question, scruple, doubt;, grievance, quarrel.’ It has also been suggested that Jaga may be a diminutive of the female name Jadwiga.
There are several stories attributed to Baba Jaga. One version says with each question asked of her she ages a full year. The only way to regress in age is by brewing a special tea from blue roses. She is a wise hag who imparts advice and magical gifts to heroes of the pure of heart. Baba Jaga is all-seeing, all-revealing, and all-knowing. She is a forest spirit who brings wisdom through death and rebirth.
Happy Halloween and watch out for Baba Jaga!

Is Halloween Celebrated in Poland?

Poland does not celebrate Halloween

A bit more of this American holiday (just like America’s Santa Claus and holiday culture) has entered Poland’s mainstream to an increasing degree each year.

Zazzle offers a “Polish Halloween” T-shirt:

YouTube shows one couple celebrating the holiday on their balcony:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

REVIEW: Music Recital at the Consulate - NYC

Kinga Augustyn and Justyna Maj

by Staś Kmieć

The De Lamar Mansion Salon of Arts & Ideas, a series of cultural events organized by Polish Consulate in New York in 2006, presented their second concert of the current season with a violin-piano recital honoring the anniversary of the famed composer Niccolò Paganini’s birth. The series, the allows a showcase for young Polish artists, and opens the doors to American audiences to view the architectural wonders of the residence of the Consulate General of Poland, listen to fine music, and gain a greater appreciation of Polish compositions.

The history of the violin is a history of liberation. Composers and players have challenged to push the limits. Viewed as the instrument of angels in the 18th century, of the Devil in the 19th, in the 20th it is of the irrational and indefinable.

Violinist Kinga Augustyn, accompanied on piano by Justyna Maj began the first half with familiar traditional selections. Augustyn gave a vibrant, yet sensitive account of the Brahms Sonata No. 1, Op. 78. In the spirit of chamber music’s “give-and take,” Maj matched the idiosyncratic shifts with precision. The double stops in the score were balanced and controlled.

In a lilting rendition of Paganini’s Cantabile Augustyn exhibits splendid intonation and a hypnotic stylistic conception.

Fritz Kreisler’s standard melodic chestnut, Liebesleid, Liebesfreud was played by the violinist with characteristic warmth. Augustyn exhibits extraordinary technical assurance and fastidious musicianship. She subtly “feels” the music in her body positioning and posturing and expressive eyelids and brows.

The second half of the program elevated the evening to a sublime level - beginning with Sequenza VIII (1976) by the Italian avant-garde composer Luciano Berio. With thrilling virtuosity Augustyn created unexpected regions of angular dissonant sound with a rough-hewn vigor; negotiating the works intricate textures – pianissimo double-stopped trilling juxtaposed by edged fortissimo chords. Through unconventional techniques and theatrical gestures, Berio utilized the violin as raw material for imaginative reinvention - thoroughly engaging in effect.

Eerily pure, haunting, passionate and atmospheric is the three-piece cycle Mythes by Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). Written in the spring of 1915 and dedicated to Zofia Kochańska, wife of the accomplished violinist Paweł Kochański, who premired the piece with Szymanowski, the poems ("La Fontaine d'Aréthuse," "Narcisse," and "Dryades et Pan") for violin and piano are the quintessence of the composer’s concept of impressionism. Together with the great violinist, Szymanowski created a new violin style.

The violin technique required to perform Mythes is considerable and was well-matched in this masterful interpretation. The piece is filled with double stops, harmonics, quarter tones, and glissandi, and the composer calls for simultaneous arco bowing and left-hand pizzicato. Mythes opens with a shimmering wash of sound in the piano suggesting splashing water. At the piece’s conclusion is the flashy dance of the Dryads interrupted by Pan's flute, suggested by harmonics on the unaccompanied violin.

The evening concluded with the complex Romantic period salon piece Mazurek in G Major by Aleksander Zarzycki (1834 - 1895). Zarzycki, a Polish pianist, composer and conductor is the author of piano and violin compositions, mazurkas, polonaises, Krakowiaks, and songs. In 1871 he co-founded and became a first director of the Warsaw Music Society (Warszawskie Towarzystwo Muzyczne).