Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bringing Home the Gold!

Toronto’s Harnasie Awarded Złota Ciupaga
by Staś Kmieć
as printed in the October 2013 edition of The Polish American Journal

Edyta Kołpak of Toronto’s
Harnasie Highlander Ensemble
holds the main trophy –
the Złota Ciupaga
Mountaineers from all around the world presented their folklore at the 45th International Festival of Mountain Folklore in Zakopane, Poland.  President Bronisław Komorowski and First Lady Anna presided over the festival, and took part in several events. 

The main trophy – the Złota Ciupaga (Golden Mountain Axe) was bestowed to several ensembles in various categories.  Among them was the Highlander Ensemble – Harnasie from Toronto, Canada under the direction of Ted Zdybal and Barbara Bejger.  The special award was presented by President Komorowski in recognition of the cultivation of native culture in North America. The group also received from the Judges an honorary award for singing and a Parzenica Award – the Highlander symbol of Pride for their artistic program in the “Artistically Elaborated Presentation of Highlander Folk” category.

Promoting highland history and culture, the Festival dates back to 1968.  Known both in Poland and around the world, its main objective is to present not only the native folklore, but also traditions and culture from around the world. 

MILESTONE: Celebrating 75 Years

The Polish American Folk Dance Company
by Staś Kmieć
as printed in the October 2013 print edition of The Polish American Journal

The Polish American Folk Dance Company of Brooklyn, New York (PAFDC) will celebrate the
75th anniversary of its founding with a 2-hour performance at New York University’s Skirball Center on Saturday, November 23 at 7:00 pm.

As part of the celebration, the troupe will premiere three new dance suites choreographed by Zofia Czechlewska, a former soloist with Poland’s Śląsk Song and Dance Ensemble: Kołomajki from the Beskid Śląsk region, Mazurka featuring maiden games at the Court balls, and Szamotuły from the western Wielkopolska region.  Resident Choreographer Tomasz Orzechowski will debut a fusion of dances from the distinctly different White and Green Forests of the northeastern Kurpie region, and a Cinderella-themed Mazur Kopciuszek.
Tickets are available at: 212-352-3101 or 866-811-4111,; Polish National Home - 718-387-0505, or Forum Travel - 718-389-1010.

Founded in 1938 to preserve and perpetuate Polish folk dances and songs among Americans of Polish descent, The Polish American Folk Dance Company was organized by Frances Wesołowska-
Popławska in New York City under the auspices of the Polish Workmen’s Aid Fund.  With the assistance of other community organizations, such as the Kościuszko Foundation and the Polish-American Aid Fund, Popławska built a folk dance group that combined the traditional with the grace of classical ballet.  For 30 years she taught not only those in her own troupe, but held courses for dance teachers across the country.
In 1969, Popławska relegated the direction to her most promising dancers, Stanley Pelc and Ursula Bestecka, and soon after the group moved from Manhattan to Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  This would begin a period of growth and transformation.  With extensive research, Pelc and Bestecka crafted a company of theatrical scale. 

Pelc studied Polish Dance in Warsaw, and as the general manager of the company he arranged the performance season.  Bestecka guided the expansion of the company’s costume wardrobe.  Musically, the company was enriched by Halina Kalitka, who for over 20 years served as accompanist beginning in 1970.

