I traveled to West Seneca, New York to take part in the Polish festival at The Pines Garden Center on Old French Road. Fortunately the roads were clear and it was an easy drive. It was nice to see some old friends, and of course the Polish Heritage Dancers were the main attraction.
I also made some new friends, including a fellow by the name of Walter who also travelled to Poland in 2012 to visit the town were his grandparents lived. His grandfather was a survivor of Auschwitz and two other German concentration camps, so his visit to the region must have been especially poignant. It turns out his family was from the village of Charznów, which is just a short distance from my grandparents' hometown, Podolsze. Small world.
The Polish Heritage Dancers of WNY performing for Święty Mikołaj and friends at The Polish Heritage Festival at The Pines Garden Center in West Seneca, New York
December 14, 2013
The Polish Heritage Society of Rochester celebrated its twelfth Wigilia. It was a very snowy evening and roads were slippery, but all arrived and made it home safely. I was invited to play kolędy once again, but for the first time at this particular event did so on my concertina. Although my performance was by no means flawless, I believe I was able to cover up most of my major mistakes without greatly offending the musical sensibilities of those in attendance.
December 15, 2013
The dedication ceremony of the St. Florian Window took place at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church, Sunday, December 15, during a special Mass. The window is in memory of firefighter Tomasz Marian Kaczówka, who on December 24, 2012 at the age of 19, passed away in the line of duty with his mentor and close friend,
Lt. Michael "Chip" Chiapperini. It will be many years before Rochester gets over this tragedy, if ever.
I took advantage of two more opportunities to perform kolędy publically this year; the first was at the Polish Home in Syracuse, New York, and the other at the Polish Heritage Society of Rochester's wigilia. Here's my routine played at home for YouTube:
January and February, 2014
Winter has been a bit harsh, so I am making a effort to stay off the roads as much as possible. I did manage to make it to Polish Happy Hour at Wall Street, our new venue for 2014 and to the Music of the World concert with performers Anna Maria Staśkiewicz (violin) and Krzysztof Meisinger (guitar). I cannot express adequately how brilliantly they played. You just had to be there.
Photo at right: Conga line at Polish Happy Hour - All the way around the bar, and then some!
Music students on the way to the Eastman School of Music. I went to see Anna Maria Staśkiewicz (violin) and Krzysztof Meisinger (guitar) perform at Hatch Recital Hall. They played "world music", which they defined as classical music based on folk melodies. What a great experience. We are so lucky that The Skalny Center for Polish and Central European Studies brings performers like Staśkiewicz and Meisinger to Rochester.
I am fortunate to have found a copy of the hymnal we used when we were kids. I found it on eBay at a reasonable price. I favor this publication over more modern versions because it includes the harmonies we typically sang in our choir. Many of the 52 kolędy included in the hymnal our choir never sang, so I will have to start studying them now. It’s never too late!
Telling Tales Out of School: Another mystery solved!
Before the concert at Eastman, I was discussing with a friend a piece I saw Staśkiewicz and Meisinger play on YouTube called "Wściekła". I had never hear this tune before, but I told her I knew the word "wściekła" very well because our seventh grade teacher often used it with our class to get our attention when we got out of hand. My problem was I could not remember the one syllable word our teacher usually used preceding the word "wściekła", which means "furious". Fluent in Polish, my friend cited some possibilities, one being "pies wściekła", which means "rabid dog". Bingo, that was it, because after our teacher screamed at us in Polish, she would typically follow it up in English: "Mad beasts, children, you are maaaaad breasts!" I remember being grateful for the translation because I was not bilingual.
Now, don't get me wrong, she was a wonderful teacher and we loved her very much and, in truth, we were often very unruly and deserving of such dramatic disciplinary interventions. To this day, I sometimes feel guilty for my part in getting this particular sister so worked up as to drive her to such a state of distress. (After all, I taught seventh graders for fourteen years, and I now can relate.) Sorry sister.
I was sure to attend the grand opening of the Euro Café in Geneseo, NY. Great food! I be back soon.
Also author Eddie Zawadzki did a book signing in Rochester recently. It was nice to see Eddie and his mom in Rochester again. Eddie's mom, Wanda, is 95 years old and plans are already being made for her 100th birthday. Sto lat, Wanda!
