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Polish President
visits the United States
June 24-25, 2020

Polish and US Presidents, Andrzej Duda and Donald Trump, agreed on Wednesday that Polish-American relations have never been better.

From the Joint Statement
signed after the White House talks:

Poland and the United States share a centuries-old friendship and partnership based on shared values and interests, strong people-to-people ties, and mutual respect. Today we reaffirm the values that both our nations hold dear, especially democracy, the rule of law, individual liberties and freedoms, and free, fair, and reciprocal trade.

The White House talks focussed on military security, energy independence, support for the Three Seas Initiative and investments in new technology.

Virtual Summer Camp
at the Jagiellonian University

(June 26th is the recently extended deadline to apply)

Sponsored by the Polish American Congress Charitable Foundation (PACCF), the program is open to Americans of Polish descent ages 13-17 (see program description for other eligibility requirements and cost). It includes 30 hours of Polish language after a placement test and 20 hours of virtual sightseeing tours, cooking classes, dance & song workshops, learning Polish tradition and much more.
Application Form      Participation Agreement 


Polish movies streamed as part of the cinematic retrospective
Reverse (Rewers), June 25- July 1, 2020
Little Rose (Różyczka), July 2-8, 2020
All That I Love (Wszystko co kocham), July 9-15, 2020


Opportunity for children and youth to win valuable prizes in the contest
Submission deadline is June 30, 2020

For competition description and submission forms, check our
calendar entry


Upcoming online events on Polish themes:

Professor Bohdan Szklarski of the University of Warsaw and
former US Ambassador to Poland Daniel Fried discuss

Transatlantic World Through Polish and American Eyes
Similarities and Differences of Perspectives

Thursday, June 11 at 12 pm CDT

An interview with Wojciech Soczewica
Director General of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation.

Auschwitz: Preserving a Place of Terror
Wednesday, June 17 at 11:50 am CDT


Upcoming online events on Polish themes (click on the titles for details):

MadPolka DJ contributes about 1/2 hour of Polish music on "Global Revolutions" show on Mondays
May 4, May 11, May 18 and May 25 (sometime between 9am d and noon)





THIRD MEETING: 7pm on July 21, 2020

click here for location and contact information

2020 Dewajtis

Polish title: Dewajtis

by Maria Rodziewiczówna
translation by S. C. De Soissons

From website: "Dewajtis is an escape from everyday life, troubles and fears, into the world of fairy tales and dreams, into a world that's distant but still heart moving. Dewajtis is a novel about great love - for people, land, nature. It is filled with forests, meadows, marshes, herbs, honey, smells, songs... And the eternal oak Dewajtis, a witness to Polish identity, symbol of the nation's vitality, an observer of human fate and profound, good feelings.”

Czesław Miłosz in "Search of a Homeland": "In none of the novelists I find so many realities regarding the eastern lands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the second half of the 19th century or at the beginning of the 20th century.”

For the epic On the Niemen (pl. Nad Niemnem), Eliza Orzeszkowa was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature along with Henryk Sienkiewicz and Leo Tolstoy in 1905. The idea of spliting the prize between the two Polish writers was ultimately rejected and Sienkiewicz emerged a winner.

From "We like to read" (pl. Lubimy czytać) website: "The best of Maria Rodziewiczówna's novels, an award winner in the 1888 Warsaw Courier book competition. Taking place in Žemaitija (pl: Żmudź), this provincial manor style story is similar in climate to the published almost concurrently epic On the Niemen (pl. Nad Niemnem) by Eliza Orzeszkowa. Likewise, the characters' lives revolve around one matter only: maintaining the land, heritage and national identity; and the only measure of person's value is their attitude toward work. The main character type emerging in the book recurs in other works by Rodziewiczówna. Like a romantic poet, he is lone, self-contained and misunderstood by the world. Like a positivist ideal, he is strong, hardworking and persistent. Like everyone, he longs for love and only against love he cannot defend himself."

