Honoring the dead in a fitting fashion

You might remember that my daughter D’Ella is spending the semester in Poland. This weekend she says she will be getting together with our Polish cousins in Łomża. My cousin suggested this as a perfect weekend to visit because it was an important family holiday—a comment that baffled D’Ella bit because she knew there was no celebrating Halloween there until we reminded her about these events. 

October ends on a joyous candy-filled note for us here in the United States. In Poland, although there is starting to be some adoption of our Halloween festivities, the celebration and activity is saved for the Catholic celebrations of All Saints
and All Souls Day.  Perhaps many of you honor your deceased relatives on these dates, too, but I would guess most of us did not do it with the same fervor that can be seen in Polish cemeteries. Wszystkich Świętych or All Saints' Day, observed on November 1, is so important to Poles that is a public holiday that offers people the opportunity to recognize the deceased. On this night, cemeteries are visited and flowers placed on graves as the living say prayers for the deceased. Candles in colorful glass jars that number in the thousands light up cemeteries, and a day that might be otherwise considered a mournful affair is transformed into one of beauty and light. The nature of the holiday does not dictate that only family members' graves are decorated; old and forgotten graves and the graves of strangers also are visited. On a national level, the graves of important Poles and military tombs are honored. There is a food component to this celebration as it is a custom in many cities to buy pańska skórka (honey candy) and obwarzanki (twisted bread wreaths) from stalls set up near the cemeteries.   This is followed by Dzień Zaduszny or All Souls' Day (November 2). On the evening between these two days past generations believed that the deceased would visit the living. In fact it was a tradition for people to leave doors and windows are open to welcome the spirits or the visiting souls. It was believed that during the days of Zaduszki, dead relatives visited their old homes, gathered by the windows or on the left from the doorway; as they entered the house, they would warm themselves by the fire in the oven and search for the commemoration meal prepared for them. Today, Catholics mark this day by attending special Requiem masses, where they remember those who may be close to them that have died. Learn more about it here  Our Pol-Am friends in Buffalo are bring back the tradition in the states Check it out

Almost like being there
Chatting via Skype and Facetime certainly makes having loved ones far away seem closer. However it is still not the same. So after a recent such call I found myself longing to be with D'Ella and tried to symbolically transport myself to Białystok. Sitting at the computer I did the closest thing using a video feed of the city square. I remember doing this after returning from PYTown’s trip to Poland in 2010…staring at the rynek in Krakow somehow hoping I would be transported back thru my screen. You can “travel” all over the world using these types of sites so thought you might think it fun to check it out.  I guess I have to Have D’Ella go to the Square with a big sign—then I will just play it over and over J

Learn to make the classic Polish Christmas ornaments
They look like sea urchins or porcupines, but they have become symbolic of a Polish Christmas to me since the first lesson I had in making them when I was a teen. Known as a jeżyk, these festive 3-D sunburst ornaments are beautiful and inexpensive way to add a little something Polish to your holiday tree. They're not difficult to make, and we have a resident expert in our own Mary Ann Mylnarski!  It may seem a little early to start, but those who craft know it takes time to prepare for the holidays. So bring the kids, grandkids or just enjoy an afternoon to yourself as we begin to make the more than 100 stars needed for our folk-themed Christmas tree at the Davis Center @ Millcreek MetroParks. Hosted by the Krakowiaki Polish Folk Circle, Polish Kids Corner is built around a seasonal theme. At each gathering klubowiczki ages 4-14 years old will spend the hour learning about a Polish tradition, gaining a few vocabulary words, and create a craft to take home. Adults are welcome to stay longer and help us to reach our lofty goal! Join us! KIDS 2- 3 PM Adults 1-5 PM Saturday, November 8 at Poland’s Public Library. For more info, call 330-333-9724.

