BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
Polish-American artist and Ridgewood resident Beata Slazak Zalewski was recently honored when her original design was chosen by the Polish Foreign Ministry as the logo for America’s first Polish Bilingual Day Festival.
The festival was created by the New York-based Dobra Polska Szkola Foundation in conjunction with other local Polish schools and organizations to celebrate and preserve Polish language, culture and traditions.
Dobra Polska Szkola, which is translated in English as “a good Polish school,” is an online magazine and organization first founded back in 2010 by editor-in-chief Marta Kustek as a small blog. Over the past four years, Dobra Polska Szkola has evolved into a major source of knowledge and information for Polish-Americans.
The group’s main focus is to help foster an appreciation for bilingual education within Polish-American communities through film, literature and history.
“We are encouraging them to read Polish, to speak Polish, to be more interested in Polish culture,” Kustek explained. “Because most of them were born here, it’s not so easy for them to do this. Polish culture is very rich and Polish history is very interesting, so we’re encouraging them to remember.”
Polish Bilingual Day grew out a project first launched in 2011 by Dobra Polska Szkola called “W Naszym Domu Mowimy Po Polsku,” or “In our home, we speak Polish.” In 2015, Dobra Polska Szkola received funding from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in an effort to help launch the first Polish Bilingual Day nationwide.
The Polish government will declare the second Saturday of October as Polish Bilingual Day through a special ceremony this Sunday, Sept. 13, at the Polish consulate in Manhattan. Zalewski will also be on hand for the unveiling of her colorful logo.
For her design, Zalewski chose to paint a rooster, a prominent symbol of Polish folk art usually portrayed in black and white amid colorful flowers. Zalewski broke with tradition and took a more modern approach, infusing the rooster with vibrant colors and a dash of whimsy. The rooster’s bright tail feathers contain the Polish words “witaj,” “co” and “czesc,” along with their English counterparts “hello,” “what” and “hi.” Her design will be featured on pins, T-shirts and posters throughout the 2015 festival.
The celebration aims to educate young generations of Polish-American children about Poland’s rich history while encouraging them to learn and engage in the language of their ancestors. The festival will highlight the achievements and contributions of Polish-Americans, including Janusz Liberkowski, creator of the safety seat for children, and Maksymilian Faktorowicz, better known to the world as the founder of cosmetics company Max Factor.
The holiday will also honor other notable figures, such as bulletproof vest inventors Kazinierz Zeglen and Jan Szczepanik, as well as Kazimierz Funk, a Polish biochemist credited with being among the first to formulate the concept of vitamins, which he called “vital amines” or “vitamines,” in 1912.
The first annual Polish Bilingual Day will be celebrated nationwide on Saturday, Oct. 10. A local celebration will be held on that day at P.S. 71, located at 62-85 Forest Ave. in Ridgewood, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The festivities will include an art exhibit, educational talks, Polish folk dancing and a celebration of Polish cuisine, from pierogi and paczki to bigos and more. Everyone is welcome and admission is free.
For more information, visit www.DobraPolskaSzkola.com.