Tuesday, May 23, 2017
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Culture and Tradition

Katyn Documentary - Buttons In The Ground

     WASHINGTON, D.C.  In the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia in the Spring of 1940, well over 250,000 metal buttons were cast into the ground of mass graves. These silver-hued metal buttons, embossed with the Polish Eagle, were still attached to the uniform coats being worn by the over-20,000 Polish Army officers who were captured and murdered by the communist Soviet Union (Russians) at the beginning of WWII. Every now and then some of these buttons will work themselves up from the eternal darkness below to the surface above the large burial pits. And upon arriving there, in the bright light of day, the buttons are transformed into potent and dramatic silent witnesses to one of the greatest crimes ever committed against Poland.

Read more: Katyn Documentary - Buttons In The Ground


Polka for Everybody

For many of us, some of the fondest memories of grandma and grandpa are of visits to their house where the radio was set to a program that blared out polka, obereks and rhinelanders.
Theories on the origin of the polka have been well explored before. Briefly, the music and dance are of Bohemian (Czech) origin. It was called the polka either after the Czech word for "half" in reference to the dance's characteristic half-step, or in sympathy for the Poles' 1830 uprising. The very word "polka" means Polish woman in the Polish language. One theory says that it may have been a Polish folk dance borrowed by the Bohemians. Another says it has Gypsy roots. Some say it can even be traced to a single person, a Bohemian girl named Anicka Chadimova.
At any rate, form its early 1830s beginnings it spread across Europe vis theater performances and became a true craze. Its appeal was that it was so unlike any dance or music that existed at the time in western Europe, freewheeling and lighthearted. By the early 1840s it had captivated London. In 1844 it arrived in America, first performed in New York.

Read more: Polka for Everybody


Cory Wells Lewandowski of Three Dog Night

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Three Dog Night was one of the most popular rock music groups in the world. From 1969 through 1974, they had more top ten hit records than anyone else. One of the leaders of the group was Cory Wells.

Wells' given name was Emil Lewandowski. He was born in Buffalo, New York in 1942. His natural father was an Englishman residing in Canada named Wellsley. His mother gave her son her last name. She later married a man who turned out to be an alcoholic and a less than pleasant step-father to the boy.

Read more: Cory Wells Lewandowski of Three Dog Night


Madame Landowska (1879-1959) – Harpsichordist & Socialite

LandowskaWanda Landowska is called a great musician but seldom a great historian. Yet, in essence, that was what she was. Born in 1879 in Warsaw, her parents were educated and well to do. Her father was a lawyer and her mother was the first person to translate the works of Mark Twain into Polish. Though they were ethnic Jews, Landowska's parents and grandparents had converted to Christianity.

 Young Wanda was a musical prodigy who began playing piano at age four. She began studying at the Warsaw Conservatory of Music, and at 17 went to Berlin for further schooling. There, the young lady won several competitions, developed an interest in 17th and 18th century music, and met young Polish folklorist Henryk Lew. Lew encouraged her interest in vintage music and instruments and convinced her to go to Paris with him. They moved there in 1900 and married, but they both took female lovers since Landowska was a lesbian.

Read more: Madame Landowska (1879-1959) – Harpsichordist & Socialite


The Last Mazurka: A Family's Tale of War, Passion, and Loss - Book Review

The Last Mazurka is a curious little book that defies pigeonholing and perhaps that confusion is the book's best feature. At the heart of the book it is the tale of a grandson's search for his aristocratic family and to understand what happened to the family in pre and post World War II Poland.

A central theme of the book is mismatched people and marriages that should have never happened.

Read more: The Last Mazurka: A Family's Tale of War, Passion, and Loss - Book Review


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