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).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

POETRY: Contemporary Polish Poets in Reading and Discussion - NYC, Cambridge, MA

Photo: T. Dabrowski, B. Keff, M. Kielar, T. Rozycki


The Polish Cultural Institute in New York, Harvard University, and Zephyr Press, present a reading and discussion with Tadeusz Dabrowski, Bozena Keff, Marzanna Kielar, Tomasz Rozycki and translators Bill Johnston and Benjamin Paloff on Tuesday, November 3, 7:00-9:00 pm (discussion followed by the reception) and Wednesday, November 4, 7:00-9:00 pm (reading). At Poets House – 10 River Terrace (Battery Park City), NYC; Admission: $10; Students/Seniors: $7; Poets House and Poetry Society of America members: free.

On Thursday, November 5, 2009 4:15-6:00 pm at Harvard University’s Thompson Room, Barker Center 12 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA, the discussion will be repeated with translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Admission: free.

Monday, October 26, 2009

EVENT: Name Day Party for Tadeusz and Polish Heroes, October 28

A celebration to toast Tadeusz Kościuszko and Polish Heroes will take place on Oct. 28, starting at 6:30 p.m at The Kosciuszko Foundation – 15 East 65th St. NYC.

After Poland passed the May 3 Constitution in 1791, it was attacked by Russia, Prussia and Austria who wanted to stop these democratic reforms. King Stanislaw Augustus created the Virtuti Militari medal to honor the Polish soldiers, such as Kościuszko, who had fought to defend the first democratic constitution in Europe. The Poles lost the war, and the Russians demanded that these medals be discarded.

While the officers who received this honor took the medals off their chests, they sent the blue ribbons from these orders to their wives and girlfriends, who used them as hair decoration.

On Oct 28, 1792, the imieniny (name day) for Tadeusz, Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski held a party at his palace for Kościuszko. At this party, the women wore white dresses with black and blue sashes and tied their hair in ponytails with the medal ribbons. The women honored Kościuszko with a garland crown of leaves from an oak tree planted 100 years earlier by King Sobieski, and placed it on his head.

The Kosciuszko Foundation and its chapters will reenact this event to honor local heroes that have supported the Polish Community.

In NYC, the foundation will honor Adam Bak, President of Adamba Imports, who is also a Kosciuszko Foundation Trustee, a Polish Patriot and major supporter of Polish causes.

Contribution: $20; free admission for women wearing white dresses. The evening will include food, drink, Music by PHH's own DJ DLP, surprise guests, and dancing.
- Staś Kmieć

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

DID YOU KNOW?: “Bye, Bye Birdie” could have been Polish?

1960 - Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera
2009 - Gina Gershon and John Stamos

The show Bye, Bye Birdie’s main focus are the characters Albert and Rosie. The two originals were Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera. Van Dyke, then a virtual unknown, brought winsome charm to the role. Rivera had been a hit as Anita in West Side Story but had never been cast as a Broadway lead. The part came her way after Carol Haney turned down the role, and the first cast Rosie (Edie Gorme), lost her voice. The character was originally a young woman of Polish descent, and it was quickly rewritten to reflect a Hispanic background. The character's last name was changed from "Grant" to "Alvarez."

The current revival with John Stamos and Gina Gershon opened last week on Broadway at the newly renovated Henry Miller Theatre for an open run.

Initially titled Let's Go Steady, the satire on American society is set in 1958.

The original Broadway production was a Tony Award-winning success. It spawned a London production and several major revivals, a sequel, a 1963 film and a 1995 television production. The show also became a popular choice for high school and college productions.

Monday, October 19, 2009

FILM: "Pornografia," October 20 - Washington DC

Polish Film - Pornografia

On October 20th, the BibliotekaFilmoteka monthly movie series will be showing the 2003 Jan Jakub Kolski film Pornografia. Based on a novel by the famous Polish author Witold Gombrowicz and set in the Polish countryside during WWII., the film won numerous prizes and awards. was shown at the 2003 Venice Film Festival and selected for the 2003 New York Film Festival.


7:00 pm
Members #4.00/ Non-Members $8.00 (No RSVP Necessary)

National Polish Center, 2025 O Street, NW Washington, DC 20036 (Dupont Metro stop)

Light Refreshments Served

To learn more, go to: http://nationalpolishcenter. org. 202-785-2320

Sunday, October 18, 2009

MUSIC: Violin and Piano Recital at the Polish Consulate, October 27 – NYC

Kinga Augustyn, violin
Justyna Maj, piano

in a recital on Niccolò Paganini’s birthday anniversary

Tuesday, October 27, at 7.30 pm

The program will include:

J. BRAHMS Sonata No. 1, Op. 78
N. PAGANINI Cantabile
F. KREISLER Liebesleid, Liebesfreud
L. BERIO Sequenza VIII
A. ZARZYCKI Mazurek in G Major

The event is free and open to the public

RSVP by Monday, October 26: 646 237 2112, 646 237 2114;
Seating is limited; Latecomers will not be admitted during the performance.

