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Polish in Cleveland

Polish in Cleveland
The dedication of a monument to Ignancy Jan Paderewski took place on July 16th, 2011 in Cleveland's Polish Cultural Gardens. Paderewski was a Polish pianist, composer, diplomat, politician, and the second Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland. The event was a moving tribute to one of Poland's most beloved personages and a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the warmth of Cleveland's vibrant Polish-American community.
ABOVE: Górale Polish Folk Dancers of Cleveland in front of the 2010 Chopin bust in the Polish Cultural Garden

RIGHT: Judge Diane Karpinski and Ben Stefanski with the  bust of Madame Curie 

Come Visit Cleveland's Polonia!
Personal Reflection of Polonia Music's Bob Johnson Visit to Cleveland's Polish-American Community

I had every intention of keeping a low profile while attending the Paderewski Monument Rededication Ceremony at Cleveland's Cultural Gardens. Or course while in Cleveland, I also looked forward to visiting the Polish-American Cultural Center in Cleveland's Slavic Village and St. Stanislaus Church in the same neighborhood. I was not at all familiar with Cleveland, so Friday afternoon before going to my hotel, I thought it might be wise to locate the Paderewski bust in advance so I'd be sure not to get lost the following day. I found the Cultural Gardens without any trouble, and while I was there, I met Ben Stefanski who was busy getting things ready for Saturday's big event. Recognizing that I was a stranger in town and someone with a intense interest in Polonia, Ben, the President of the Polish-American Cultural Center and a prominent Polonia leader, quickly set his 

Polish-American Cultural Center 

Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus in Cleveland, Ohio

CLICK HERE for a 360 degree view of the church interior

Note: Requires Quicktime plugin to view. Music will play.

Pray the rosary in Polish with Blessed John Paul ll

Ignace Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) From left to right: Ben S.Stefanski II, Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, Rita Cosby, Fr. Koń
LEFT: On the evening of July 15,  2011, Cleveland'sTerminal Tower was lit in the National colors of Poland, White over Red, to recognize the Paderewski monument dedication. 

BELOW: Perfomances by musicians Eugeniu Ceremus, Dongning (July) Yang, Konrad Binienda, Julie-Ann Hamula and the Syrena Dance Ensemble were extraordinary. Check back soon for videos and more photos.

Ben Stefanski discussing the musical program before the ceremony with pianist Dongning (July) Yang
gardening tools aside and outlined everything I needed to know about the Cultural Gardens, the Paderewski ceremony, Cleveland's Polish-American community, and the Polish-American Cultural Center. Throughout my stay, he also provided me with helpful literature, invitations to special events, and also introduced me to numerous wonderful people active in Polonia. Heck, he even gave me his cellphone number! Thank you Ben for making me feel so welcome. Ben was not the only one to make my short stay in Cleveland memorable; in fact there were many and whose names I will not attempt to list for fear of forgetting someone.

A Visit to the John Paul II Polish-American Cultural Center 

Polish Uniforms
Kondad Bibiend, Artist in Residence at Harvard University's Phorzheimer House for 2011-2012 performing at the Polish-American Cultural Center
Cleveland's John Paul II Polish-American Cultural Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Polish culture, traditions, language, history, literature, arts, music, theater and education. Their facility includes an events hall, café, conference room, museum and archives.
On the evening of July 15, Cleveland'sTerminal Tower was lit in the National colors of Poland, White over Red, to recognize the Paderewski monument dedication.
Rededication of the Restored Monument of Ignacy Jan Paderewski in the Polish Cultural Garden of the Cleveland Cultural Garden Federation
Soprano Julie-Anne Hamula performing " Piosnka Dudarza"
Konrad Binienda performing a variety of Paderewski's masterpieces
Laurel Pilch, granddaughter of the late Cleveland City Commissioner John Ss. Pilch, spoke about her grandfather's Polish roots and his work to preserve the West Side Market in Cleveland at the Paderewski monument rededication ceremony in the Polish Cultural Garden in Cleveland Ohio.
Hon. Frank Jackson, Mayor to the City of Cleveland
Ewa Junczyk- Ziomecka, Consular General of the Republic of Poland in New York
Preparing the the unveiling
Eugeniu Ceremus and Dongning (July) Yang performing "Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op.13
Piast Dance Ensemble
Eugene Bąk, Founder of the Polish-American Museum
Piast Dance Ensemble
Dr. James S. Pula, general editor ot the Polish American Encyclopedia was the keynote speaker.
Rita Cosby, author of "Quiet Hero" and Dr. Pula
Color Guard
Piast Dance Ensemble - The ceremony concluded with a performance of traditional Polish dancing by the Piast Dance Ensemble. Everyone loved them! I am always amazed how dedicated Polish dancers are. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been performing in full costume on such a hot and humid afternoon. Thank you. 