The book is available for reading on Google Books and other websites


As Wisconsin is slowly reopening after the Covid-19 lockdown, here is a list of important dates and events taking place in June (see also the list of virtual tours of Polish museums below announcements):

Polish Flag Day (May 2nd)

"We celebrate the Polish Flag Day today. We look at our national colors and our national symbols that day, remembering their meaning and importance. The white and red flag unites us and reminds us that we are Poles. We look at her with pride and hope, with joy and satisfaction, and when she accompanies us away from homeland, with nostalgia and longing."

President Andrzej Duda on May 2, 2020



In the difficult time of the declared COVID-19 pandemic, one question recently popping up on the internet was: "What TV shows should we watch during the long hours at home?" My initial reaction was: "Really? Nothing better to worry about?" But after a dive into posts related to the upcoming 18th International Chopin Piano Competition (October 2-23, 20020), my personal plan (and advice if anybody asked for it) became to spend more time listening to Chopin, and Polish music in general.

2020 Chopin Competition

The Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition (Międzynarodowy Konkurs Pianistyczny im. Fryderyka Chopina) is held in Poland's capital every five years since 1955, but its earlier editions took place in 1927, 1932, 1937 and 1949. Young pianists from all over the world enter the contest in hope for the international fame and concert/recording engagements that come with the main prizes and special awards for the best performance of mazurka, Polonaise and a piano concerto.

A record-breaking number of over 500 pianists from as many as 53 countries applied to compete in 2020 but only 164 made it to the preliminary round (scheduled for April 17-28, now moved to September 2020). The nine contestants who qualified directly to the competition included the three top winners of the 2020 National Polish Competition: Piotr Alexewicz, Adam Kałduński (1st prize in Beijing, 2019) and Piotr Pawlak (1st prize in Darmstadt, 2017) - as well as Poland's own Szymon Nehring, the 1st prize winner of the 2017 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Among young pianists already qualified to the 18th Chopin Competition in Warsaw are Avery Gagliano (18) and Evren Ozel (21) from the United States, the first and second prize winners of the 10th National Chopin Competition in Miami, Florida. Taking place every five years since 1975, this is the largest of many Chopin competitions held on the American continent. It also awards the highest cash prizes (the first prize is $100,000, as compared to 40,000 euro in the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw) along with a recording contract on the Steinway & Sons label, a solo concert at Carnegie Hall and a pre-arrenged concert tour across the United States.

The National Chopin Competition in Miami had also the pleasant connection to Madison, WI connection because among its 26 contestants was Eric Tran, a doctoral student in piano at University of Wisconsin-Madison with Christopher Taylor (bronze medalist of the 1993 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition). The winner prizes evaded Eric in Miami but judging from his masterful "practice" performances around Madison shortly before the competition, he is well equipped for the successful career of a concert pianist and composer ahead.

Returning to the leading line of this post, there are numerous videos presenting stunning performances from Chopin competitions and in general, the wonderful world of music composed by the Polish musical genius. For an easy start, you can visit a youtube channel maintained by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute and presenting Chopin playlists, movies and other educational materials. You can also explore a selection of videos in the left column of this website... either way: Let's stay home with Chopin.

Irena Frączek (last edits on January 13, 2018)


scheduled for April 5, 2020
has been cancelled

Due to the COVID-19 concerns, other events in our calendar might also get cancelled.

Stay tuned and for the safety of us all, follow the public health guidelines and restrictions.

In the meantime, see the video below showing Poland on Monday, March 16th - the first (normally work) day under the lockdown.




Have you heard that your Polish Ancestry can be claimed on the census form? You can do so by marking "Polish" on line 9 of the form (or line 7 for other people in the household). 2020 Do You Know PolandCheck image to the right for details.

All people living in the US are by law required to respond - and acknowledging Polish descent would help to determine the size of Polish American community (among other benefits).


