On October 12, 2013, the Polish Cultural Foundation (PCF) celebrated its 15th anniversary at the John Paul II Hall at Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish Center in South Boston. At the event, activities of the PCF for the last 15 years were presented in the form of an exhibit and in writing (see report below). All of our Board Directors and Friends (PCF helpers) received special recognition. Later in the evening, a charitable ball honoring the 15th anniversary of the PCF took place which was very well attended (150 persons) and raised over 3,000 dollars for blind children in Laski, Poland.
15 Years of Activities of the Polish Cultural Foundation
The Polish Cultural Foundation (PCF) was established in 1998 in Boston, as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. It was formed in the footsteps of a previously existing organization, the Polish Relief Fund, which had been active since 1981 in charitable fundraising for the poor and needy in Poland.
PCF activities are based solely on the work of volunteers and in accordance with our state-approved bylaws which state that the goals of the Foundation are: the promotion of Polish culture, language, history, tradition, and the provision of humanitarian aid and charitable fundraising activities.
During the past 15 years, the PCF has realized its goals in many ways: through film presentations, exhibits, concerts, festivals, publications, and charitable activities.
Within the purview of film presentations, four Polish film festivals as well as individual showings of noteworthy films, mainly Polish productions, were organized. Altogether, 30 feature-length films and 4 documentaries were shown. These film presentations were well received among Polonia and Americans alike and were seen by more than 7,500 spectators.
Another important activity of the Foundation has been the preparation and showing of exhibits related to Polish culture, history, or famous Poles. PCF, either by itself or teaming with others, prepared nine exhibits out of which five were loaned out. Between 1998 and 2003, while taking part in an annually held International Festival for the children of New England, PCF put together an exhibit called “Poland”. Each day of the festival, approximately 25,00 -35,000 children and teachers attended. In all, about 150,000 American children were exposed to the Polish exhibit. During its participation in those International Festivals, the PCF began its production and distribution of the Lowicz bookmarks with basic information about Poland and Poles. Later, in 2008, bookmarks honoring the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Poles in America were produced. To date, over 42,000 bookmarks have been distributed mostly among American children and teens.
The second major exhibit created by the PCF was a photo exhibit about John Paul II. It was developed together with the KWADRAT publishing company from Cracow in 2003, on the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of the Polish pope. This exhibit was expanded several times with the addition of new photos and quotes from the teachings of John Paul II as well as the printing of new exhibit catalogues. Official inauguration of this exhibit took place in Boston at Our Lady of Czestochowa (OLCz) Parish on September 27, 2003. Since then, the exhibit has been shown 42 times at 30 locations (at some locations multiple times) in 9 states. Within the span of 10 years, it is estimated that about 100,000 people have been able to see it.
An exhibit, entitled ”May 3rd Constitution of 1791”, was given to the PCF by the Polish Consulate in New York some years ago. It was graphically improved and an accompanying catalogue was published. It has been shown multiple times on the occasion of the May 3rd holiday in Polish parishes in Boston, as well as at the State House in Boston, at Harvard University, in Washington, D.C., and in Philadelphia.
Another exhibit that the PCF created included one on the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, titled “Katyn Genocide 1940”. It was shown five times in 2000 at several Polish parishes as well as at the public library in Worcester, MA.
In an effort to educate the American public about World War II and German concentration camps, the PCF signed an agreement in 2011 to show an exhibit in the US from the National Museum in Auschwitz titled “Konzentrationslager Auschwitz”. Having received its content electronically,the PCF produced an exact replica of this exhibit and has shown it at the State House in Boston (October-November, 2012) and at the State Library in Concord, NH (March, 2013). This exhibit has already been a big success and has already been viewed by several thousand Americans, including large groups of students.
The following additional exhibits were obtained and shown by the PCF. In May 1999, at OLCz Parish, an exhibit titled “Cracow” was presented and then in November of the same year an exhibit about Gen. Leopold Okulicki was shown. A very large exhibit that arrived in the U.S. from Gdansk, titled „Roads to Freedom, Europe via Solidarity”. was presented in cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in May, 2006 at UMass Boston. Another exhibit, titled “Contemporary Polish Culture” was loaned from the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C. and shown multiple times in 2009-2010. Another exhibit, titled “Katyn, Massacre, Politics, Morality”, was received from the Kosciuszko Foundation in New York and had its debut in Boston in April, 2011 at the State House.
Another significant activity by the PCF was an effort to establish plaques in Boston and surrounding areas related to Polish history and Poland. In November, 2000, in cooperation with the Moniuszko Society, a plaque to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Katyn massacre was made and hung inside OLCz Church. On June 13, 2010, thanks to a PCF initiative, the unveiling of another Katyn plaque titled “Golgota of the East” took place at St. Joseph’s Parish in Central Falls, RI. Earlier, in 2006, thanks to the efforts of the Foundation and especially one of the members of the Board, the sculpture of Andrzej Pytynski’s, “Partisans”, which was removed from Boston Common, was saved. A new prominent location was found for it in South Boston. In 2009, thanks to the PCF efforts and the financial support of veteran organizations (mainly SWAP, Post 37 in Boston), a new plaque commemorating the arrival to America of Casimir Pulaski, a hero of the American revolutionary war, was prepared. This plaque was unveiled on October 18, 2009, in Marblehead, MA, at Pulaski’s landing place on American soil on July 23, 1777.