I wish I could read Polish better (a lot better). There is a nice history of Buffalo Polonia here:
Album pamiatkowe i przewodnik handlowy: osady polskiej w miescie Buffalo, z dolaczeniem okolicznych miejscowósci ze stanu New York. (1906)
My grandfather, Jacob Johson is mentioned in several places. If you are interested, his picture and a blurb about his role as a politician can be found on page 73. Hope your Polish is better than mine.
The image shown below is from the same publication. The Polonia Hotel was located on Broadway and Sears in Buffalo, New York.
The Polonia Hotel
It has been a long, hard winter and only now are things beginning to warm up a bit. It certainly was a beautiful day in Pittsford, New York where I attended the 2014 Polish Heritage Society of Rochester Scholarship Luncheon on April 12. The event was held at the Golisano Academic Gateway on the campus of St. John Fisher College.
While on campus I noticed the sun was visible just above the Nicolaus Copernicus Sgraffito at Kearney Hall. I plaque explains, "The 10-by-10-foot Sgrafitto mural of Polish astronomer Nicaolaus Copernicus was unveiled at the 1966 convention of the American Council of Polish Cultural Club as a lasting memorial to Polish cultural ideas. "Sgraffito" translates to "scratching" and is a technique of layering tinted plaster, then scratching through the layers to reveal the colors beneath. It is a Roman art form that pre-dates the birth of Christ. The mural was created in 48 continuous hours by Polish artist Józef Sawiński and his assistant Stanley Kasprzyk. It was restored in 2004 thanks to the generous support of community philanthropist Joseph S. Skalny."
I am aware of the numerous Józef Sawiński sgrafittos in Buffalo and hope to photograph and document each of them this summer. Here's the one at Fisher:
PHSR Scholarship Awards
The sun finally made an appearance in Rochester and even posed for a with Nicolaus Copernicus at St. John Fisher College
I almost forgot that I also drove up to Toronto for Polish Heritage Day at the Royal Ontario Museum on Bloor Street. Of course there were many folk dance performances and Polish music, but also wonderful exhibits of Polish-Canadian art. I was particularly impressed by the works of iconographer, Janusz Charczuk. To learn more about his work CLICK HERE.
Religious icons by Polish-Canadian
Easter and Double Dyngus Day
"Zwycięzca śmierci" has always been my favorite Polish Easter hymn. I usually enjoy playing it on guitar, but this year taught myself how to play in on my concertina. Dyngus Day was better then ever this year, thanks to the beautiful weather and again having the chance to enjoy the parade with my daughter and granddaughter. Dyngus Day started out and ended at Polska Chata Deli in Rochester. The main event for me was the Dyngus Day parade in Buffalo; of course I took lots of pictures. Thank you DJ Red & White for snapping a photo of at the parade:
After Dygus Day and the canonization of John Paul ll to sainthood, the fun continued at Happy Hour events both in Rochester and Buffalo. Melodoy Lane put on a great show at Rochester's Wall Street Bar and Grill on East Ave and celebrity musician John Gora provided music and livlely entertainment for the May 3rd Constitution celebration at the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle in Buffalo. It was great to see old friends and make new friends at each of the events. I like the fact that Polonia Buffalo traditionally makes a special point of reading a portion of the 1791 Polish constitution and discussing its historical importance at their celebration.
Photo at right. I had a chance to sing a song with John Gora. Thanks, John!
Photo credit: Mickey Gierczak
May 20, 2014
Here is a message from Emil, who is currently searching for my paternal grandmother's records in Poland:
I'm very pleased to mail you Ewa Stopińska birth entry on April 10th, 1864 in Kerberode [Polish: Nowe Jankowice] , in the Roman-Catholic parish of Szynwałd, daughter of Lorenz (=Wawrzyniec) Stopiński and Anna nee Mróz.
From Wiki: Szynwałd [ˈʂɨnvau̯t] is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Łasin, within Grudziądz County, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, in north-central Poland. It lies approximately 8 kilometres (5 mi) north of Łasin, 24 km (15 mi) north-east of Grudziądz, and 69 km (43 mi) north-east of Toruń.
I just saw this photo online of Buffalo's Central Terminal, St. Stanislaus Church and my old neighborhood. The Johnson family residence still stands: it's the white house with the brown roof (not the larger home with the red roof) which appears to stand at the base of the church.