Invitations to participate are being sent March 12-20.  Respond as soon as possible but April 1, 2020 (Census Day) is the survey's key reference date.  You can respond by mail, phone or online. The online questionnaire and phone service are available in Polish.  Click here for the sample questionnaire and other information.



2020 marks the
40th Anniversary of our club

Jane Dunn is leading the committee organizing the celebration event to be held later this year.

Please forward  to her any suggestions and ideas regarding potential venue, artistic program and so on

Use contact information below the calendar in the right column   ›››
to make your submissions




2020 Atom

After phenomenal concert of the ATOM STRING QUARTET,
fans of Polish music in Madison are for another treat with the concert of  the

The ensemble was founded in 2009 by Mateusz Smoczyński with his brother Jan Smoczyński (Hammond organs) and Russian drummer Alex Zinger.

The trio released two albums: “Perpendicular Realities” and “Simultaneous Abstractions.” The unique sound of violin/Hammond/ drums combination is reminiscent of the superb Luc Ponty/Eddy Louiss /Daniel Humair productions.

January 17, 8pm-11pm in Cafe Coda, 1124 Williamson St.

More information about the band and venue available on the
event's page in the PHC-Madison calendar

2020 Atom


author: IRENA

2020 Polish music events in Madison get to a grand start with the ATOM STRING QUARTET concert

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the ensemble formed on January 8. 2010,
Poland's premiere all acoustic jazz and classical fusion band will perform a mix of their own compositions, folk music inspired tunes, Polish jazz classics composed by jazz violinist Zbigniew Seifert as well as pieces by classical composers, Witold Lutoslawski and Krzysztof Penderecki.

January 8, 8 pm - 11 pm in Cafe Coda, 1124 Williamson St.

More information about the band and venue available on the
event's page in the PHC-Madison calendar

2020 Atom



for PHC members, families and friends


10 am Setup starts - volunteers welcome!*
11 am Activities begin: music, grill, games!
12 pm Potluck lunch - smacznego!

After lunch: Music, games, Polish folk songs

*We appreciate help with the setup, serving and cleanup. Let us know
how you can help, show up early or stay to help with clean up. Dziękujemy!

Goodland County Park, Shelter #1
2862 Waubesa Ave., Madison WI 53711

click here to see the map

Performances of the Polish National Song and Dance Ensemble " Śląsk" have been described as one of the most dazzling spectacles in the world! Named after the Poland's region called Silesia, the group was founded in 1953 by Stanisław Hadyna to preserve and showcase the unique folklore of Upper Silesia, Cieszyn Silesia, and the Beskid Mountains. While this scope was quickly expanded to include other regions of Poland, no other group presents folklore of Polish highlanders better than "Śląsk". Over the years, Śląsk has earned worldwide recognition by visiting 44 countries on five continents and giving over seven thousand concerts to an audience of over 25 million - including the group's patron Pope John Paul II. The ensemble performed in all European capitals as well as major cities throughout Africa, the United States, Australia, China, and Japan.

       click here for tickets and more information

Location:    The Basilica of St. Josaphat
                  233 S 6th St, Milwaukee, WI 53215





2019 Wigilia front


A unique and FREE music concert involving Polish musicians: Daniel Luzko (piano) and Magdalena Sas (cello).

Hamel Music Center on December 10, 5:30-6:30 pm

See the calendar entry for details


A unique and FREE music concert involving Polish musicians: Daniel Luzko (piano) and Magdalena Sas (cello).

Collins Recital Hall on December 10, 5:30-6:30 pm

See the calendar entry for details

2019 ChBazaar

December 14, 2019 (4:30 pm - 8:30 pm)

Bring your friends and family to the traditional Polish Christmas Supper, to share opłatek (Christmas wafer), exchange Christmas wishes and visit with Święty Mikołaj (Santa).

