Polish Art Center & Heritage Farm

By Robert Strybel, Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

Kathleen Bittner and her two siblings grew up in Detroit’s once predominantly Polish enclave-suburb of Hamtramck, surrounded by Polish artifacts at their parents’ business – Polish Art Center. Kathleen not only knows all about imported Polish merchandise, but has become skilled in such traditional folkcrafts as pisanki (Easter eggs), wycinanki (paper cut-outs) and straw Christmas-tree ornaments.

Recently, she opened a branch of Polish Art Center in the northwestern Michigan community of Cedar in the Traverse City area. Like the original Hamtramck location, it offers a wide variety of Polish cultural goods and gift items – folkcrafts, greeting cards, books, maps, CDs and other ethnic artifacts.

A few years earlier, Kathleen said “I do” with PolAm boy Tom Koch who, while growing up, had been very close to his Polish-born grandfather, Kazimierz Szklarski. Tom inherited his green thumb and interest in farming from Dziadek Kazik, who had been raised on a farm in Poland. Later, he had an extensive garden and raised pigeons at his home in Hamtramck.

“After the arrival of our son Tomek, we couldn’t think of a better place for him to grow up than on a family farm,” Kathleen explained. “Since we were both city kids, my husband was initially a bit hesitant to make such a huge move. While discussing it, I reminded him that both our families had been farmers in Poland and his family is still running a hog farm near the northern city of Bydgoszcz. Maybe for us that would not be doing something new but returning to what we were really meant to do all along.”

A woman’s power of persuasion knows no bounds, and the result was Polish Heritage Farm on Lake Leelanau in Cedar, Mich. “It has been quite an exciting year-and-a-half since moving here but we couldn’t be happier,” Kathleen told this reporter. “We have never worked harder but also never experienced something so rewarding!” They raise produce from seeds imported from Poland, have over 150 chickens, heritage-breed hogs, goats and rabbits, as well as a huge vegetable garden.

The PolAm couple, both in their early 30s, is now in their second growing season, so they are still establishing what grows best and what types of crops (red currents, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, fruit trees, etc.) would be worth cultivating in future years. The heritage farm offers pickling cucumbers, radishes, oregano, thyme, basil, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, beets and tomatoes – all from Polish seeds – as well as farm-fresh eggs.

The family farm also provides freshly butchered USDA certified meat ranging from a side of pork or a whole hog in six large pieces ($4 a pound) to basic cuts in one to three pound sealed packages or according to customer preference ($4.75 a pound). Complete processing including fresh cuts and Old World specialties such as bacon, ham and fresh and smoked kiełbasa are also available. Dressed goats and rabbits are sold whole.

Queries regarding both the Polish Art Center and Heritage Farm should be emailed to: kmbfri1382@gmail.com or phone: 231-228-2461. I might add that while preparing this article, Kathleen and Tom experienced their second blessed event: a little girl named Leokadia Ray. Is this the start of a new PolAm business dynasty? Let’s hope so!

Polishfest 2016

A “family-oriented festival” of Polish live music, song, folk dance performances, ethnic foods, crafts and culture will be presented on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016 from noon to 5 p.m. at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning (Commons Room, 1st Floor). This cultural event is FREE and open to the public. A variety of cooking demonstrations and food sampling, make-n-take kids crafts, folk art demonstrations, and a holiday craft and gift mart will be centered around “A Celebration Of Christmas in The Old Country.” This year’s festival will also celebrate the rich culture, music and folklore of Pittsburgh’s Lithuanian Community. Take a trip to the “Old Country” without leaving Pittsburgh. It’s FREE!

Featured entertainment will include: Bociai Lithuanian Chorus, Frania’s Polka Celebration, Lajkoniki Polish Folk Ensemble, Living Traditions Folk Ensemble, Radoslaw Fizek (Polish Folk Songs and Christmas Carols) and the Echos of Lithuania.

For more information, contact L.G. Kozlowski, Festival Director, at lgk505@aol.com or 814-969-5940.

Polishfest ’16 is partially sponsored by the Polish Falcons of America and the Polish Falcons Heritage Foundation.

VP Trish: Have you met our Cultural Commissioner?

A few years ago, Lawrence (Larry) Kozlowski joined the Polish Falcons as our Cultural Commissioner. What a great move that has proven to be! Larry has tons of experience and knowledge which he so graciously shares with all of us.

His workshops have been very successful and all who attend are thrilled! Last year, he was the host of the First Annual Polish Falcons of America Wigilia. The group was so pleased with the program and the reenactment of a traditional Christmas Wigilia. There were quite a few tears as many thought back to their childhoods, their parents and so many wonderful memories. The Wigilia will be held this year on Saturday, December 5. The program will be slightly different this year, but all who attend will be as pleased as they were last year (at least, that is our hope!).

Larry also attends all of our youth events and the kids love him. He engages them and is able to educate them in an entertaining way. This year at camp, he was teaching Polish dancing. When he played the first song, I thought he hit the wrong button. But no, he had a Motown song up first to get the kids moving. His intention was to show the correlation between just dancing and Polish dancing. It worked! Larry can boogie!

Thursday evening, he taught us how to celebrate St. John’s Eve. We were all dressed in togas, wearing wreathes of flowers on our heads (each of the kids had made their own, Shari Pekarovic made mine, thank you!) and carrying a wreath with a candle (there again, I didn’t make mine!). We walked around the huge campfire the older guys had built, as Larry shared the tradition. All then walked to the lake and placed their wreaths in the lake. Surprisingly, the water took them out. Later that night, we were able to see the soft glow off in the distance. Druhna Chris and I each got to release a Sky Lantern that had been signed by all at camp. That was incredible. This was followed by the sharing of the Oplatek. As is usual, there were lots of tears and kind words shared with one another.

Even though not all of us in attendance were of Polish decent, we all enjoyed the Polish traditions. Again, Larry did a fabulous job of explaining and encouraging all to participate!

Larry is available to visit your Nest or District (at our expense) to share his knowledge of the Polish culture. Please contact me if you are interested.


American Polish Festival and Craft Show

This year’s American Polish Festival and Craft Show will be held July 11-13, 2014, on the grounds of the American Polish Century Club, 33204 Maple Lane, Sterling Heights, MI.

The American Polish Festival draws thousands of festival-goers each year. The festival will feature live band performances, Polish Dance Ensembles, Polish and American food, refreshments, inflatables for the kids and an Outdoor Craft Show.

For crafters, the festival offers a 12’ x 12’ area for the entire weekend, although some charges may apply. Participants will be responsible for their own tables, chairs, fire resistant canopies and fire extinguishers. No electricity will be provided.

Admission to the festival is free, but there is a daily parking fee of $5.00 per car.

For more information, call (586) 731-2866, e-mail americanpolishfestival@yahoo.com or visit http://www.americanpolishfestival.com.

Source: Polonia Media Network