Young Polonia of Polish-American Cultural Center

Łukasz Waszczuk represents the younger generation of Polonia on the Board of the Center. I met with him recently during a meeting of the Center’s sports club. Łukasz is also active in the sports group and during this meeting he reported about the club’s newest section, the ski club. Members of the group get a sixty per cent discount on their ski equipment. Because of the wide range of his activities, I asked Łukasz for an interview. I was interested in his thoughts about my recent article in the Forum on young Polonia. First he was a little angry, because they’re trying, so why write that nothing is being done for the younger generation? I quickly explained that of course the youth are trying, but that they don’t get sufficient help from us, their elders. With this, he had to agree. Of course, he mentioned our director who always helps young Polonia and he thanked him for the generally favorable attitude of the Center toward their efforts, but he has a similar opinion as mine about the theme of Polonia in Cleveland. I asked simply: What do you want Polonia to do for you?

First, Łukasz said that there are elements of positive cooperation. The youth organize the disco dances in the Center, which are very popular. Now they also do a dance for Halloween, for both young and old. The Center has purchased two televisions for the downstairs cafe, where young people gather every Sunday to watch the day’s game. They’ve also acquired new lighting for the dances and new equipment for the cafe, making it much easier to use. What else do they need? Equipment for playing the music. They don’t want to have to depend on others to organize the dances and the concerts at the picnics. They’re also trying to get a projector for lighting effects and presentations. „And we also need a better printer!” They could make beautiful posters and announcements, but our printer can’t handle it.

Sure, but this is all small stuff. I asked Łukasz about bigger dreams. In the past Polonia built beautiful churches. Łukasz first said that it’s not worth talking about this, that there’s no chance for such things now. Then he started to talk. You see, he said, Monika organized a beautiful art show in the Center. There were 300 people at the opening. Crowds also come to our dances; they wrote about us in the Plain Dealer. Monika organized the art show in cooperation with SPACES, a well-known gallery in Cleveland. You see, we’re open to everything, we were raised here and we want to be who we are: Polonia from Cleveland. Not just „little Warsaw”, but greater Polonia.

We spoke further about the dreams of young Polonia. About a Center for themselves, best if near the Center, where the youth are already active. There would be dances, the sports club, and other activities. They think about organizing an information center for youth from Poland, as well as for those raised here in Cleveland, focusing on education and careers. They could also organize studio space for artists and photographers, a salon for discussion, and anything they long for. There are already some organizing a dance section. Perhaps the Syrena group could find a home there?

Then Łukas sighed and said: But, remember, young people like to be crazy. So don’t expect that we’ll throw everything to the side and work on this dream. We have to work on our careers, go to school, and we want to relax and play on the weekend. And some of us have already started families. When and how are we supposed to do this?

That’s what Łukasz had to say. And I know my opinion. I see that Monika Dedejczyk makes contact with other young people who are studying, writing grants, and working as artists. Weronika Kowalczyk, the star of the recent art show, impressed with Monika’s efforts, is thinking about joining the activities of the Center. Łukasz flies from meetings at the Center to meetings of Polonia, takes pictures for the Forum, manages Polonia’s websites, and, during breaks, helps others buy skis. Marcin Staniszewski, a student at the University of Akron, also works on the Center’s website. We would all have been lost long ago without Andrzej Pawlik. Agata Foremska writes for the Forum. She and Monika appear often on the radio with Eugenia Stolarczyk. Young Polonia works alongside and helps the older generation. And they have their own dreams….

Ryszard Romaniuk

Forum, 12/2006