Reservations and payments
are due on
December 1, 2019

click here for the registration form

Rex's Innkeeper, 301 N Century Ave, Waunakee, WI 53597

After 8:30 pm, the band Universal Sound plays until midnight.
Dance the night away to your favorite songs of any era!






















October is Polish Heritage Month




Twenty Years Ago:
Poland's Entry into the NATO Alliance
and How it Happened

Lecture by Dr Donald Pienkos
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

7pm on October 29, 2019

This event is free and open to the public


October 28, 9 am-12 pm: POLISH MUSIC on WORT
Tune in to catch the last 2019 broadcast featuring various genres of contemporary Polish music.  Call the station at (608) 256-2001 to share your comments and/or make musical requests.

October 28, 7-9 pm: LOVE AND MERCY: FAUSTINA
This special premiere screening of the documentary/dramatization hybrid presents the gripping story of the Polish Catholic nun and saint Faustina Kowalska and her inspiring message of mercy spreading all over the world. Presented on this day simultaneously in all major movie theaters across the United States, the movie was shut on locations in the United State, Poland and Lithuania.  

October 29: Due date for Polish food preoorders
Make sure your preorder forms for Polish food to be picked up at the 2019 Christmas Bazaar are in to guarantee the foods avilability

All are cordially invited to the 2019 Christmas Bazaar, an annual event featuring Polish food and an opportunity to do your Christmas shopping of Bolesławiec pottery, amber jewelry, Christmas ornaments, Polish books and much, much more.

Click on each event above to see the details
Check our calendar for more events

November 13: PHC BOOK CLUB
The topic of the last club meeting of the year is King Jan Sobieski and the Battle of Vienna. (click here for details on our Book Club page)

November 18: POLISH FILM FESTIVAL part 1
Movies screened will include HAPPINNESS OF THE WORLD (Szczęście Świata) and THE BUTLER (Kamerdyner).

Join us for the traditional Christmas Eve supper - note that registration for this event is due on November 14, 2018.

December 2: POLISH FILM FESTIVAL part 2
Movies screened will include SQUADRON 303 (Dywizjon 303) and BREAKING THE LIMITS (Najlepszy).

POLISH MUSIC ON WORT WILL BE AIRED ON THE FOLLOWING DATES: November 5, November 12, November 26, and December 6.

Click on each event above to see the details
Check our calendar for more events



Henry Conigsby (Watford): "The tale of how the second half of that motto turned into the cruellest of jests is widely known. Instead, let us recall them in their days of glory: so brave, so handsome, so young – the laughing hussars of the sky. I think the difference between our two countries is this. If I were not English, I should want to live as a Pole. If the men of 303 Squadron were not Polish, they would not have wanted to live at all."

John Grondelski (Polish American Journal): "The work had previously appeared in 1942 in English as Squadron 303.... ...The original text of the book is supplemented with a chapter on how Polish forces came to be in England, individual biographies of the distinguished airmen of 303 Squadron, and the Squadron’s own history (another untold story — the Kościuszko Squadron originated with American airmen who volunteered to fight for Poland during the Polish-Soviet War of 1920, three of whom lie in the famous Eagle’s Cemetery in Łwów/L’viv). Over 200 black and white photos fill its pages."


►check also this PDF about two new feature movies about the 303 SQUADRON◄










Do you know Poland


August 1, 2019
The 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising (in Polish: Powstanie Warszawskie), the largest military effort carried by any European resistance movement during World War II. The Polish Museum of America commemorates this landmark anniversary with an exhibit opening on August 1, 2019.

August 8, 2019
The 75th anniversary of the famed 1st Armoured Division (in Polish: 1 Dywizja Pancerna) under the command of Major General Stanisław Maczek enters combat and  plays vital role in the Battle of Normandy and the liberation of France and Netherlands.

August 16, 2019
Centennial of the Silesian Uprising (in Polish: Powstania śląskie), a series of three uprisings undertaken between 1919 and 1921 in order to make Silesia a part of the newly formed Second Polish Republic.

