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28 stycznia 2013
Is the dancing enough?
Urszula Lang

Is the dancing enough? - Some Australia Day Weekend Reflections by Urszula Lang. It’s a slow, wet, rainy weekend, Australia Day Long Weekend 2013. Oh well, my garden does need the rain. Last week at Avalon my husband Tony had five garden hoses laid out in readiness, as the bush fire in Ku-ring-gai National Park (Lovett Bay) could be seen burning just across the Pittwater, from our back balcony, and moving in our direction. The wind was blowing from the south, so we thought we should be OK, but just in case, you do need to be ready and alert ..... This is Australia.

It’s also two weeks since we got back from the Polish Festival PolArt in Perth, and it’s almost time to go back to Lajkonik rehearsals after a dose of rest, recovery, and time to reflect on what we have just experienced! Perth PolArt was just a wonderful Festival. Beautifully organised. Everything went like clockwork, Swiss-style. Why? For many reasons, but here are the two main ones, in my view:

1. Financial Backing and a good Committee
The PolArt Committee was successful in obtaining backing from a major sponsor. They formed a Committee with a combination of younger and older persons, with the right blend of youth, energy, skills and experience. They were assisted by a professional events Company (it cost a lot, but the sponsorship covered it), and they worked hard. It was the first ever PolArt in Perth, and they had something to prove, certainly to the sceptics who said Perth PolArt wouldn’t work – the Polish community was too small, Perth was too far etc etc. Well done PolArt Committe Perth – you put on a great show and you sure raised the bar! Congratulations and the highest of accolades to each and every one of you!

In our collective memories, Hobart PolArt was great, Adelaide PolArt was great, but Perth just took it to an even higher level in terms of organisation, logistics, diversity of art form, promotion, volunteering, friendly atmosphere and festival quality generally. If we could just capture all that experience and intellectual capital and continue to build ..........? (moves are afoot to create a national Incorporated Organisation of PolArt to take the Festival into the future – stay posted on this matter!);

Lajkonik getting ready to say Goodbye to Cracovia Club

Lajkonik in dressing room - waiting during rehearsals

Lajkonik with Sikorski Club President

2. Huge Investment by Participants
Folkloric ensembles and theatre groups from all around Australia and NZ spend years of preparation time and effort to prepare for PolArt, which is held every 3 years. (Its official! The next one is in Melbourne 2015). Each participating group spends hundreds of thousands of $$$$$$ in rehearsing, buying costumes and props, airfares and accommodation to participate in PolArt. And this is why, PolArt in Australia is, I am told, the largest Polish Festival of its kind outside of Poland. Which in itself is amazing, when you think of the size of the Polish community in the United States and other countries, and the resources they have there. So much closer to Poland as well.

What Australia’s Polonia has, however, is a real gem here and we really have something to boast about! How can we look after this gem of an event, nurture it, further develop it?

And if PolArt wasn’t enough, it should also be noted that in between PolArts we have Polish Festivals in individual cities which are fantastic as well - Polish Christmas at Darling Harbour Sydney, Kosciuszko Festival in Jindabyne, Snowy Mountains, Polish Festival in Federation Square in Melbourne, Polish Dozynki in Adelaide, and Polska Wiosna (Spring) in Brisbane. Each year, at each Festival, we hone in our preparatory and organisational skills, practising for the big one!

(Note government organisations and funding bodies in Poland!)

Today I would also like to touch on another subject which has relevance to the future of Polonia in Australia, one of my pet musings, as I observe many of my peers totally oblivious and disinterested in matters of Polonia Australia - people who were in the Polish dancing groups I was involved in, people who attended Polish Scout camps with me, people who were part of model Polish families (porządne polskie rodziny!) or so my parents told me. And I’m sure they were good Polish families, but what has happened to these people’s “Polishness”? Where are they, and where are their children? Where are there children’s children? And what of PolArt – one of the great successes of the Polish Community in Australia. What are we doing to harness the energy of PolArt to create a champion runner for the future?

The young people who dance in the various Ensembles are beautiful, and they are incredibly vibrant and committed to the task of learning the Polish dances and performing. But those of us who are in the teaching roles - are we doing enough? Do we just teach them to dance? Or do we really teach them about Polish language? Polish values? Polish culture? Polish history? Do we interest them in the contribution of Poles to the development of Australia? Do we retain all this talent to keep working for the further evolution, development and improvement of Polish organisations in Australia? Do we encourage them, develop them? Should the Polish Government be helping us more, or is it just up to us? Is it our responsibility? I think we could do much more in this regard, and certainly it’s an interesting topic for discussion. How patriotic should we be towards both Australia and Poland, and what about having pride in our unique joint heritage!

Ursula Lang

"Bo wszyscy Polacy to jedna rodzina"

PolArt 2012 - rehearsal for Finale

Youth from many Ensembles together