Nostalgic concert just a part of weekend Polish event at CCSU

Published on Sunday, 21 October 2018 20:28
Written by Kristina Vakhman

Special to the Herald, @krisdvp

NEW BRITAIN - The members of the Polonia Paderewski Chorus weren’t the only ones singing at Central Connecticut State University’s 100th Anniversary of Polish Independence Symposium on Saturday. The audience joined in on every musical piece.

“I was so happy to sing these songs. My parents used to sing them to me,” Christine Guillette said. An immigrant from Poland who came to the United States at 12, Guillette recalled her parents’ always singing one particular song, which the chorus performed, “Upływa Szybko Życie” (“Life is Flowing Fast” in English), at gatherings when she was little. At CCSU’s symposium, Guillette sang along to it and all the others, happily. “It brought back a lot of memories.”

Just a row behind Guillette, mother and daughter Maria Szostek and Danusia Spagnolo, who grew up in Poland, sang as well. Szostek didn’t even need the lyrics on paper, knowing them all by heart.

“It was very nice. We wish there was more, but it was good,” Spagnolo said.

The symposium celebrated Poland’s 100th year of independence, which the nation regained on Nov. 11, 1918. In addition to the chorus, CCSU’s Saturday events featured words from guest speakers, including Poland’s ambassador to the United States, Piotr Wilczek, as well as presentations.

A gala celebration followed on Sunday with more presentations and an award dinner.

An exhibit co-sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington called “Eternity and a Moment: 1918-1939 Architecture as a Tool of National Identity,” was also available for viewing, showcasing landmarks in Polish construction.

For the Polonia-Paderewski Chorus, singing at CCSU was “a great honor,” said its president, Bozena Madej, who explained that being able to commemorate Polish independence at the university was special. Madej, who is from Poland, said that the chorus sang from the heart, with the members knowing most of the songs from childhood, just like many in the audience.

“We are not professionals. We don’t read music. We just sing what we hear,” Madej stated, going on to say that when she joined the chorus in 2002, she had never sang in a choir before. Additionally, she pointed out that the red ribbons each chorus member was wearing on the left side of their chests were meant to represent their Polish patriotism.

Chorus conductor Andriy Lehki, who is of Polish-Ukrainian descent, added that because Polish culture is made up of so many other cultures, including Ukrainian, it not only lets him honor all of his roots, but also lends itself to educating people about the countries of Eastern Europe.

“It’s important to have concerts at universities because we can spread our culture among other people,” Lehki said. “You can discover different cultures through Polish culture.”

Kristina Vakhman can be reached at

Posted in New Britain Herald, , New Britain on Sunday, 21 October 2018 20:28. Updated: Sunday, 21 October 2018 20:30.