During this period the company premiered its first full-length concert, debuted at Lincoln Center, had tour engagements, and in 1972 participated in the World Festival of Polonian Folk Ensembles in Rzeszów, Poland for the first time.  In total, PAFDC has participated in ten World Festivals in Poland.  Bestecka moved to Japan in 1975 and Maria Zdzienicka Koncewicz and Jay Poko were named assistant choreographers. 
Known to those close to him as “Skippy,” Stanley Pelc developed and shaped a company of style, flair and prestige.  Under his watchful and meticulous eye, PAFDC developed a vast repertoire modeled after the presentation ideal of Mazowsze.  Being in close proximity to Broadway, PAFDC strived to appeal and be relevant to both a New York theater-going audience and a Polonia audience who held Poland’s national companies in high esteem as the pinnacle of Polish dance. 
Pelc developed a costume wardrobe fitting for the stage with color, fabric flow, design and brilliance.  The stage “look” was uniquely their own with intricate period adornments in Polonez and Mazur, and signature looped braids for their Krakowiak finale.  Many costumes were made in Poland, while others were created and sewn by Mrs. Cecylia Pelc, assisted by other mothers, as well as by the dancers themselves. 
Upon Pelc’s retirement in 1996, Daniel Dziadura – a graduate of the Studium Folklorystyczne at the
University of Marie Curie-Skłodowska, succeeded him as Artistic Director.  As musical accompaniment, a Kapela Ludowa (folk band) was formed under Andrzej Buczek.  A children's group – PAFDC Kids, was established under the direction of long-time member Alice Karpinski-Bajno and former Mazowsze member Katarzyna Nitecka in the Fall of 2003.

When Dziadura retired in 2005, PAFDC reorganized its leadership by creating two separate positions of Artistic Director and Executive Director.  Ryszard Sudol was named Artistic Director and initiated a “Beginners” training program.  Today PAFDC is led by Executive Director Mariusz Bernatowicz, and Artistic Director Tomasz Orzechowski - who completed a qualification instructor’s course in Warsaw, and performed with folk dance groups in łomża and at Warsaw University.  The children’s group is currently led by Diana Chrościelewski. 

The company’s repertoire consists of multiple arrangements of Poland’s national dances, over 25 regional suites, along with staged presentations of seasonal customs (obrzędy).  The company owns over 600 costumes.

For many years, the PAFDC has performed at the annual Bal Polonaise in Miami at the invitation of Lady Blanka Rosenstiel of the American Institute of Polish Culture.  They have performed at tribute programs and other events where Pope John Paul II, Princess Grace of Monaco, Lech Wałęsa, Zbigniew Brzeżiński, Henryk Górecki, and other dignitaries have been distinguished guests of honor. 
Today's Polish American Folk Dance Company
The Company has been honored twice by the Republic of Poland in recognition of its presentation of Poland’s folk culture to American audiences by receiving the Oskar Kolberg Award in 1979 and the Order of the Merit of Culture in 2003.

In recognition and support of the contributions that PAFDC makes to the cultural landscape of New York State, the company has for many years received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

POETRY: Magical Polish American Poets

Designed as a continuation of last year's Poetry Salon devoted to the Beat Generation, the Salon "Magic Polish identity - poetry of Polish Americans" introduces the audience to a wider circle of poetry of Polish Americans.

On The event will take place on November 17, noon, the poetry of Michael Basinski, Phil Boiarski, Stuart Dybek, John Guzlowski, Leonard Kress, Linda Nemec Foster, Karen Kovacik, John Minczeski, Elisabeth Murawski, Mark Pawlak, Thad Rutkowski, Laura Ulewicz and Cecilia Woloch will be read by Magdalena Cielecka and Jan Nowicki – actors from Teatr Polski in Warsaw.

For information:

ART: “Still Life” at the the Starbucks Gallery

“Still Life” - an exhibition by artist Eva Zeller will be on display through December 1 at the Starbucks Gallery in Greenpoint-Brooklyn. Zeller who has lived in the U.S. since 2003, shows several still lifes in pastels and oil technique.  Janusz Skowron  is the curator of the exhibition.
    Starbucks Gallery - 910 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Friday, October 4, 2013

MILESTONE: LOT Polish Airline Celebrates 40 Years of New York-Warsaw Travel

40 Guests Win Free Roundtrip Premium Economy Tickets to Poland

Last night LOT Polish Airlines celebrated its 40th anniversary of flying between JFK-New York and Warsaw in high-style at the Grand Hyatt New York’s Empire Ballroom in midtown Manhattan.  Guests were treated to serving stations for a sumptuous roast, classy side dishes and hor d’oeuvres.

