Bringing the Polish Community Together

Bringing the Polish community together was a main purpose behind the event, an organizer said.

YOUNGSTOWN — For 9-year-old Allina Rivera, performing a variety of Polish dances is something of a family affair.

“My grandmother signed me up for dance lessons,” said the Kirkmere Elementary School fourth-grader.

Allina and her siblings were part of the entertainment during Sunday’s first Polish Day celebration at St. Casimir Roman Catholic Church at 149 Jefferson St. in the city’s Brier Hill section.

Allina, who came with her mother, Colleen Graham, was part of the Krakowiaki Polish dance group that performed several traditional dances. She also was one of two soloists to sing the Kukuleczka, a Polish song that is reminiscent of pigeons in a town square.

She was among the performing youngsters who wore red boots, beaded vests and colorful hair ribbons as part of outfits recognized as the national costume of Poland. Allina’s other appearances have included performances at the Canfield Fair and a recent Oktoberfest celebration near Cleveland, her mother said.

Allina attends dance practices weekly and September is her busiest month, with performances each Sunday, Graham added.

Also part of the mix were Allina’s sisters, Cierra, 8, and Brianna, 12, and her 11-year-old brother, Nehemiah.

The four-hour event was to have been at Woodworth Park in Beaver Township, but was moved to the church because of the threat of inclement weather. The move allowed for vodka and Polish beer to be served.

The celebration’s main purposes were to bring more unity to the area’s Polish community and to celebrate Polish customs, traditions and heritage, explained Aundrea Cika, chairwoman of the event. A large number of Poles lived in Brier Hill, and the festivities also were meant to allow people to have fun and take home greater Polish pride, Cika said.

Some of the few hundred people who came seemed content to simply take in the lively, colorful dances and enjoy a meal consisting of haluski, pierogis, kielbasa and sauerkraut and a hot dog platter. Others’ interest was caught by paper-cutting and egg-decorating presentations in a Polish tradition.

Lawrence Kozlowski demonstrated the technique of cutting a variety of designs while following intricate, repetitive patterns. Kozlowski, an artist from Erie, Pa., also drilled holes in several eggs before creating designs by applying beeswax, which dries much faster than paint, he noted.

Before spring and Easter, many Polish people wash the walls of their homes and cottages to rid them of winter grime, then add multicolored designs cut from paper, he explained.

The patterns have different meanings and special symbolism, Kozlowski continued.

Also providing entertainment were the Polkatones, a Canton-based polka band.

The Polish Day celebration featured face-painting for children, a 50/50 raffle and a market in which T-shirts, books, compact discs and tapes related to Polish culture, as well as many other items, were for sale.

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