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November 13, 2003 ...


Mayor elect Polanski is ready to step up to the plate

Glenn Gramigna
Lackawanna Mayor-elect Norm Polanski had been out of politics for many years when, back in 1991, the late Steel City Mayor Kathleen Staniszewski came to his door.
“She was so honest and down to earth that I wanted to help her,” Polanski recalls. “So that’s what I did. I helped her build up her organization in the Second Ward. I had not thought that I would ever get involved in politics again. But, I did and now look at what’s happened.”
The son of an elected city assessor, Polanski traces his interest in politics to his admiration for former Councilman Eddie Piotrowski, a legend in Lackawanna. After running unsuccessfully for the council in 1973 and 1977, Polanski had withdrawn from elective endeavors until being elected Lackawanna council president in 1999.
As council president he made a point of extending public comment periods so that average citizens would feel free to air their views on public issues without encumbrance. “Before I got there, people could only speak about items on the agenda,” Polanski recalls. “Now they can speak on any subject, which I think is only right because this city belongs to them. They are the ones who pay the taxes that support all of us.”
The ’03 mayoral campaign was a spirited one in which Polanski campaigned against John Kuryak’s decision to work as mayor part time while working full time for the Erie County Water Authority.
“I think I won first of all because Democrats are Democrats and will vote for a Democrat most of the time,” says Polanski. “Besides that I think the part time issue was a major factor. I wouldn’t let Kuryak forget that he told the Buffalo News that his first priority was the Water Authority. The Republicans poured a lot of money into this race. He had three lines on the ballot, the Republican, Independence, and Conservative. Yet I won by a sizable margin. I never thought I would become mayor. But, now I’m going to do the best job I possibly can for the people of Lackawanna.”
Even after his victory by 600 votes (54% - 46%) over incumbent mayor and GOP nominee John Kuryak, some may wonder if a lifelong plumber, who has plied his trade for many years for the New York State Corrections Dept., is ready to serve as mayor.
“People who say things like that, including my opposition during the campaign, are not only insulting me, they are insulting the majority of the people of Lackawanna, who are also working people,” Polanski replies. “Because I’m a working man, that doesn’t mean I don’t have common sense or am stupid. When I left high school, I had the opportunity to get a very good paying job in the steel mills and I have not had the time since then to pursue a college education. That doesn’t mean I don’t have the intelligence to be a good mayor.”


Teachers of Polish to meet here in 2004

Edward S. Wiater
They won't be just plain tourists when they descend on Niagara Falls, NY, Memorial Day weekend 2004. They will be an international contingent of some 300 to 400 teachers of the Polish language who will convene in the Cataract City.
It will be the eighth convention of International Polish School Teachers from May 28 through May 31. The teachers meet every two years.
Rev. Thaddeus Bocianowski, pastor of Buffalo's St. Adalbert's Basilica, is convention chairman; Mira Szramel, director of the Msgr. Adamski Polish Saturday School, is vice chairman.
The convention will have its base in the Holiday Inn, the former Radisson Hotel opposite the Seneca Niagara casino.
Fr. Bocianowski said the program is still in its infant stages but as plans develop he hopes to make it one of the best conventions the teachers will have ever experienced.
Having the cataracts in the backyard of the Inn is a big help in making the gathering a memorable one because many of the delegates have never seen the falls, Fr. Bocianowski said.
The convention will be held in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Polish American Congress. The PAC, headquartered in Chicago, was formed in Buffalo.


Villa Chorale performs

Villa Maria Chorale was on tour in Malta Nov. 8-16. The chorale was the first choir from America to be invited to participate in the Malta International Choral Festival begun 15 years ago. The festival draws choirs from around the world to this sunny paradise rich in the pre-history of its megalithic structures, the baroque splendor of its many cathedrals and the beauty of its medieval towns.
Also participating in this year’s event will be five choirs from Poland, three from Russia and others from Europe and the Philippines.
Chorale music director, Ireneusz Lukaszewski, has included a beautiful 16th century composition of Polish composer Marcin Leopolita, “Kyrie from the Missa Paschalis” in the chorale’s repertoire of music which will also include excerpts from works of A. Vivaldi, J.S. Bach and American spirituals. In addition to the festival performance, the choir will tour and perform in several towns and cities with a special invitation from the mayor of Nadur, Gozo to board a ferry to visit the island as their guests.
Malta is a small independent Mediterranean island about 60 miles south of Sicily. Everyone is familiar with the prestige and valor of the Knights of Malta from the Middle Ages. Incidentally, the current United States ambassador to Malta is our own Buffalo prominent citizen, Anthony Gioia.
This will be the seventh European tour for the Villa Maria Chorale which has traveled to Italy, Spain, Poland and Lithuania.


