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Being Polish Is More than Polkas and Pierogi

Polish Happy Hour features Polish

Beer, Vodka , Music and Fun

Youngstown -

Q: What do you get when you take a bunch of Polish-Americans and put them in a bar?

A: Polish Happy Hour.

Those who want to sip a cold Polish beer will soon be able to do so a lot closer to home than Warsaw. Local Poles, Polish-Americans and those with an interest in the former Eastern bloc nation are gathering nationwide as part of the growth of a national Polish networking organization.

"There are young Polish émigrés and Polish-Americans here that have strong ties to Poland and its language," says Darek Chomczyk, the 32-year-old local chapter head who emigrated from Katowice in his teens. "But we are tired of people thinking it's always about polkas and pierogi."

Chomczyk, former partner in Barley's, heard about Polish Happy Hours from a cousin living in Washington, D.C. so he contacted the organization. Like chapters in other cities, the group is intended for people-those of Polish heritage and those who merely hold an interest-to network and meet friends, dates or simply someone with whom they can secretly enjoy those publicly maligned pierogies.

Gregory Witczak, a 30-something who emigrated from Poland as a young child, started Polish Happy Hour (www.polishhappyhour.com in Washington, D.C., nine years ago because he found the only way young Poles and Polish-Americans were connecting was through stuffy events at the embassy.

"It's the same for us here in Youngstown," says Chomczyk, noting he bartended at past Polish folk activities, but would never own a polka CD. "The Polish Arts Club of Youngstown does good work, but everything they do is aimed at the older generation. I envision our gatherings being a place where people can learn about the modern, hipper part of their Polish culture."

Today, more than 1,500 people in 10 cities subscribe to the organization's listserv, which announces meetings. The local groups have spun off subsets that get together for weekly networking sessions, ski trips, running and nights at dance clubs.