From Wrocław to Case, Akron, and Slavic Village

Magda Staniszewska conducts biochemical research in aging and diabetes. In 2003 she received an invitation to continue her research at Case Western Reserve University. In July of the same year Magda and her husband Marcin packed up and left their native Wrocław to move to Cleveland. During the month after their arrival they began looking for a Polish community. Thanks to the Internet they found St. Stanislaus and „discovered” Slavic Village. Their first contact was Father Jerzy Kusy. Through him, they found out about a meeting of Polish Americans in the Polish Cultural Garden on Martin Luther King Boulevard. There they met Alicja Chwals and Ben Stefański.“Alicja took care of us like a mother”, they recall today. Thanks to her and other Poles, they learned how to live in a new environment: where to shop, where to live, where to go. With the help of Stasiek and Anna Rybak, they were able to buy a decent car. Later they made contact with Gene Bak and the Center, where they learned about the new housing on East 65th Street. After talking with Ben Stefański, who always promotes the Polish neighborhood, they looked at the new homes being built near St. Stanislaus. More difficult decisions – where to live, in what neighborhood, how to buy a home?

But already certain decisions had been made. The most important was their contact with Polonia. They are very grateful to the Poles they met for their hospitality and their help. They knew that they wanted to be near them and to join in their community. Where would this be more natural than in Slavic Village? So in September 2004 they bought a new town-home on East 65th in Slavic Village.

If you are interested in these town-homes, take a look at the website: townhomes.htm.

I visited Magda and Marcin in their spacious and comfortable new home, where I saw tasteful furniture from IKEA. A month after the purchase of their new home it is warm and inviting. I asked them, what was the most important factor in their decision to buy a house? The answer was finances. Magda and Marcin have only been in the States for a year and only Magda has work. Besides finances, it was important that they like the home, that the home be ready to move into, and that they have good neighbors (Polish acquaintances), and that the home be close to the Center.

But what about Marcin? He’s looked for different possibilities for himself. In his free time he has helped the Center to build an Internet page:

This is a major project that he continues to work on as more and more young people and others with knowledge of the computer and the Internet become active in the Center. The goal is to facilitate contacts with Polonia not only in the hall of the Center but also online. Another example of such contacts is the Internet page of our sports club, Polonia

Everything sounds great, but one has to live from something. What about work, career, the future? Here again contacts with Polonia proved to be important. Marcin went to a meeting of the Forum, the Center’s newsletter. At the meeting in the home of Elżbieta Ulanowska, Marcin met Maria Szonert-Binienda, author of the book World War II through Polish Eyes. From Pani Maria he learned about her husband, a professor of engineering at the University of Akron. Marcin is an engineer from the Department of Engineering of Wrocław Polytechnic. But engineering is not one of his dreams. It turns out that composite materials is the main theme of Professor Binienda’s research. Thanks to their properties these materials can be used to build new bridges and for special applications, such as protecting a plane from damage in cases of engine failure. Professor Binienda received an award from NASA for his work in this field. Thanks to his meeting with Pani Maria, Marcin met with the professor from Akron.

Marcin is now studying English intensively in a course for students of American universities. He then must pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam and take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). He will then be ready to take courses at the university in Akron, leading to a master’s degree in engineering and preparing him for doctoral studies. He plans to work in the field of composite materials with Professor Binienda.
All of this since July 2003! Magda and Marcin say that it’s because of the Poles they met in Slavic Village. They look at each other and laugh. When I ask why, they say, “Everyone told us that Slavic Village is just about the polka, but we found much more here, more than anyone else in Cleveland had to offer us”.

Dr. Ryszard Romaniuk

Forum, 2/2005