North American Sales Director Frank Joost led the audience through the evening with LOT’s new promotional video, a history of the Airlines and a video detailing the features of LOT’s new fleet of B-787 Dreamliners. 

LOT’s flight crew offered guests a chance to experience the full-reclining position of the seating offered in Business Class. The eighteen seats in the Elite Club section can be set to a lying position – allowing the traveler a comfortable complete sleep in preparation for meetings upon arrival. 

CEO Sebastian Mikosz greeted the audience and relayed exciting plans and prospects in the future of the Airlines.

A special 40th anniversary fare promotion available through October 11 was unveiled (  Through a random drawing 40 lucky guests who left business cards in a bowl upon entrance, received a free roundtrip ticket in the new Premium Economy section.

An anniversary cake was cut and guests departed with gift bags of products from Poland’s Inglot cosmetics line which has a boutique in New York’s Times Square.

LOT Polish Airlines has been connecting Poland with the rest of the world since 1929.  Today, LOT’s fleet of 36 aircraft serves over 50 destinations across Europe, the Middle East North America and Asia.  Serving 1,328 airports in 195 countries across the globe, LOT is in a position to continue its growth and reputation as a European carrier with a global network.
--Staś Kmieć


Thursday, October 3, 2013

TRAVEL: LOT Celebrates with Big Winter Fare Deals to Poland and Double Miles Promotion

To celebrate its first year with the B-787 Dreamliners and its 40th anniversary of flying between JFK and Warsaw, LOT is offering a winter sale in its Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class through October 11, 2013 for a number of cities throughout Poland.  This announcement came during the October 3 press briefing held at the Wings Club in New York City with CEO Sebastian Mikosz.
LOT CEO Sebastian Mikosz
All of the special fares from New York's JFK to Poland reflect the 40th anniversary in the pricing beginning at $740 roundtrip from New York's JFK to Warsaw's Chopin Airport in economy, $1040 in Premium Club (premium economy) and $2240 in Elite Club (business class).

Passengers from Chicago can also take advantage of the special fares to Warsaw - $770 (economy), $1090 (Premium Club) and $2290 (Elite Club).  These sample fares include all taxes, fees and surcharges.   

Travel for these special nonrefundable winter fares is from October 20 through December 12, 2013 and from January 31 through March 13, 2014.  Some restrictions may apply.  These fares can be booked through a travel agent, by using LOT's state-of-the art mobile app, calling LOT at (212) 789-0970, or visiting

Passengers flying on the newly introduced Premium Club on any of LOT's long haul flights from Chicago, New York, Toronto and Beijing will receive double miles for tickets sold and traveled from October 1, 2013 to January 31, 2014.
Business Class seating with full-recline sleep feature
Transatlantic passengers will be treated to its new high-tech luxury Dreamliners. LOT’s Dreamliners have 18 lie-flat bed seats in Elite Club, 21 in Premium Club plus 213 seats in economy class. Some of the cabin’s comfortable features for the passengers include a quieter ride, cleaner air, unobstructed views out the larger windows, and larger overhead bins. 
LOT Polish Airlines is the only European airline operating the B-787 Dreamliner on all of its long haul routes.
Premium Economy seating
In addition to the JFK – Warsaw route, LOT also operates non-stop flights between Warsaw and Chicago, Toronto, and Bejing. 
LOT Polish Airlines has been connecting Poland with the rest of the world since 1929.  Today, LOT's fleet of 36 aircraft serves over 50 destinations across Europe, the Middle East North America and Asia. 
LOT Dreamliner promo

Friday, September 27, 2013

OPERA: Eugene Onegin with Mariusz Kwiecien and Piotr Beczala

The eighth season of Live in HD, the Metropolitan Opera's award-winning series of live transmissions to over 1,950 movie theaters in 64 countries, begins October 5 with acclaimed new production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. Anna Netrebko opens her third consecutive Met season in her company role debut as Tatiana, the naïve heroine from Pushkin's classic novel. Mariusz Kwiecien portrays the self-confident title character, in a much-admired interpretation he has sung in many of the world's leading opera houses, and Piotr Beczala reprises his acclaimed performance as Onegin's friend-turned-rival, Lenski.

