Poles bring home 11 medals from Rio

By Robert Strybel, Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

For 16 days, Poland’s most avid sports fans went about groggy and bleary-eyed from watching live Olympic coverage that began each day around midnight due to the time difference. Others settled for rebroadcasts and wrap-ups later in the day. Despite periodic outbursts of Polish national pride, when it was all over, some felt unfulfilled.

Things got off to a good start when Polish cyclist Rafał Majka won a medal, bronze, on the first day of the Olympics. The first Olympic gold was captured by rowers, Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj, in women’s double sculls. Earlier, Maria Springwald, Joanna Leszczyńska, Monika Ciaciuch and Agnieszka Kobus captured bronze in the women’s quadruple sculls, and canoeist Marta Walczykiewicz added a silver medal to the collection.

But the unquestioned heroine of the Rio games was hammer-thrower Anita Włodarczyk, referred to by the Polish media as “Golden Anita.” She not only won the gold medal when she hurled her hammer an amazing 82.29 meters, but also broke her own world record by 1.21 meters. In addition, the two-time world champion and three-time European champion became the first woman in Olympic history to outdo the men’s hammer-throw champion – in Rio an athlete from Tajikistan who threw 78.68 meters.

One of the event’s biggest disappointments was Polish men’s hammer-thrower, two-time world champion Paweł Fajdek, who not only was sure of a gold medal but planned to break the 86.74 meter record set by a Russian in 1986. But, it turned out that Fajdek didn’t even make it through the elimination phase. The honor of Poland’s male hammer-throwers was defended by Wojciech Nowicki who won a bronze medal in the sport.

Oktawia Nowacka, a career soldier in the Polish Army, brought home the bronze in modern pentathlon, a sport combining fencing, free-style swimming, show jumping, pistol shooting and a 3,200-meter cross-country run. A bronze medal was also won by woman wrestler Monika Michalik.

Discus thrower Piotr Małachowski had his heart set on Olympic gold, but had to settle for silver. His claim to fame, however, transcended the strictly athletic realm, when he decided to auction off his medal to help a little Polish boy. Three-year-old Olek (Aleksander) Szymański has a rare eye cancer and stands to lose one of his eyes. The only hope for saving it is at a New York eye clinic where the necessary surgical procedure costs $264,000. Małachowski got the ball rolling, and others have been pitching in.

This year’s Polish Olympic team was not without its whiff of scandal. Brother weightlifters, Tomasz and Adrian Zieliński, were disqualified and sent home on doping charges. They hotly denied consciously ingesting any illegal substance, but the tests conducted by the anti-doping lab proved otherwise.

As the Rio Olympics were winding down, it appeared Poland might not end up with the 17 medals predicted by optimists, but with the same ten the country had won at the previous three 21st-century games: Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012). The balance was tipped by mountain biker Maja Włoszczowska who came in second over a grueling, curvy, hilly, obstacle-strewn course. A major disappointment was the Poles’ failure to win bronze in the handball finals where they lost to the Germans.

All told, Polish Olympians brought home 11 medals from Rio de Janeiro: two gold, three silver and six bronze. Of the participating 206 National Olympic Committees, in the final medal tally, Poland came 33rd. Although the Poles’ performance wasn’t quite as spectacular as expected, for what it’s worth, it cannot be denied these were Poland’s best Olympic games of the 21st century!

Elizabeth Furiga: Toruń, Gingerbread Capital and So Much More

Toruń and gingerbread go hand-in-hand. The medieval city in Northern Poland has been known for its particular type of gingerbread, Toruńskie pierniki, since the Middle Ages. Today, pierniki is one of the most popular Polish food products both in Poland and abroad. The cookies come in several different distinct shapes. A popular variety is the katarzynka made of six circles joined together. The main and original pierniki factory, the Kopernik, has a store outside the town’s square where they sell everything from complex gingerbread “pictures” to chocolate-covered, jam-filled pierniki hearts.

But, Toruń has more to offer than just gingerbread. The city also features beautiful gothic architecture, museums, lively cultural events, and a great culinary scene. Having visited Toruń myself when I was in Poland, I can say that it is a city you will want to stop by if you take a trip to the homeland.

Although people often mistake Poland for a cold place, in the summer it gets quite warm, making for a great time to visit Toruń. The cafes and restaurants will put out the patio and outdoor seating, and you can drink wine and eat dinner outside on the square. When visiting Toruń, be sure to purchase some pierniki to take home with you, and also visit the Pierniki Museum where you can witness demonstrations of the gingerbread being made.

