Dancing at one of our Polish Picnics at River's End

Dancing at one of our Polish Picnics at River's End

News of Polonia Article 2007

Polish Center of Los Angeles is a fraternal association of Polish Americans in Los Angeles. The Polish Center was founded in 1967, with the primary address given as 3424 W. Adams Blvd, Los Angeles. Primary drivers in founding of the center were Jerzy Zielinski and Helena Stelmach. In 1975, the Polish Fraternal Association of California known as “Samopomoc” was dissolved, with its remaining assets being added to those of the Polish Center. “Samopomoc” was founded on June 23, 1952, with the following goals:

  • To foster, encourage and promote the civic, social, cultural, and education interests of the Polish-American community.

  • To stimulate mutual help amongst its members and to inculcate upon its members the principles of charity, justice, and brotherly love

  • To assists its members and particularly the newly arrived Polish immigrants in need.

During its 24 years of existence, members of Samopomoc donated $3720 to help its members and in particular the newly arrived Polish immigrants. It also donated over $8500 to other Polish American organizations. It is interesting to read what was stated in the minutes from a meeting held by Samopomoc and the Polish Center on 1 February 1975 to evaluate combining the two organizations:

“Every year our community work is becoming more and more difficult, since the composition of the Polish ethnic group in Los Angeles constantly changes, while the organizational forms remain the same. Newcomers and youth are not keen to join our organizations and get involved in our activities, while the current activists are getting older and the fruits of out 30 years of labor may come to nothing.”

We could easily make the same statement today, substituting 50 years in place of 30.
Krystyna Zielkiewicz was the last President of Samopomoc.

The purposes and objectives of the Polish Center, as stated in the by-laws are as follows.

  1. To foster the tradition of Poland’s independence and cultural achievements.

  2. To foster, encourage, and promote the civic, social, cultural and educational interests of the Polish-American community.

  3. To work towards realization of a suitable cultural center in the metropolitan area of Los Angeles

  4. To engage in any other business or activity which can help in the realization of the above objectives, but not conflict with the laws of the United States of America or the state of California.

In 1972 Polish Center purchased River’s End Recreational Park, property in Canyon Country, about 40 miles north of Los Angeles. The property was purchased since at the time it was felt that purchase of a building suitable for Polish Home could not be accomplished due to high property values. Little did we know that the property values in LA would only continue to go up and purchasing suitable property would become more and more difficult. Meanwhile, the River’s End Park functioned as a recreational vehicle park, rented out to trailer units for months at a time. On Sunday nights during the summer the Polish Center started organizing picnics with live Polish music and good Polish food, which soon became very popular among the Southern California Polonia. Despite their popularity, the property went through some difficult times in the late 70’s and survived only due to a no-interest loan made by a number of its very dedicated members.

A great many members of local Polonia contributed to the success of the Polish Center and River’s End Park. Some of the founders and leaders of the Center include Zielinski, Nowowiejski, Stelmach, Foltyn, Kosowicz, Nowicki (Tadeusz I Jozek), Jankowski, Zielkiewicz, Grzanka, Komorowski, Malek, Babczynski, and Ciesiolkiewicz.

The Polish Center has always supported a number of Polish American organizations in Southern California and outside. During Solidarity period in Poland, the Center organized transport of medicines and medical supplies to a number of hospitals in Poland. This action was led by then President Chris Ciesiolkiewicz, assisted by Stanley Grzanka, and Marek Trocinski. Many containers were shipped to Poland during those years

Since 2001 the Polish Center is led by Andrzej Kozlowski, while Marek Trocinski is the Treasurer, and Jurek Bajerczak the Secretary. The activities of the Polish Center have been refocused on the Polonia here in Southern California, due to the changed political and the improving, albeit slowly, economic situation in Poland.

Since 2002, the Polish Center has donated over $100,000 to the local Polish American organizations, making it probably the leading donor to other Polish American organizations and activities in Southern California.

The Center has made contributions to Polish Schools in LA and Yorba Linda, Polish Parish, Krakusy, Szarotka, Polish Radio Hour, Relief Committee for Poles in the former Soviet Union, Polish Millenium Library, Polish Film Festival {and others. Polish Center also supports Polish University Club. Annually a “Polish Center Scholarship” is awarded through the Polish University Club to a deserving Polish American university student.

Polish Center also supports multiple of ad-hoc requests. Polish Center has supported the 1st Commemorative Mass for John Paul II at the Los Angeles Cathedral. More recently, The Center received a request to support the Paderewski Monument to be located on the campus of USC. The Polish Center responded positively to this worthy cause and has already given a substantial contribution. Other requests are received and usually supported by the Polish Center throughout the year.

Continuing with tradition started by Samopomoc, Polish Center annually organizes Sylwester Balls, traditional New Year’s Eve dinner dances at local Southern California hotels. For many years this event was held at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA. About 15 years ago it was moved to the Los Angeles Airport Marriott where it has been held ever since. This is the longest continuing event of this type in Southern California.

Over 40 of these Sylwester’s have been held and many memories made. Some excellent bands that come to mind, which played at the Center’s Sylwesters include the Henryk Reiss Orchestra, the Bitner Brothers Orchestra, the Dave Miron Band, Basia and Takt, Michael Postian Band, and lately the Zbigniew Galazka Band from Phoenix Arizona. There were some memorable guest performers as well, including Irena Santor, Halina Kunicka, land more recently Jerzy Polomski. For many years the Center also held “Bal Tadeuszow” at the Polish Parish Hall on Adams Blvd since many of the early members had Tadeusz as their given name.

Currently the Center is struggling with declining membership. While in the 70’s the membership was around 300, today it is less than 50. Many of the founding members have passed away, moved away, or are simply too old to participate actively. Even the picnics do not excite today’s younger Polonia as much as they did 30 or even 10 years ago. Why is that? Perhaps the availability of TV Polonia, Polish press, and the internet, has obviated the need for immediacy, which was felt by Polonia of the past generation. The Center is therefore in process of assessing it’s mission and goals. Is a Polish Home still a viable goal? Would it be sufficiently supported if a suitable location were found?

Recently a Business Plan for such a center was commissioned and has been completed. A membership drive is also underway and a number of younger members have been added. If you are interested in joining the Polish Center, want to become involved in Polonia, have ideas on what the Polish Center should be doing, and are willing to dedicate your time as a volunteer, please consider joining our organization. For further information, please contact any of the officers listed above. Or send a request for application to Polish Center, P.O. Box 3424 W. Adams Blvd, LA, CA, 90018.

News of Polonia
Date: October 2007