August 26, 2019
The 80th anniversary of the first TV program emitted in Warsaw. After the war interrupted progress in this field (with some inventions going back to the end of the 19th century), television made its return to Poland in 1952.


Do you know Poland


2019 picnic






JULY 27 at 7pm
Soccer International Heritage Night
Wear the Polish Heritage Club T-shirt (or just red and white) to a game played by the Madison's first soccer professional team Forward Madison SC
more information

AUGUST 2 at 5pm
PHC Fish Fry Dinner
Join us for Wisconsin's traditional fish fry dinner at Prairie Lanes (Sun Prairie) Reservations due by July 30, 2019. 
more information


Do you know Poland


2019 picnic


2019 picnic

2019 picnic


Join us to celebrate
the 228th Anniversary of Polish Constitution
adopted by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth on May 3, 1791

& the Centennial Anniversary of Ignacy Paderewski
becoming the First Prime Minister of the re-born Poland

Sponsored by the Milwaukee Society of the Polish National Alliance

7pm on May 2nd, 2019
Polish Center of Wisconsin

This event is free and open to the public


A Word Of Welcome
Terry Witkowski, President of the Milwaukee Society of the Polish National Alliance and Alderman of Milwaukee's 13th District


On the May 3rd Constitution
Dr Donald Pienkos, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Ignacy Paderewski, Pianist and Statesman
Dr Neal Pease, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Recital of Music by Paderewski and Chopin
The Hon. Francis T. Wasielewski, a Judge of the WI Circuit Court (1983-2011), President of Polish National Alliance (2004-2009) and long life pianist

A complimentary Wine & Cheese Reception
sponsored by the Milwaukee Society of the Polish National Alliance

This event is free and open to the public.

Donald Pienkos
Prof. Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Neal Pease
Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


► Map of Location ◄

SECOND MEETING: 7pm on May 21, 2019

click here for location and contact information

2019 Bieguni




Translation: Jennifer Croft
Original title: BIEGUNI

Sean Gasper Bye (World Literature Today): "One of Europe’s most important and original voices finally, after many years, has a new book on the English-language market. Olga Tokarczuk (pronounced toh-kar-chook) is Poland’s greatest living novelist, an author of endless variety, as popular as she is controversial in her homeland. There, Tokarczuk’s books are regular best-sellers, have been adapted into films, and set the national discussion in a way many writers can only dream of. "

Watch Olga Tokarczuk explaining her work on Flights, a literary collage she dubs herself "the constellation novel." While the book's English title makes a straightforward connection to air travel, the Polish title "Bieguni" conveys a deeper, metaphysical meaning. The word "bieguni" derives from the Russian name "beguny (runners) referring to a small branch of Old Believers, a denomination that formed after a schism in Eastern Orthodox Church. Bieguni believed that you cannot fight evil ruling the world - instead, you should keep moving (both mentally and physically) because evil powers are the greatest when a man stands still. This became a motif underlying the wanderings described in the book.

Penguin Random House website: "From the incomparably original Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, Flights interweaves reflections on travel with an in-depth exploration of the human body, broaching life, death, motion, and migration. Chopin’s heart is carried back to Warsaw in secret by his adoring sister. A woman must return to her native Poland in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, and a young man slowly descends into madness when his wife and child mysteriously vanish during a vacation and just as suddenly reappear. Through these brilliantly imagined characters and stories, interwoven with haunting, playful, and revelatory meditations, Flights explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time. Where are you from? Where are you coming in from? Where are you going? we call to the traveler. Enchanting, unsettling, and wholly original, Flights is a master storyteller’s answer. .”

Zoë Hu (BookForum): "The book is like a map: including disparate parts not because they cause or connect to each other, but because their contours help clarify a wider, impersonal whole. In this way, Tokarczuk shows that even the loneliest traveler fits into a bigger scheme. In travel, “people are forced to be together, physically, close . . . as though the aim of travel were another traveler.” Even during flight, we find that, in ways both sinister and touching, we cannot escape each other.”