Toruń is also the home of the Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus. You’ll want to visit the Copernicus house, a museum that is situated where Copernicus once lived.

In addition, you can tour the remains of the city’s medieval fortified walls and gates. Small sections still exist as well as the Leaning Tower, which was a fortified tower that made up the wall system.

You cannot fly in and out of Toruń easily, so it is suggested that you fly to Gdańsk or Warsaw and take a train or the Polski bus (the Polish Mega Bus) into the city. However, the sights and the experiences as well as the delicious pierniki are definitely worth the trip.

Druhna Chris: Camp Photos Galore!

Hey Campers! Have you checked out our Digital Camp Scrapbook? In it, you will find tons of photos and videos! The Lip Sync Contest songs are in there, as well as the cabin photos. Go ahead and take a look. You are bound to find you and your friends in there somewhere. Thank you to Courtney and Holland for coming up with this really nice addition to our camp experience.


I hope that by now everyone has had a chance to see all of the rest of the photos from camp on Facebook. There are so many great pictures! Some of my most favorite are the ones from the campfires on the beach with the sunset in the background. Click here to go to the Polish Falcons National page to view the photos.

I have already been in contact with the St. Vincent De Paul staff about next year’s camp. Since our National Convention is the week after the Fourth of July, we cannot have camp that week. I am trying to move camp week to July 31 to August 7, 2016. As soon as I receive the final decision from the camp, I will let everyone know. Then, you can plan early to join us. I’m hoping that we get even more campers and adult helpers to join us next year! I have some exciting ideas for new team challenges and activities. Keep a lookout for the final word on the dates.

Have a great end to your summer and good luck in the new school year!

VP Trish: Back to School

Wow! It is August and summer is coming to an end. (Not that we had much of a summer weather-wise, but there were certainly many days where we had fun, enjoyed the sunshine, and created some new memories.)

Many have returned to school and some are just getting ready to go back. This is a new chapter for many with little ones starting school and also for many, their child going off to college.

So, while you are getting the kids squared away, why not check out your own paperwork? Please let the Polish Falcons know when and where you move, if you change phone numbers or email addresses. Another extremely important matter is to update your beneficiaries. Too many still have their parents listed as their primary beneficiary with no contingents listed. Please review your policies and be sure that the person you want to receive your death benefit does. Life is much simpler when there is a living beneficiary. Also, if your beneficiary is not a Member, be sure to provide us with their current information.

If while reviewing your information, you find that you do not have adequate insurance, please contact your Nest Insurance Specialist or John Denning, here at the National Headquarters. PFA offers a wide range of affordable products.

When a person inquires about becoming a Member of your Nest, please do not quote any of the PFA insurance products or amounts. Please contact John Denning or your Nest Insurance Specialist. The life insurance industry has become much more complicated than it was in the past. We need to make sure that all of the processes are complete and correct.

By the way, you can also complete the yellow referral cards that each Nest President received in January 2015. This is a wonderful way for the person who is referring a new Member to get a $10 referral fee and be entered into the quarterly drawing for the $100 Visa gift card. They also get entered into the end of the year drawing for a $500 Visa gift card. The Nest with the most new Members will also receive a $500 cash prize.

Contact information for the National Office is 800-535-2071 or fax 412-922-5029.


Kosciuszko Foundation Scholarships for Study in Poland

The Kosciuszko Foundation is accepting applications for summer study programs at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Undergraduate students have the opportunity to earn college credit while studying language and courses such as history, literature, and contemporary Poland.

Students of Polish descent have the opportunity to apply for funding to attend a 3-week program at the Jagiellonian University via the Foundation’ s Tomaszkiewicz-Florio Scholarship. Candidates must be at least 18 years of age by the first day of the program and have a high school diploma. Undergraduate students are also eligible. Two letters of recommendation, transcripts showing a minimum GPA of 3.0, an essay, and financial need are part of the requirements for scholarship funding.

Three-week classes begin in July and in August. Programs include language classes, afternoon classes on Polish history, workshops, Polish traditions, 3 meals a day, a shared room, and sightseeing on weekends. Singles rooms are available. Airfare is at the student’s expense.

Additional details regarding how to apply for a scholarship and further details regarding courses may be found at www.thekf.org/kf/programs/study/.

Click here to download an informational flyer.