These wax batik pisanki feature designs from the region of Nowy Sacz in southern Poland.

These wax batik pisanki feature designs from the region of Nowy Sacz in southern Poland.

Photo provided by Marcia Lewandowski


Group to explore Polish Easter traditions

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 6, 2018

 These wax batik pisanki, created by Marcia Lewandowski, originate from four different regions of Poland.

These wax batik pisanki, created by Marcia Lewandowski, originate from four different regions of Poland.

Photo provided by Marcia Lewandowski

TROY — The West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society is inviting people who wish to learn the age-old customs and traditions of Easter to attend the Easter Basket Social and Luncheon at the American Polish Cultural Center in Troy March 10. 

The West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2006.

Lori Gomulka, vice president and executive director of the society, explained via email that the group “exists for the observation, study, appreciation and preservation of the history of west-side Detroit Polonia’s neighborhoods and the Polish-American immigrants who settled and who continued to build the community throughout the decades. This includes their descendants and their neighbors, surrounding institutions, businesses and churches. The society also serves as a repository of historical archives, including artifacts, documents, oral histories and other significant records relevant to its mission and purposes.

The event will feature a full traditional Polish luncheon with pierogi, smoked kiełbasa, kapusta, Polish bread, a green salad, potatoes with dill, California mixed vegetables, cheesecake, coffee and a variety of Polish Easter teas.

Polish folklorist Marcia Lewandowski will demonstrate the ancient art of pisanki, or Easter egg coloring — spelled “pysanky” in Ukrainian — at a workshop at the event.

“Decorating pisanki not only adds to the enjoyment and special meaning of the Polish Easter holiday, it is a link that reaches from the past, uniting us with our ancestors, heritage, faith and traditions,” Lewandowski said via email. “We share the decorating of pisanki with our generations as (a) sign of the rebirth of spring and renewal of mind, body and spirit.”

When asked about the most difficult part of creating the eggs, she said that “in the ever-quickening pace of our society and ‘instant almost everything,’ it is often hard to adopt a more relaxed frame of mind and patience that your designs, lines and technique will keep improving the more often you practice.”

Society member the Rev. Lawrence Zurawski, pastor of St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Parish in Shelby Township, will explain the significance of the various food items in the traditional Easter basket.

Zurawski said the bread in the basket symbolizes the “bread of life.” The sausage links represent the chains that Jesus broke by rising from the dead. Horseradish signifies bitter herbs from the Old Testament. Eggs — and the chickens breaking out of the shell — signify Jesus breaking out of the tomb, he said. 

Zurawski said the wine placed in the basket represents the wine used at the Last Supper and the wine that is used in celebrating Easter. The ham and meats in the basket are placed there after the traditional fasting is done during Lent to signify a return to celebration, he said. Butter in the shape of a lamb represents Jesus, the Lamb of God, who suffered and died. Children put candy or sweets in the basket to represent the sweetness of the Resurrection and the rejoicing of a new life, he added. 

New this year, Zurawski will also talk about the tomb of Jesus traditionally shown in the churches during Good Friday services. 

“The entrance looks like a walk-in cave,” he said. A statue of the resurrected Christ is added to the display on Easter Sunday. 

He said that those who attend the luncheon “really enjoy coming and sharing the traditions with their kids and grandkids. It’s fun getting together with people who attend.” 

The Polish Easter Basket Social and Luncheon will be held noon-3 p.m. March 10 at the American Polish Cultural Center, 2975 E. Maple Road. Tickets cost $30 for adults and $15 for children 12 and younger. Reservations and payment are required before Feb. 26; send checks to Laurie Gomulka, 6238 Pepper Hill St., West Bloomfield, MI 48322. Attendees should include the number of adults and children who will participate in the pisanki workshop; children over age 5 may participate if they are accompanied by an adult. The workshop portion will be limited to the first 50 people. Reading glasses and a painter’s smock are suggested. 

For more information, email Lgomulka@detroitpolonia.org or call (855) 765-6642.