Lisa Appignanesi (Chair of the International Man Booker Prize judging panel):: "In Flights, brilliantly translated by Jennifer Croft, by a series of startling juxtapositions she flies us through a galaxy of departures and arrivals, stories and digressions, all the while exploring matters close to the contemporary and human predicament – where only plastic escapes mortality."

Winner of the 2008 NIKE AWARD (Poland's highest literary prize)
Named the BEST BOOK OF 2018 by Entertainment Weekly,
The Washington Post, Boston Globe, Literary Hub and Publishers Weekly

Tokarczuk's "Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead" (2009)
has been shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker Internaltional Prize


ARE DUE ON MAY 15, 2019
Visit our scholarship page for details



DSCN9991 03


Join us on Palm Sunday (April 14, 10am-3pm) to celebrate Polish Easter traditions and enjoy Polish foods, jewelry, pottery, crafts, toys, books and various fun activities.

Bring your family & friends to savor Polish lunch, dance to polka music and watch our gifted artists decorating Easter eggs.

See our calendar for location and more details

Note the April 4 deadline for food preorder

Need more encouragement?
Click the picture below to see how much fun we had last year.

Watch Olga Tokarczuk explaining her work on Flights, a literary collage she dubs herself "the constellation novel." While the book's English title makes a straightforward connection to air travel, the Polish title "Bieguni" conveys a deeper, metaphysical meaning. The word "bieguni" derives from the Russian "beguny" (runaways). In both languages it refers to a small branch of Old Believers, a denomination that formed after a schism in Eastern Orthodox Church. Bieguni believed that you cannot fight evil ruling the world - instead, you should keep moving (both mentally and physically) because evil powers are the greatest when a man stands still. This became a motif underlying the wanderings described in the book. 

DSCN9643 blue 2



Jarek Bester



In his performing style, Jarosław Bester combines his experience in classical, klezmer, jazz and folk music to develop his own interpretation style and to create a powerful mix of technique, sensibility and creativity rarely achieved on the accordion. Because of this unique style, developed over the course of more than 30 years of performing, he is considered today one of the most original accordion interpreters worldwide. (see 2/24/2019 calendar entry for more information about the artist and location)

4 pm on February 24, 2019 ....... Murphy Hall, UW School of Music





Atom String Quartet is one of the most intriguing string quartets in the world, and also one of best Polish jazz bands. The group combines the capabilities of a classic string quartet (i.e. two violins, viola and cello) with strong improvisational skills in the jazz idiom, which in turn allows them to develop their distinctive new sound and establish their own original style. Their style, strongly based in jazz, also includes Polish folk, music of various regions of the world, as well as contemporary and classical music.  (see the 3/3/2019 calendar entry for extensive information about the band and location details)

6 pm on March 3, 2019 ....... Music Hall at 925 Bascom Mall



The Book Club members read and discuss a variety of books
about Polish heritage and/or written by Polish authors.
Here is the list of books we have explored over the years.




FIRST MEETING: 7pm on February 12, 2019

303 SQUADRON: The Legendary Battle of Britain Fighter Squadron

2019 303squadron by ARKADY FIEDLER

click here for location
and contact information

From the Aquila Polonica Publisher: "Thrilling action story of the celebrated squadron of Polish fighter pilots whose superb daring and aerial combat skills helped save England during its most desperate hours. The 303 "Kościuszko" Squadron flew with the RAF, downing three times the average RAF score, while incurring only one-third the average casualties during the Battle of Britain. Underdog heroes who rose to defend against the deadliest German Luftwaffe attacks, the pilots of 303 Squadron were lionized by the British press, congratulated by the King and adored by the British public "

Adam R. Seipp (Sarmatian Review): "The portraits of the pilots are fascinating by themselves. In the 1943 edition pilots’ names remained concealed for fear of reprisals against families in Poland. This edition includes extensive biographical information about a number of these fliers. Their birthplaces and early careers tell a fascinating story about the changing borders of Poland in the early twentieth century and interwar creation of a Polish military establishment. The capsule biographies at the end of this edition also provide a sobering reminder of the terrible toll of air combat and training accidents. Those who survived scattered after the war, some returning to Poland while others sought new lives in emigration.”