Cutting straight to the heart of the work, director Deborah Warner shows how Onegin is simultaneously about two colliding Russian societies—rustic provincialism and cosmopolitan decadence—and three wasted lives.

Onegin's aria ("Kogda bi zhizn") from Act I of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin." Mariusz Kwiecien (Onegin). Video courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera

Excerpt from Lenski's aria ("Kuda, kuda") from Act II of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin."
Piotr Beczala (Lenski). Video courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera

MUSIC: Janusz Prusinowski Trio on US Tour

Through October 16, The Janusz Prusinowski Trio – a group now enlarged to five musicians will tour the United States.  The instrumentalists create a dynamic dialogue that makes for an exceptionally improvised and engaging performance.

Following in the tradition of village masters they have personally learned from, the musicians are also an avant-garde band with their own characteristic sound and language of improvisation. Combining music with dance, and the archaic with the modern, the Trio's unique style is distilled from their informed reinterpretations of Central Poland's village music. They bring the folk mazurka - sung, played, danced, and improvised - to a new, youthful audience. The band has performed throughout Europe, Asia, Canada, and the USA - including Carnegie Hall.

October dates include:

·         September 27-28 20th Annual Lotus World Music & Arts Festival, Bloomington, IN;
·         October 2, 8:00 pm - John Paul II Hall, 655 Dorchester Ave, South Boston, MA
·         October 4, 7:15 pm – DROM, New York City;
·         October 5, 7:00pm – Special Event: Intimate House Concert in the hills of San Diego; an RSVP event for details email:
·         October 6, 7:00 pm – Yoshi's San Francisco, CA;
·         October 7 – San Diego State University, San Diego, CA;,
·         October 9 – Southwestern College, Chula Vista, CA;,
·         October 10, 7:00pm – European Jazz @ UCLA;
·         October 11, 6:30 pm – Folk Dance Center, Dancing Unlimited, San Diego, CA;,
·         October 12-13 – Richmond Folk Festival, Richmond, VA; 
·         October 16 – The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Washington, DC;

NEW YORK, NY: Dumpling Festival

MUSIC: Kinga Augustyn in Concert

Friday, September 6, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


PĄCZKI DAY is today on “”Fat Tuesday”… not your ordinary doughnut – rum or pure spirits in the dough and filled with natural preserves or the traditional rose hip or rose petal jam. Poland celebrated last Thursday – Tłusty Czwartek.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Remembering Ed Koch

by Staś Kmieć
 You did not have to grow up in New York City to know the name Ed Koch.  He served as Mayor for three terms from 1978-1989, and used his sometimes combative style to rescue the city from near financial ruin. 
  He was a quintessential New Yorker and one of the city’s most popular and outspoken politicians - known for his no nonsense in-your-face, colorful personality, and his trademark question asked of friends and foes alike  - "How'm I doin'?"  Koch lived a life as big as the city he served – not afraid to speak his mind. He lived with a passion for politics and the Big Apple.

