About Polish Youngstown

In partnership with public and private organizations, PolishYoungstown is the umbrella organization created to inspire and educate area residents on all things Polish. Its mission is to develop, promote and support Polish events throughout the Mahoning Valley area. Its goal is for its member organizations to flourish through public awareness and to promote Polish customs with accuracy and liveliness.

PolishYoungstown is an umbrella organization created in the fall of 2008 to inspire, promote and educate the Mahoning Valley on all things Polish. Inspired by the overwhelming response to the folk dancer’s fundraising celebration, a group of five individuals representing area groups and churches got together in an attempt to revive what was once a vital part of the Mahoning Valley community culture.  “We felt like the Polish community had lost its center,” says Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer, PolishYoungstown chair. “What we were betting on is that it hadn’t lost its heart.” 

In addition to Heschmeyer, this committee now includes Michele Jenoff, Agata Lyda Khoury, Darek Chomczyk, Marta Mazur, Tom Kusiowski II, Angela Messenger, Lisa Lotze, Marianne Poprik, Mary Anne Mlynarski, and Ted Szmaj—each representing different experiences: some are Polish born, some are first generation Americans and some are second. They also represent a different organization or facet of the region’s Polish community. Those organizations include:

  • Krakowiaki Polish Folk Circle
  • Kuzman's Lounge
  • Polish Arts Club of Youngstown
  • Polish Happy Hour Youngstown
  • Polish National Alliance
  • St. Casimir's Church
  • St. Joseph the Provider Church
  • St. Stanislaus Church
  • Holy Cross Polish National Catholic Church.
 “We feel this brings a varied perspective to every topic or event we tackle,” says Heschmeyer, who grew up with going to polka days at Idora Park and Krakusy Hall and then went on to attend Alliance College, a Polish-sponsored college in Pennsylvania. “It’s fascinating that ‘being Polish’ means something so different to each of us.” 

The common bond for the group is keeping the spirit of their heritage alive and educating younger generations about why they too should be excited about it. Member of the group began their efforts to reinvigorate Mahoning Valley Poles by restarting the long dormant Krakowiaki Polish Folk Circle.  The group’s first effort was initiating the monthly Polish Happy Hour. At each event, the host bar features specials on a different Polish beer and vodka and the group takes care of the rest. Hospitality includes authentic foods and desserts, but what makes the local group unique is that it adds a Polish culturally themed education piece to every event as well. For example, last June attendees created a large flower wreath, stuffed it with love letters and floated from the B&O Station down the Mahoning River to replicate the St. John’s Eve Festivities taking place simultaneously in Krakow. The music selection changes at each event too, corresponding with the venue. Polish techno, rock, folk and jazz already have been featured. Local followers are starting to bring their own instruments and adding jam sessions to the evenings agenda. 

, a Polish Carnival Celebration took their efforts to a bigger scale. The semi-formal event was held in February before Lent began at the stylish Youngstown Club. It included vodka and beer tasting, an assortment of authentic appetizers, desserts, live music and games. The evening concluded with the traditional paczki donut parade. The special person (guy or gal to break with tradition) who found the hidden coin in a donut was royalty—and received a valuable one-year membership to The Youngstown Club. The event was so successful that took place again this month year with almost twice as many participants!

And on Sunday, August 29th, Polish Day, the event that started it all, will return bigger and better than ever. Bishop Murry has agreed to lead all the Polish priests in the diocese in a Polish polka-themed mass. It will be followed by educational folk craft, genealogy and travel workshops, as well as food, music, folk dance performances and shopping opportunities.
 Cooperative EffortsThe group now is reaching out and forming cooperative events with other groups. On Fat Tuesday the group joining with Cleveland-area Poles and sponsoring a bus trip to Hamtramck, MI for its famous Paczki Day celebration; an Easter Monday bus trip to celebrate Dyngus Day in Buffalo, NY and a summer trip to Poland.

It is working closely with Kuzman’s Lounge too. The group taught polka lessons the last Saturday of the month at Kuzman’s as the bar hosts Polish Night, having committed to bringing Polish-style polka bands to the area for the Valley residents to enjoy.
 Last summer it hosted a Polish Nite at the Scrappers in Niles featuring all-you-can-eat Polish food and beer! They hope to expand on that this year to add a post-game polka dance!! 

On April 11th, the Youngstown Jewish Federation is working with the group and the Polish Arts Club to co-sponsor a presentation in honor of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. Before WWII, Poland had the largest population of Jews in Europe. In fact, many Mahoning Valley Jews can trace their roots back to Eastern Europe. In an effort to highlight the positive aspects of their historic relationship, the Federation and PolishYoungstown will be showing the filmIn the Name of Their Mothers: The Story of Irena Sendler. (www.irenasendlerfilm.com) Sendler and a group of other young Polish women dedicated themselves to smuggling Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto and relocating them to keep them safe until after the war. The film just had its world premiere in Warsaw on February 15th in honor of the 100th anniversary of Sendler’s birth. Mary Skinner, the film’s director and creator, will be in attendance to help replicate the educational aspects of the premiere and is working with the group to bring Hidden Children survivors to Youngstown to participate in the program that day.

Team members have met with the staff of Fellows Riverside Gardens to bring PHH and other events to the Davis Center and the larger Millcreek Park. A June St. John’s Eve celebration and a January 2011 winterfest are in the works.

On a broader scale, the team is working with the Mahoning Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau to create an Ethnic Food Weekend. During their stay visitors could learn first hand how to pinch a pierogi, delicately make Hungarian dobos torte and uncover the secrets of delicious spanakopita---ethnic treasures that are at the heart of the Youngstown experience, but may soon disappear as elders die.

The Team is talking with officers of the Mahoning Valley International Cultural and Civic Society to encourage the group to work together on an International Film Festival in March 2011.   

“We feel we are bringing back the best traditions of our heritage--with a modern twist,” Heschmeyer said.

Polish Media Watch

Polish Media Watch

Polish Happy Hour


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