De Lamar Mansion – the residence of the Consulate General of Poland
233 Madison Avenue at 37th Street (Jan Karski Corner)

Polish-born violinist KINGA AUGUSTYN has a Bachelors of Arts and Masters degree from of the Juilliard School in New York. As a recitalist and a chamber musician, she has appeared in the US at the Weill Hall (Carnegie Hall), Paul Hall, Alice Tully, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Lamar Mansion- Salon of Arts and Ideas, the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC. She received 2nd prize at the Kosciuszko Foundation Violin Competition.

The Polish-Canadian pianist JUSTYNA MAJ has performed solo and chamber music recitals throughout Canada, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece, China, USA and her native Poland. She is a winner of international and national piano competitions (Canadian Chopin Competition, Pacific Piano Competition, Göttingen Chopin Competition, Kay Meek Concerto Competition, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra Competition).

NEWS: Pulaski Becomes Honorary United States Citizen

The US House of Representatives granted Polish war hero honorary US citizenship for his services during the American Revolutionary war.

Brigadier General Kazimierz Pulaski was granted honorary posthumous American citizenship by theUnited States House of Representatives. The resolution was passed unanimously as a reward for Pulaski’s service during the American Revolutionary War.

Pulaski first fought for the
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against Russia, before emigrating to the US to fight against the British on behalf of the colonists. He is known as the “Father of the American Cavalry”, and fought at Brandywine and Charleston, South Carolina, among others, before being mortally wounded at the battle of Savannah, Georgia on 11 October 1779, at the age of 34.

Benjamin Franklin recommended
George Washington to accept Pulaski as a volunteer, and Pulaski later rewarded the decision by saving Washington’s life at Brandywine in 1777. After the battle, Pulaski was promoted by Washington to the rank of Brigadier General of the cavalry. He went on to form the Pulaski Cavalry Legion in 1779.

After the passing of the resolution,
New York Congressman Brian Higgins said, “General Pulaski was a brave and selfless patriot to not one, but two great nations and this is a long overdue and fitting recognition for his sacrifice”.

The resolution also coincided with 11 October, which is
Pulaski Day in the US.

Only six other individuals have been granted honorary American citizenship. They include Mother Teresa,
Winston Churchill, and the French General La Fayette.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

PERFORMANCE: Biały Orzeł / White Eagle Polish Song and Dance Ensemble – San Francisco, CA Bay Area

Biały Orzeł / White Eagle Polish Song and Dance Ensemble of Toronto, Canada will perform in the San Francisco Bay area on Friday and Saturday October 23 and 24.

With over 30 richly costumed artists, the ensemble will astonish and delight audiences with the grace and energy of Polish folklore including the dynamic Oberek, lyrical dances from Śląsk, haunting melodies & dances from Eastern Poland, rarely-seen dances of the Cygan (Roma) minority, and acrobatic feats of strength from the Żywiec Mountain Highlanders.

Fri, Oct 23
8:30 pm (doors open at 6pm)
Rossmoor’s Del Valle Clubhouse
3400 Golden Rain Rd, Walnut Creek 94595
$12 advance/ $15 at the door$8/$10 students/ 7 years & under, free
More info: 925-295-0774 or 510-575-7514
or Polam Federal Credit Union, 1010 Oak Grove Rd, Concord

Sat, Oct 24
8:30pm (doors open at 6:30 pm)
St. Albert Chmielowski Parish Hall
10250 Clayton Rd., San Jose 95127$10 / 7 years & under, free
More info: 408-251-8490 or 510-575-7514

or Polam Federal Credit Union, 770 Marshall St # 101,Redwood City

Sponsored by Łowiczanie Polish Folk Ensemble, Polish Club of Rossmoor, and St. Albert’s Parish of San Jose.
For additional information:

MUSIC: Maciej Grzybowski in recital – NYC and Washington DC

De Lamar Mansion Salon of Arts and Ideas and the Consulate General of Poland will present the piano recital of Polish pianist Maciej Grzybowski on Thursday, October 22nd, at 7:30 pm.

The program includes:
Charles Ives - II Sonata "Concord Mass., 1840-60" op. 88
Domenico Scarlatti - Sonata c-moll L. 4

The event is free and open to the public, attendees must RSVP by Wednesday, October 21: 646 237 2114, or email
Seating is limited; first-come, first-served. Latecomers will not be admitted during the performance.

