Sobótka: The Magic of St. John’s Eve |
"Na Święty Jan woda kwitnie… On St. John's night, the water blooms""Let us this evening celebrate with all its old accustomed state. With joyous melody and song." (Jan Kochanowski - 16th century)
Join us to continue the centuries-long tradition of marking the summer solstice albeit a bit early, Sobotka: Polish Happy Hour at the Gardens on Thursday, June 14 from 5:30 - 10 PM on the patio of the Davis Center at Fellows Riverside Gardens.
The night will be chock full of Polish traditions celebrating the Magic of St. John’s Eve! Wianki, as some call it, was originally a pre-Christian fertility festival honoring the Slavic goddess of the harvest and love, Kupala, who was associated with both fire and water as purification devices. The event was a part of summer fertility rites. Young women wove special garlands or wreaths out of symbolic herbs and floated them on the river. By the way the garland behaved in the water, or if the wreath was retrieved by a favored suitor, the girl could make predictions about her future. Today, enormous community-made wreaths are floated down the river. Women also wear garlands during this time with a nod to the original wreath-making custom.
Keeping with that tradition, NEW THIS YEAR, guests are invited to enter the Wianki Contest. Make your own flower wreath for your head or with a candle to float on the reflecting pool and be entered to win a prize!! You can do it in advance or on site.
We are new at this so we will keep it traditional. Maybe in the future we will mix it up a bit like our friends in Poznań. Last year in honor of this event, residents worked together to set a new world record by releasing 8,000 paper lanterns into the sky to mark the shortest night of the year. Check out our video here to see the beautiful effect.
Rebuilding relationships is never easy
This summer the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood will host the special exhibition A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People. As part of the program series accompanying the exhibition, I accompanied PYTown Trustee Dr. Helene Sinnreich, Director of YSU’s Center for Judaic & Holocaust Studies where she was a panelist on The Resurgence of Jewish Culture in Poland. I have to admit it was an enlightening if not somewhat uncomfortable experience for me. The panel was moderated and the conversation lovely, but there was not a love there for Poles and Poland in general. In discussing the hot topics of Holocaust collaboration, anti-Semitism and the like, Helene became controversial when she reminded attendees that Poland was the location of the terrible horrors, but that it was the Nazis--not the Poles—who perpetuated the crimes. In fact, many didn’t realize how many Poles died in the prison camps.
During his reign, Pope John Paul II worked to improve Catholic and Jewish relations. In 1979, he became the first pope to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, where Nazi guards tortured and executed many of his countrymen during World War II. In 1986, he visited the Great Synagogue of Rome, becoming the first pope to make an official visit there. And in 2000, after visiting the Holocaust memorial in Israel, he touched the Western Wall in Jerusalem and placed a message there. The message was a prayer for forgiveness for violence and discrimination against the Jewish people. Visitors can write prayers that will be taken to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Growing up in Liberty and hanging at Krakusy, I was often shocked by the animosity between the two cultures. I can only hope that exhibits and conversations like this one and those that the Polish Arts Club has hosted locally with the Jewish Federation will continue to chip away at this wall between us.
Wear Your Polish Pride
Our t-shirt order is also scheduled to arrive in time for this event. So all of you who have been asking for you Sto Lat! shirt can finally buy one. Remember, limited numbers are available in each size and we only order these shirts once a year so get yours while we have it! Learn more about it all here!
A great time to wear your shirt would be at Simply Slavic, the downtown festival created specifically to celebrate Greater Youngstown’s colorful Slavic community. It will take place this year on Saturday, June 16th from Noon-Midnight on Federal Plaza East. The event was created last year to educate both the region’s large number of Slavic descendants and the community-at-large about Slavic heritage. NEW THIS YEAR The festival site is expanding to two city blocks to give guests more elbow room and allow people to interact in a better street fair-like layout. It also will have more food vendors to feed the people later into the day and provide non-stop live entertainment until midnight. Come down and show your Slavic pride!
News from Poland
Seeing the Silver Lining
President Barack Obama’s “Polish death camp gaffe” may have been a blessing in disguise since it made the mainstream press take notice of how hurtful and inaccurate the phrase is to Poles. As such Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski welcomed a letter of apology from the U.S. president late last week. In the letter, Obama said he regretted the error and also saw this as "an opportunity to ensure that this and future generations know the truth".
"I inadvertently used a phrase that caused many Poles anguish over the years and that Poland has rightly campaigned to eliminate from public discourse around the world," Obama said in the letter, released by Komorowski's office.
Learn more about this story here and other news from Poland at our Polish Media Watch
Aundréa and Your PolishYoungstown Team