Son of immigrants
   Edward Irving Koch was born to Polish Jewish immigrants in the Bronx, NY in 1924.  His parents Louis and Yetta (later Americanized to Joyce) arrived in New York separately as teenagers from Poland in the early 1900s – Louis traveled from the village of Uścieszko in the Galician frontier.  He became a furrier and a partner in a shop until it folded during the Depression in 1931.
   Ed was drafted out of college by the army to serve in World War II as a combat infantryman in Europe.  Honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant, he returned home and practiced law before turning to a political career. A lifelong Democrat, Koch served on City Council, then three terms in the Congress.  In 1977, he became New York’s 105th Mayor – a job Koch often said he wanted for life. 
   He took over a city facing financial crisis and is credited for saving it from disaster.  New York was graffiti-marred and crime-ridden.  He was the city’s Mayor for twelve years that were spirited, irreverent and rarely, if ever boring.
   After leaving office, Koch remained active and popular.  He practiced law, wrote more than a dozen books, came into the homes of many TV viewers as the Judge on the People’s Court, was a radio broadcaster, an inveterate movie reviewer, and became an enthusiastic Twitter user.  He also endured a stroke, a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery.
   Ed Koch was involved with the Consulate General of Poland in New York for special events, such as the dedication of the Jan Karski monument.  The sculpture was formally dedicated by the former Mayor, who also renamed the intersection where the statue resides as “Jan Karski Corner.”  
   He was direct, unpredictable, and had an irrepressible character, but he claimed that the Ed Koch you saw was not who he was.  “I knew that to get attention, to get it done, and to get people to listen and support, you have to be bigger than life,” said Koch. 
   Much to his frustration the former Mayor was too ill to attend the premiere of the film Koch – a documentary about his life was released.  Ironically, the film opened to the general public on the day of his passing.
   Larger-than-life, the ebullient Ed Koch embodied New York chutzpah for the rest of the world.  "How'm I doin'?"  You did good!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - Holocaust Exhibits at the United Nations

by Staś Kmieć by Staś Kmieć
On the occasion of the United Nations 2013 observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, two new exhibits built around the theme Rescue during the Holocaust: The Courage to Care opened on January 22 at the UN Visitors Lobby – 1st Avenue between 45th and 46th St., New York.  The exhibit is open to the public through February 18.
   Through two extraordinary exhibits, film, educational activities and the annual memorial ceremony, the United Nations honored those who risked their own lives to save tens of thousands of Jews.    
   The World Knew – Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity was produced by the Polish History Museum in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Mission to the UN. The exhibit lays out the captivating background of Polish native Jan Kozielewski, who under the assumed name of Jan Karski served as a courier for the Polish Underground State and informed Allied leaders about Nazi Germany’s ongoing extermination of the Jews. Karski was a Roman Catholic who later attained U.S. citizenship and was named an honorary citizen of Israel and a “Righteous Among the Nations.”
Permanent Representative to the 
UN from Poland Ryszard Sarkowicz
   “Millions of people's lives could have been saved had leaders at the time heeded Karski's advice. Unfortunately history took a different course,” said The Permanent Representative of the Republic of Poland to the United Nations H.E. Mr. Ryszard Sarkowicz.  “Karski's achievements have earned him a place in the pantheon of Polish greats and he is regarded by Poles as one of the country's undeniable heroes of the 21st century.  His story serves as a testament to the power of unbridled loyalty to one's homeland.” 
   Presented by The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, Whoever Saves a Single Life … Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust showcases some of those rare but exceedingly important instances where people fought to safeguard their Jewish fellow citizens during the Holocaust.
   ”The Righteous chose a different path – a much more difficult one.  They sought to become involved and in doing so risked their lives and often the lives of their families.  For if one were caught hiding a Jew in Eastern Europe, you were killed,” said Harvey Schulweis, Chairman of The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. “Our exhibition provides a snapshot of some of the Righteous.”
   Ewa Wierzyńska, Leader of Jan Karski Legacy Program and Head of International Cooperation in the Polish History Museum provided commentary and historical perspective. 
Harvey Schulweis of The Jewish 
Foundation for the Righteous 
and H.E. Ryszard Sarkowicz
   “As I walk through the two exhibitions, I’m struck by their harmony,” remarked H.E. Sarkowicz.    “Together they convey just one, but very powerful reminder: when governments and states failed in saving millions, ordinary people with courage, moral integrity, compassion and self-sacrifice acted to save some of them.  In this respect, perhaps it’s more accurate to think of these two displays as one exhibition on the power of the individual human spirit.” 
Wanda Urbanska, Robert Billingsley of the Jan Karski Educational Foundation, Mme. Consul General Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, Bozena Nowicka McLees, and Ewa Wierzynska - Jan Karski Legacy Program and International Cooperation in the Polish History Museum