De Lamar Mansion - the residence of the Consulate General of Poland - 233 Madison Avenue at 37th Street (Jan Karski Corner), NYC.

The Embassy of the Republic of Poland will hold the recital of the Charles Ives composition on Saturday, October 24, at 4 pm. Free admission, RSVP required: 202-234-3800 ext. 2165 or

Embassy of the Republic of Poland – 2640 16th Street NW, Washington, DC

Maciej Grzybowski has collaborated with the orchestra Sinfonia Varsovia and he won the first prize at the First 20th Century Music Competition for Young Performers in Warsaw in 1992. He is a member of Nonstorm group and has participated in festivals and events such as Warsaw Autumn, Musica Polonica Nova in Wroclaw, and , Lutoslawski' s Forum in Warsaw. He is the composer of the piano work “Pezzo Vitcazzo” (“Musica vitcaziana”).

Friday, October 16, 2009

FESTIVAL - Consulate General and Polish Cultural Institute at 92nd Street Y Street Festival 2009 - NYC

Meet Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk, members of the Polish Consulate of New York and the Polish Cultural Institute of New York at the 92nd Street Y Street Festival in New York City starting at 11:00 am on Lexington Ave (beginning at E 94th St and continuing to E 86th St.). They will be handing out complimentary items including promotional, travel and educational materials.

EVENT: "Dożynki" Harvest Festival on Sunday October 18 – Port Richmond/Philadelphia, PA

"Dożynki" Harvest Festival will take place on Sunday October 18 in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, PA.

Beginning with a 10:30 am Harvest Mass at St. Adalbert Church (Thompson Street & Allegheny Avenue), the festivities will transfer to the parish auditorium.

From 12 noon to 4 pm the Auditorium will be filled with the music, dance and tastes of Polonia.

Music for Dancing by The Music Box Band

Performances by:
P.K.M. Polish Folk Dancers
Janosik Polish Folk Dancers
St. Adalbert Polish Language School
Polish Scouts "Harcerstwo"

Polish Food & Refreshments Available
Admission is Free

Thursday, October 15, 2009

MUSIC: Hardcore Folk - The Warsaw Village Band Tours U.S.

The Warsaw Village Band (Kapela ze Wsi Warszawa) is one of the most outstanding Euro-folk groups to come out of Poland in recent years. Folk music is undergoing a renaissance; however it has been considerably altered. Ancient instruments and tunes now meet invigorating contemporary rhythms and haunting cutting-edge vocals – this is not your grandparents’ folk music, but old traditions in a radical new form.

Under the auspices of The Polish Cultural Institute of New York, the Band will tour the United States appearing at the following venues:

  • Thursday, Oct. 29 – Minneapolis, MN at The Cedar
  • Friday, Oct. 30 – Milwaukee, WI at Alverno College
  • Saturday, Oct. 31 – Chicago, IL at Old Town School of Folk Music
  • Sunday, November 1 – Cleveland, OH at Beachland
  • Monday, Nov. 2 – Pittsburgh, PA at Synod Hall
  • Wednesday, Nov. 4 – Toronto, On at Lula Lounge
  • 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
Older musicians who still play the traditional Polish instruments were a major inspiration for the Band. They traveled from village to village, seeking out the older generation; listened to their music and their stories. What surprised them was that no one else in the villages was interested in this music anymore. Without the research of the Band the music would have died with the old.

The most interesting instrument in their collection is the suka from Biłgoraj - an old form of the violin, originating in the sixteenth century, with strings that are played with the fingernails.

The group’s tour is supported by the City of Warsaw and Stoleczna Estrada – Cultural Institution of the Capital City of Warsaw.
- Staś Kmieć

Wednesday, October 14, 2009



Are there readers out there following this BLOG? Polish American Journal Today started in April and we are wondering who is reading the information and articles about Polonia in the United States, Poland, and Polish culture?

Make us aware of your presence and sign up as a “follower” – click onto the follower icon on the right margin and join us!

Please let us know your interest and any Polonia news in your area by contacting

BOOK SIGNING: "The Peasant Prince," October 20 - Hamtramck, MI

Alex Storozynski, the President and Executive Director of the Kosciuszko Foundation, NY will sign copies of his book, The Peasant Prince – Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution at the Polish Art Center - 9539 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck, Michigan on Tuesday, October 20 from 1-3 pm.

Have a book dedicated for a Perfect Christmas Gift!
(Orders must be received before the event for special dedications)

Storozynski will also appear at the Piast Institute (11633 Joseph Campau St
Hamtramck, MI) at 6pm on Tuesday, October 20. Contact Virginia for tickets to the Sherry Hour at 313-733-4535