Irene Tomaszewski (Cosmopolitan Review): "A riveting read, it not only tells the story but captures the mood of the epic battle that saved Britain, while it celebrates the daring and honorable young men who really lived by their motto: For Your Freedom and Ours.”

Henry Conigsby (Watford): "The tale of how the second half of that motto turned into the cruellest of jests is widely known. Instead, let us recall them in their days of glory: so brave, so handsome, so young – the laughing hussars of the sky. I think the difference between our two countries is this. If I were not English, I should want to live as a Pole. If the men of 303 Squadron were not Polish, they would not have wanted to live at all."


►check also this PDF about new recent 303 SQUADRON movies◄




The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Just on time for Christmas... Poland's unique "Szopka Krakowska" is now inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity . This is the first entry from Poland that has been recognized in this way and its history can be revisited in the Christmas Tradition of “Kraków Szopka”  posted on our website in December 2017.

Its aim is to identify and help to preserve diverse forms of expression, practices and skills reflecting human creativity, cultural identity, and serving as "unique testimony of living cultural tradition."



The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Just on time for Christmas celebrations in the Jubilee Year of Poland's Independence, great news arrived from UNESCO about the inscription of "Szopka Krakowska" on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This is the first entry from Poland on the list that was established in 2008 and currently contains 580 entries from 122 countries. Its aim is to identify and help to preserve diverse forms of expression, practices and skills reflecting human creativity, cultural identity, and serving as "unique testimony of living cultural tradition."


Szopka krakowska rates high on all of the above criteria. By blending history, legend and modernity with the remarkable skills, powers of imagination, and freedom of expression, it is a unique form of folk art with the engaging message and artistic authenticity. In recognition of these qualities, the art of "szopka krakowska" making (szopkarstwo krakowskie) was placed on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2014.

In Polish, the word "szopka" (plural "szopki") refers to the nativity scenes (szopki bożonarodzeniowe) adorning Polish churches at Christmas time. Called also mangers, cribs or crèches, they became popular after St. Francis of Assisi created the first manger in Greccio, Italy (1223) and Franciscans brought the idea to Poland just a few years later. The Krakovian szopka emerged from this tradition in the early XIX century due to winter shortages of jobs for stone masons, brick-layers, tilers and carpenters.

To make money during seasonal slowdowns, the industrious construction workers turned to building the miniature copies of church mangers and using them as portable backdrops for kolędowanie (a custom involving groups of door-to-door carolers in ritual costumes collecting donations for their singing) or staging the nativity plays (called jasełka in Polish) performed on the streets or in the houses of wealthier folks. These spectacles starred amateur actors and/or puppets, both gradually replaced with the doll-like figurines in the crèches. That’s how a new form of folk art was born taking life on its own outside of the church setting.


Fierce competition helped to shape the unique characteristics of the Krakovian szopka. To attract attention of spectators and potential hirers, the szopka makers were forced to innovate – and they did so by turning to flashy materials, incorporating the elements of Kraków’s architecture and/or reflections of its legends, history and political/social life. In what became the most distinctive trait, the Kraków crèche took a shape of an urban structure fusing elements of some of the city’s most famous buildings (e.g. the Wawel Castle, Sigismund’s Chapel, Sukiennice, the Barbican, or St. Florian Gate) crowned with the Town Hall Tower or towers of St. Mary’s Basilica and other churches. They also became exquisitely ornate and sparklingly colorful – the effect achieved with the extensive use of cellophane, tinfoil, tissue paper, beads and small pieces of plastic or glass.

