Our History

PolishYoungstown’s creation was created in the fall of 2018 as an umbrella organization to bring together the numerous clubs, churches and organizations interested in sharing Polish culture. Inspired by the overwhelming public response to the folk dance troupe’s fundraising celebration, a group of five individuals representing these groups got together in an attempt to revive what was once a vital part of the Mahoning Valley community culture. They felt like the Polish community had lost its center, but were betting that it hadn’t lost its heart.

This committee included Aundréa Cika Heschmeyer, Darek Chomczyk, Agata Lyda Khoury, Angela Messenger and Ted Szmaj—each representing different experiences: Polish born, first generation Americans and some second. They also represented a different organization or facet of the region’s Polish community.

Invited organizations included:

  • Holy Cross Polish National Catholic Church
  • Krakowiaki Polish Folk Circle
  • Krakusy Society
  • Kuzman's Lounge
  • Polish Arts Club of Youngstown
  • Polish Happy Hour Youngstown
  • Polish National Alliance
  • St. Casimir's Church
  • St. Joseph the Provider Church
  • St. Stanislaus Church

The idea was to bring a varied perspective to every topic or event they tackled, and the group found it fascinating that ‘being Polish’ means something so different to each of them. The common bond for the group is keeping the spirit of their heritage alive and educating younger generations about why they too should be excited about it.

Members of the group began their efforts by restarting the long dormant Krakowiaki Polish Folk Circle.

The group’s first effort together was initiating the monthly Polish Happy Hour. At each event, the host bar features specials on a different Polish beer and vodka and the group takes care of the rest. Hospitality includes authentic foods and desserts, but what makes the local group unique is that it adds a Polish culturally themed education piece to every event as well. One standout version of the event included Sobotka in June where attendees created a large flower wreath, stuffed it with love letters and floated from the B&O Station down the Mahoning River to replicate the St. John’s Eve Festivities taking place simultaneously in Krakow.

Ostatki, a Polish Carnival Celebration took their efforts to a bigger scale. The semi-formal event is held in the Saturday before Lent at an upscale location. It includes a vodka and beer tasting, an assortment of authentic appetizers, desserts, live music and games. The evening concluded with the traditional pączki donut parade. The special person (guy or gal to break with tradition) who finds the hidden coin in the oversized donut is royalty for a year!

For Fat Tuesday, look for Polkas, Pączki & Piwo! Translated as Donuts, Dancing and Draught, this LAST CHANCE BEFORE LENT celebration offers guests a party with their traditional, oversized treat. Polish-inspired specialty foods combined with big corned beef sandwiches and the unique pączki slider. Add to that musicians and Pączki Royalty and you've got a happy, toe-tapping, game-playing and give-away filled day!

On the last Sunday of August is Polish Day, the now larger event of the gathering that started it all! Opening with a polka-themed mass, this incredibly vibrant festival is packed with educational folk craft, genealogy and travel workshops, as well as food, music, folk dance performances and shopping opportunities.

Monthly and weekly classes are offered based on interest and demand.

These have included:

  • Polish language lessons for children & adults;
  • Polish history classes taught as a series by Youngstown State University professors;
  • Polish film screening series, and;
  • Hands-on cooking Polish classes where students could learn everything from how to pinch a tasty pieróg to how to make the most satisfying winter soups.

Other past events have included a Kulig winter fest celebration in Millcreek Park, a Sobotka summer solstis evening at Fellows Riverside Gardens and Polish Night at the Scrappers in Niles featuring all-you-can-eat Polish food and beer!

The group also reaches out to form cooperative events with other groups such as the Youngstown Jewish Federation for presentations in honor of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day and was integral to the creation of the Slavic collaboration that created Simply Slavic festival.

It also takes its celebrations on the road! The dancers worked to create a collaborative experience with all the regions group and performed concerts called Zatańczmy! For Fat Tuesday, the group joining with Cleveland-area Poles and sponsoring a bus trip to Hamtramck, MI for its famous Pączki Day celebration; an Easter Monday bus trip to celebrate Dyngus Day in Buffalo, NY and even a summer trip to Poland.

We feel we are bringing back the best traditions of our heritage--with a modern twist.

Zapraszamy! Join us!