Another important activity of the PCF has been supporting the development of Polish language schools. In May, 2002, a conference titled “The Development of Polish Supplementary Schools of the Polish Language in Boston and Vicinity” was organized. This brought forth more contacts and inter-school cooperation. Since the beginning of the Foundation and for the next 10 years, members of the PCF Board worked on the Board of the John Paul II Polish Language School in Boston. The Foundation has supported the development of this school, taking part in preparing rules and regulations of the school, developing its logo and banner, as well as providing financial support.
Another important direction of the Foundation’s cultural activities was the organization of different types of concerts and performances of artists from Poland and from within Polonia. Among others, PCF organized a performance by Wojciech Siemon in February, 1998; Jerzy Zelnik in October, 1998; a performance by actors of the Atellier Theatre of Sopot in November, 1999; a performance by actors of Warsaw theatres with the show „Christmas Carols with Four Voices” in January, 2000. More recently actors from the Toronto Theatre presented the play “Radiation” about Marie Curie-Sklodowska in September, 2011, and the play “Ordonka’s Secrets” in April 2013.
Of the concerts that the Foundation organized, four piano concerts should be highlighted. In May, 2008, Jacek Kortus, the youngest finalist of the International Chopin Festival in 2006 in Warsaw had a recital. Next, in March 2010, the recital of Konrad Binienda, a Polish student of Harvard and the Boston Conservatory, took place. Another pianist, Krzysztof Tkaczewski, a teacher from Hartford, gave a concert April, 2012. Recently, in October, 2012, Maciej Grzybowski, a renowned pianist from Poland, gave a concert playing not only classical pieces but also the works of contemporary composers.
In addition to classical music, jazz concerts were also organized. One with Grazyna Auguscik in March, 1998 and in September, 2006 and with Wiesia and Hubert Szymanski, Polish jazz artists from Sweden in February, 2000. PCF also sponsored choir performances: the Czestochowa Politechnic “Collegium Cantorum” choir in April 2002 and the folk group from Toronto “Ludowa Nutka” in December 2011. Also organized were several concerts with musicians well known to Boston Polonia such as Bronek Suchanek, Marcin Malewski, and Bogdan Holownia in January, 2010 and January, 2012.
To promote Polish entertainment, music, Polish food, books, Polish art and general information about Poland, the PCF has participated in the annual Harvest Festival at OLCz Parish for the past 15 years. In addition, since 2009, PCF alone or in cooperation with others, organized an annual Spring Fest in May/June and a Christmas Fair in December. These events held not only a promotional significance but also a social one, that of bringing Polonia together.
Lastly, a very important direction of the activities of the Foundation, were our charitable ones. Funds for these activities were collected by organizing dances, banquets, charitable balls and to some degree from proceeds from other PCF events. In the past 15 years, the PCF has collected and donated to various social and charitable causes over $51,000, mostly in aid of needy children. It is worth mentioning a few institutions that have been supported with larger amounts between $4,000 and $8,000. In 2001, financial support was sent to flood victims to rebuild the Children’s Care Center in Makow Podhalanski. The following year, funds were provided for school meals for needy children in a school in Komancza. In 2004, money was sent to the Educational Center of the Sisters of Mercy in Kalisz. Another institution that received PCF financial support in 2005 was the association for children’s care, „Gniazdo” in Warsaw. In 2007-8, we financially supported the building of the Civic Center of Disabled Children in Zawoja. Over a number of years, we also have financially supported the Polish language school in Boston, as noted above.
From the beginning until 2007, we have supported the efforts to build the John Paul II Center at OLCz Parish in South Boston, and then, after the parish changed its plans, the PCF became involved in activities to renovate the John Paul II Hall in the Parish Center building. Members of the Foundation Board helped not only with the planning but also with collecting funds to realize the project and later to furnish the hall.
Thanks to the efforts of OLCz Parish itself and the support of the Foundation, Polonia has gained entry to a presentable hall in Boston in which they can hold all sorts of cultural events and in which today we celebrate our 15th anniversary.
It should be noted that, aside from the close cooperation with OLCz Parish, in the last 15 years, the Foundation has also benefited from strong support and assistance from local Polonia as well as from the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland in Boston.
In conclusion, we would like to express the hope that we and our successors, the new generation of activists, will be successful in continuing the activities of the Polish Cultural Foundation in Boston for many years to come so that the Polish spirit, Polish traditions, and Polish culture can continue to be solidified and exist in our community.