The beginnings were quite nightmarish for one of Poland’s most celebrated singers. Irena Jarocka first arrived in the U.S.A. in 1990. Following her husband to this country, Irena Jarocka left behind everything she loved and held dear in Poland. She felt hopelessly lost, as have many of us, when she arrived here. She remembered an active, engaging life of creativity and successful artistic endeavor and longed for her beloved Warsaw. Alienated, she found her new home bleakly devoid of culture – “just a hole, far from civilization” she would often sob in frustration. She didn’t sing at all for a year, falling into pessimism and deep depression. She found it difficult to muster a smiling face for the outside world when she went out.
She left Poland complaining about life, as Poles tend to do. Here in the States, she had to change. It was a long road she would travel towards acceptance of the decision she had made. But she emerged successfully from her journey and today views her life positively. She has no regrets. America has taught her the valuable lessons of tolerance, patience and humility. Here she learned about forgiveness, something she always found difficult. She quickly learned one of life’s great lessons (for many, it takes a lifetime to learn): you can’t have everything you want. In life, you must make choices and choose wisely. Hardworking, determined and open, she had the traits necessary to succeed in a new country. Irena Jarocka’s recipe for success is: 90% hard work, 10% luck. This holds true in almost any field and not just the arts.
Song caught her fancy early. “ It was always my first love“ she says speaking of the beginning of her career as a vocalist. Today, besides singing and performing, she is also a passionate advocate of publicizing Polish culture in the U.S.
“You are a singer. Why are you doing this?” many ask. Irena Jarocka is convinced that America should be proud that Poles came from “over there” and chose to live “here”.
Ms. Jarocka asks “Exactly what and where is “over there?” Simply to know that Poland is a European nation is just too little to know and say about it. In fact, most Americans know very little of Polish history and culture.” She says. “The more people know about Poland, the better they are able to understand and appreciate Poles. This would help improve our lives as well.”
Thus, she has put much of her energy and resources into championing the culture, history and language of Poland throughout the U.S. A. Irena Jarocka and her friends have created the organization, Poland -USA Pro-motion, headquartered in New York City. “We want to popularize today’s Poland and inform people about its rich culture and history, its bustling economy and commerce.” The organization has produced a photo-graphic exhibition that will travel to various cities in America. This exhibit will be open to the public at the Polish American Cultural Center from January 3 to January 9 and at the Parma Public Library from January 13 to the January 22, 2005.
The purpose of this exhibit is to show the real Poland – a beautiful and interesting country with large, modern cities, talented and hardworking people, restored historical areas and a lovely countryside. It attempts to banish once and for all, the stereotypical images of a Poland most Americans have seen too often – the horse-drawn wagon loaded with straw trundling down a winding dirt road in some remote village or the idea that Polish culture is all about pierogies, kielbasa and babushkas.
Poland – USA Promotion was created in March 2004 in the Polish Consulate in New York. It’s grand opening was celebrated with a concert presented by world-renown Polish musicians living in the United States. This was followed by an exhibition of Polish history and culture featuring artifacts, depictions of historical events, landmarks and people that played a role in Poland’s history and progress throughout the years.
Irena Jarocka has been a very active vice-president of Poland – USA Promotion. She states this is her life’s greatest challenge and goal. “Actually, I became a patriot here,” admits the artist. “I am very hurt and annoyed when anyone says something derogatory about Poland. The reality is that we have a lot to offer. This is our organization’s main message and we are striving to get the news out as widely as possible. It’s wonderful that there are many others who are willing to work hard to change these negative impressions.”
Irena Jarocka eagerly invites all those interested in joining in the work of Poland – USA Promotion. “The more people working towards this goal, the greater the likelihood of success” she proclaims. Poland – USA Promotion can be reached by phone at (212) 764-2998. The web address is: www.poland-usapromotion.org
One can see that her activism parallels her music. Irena Jarocka has chosen wisely and stayed true to the values and ideals that transcend time. They will never lose their popularity and will always be treasured by people of good will.
Translated by Zofia Wiśniewski