The range of characters populating the Kraków szopka also goes far beyond that seen in the traditional nativity scenes (the Holy Family, the Three Kings, angels, shepherds and animals). The most common additions are folks in regional costumes (mostly from Kraków and Podhale) and heroes of local legends (the Dragon of Wawel, the Kraków trumpeter, Lajkonik or the sorcerer Pan Twardowski). But some crèches spotlight historical figures (like Tadeusz Kościuszko, the Polish and American hero who famously took his oath on the Krakow’s Old Town Square in 1794) as well as contemporary politicians, clergymen, artists and sportsmen. Szopka craftsmen also make references to current global or local events such as Poland’s accession to the European Union, the World Youth Day 2016, or expansion of paid parking zones in the city.


The amount of work that goes into creating those marvels of folk art is truly mind boggling. An average szopka maker spends on his/her hobby about 2,000 hours per year (5 hours a day) and larger structures, which can reach the heights well in excess of 10 feet, take over 10,000 hours to complete. As such workload is unfeasible for many individuals, some crèches are created as group efforts involving family members and/or circles of friends or classmates. But whether solo or in a group, it is clearly a labor of love as many szopka makers indulge it since childhood into their senior years. And for all those dedicated folk artists, there is no greater joy than scoring a win in the annual competition for the most beautiful szopka.

Every first Thursday of each December the tournament takes place on the Krakow’s Main Square (Rynek Główny) known for its lively street life and architectural treasures including the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) and St. Mary’s Basilica (Kościół Mariacki). From the early morning hours, crowds gather around the Adam Mickiewicz monument (Pomnik Adama Mickiewicza) to marvel at the new crop of colorful Krakovian szopkas (szopki krakowskie) arriving for the annual competition. After the noon Trumpet Call (Hejnał Mariacki) from St. Mary’s Basilica tower, participants of a cheerful parade fronted by folk musicians circle the square and carry them to the Krzysztofory Palace (Pałac pod Krzysztofory), where judges select the winners.

The first edition of the tournament was organized in 1937 to reignite interest in the tradition that weakened during the World War I and fire up the competitive spirit among the szopka makers. Since then the contest was held every year (with a five year pause during the World War II) and winners of its 75th edition were announced on December 10, 2017. As it recently became a custom, all of the 171 entries submitted this year will remain on display in the post-competition exhibit till the end of February 2018. Some winners will also join the already substantial szopka collection of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków (Muzeum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa), the main organizer and promoter of the competition. The collection is the largest in Poland (about 300 items) and can be viewed all year round in the Krzysztofory Palace located on the Main Square - definitely a place to see during your next trip to Kraków.





Celebrate on April 22, 2020 with NOAA

NOAA Infographic


NOAA's List of Ten Simple Things You Can Do to Help Protect the Earth

  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Cut down on what you throw away. Follow the three "R's" to conserve natural resources and landfill space.
  • Volunteer. Volunteer for cleanups in your community. You can get involved in protecting your watershed, too.
  • Educate. When you further your own education, you can help others understand the importance and value of our natural resources.
  • Conserve water. The less water you use, the less runoff and wastewater that eventually end up in the ocean.
  • Choose sustainable. Learn how to make smart seafood choices at
  • Shop wisely. Buy less plastic and bring a reusable shopping bag.
  • Use long-lasting light bulbs. Energy efficient light bulbs reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Also flip the light switch off when you leave the room!
  • Plant a tree. Trees provide food and oxygen. They help save energy, clean the air, and help combat climate change.
  • Don't send chemicals into our waterways. Choose non-toxic chemicals in the home and office.
  • Bike more. Drive less.

WORLD ON FIREThe remaining three episodes of the PBS Masterpiece will air at 8pm on Sundays .

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