You were wonderful!
Konrad Bibienda playing  Cracovienne Fantasitque 
on the Steinway Grand Piano
I should also emphasize that the musical artists that performed at the ceremony were exceptionally accomplished musicians, in fact I think the audience was stunned by their enormous talents -- I know I was. I was lucky to sit right up front where I was able to get a number of good close ups. (With temperatures in the low nineties, not many in attendance were eager to sit directly in the sun near the performers, but I didn't mind.) What a treat! Here they are as they were listed in the program: 
Musical Tribute to Ignacy Jan Paderewski 

Konrad Bibienda 
Dongning Yang
Julie-Anne Hamula
Eugeniu Ceremus
Konrad Bibienda - A former student of Cleveland Institute of Music's Gerardo Teissonniere and Sergei Babayan, Mr. Bibniena currently studies piano performance with Mrs. Kung Byun at the New England Conservatory of Music. He was appointed Artist in Residence at Harvard's University's Phorzheimer House for 2011-2012.

Works performed: 
  • Cracovienne Fantastique, Op. 14, Nr. 6
  • Elegia, Op. 4
  • Krakowiak, Op. 14, Nr. 1
  • Minuet, Op. 14, Nr. 1
<---- Click on Konrad's photo to see him perform Chopin.

Dongning (July) Yang - This was pianist July Yang's second engagement at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens since the Chopin monument dedication last October. Ms. Yang has recently given a recital at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Currently she studies at Cleveland Institute of Music with concert pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi.

Works performed: 
  • "Piosenka Dudarza" Op. 18, Nr. 2
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano
<---- Click on Dongning's photo to see her perform Chopin.

Julie-Anne Hamula - American Council for Polish Culture 2011 Macella Sembrich Vocal Competition Winner, Ms. Hamul, soprano, was the featured soloist at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus this past Thursday in July 2011 were she performed from a extensive repertoire of operatic and art song literature.

Works performed: 
  • "Piosenka Dudarza" Op. 18, Nr. 2
<---- Click on Julie's photo to see her perform at St. Stanislaus.

Eugeniu Ceremus - A fellow of the Aspen Music Festival and School, Mr. Ceremus also participated and took prizes in various youth violin competitions in Eastern Europe.

Works performed: 
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano (Allegro con Fantasia, Intermezzo, Finale, Allegro molto quasi Presto

Photos From Previous Polish Culture Garden Dedication Ceremonies

Guest Speaker: Rita Cosby, News Personality, Author of "Quiet Hero: Secrets of My Father's Past"
The Polish Cultural Garden  was dedicated in 1934, and is located In Rockefeller Park on Cleveland's east side. It contains a hexagonal sunken court with colorful flowerbeds, shrubs and trees imported from Poland, including a tree from Chopin's Polish estate.

Originally, six busts of internationally famous Poles were placed in theater circle of the gardens. All of the busts were destroyed by vandals and sold for scrap in the 1970's. The Polish American Cultural Center continues their prospect of raising funds to restore and replace the missing original busts.

Currently four bronze statues of prestigious Poles are mounted on granite pedestals: Copernicus, Curie, and Sienkiewicz. The dedication of a fourth (Paderewski) was on July 16, 2011. Plans are already underway to rededicate the Mickiewicz bust next summer.  

Cleveland Cultural Gardens
Dyngus Day
CLICK HERE to view Cultural Gardens videos
Polish-American Cultural Center
Photo Gallery
A History of the 
Polish Americans
Cleveland's Slavic 
Click on thumbnails 
"I find myself re-reading 'A History of the Polish Americans' at least once every year. It's a great resource!"                                                            - Bob Johnson, Polonia Music

    The Adam Mickiewicz bust dedication in the Polish Cultural Garden took place on August 25th, 2013. Adam Bernard Mickiewicz (1798 to 1855) was a prominent poet, dramatist, essayist, political activist, publicist and translator. Commonly considered the greatest poet in Polish literature. He is known chiefly for the poetic drama Dziady (Forefathers' Eve) and the national epic poem Pan Tadeusz, the last great epic of Polish-Lithuanian noble culture. He was active in keeping Polish nationalism alive during Austrian, Prussian and Russian rule. The Mickiewicz bust has been replicated from the original bust's plaster mold.

    The Polish Cultural Garden was dedicated on October 28th, 1934 and is located on the corner of St. Clair and East Blvd., Cleveland.
Polish American Cultural Center
Looking for treble? 
PIAST Polish folk song and dance group at the Cleveland Museum of Art's International Cleveland Community Day