Overall view of the Central Train Terminal, from the roof of Seneca One tower. (Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News file photo)
"Soft Kitty" is a lullaby recently made popular by Sheldon, a character on the TV show The Big Bang Theory. The original title was (and still is) "Wlazł kotek na płotek". The melody was composed by Stanisław Moniuszko in the year 1849 at a party with his friends as three voice canon.The song's lyrics were originally written by Oskar Kolberg:
Wlazł kotek na płotek
ładna to piosenka niedługa
Nie długa, nie krótka
lecz w sam raz.
Zaspiewaj koteczku jeszcze raz.
This instrumental version of "Wlazł kotek na płotek" is performed by Bob Johnson of Polonia Music and features his granddaughter, vocalist Nora Johnson.
St. Stanislaus Kostka in Rochester held their Polish Arts festival last weekend, and boy did it ever storm Friday night! Lightning, thunder, wind and hail made for a difficult ride home. Those who weathered the storm, however, had a good time the rest of the evening. Fortunately the weather cooperated nicely on day two.
My next festival will be a big one. I plan to attend the Polish Town Street Fair and Polka Party in Riverhead NY, August 16 & 17. On the way back, I plan to hang out in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York for a couple of days. Maybe I'll see you there. I'll be the guy wearing this tee shirt:
August, 16 - 19, 2014
A friend of mine who grew up in Riverhead, New York told be about a great festival in his boyhood town. That prompted me to make the journey to the east end of Long Island to check it out. You can view my photos HERE. I also visited the Polish community of Greenpoint in Brooklyn, New York, and while I was in the City, checked off another item on my bucket list: walking the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan. I also visited the 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial at Ground Zero. Very moving.
We had beautiful weather this month in Western New York. I had originally planned to drive to Toronto for the Roncesvalles Polish Festival on Saturday, September 13, but after hearing the discouraging weather forecast opted for Sunday instead. Saturday morning started out cool and dismal, but I am told things improved later on in the day. The weather was beautiful of all day Sunday, and I had a great time. I especially enjoyed performances by John Gora, Ludowa Nuta, and Ed Guca. Unfortunately, I could not get close enough to photograph or videotape the various Polish folk dancers this year -- the crowds were just too big. Nevertheless, I had a great time. To see my report of this year's festival, CLICK HERE.
I should also mention that my instrumental version of the Polish lullaby "Dorotka" was selected for the soundtrack of the 2014 travel documentary "Polen auf die norddeutsche Tour". The film was produced by NDR, a German TV station. (The vocalist is my grandson, Zachary.) Give it a listen, CLICK HERE. If you would like to purchase my CD, CLICK HERE.
Now if that weren't enough of a shock to my system, I also learned that my video, "Kiedy ranne wstają zorze - Pieśń Poranna" is currently being played on ARTE, a German/French TV station that features cultural performances. Here ya go:
History of Szynwałd: Miejscowość była lokowana w 1302 r. na prawie chełmińskim pod nazwą Schonewald i należała do wójtostwa rogozińskiego. W czasie wojny z 1414 r. osada poniosła duże straty, a w okresie wojny trzynastoletniej została całkowicie zniszczona i znacznie wyludniona. Po 1466 r., jako własność królewska, była dzierżawiona przez rody - Kostków, Łaskich, Weyherów i Koczewskich. W 1774 r. Szynwald stał się własnością generała Franciszka Gruszczyńskiego. W południowej części wsi znajduje się dwór z drugiej połowy XIX w. po 1945 r. zamieniony na budynek mieszkalny z resztką parku nad jeziorem Szynwałd. W północnej części wsi znajduje się dużych rozmiarów obiekt służący niegdyś za karczmę.T
The village was founded in 1302 by Chelmno Law as Schönewalde and belonged to the Rogoziński Manor. During the war of 1414, the settlement suffered heavy losses during the Thirteen Years' War and was completely destroyed and severely depopulated . After 1466, the village was leased as a royal property to the families of Kostka, Łaski, Weyher and Koczewskich. In 1774, Szynwałd became the property of General Franciszek Gruszczyński. There is a mansion from the second half of the nineteenth century in the southern part of the village, which in 1945, was turned into a residential building along with the remains of a park adjacent to Lake Szynwałd. In the northern part of the village one finds a large building which once served as a tavern.
Take a streetview tour of the neighborhood around St. Stan's in Buffalo, starting from my boyhood home (the white house on the right. Go ahead and click on the image to begin the tour.