Woodworking column: It's called Polish Power, folks
Our friend Aurelia Mares sat us down to a big meal of roast goose in her modest home behind St. Wenceslaus Church in New Prague.
"What's up, Aurelia?"
"I just returned with my friends from a visit to Portugal, where we made a pilgrimage to the Fatima site."
"Did you visit Lisbon or Porto?"
"No, just Fatima."
"But haven't you been there before?"
"Yes, six times," replied the octogenarian.
For those of us who hit the high spots overseas, like Hong Kong, Paris the City of Light and the beer gardens of Munich, Aurelia's passion for Fatima may seem like overkill. But if that's what Aurelia liked, well I'm certain it was worth the trip, er trips.
I recently heard about my friend Vitus Kampa, former Trempealeau County Treasurer, who has a new job. According to a recent story in my hometown newspaper Vitus has become a travel agent, specializing in Poland. That's a smart move because Vitus hails from Independence. Where most of the population is Polish and which came from only three different towns in Poland.
And I'm not talking about Warsaw, Krakow and Gdansk.
No, my Independence friends and relatives hailed from Popielow, Stare Siolkowice and Chroscice, not exactly household words in any geography text.
But that's where Vitus took 27 of his fellow Independence neighbors, whose ancestors
hailed from those towns. Mayor Bob Baecker came along, as did city attorney Laverne Michalak and city clerk Lenice Pronschinske. It sounds as if they had a peach of a time.
Starting with the fact that the townspeople in Poland delayed their harvest festivals, so the Americans could also enjoy the festivities. That had to impress these tourists whose annual harvest festival is one of the biggest events back in Independence, and it hauls in enough money to keep the town's magnificent Pyotr e Pawli church in tip-top shape.
The visitors were treated to a 45-minute sermon and a High Mass conducted by a bishop. Polish officials provided translators to help out the Americans whose ancestors left Poland 150 years ago. Genealogists were on hand to help folks find their relatives.
Not to be outdone the newcomers from Indee brought along a present from the U.S.: A hi- tech solar-powered Wi-Fi accessible park bench to be placed along a bike trail outside of Popielow. The news story features a great photo of Bob Baecker cutting a ribbon with Popielow mayor Dionizy Duszynsk.
Ruth and I toured Poland years back and were impressed with its cultural heritage, its architecture (except for the Soviet stuff), but of course, we didn't have the help of Vitus Kampa, who has traveled to his ancestors' homeland several times and knows his onions (and mushrooms, which I figure must be Poland's national fruit). Like Vitus's group we saw the famous salt mine outside Krakow, in which miners carved an entire cathedral, replete with chandelier, the Tatra mountains, the Black Madonna and, sadly, Auschwitz.
I'd love to go back to England from which my ancestors migrated, but when I tried, the village from which they came no longer exists. And I'll bet the Bohemians in River Falls would welcome a go-getter to take a group of them to the Czech Republic, a still do-able option.
Did the tourists appreciate Kampa's efforts to offer hands across the sea? Apparently so.
"Now they're calling me the American ambassador to Poland," quipped the longtime promoter of Poland. So now Whitehall has two ambassadors: Vitus and Callista Bisek Gingrich, whom President Trump recently named Ambassador to the Vatican. It's called Polish Power, folks.
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