Pair from Buffalo meet Poland's First Lady

Edward S. Wiater
Life entails many unexpected quirks. Few people, however, start with plans to go to a wedding in Poland and end up with an unprecedented hour and a half audience with Poland's First Lady, Jolanta Kwasniewska.
Last month, this bit of good luck befell the Rev. Thaddeus Bocianowski, pastor of St. Adalbert's Basilica, and Mira Szramel, director of the Msgr. Adamski Polish Saturday School.
If one prefers, there is a saying that what goes around comes around. And, Fr. Bocianowski and Mrs. Szramel deserved this exhilarating meeting as a reward for what they did in July.
In July, Fr. Bocianowski opened his heart and parish to Polish youngsters visiting the United States through the efforts of Dr. Kaya Mirecka Ploss and Kazimierz Sluzewski. Each youngster had lost a father in mining accidents. Dr. Ploss is executive director of the American Center for Polish Culture in Washington, DC. Sluzewski is president of Miners' Family Fund which is part of the Children's Foundation under the umbrella group "Porozumienie Bez Barier" founded by Mrs. Kwasniewska. Roughly translated, "Understanding Without Barriers."
When Fr. Bocianowski learned the youngsters wanted to see Niagara Falls, he opened his parish facilities to them and their chaperones and with the help of Szramel, parishioners and Polonia found sleeping quarters for the visitors' three-day visit.
The "Polish adventure" began for Fr. Bocianowski, who was born near Czestochowa, Poland, while making plans to be at the wedding of his nephew Jacek Bocianowski. Fr. Bocianowski decided to contact Sluzewski to see if he might visit with the children who had come to Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
This set all kinds of wheels in motion. People and organizations were contacted and it was arranged that the children and their parents would gather at the Ursuline Sisters facilities just outside of Czestochowa.
Szramel, who was born in Wroc³aw and has family there, with her husband decided to combine the trip to her family in Wroc³aw and then attend the wedding as the Mass was to be celebrated by Fr. Bocianowski.
Two bus loads of children and parents came to meet Fr. Bocianowski.
"It was one of my happier moments in life when they came up and told me how great a time they had in America," Fr. Bocianowski said.
To top off the day, everyone walked to the nearby Jasna Góra, home of the Black Madonna, Matka Boska Czestochowska (Our Lady of Czestochowa). There in the chapel of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Fr. Bocianowski celebrated the Mass. There was no one else in the church chapel. It was a special time for the children, their parents, the Buffalo contingent and the religious taking care of this chapel with the miraculous icon.
In the petitions segment of the Mass, Mrs. Szramel offered prayers for Buffalo's Polonia, the children who were attending the Mass and those who attend the Msgr. Adamski Polish School in Buffalo.
Let's now skip to the events tied with the wedding.
Fr. Bocianowski brought to the wedding a unity candle which was ceremoniously lit as a symbol of the joining in marriage of the two young people. Fr. Bocianowski said, the candle was "a big hit" as it was something different in that parish.
Before the Saturday wedding, Sluzewski with the help of some government officials, Polish American Congress President edward Moskal and PAC Censor John Ordon made arrangements for Fr. Bocianowski, Mrs. Szramel and some members of Fr. Bocianowski's family to meet in Warsaw the following: First Lady Jolanta Kwasniewska; Senator Richard Jarzembowski who once visited Buffalo and Professor Andrzej Stelmachowski who heads the umbrella organization — Wspo³nota Polska — embracing Poles in Poland and beyond its borders.
As the wedding was Saturday, "poprawiny," the Polish custom of finishing the good times with more good food, drinks and fellowship followed the next day. Poprawiny can last into the wee hours of the morning.
At 6 a.m., Fr. Bocianowski and his party took the train to Warsaw for the meeting with Mrs. Kwasniewska. Dr. s³uszewski met them and accompanied them from the rail station to the Presidential Palace where the nervous Americans met Poland's First Lady.
Mrs. szramel said Mrs. Kwasniewska "greeted us as if we had known each other all our lives."
"she is not distant and makes you feel at ease right from the start," Fr. Bocianowski added. "she's just a fantastic woman."
Fr. Bocianowski said Mrs. Kwasniewska knew quite a bit about the visitors. A good friend of Fr. Bocianowski, the late Col. Tadeusz Dlubacz from Tarnów was once chaplain at the Presidential Palace.
To conclude the meeting which was nearing an hour and a half, Mrs. Kwasniewska took the Buffalonians to a private chapel where Pope John Paul II prayed during an earlier visit. Fr. Bocianowski hoped he would be allowed to pray there, too. Not only did he pray, but Mrs. Kwasniewska joined the group in prayer.
As they parted, Mrs. Kwasniewska was presented with several mementos of the visit, one being a bison etched in glass.
From this audience, the group went to meet sen. Jarzembowski. He marveled at the fact that Mrs. Kwasniewska met with the visitors for such a long time. Usually, such visits don't last more than 15 minutes, he said. A half hour at the most.
The senator then acted as a tour guide around the governmental chambers telling the visitors not to be surprised if he should visit the Buffalo region again in the near future. The Buffalonians then went to meet with Prof. Stelmachowski.

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