Expert folk art training and shopping
It’s the official start of the holiday season for PYTown when we enjoy a semiannual visit from our friend noted Polish folklorist Lawrence Kozlowski.  His Artistry of Wigilia workshop teaching Polish Advent and Christmas rituals and folk craft workshops always teach me something new. It is also a great way to pass our colorful heritage on to the family with ease.  Get some impressive, distinctive holiday gifts to include Polish pottery, amber, folk art, and Christmas ornaments. Join us on Sunday, November 23 12-5 PM at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church on Covington St. The parish is hosting its annual chicken dinner so come eat, craft and shop.

Polish History Lecture Series Part Two Announced
Our Polish history series has been very enlightening for all the participants. There is so much about our dramatic past that we don’t know. What I have enjoyed most about the class is the ability to ask questions and discuss topics along the way. It might send us off on a different path than the lecturer planned, but each lecturer has been engaging, accommodating and pleased that we were interested. You can step in at any time without registration or participation in past classes. Cost: FREE   Presented by Dr. Helene Sinnreich, Department of History at YSU. Join us Wednesday, November 12, 2014 6 PM at First Presbyterian Church on Wick Avenue, Youngstown    LECTURE #4 : World War II and its effects on Poland For more info, call 330-333-9724.

Polska Kuchnia brings back the classic gołąbki
Remember those wonderful Sundays when grandma served stuffed cabbage for dinner?  It was satisfying to our tummies, hearts and souls! If your home was like so many others where the kitchen was off limits, you missed out on learning how to make this tasty dish. Now is your chance to learn! And for those of you who are vegetarians or otherwise go meatless as a holiday tradition, we also will be making a meatless variety to show you how to make that tasty, too!  Just bring an apron and a take-out container. All other supplies will be provided.  These classes sell out because of their reputation for fun and laughter.  Class: Sunday, November 16, 2014 1 – 4 PM Cost: $25 per class or $175 for the year-long series. To register, go online to website or call 330-333-9724

Polish Film Series takes a comedic turn
Our screening of Ida (2014) last week shone a light on the today’s Poles as they try to come to terms with their World War II experiences. A stunning piece of cinema, this moving film provoked conversation and contemplation amongst those that attended. Series Chair Auggie Heschmeyer and his committee promise that next time they will offer something that reflects the lighter side of being Polish. As they work on the film selection please reserve a spot on your calendar. Join us Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 6 PM For more info, call 330-333-9724.

News from Poland by Ted Mirercki
Ukraine 'counting on Poland'
The new Ukrainian ambassador to Poland says that Kiev is relying on Poland for support in areas of security, Russian aggression and further western integration. Andrii Deshchytsia said that though relations between Poland and Ukraine have been “complicated by historical problems,” it's time to focus on the future. “We have a common task: to ensure peace and security in the region. We have one serious threat, against which we have to combine forces. That threat is Russian aggression.”  Learn more about this story in the most recent edition of Polish Media Watch.


Calendar Highlights
Saturday, November 8 1 PM 7th Annual Kościuszko Chair Conference, The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC Topic: “Issues in the History and Current Affairs of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe”... Wednesday, November 12 6 PM Polish History Series Lecture #4 World War II in Poland... Thursday, November 13 5:30 – 9 PM Polish Happy Hour this month at The Tap House…Sunday, November 16 1 PM Polish History Series Lecture #5 John Paul II: Taking Poland from Behind the Iron Curtain thru Solidarity... 1 PM Polska Kuchina - November: Gołąbki/Stuffed cabbage... Sunday, Nov 23 12-5 PM The Artistry of Wigilia: Polish Crafts & Traditions Workshop... Wednesday, November 26 7 PM 50th Anniversary Thanksgiving Eve Polka Hop, Chicago, IL... Sunday, December 7 3 PM Lira Ensemble, Cleveland

Video of the Month

Polish Media Watch

Polish Words of the Month
November Listopad
Autumn jesień
Pumpkin dynia
Leaves are falling puścić liście
Thanksgiving DzieńDziękczynienia
Thankful wdzięczny
I am thankful for Jestem wdzięczny za ....
Turkey indyk
Parade parada