Who would imagine that here in southeastern Idaho a small group of Poles and their American friends would encourage local residents to learn about Polish culture and Polish food? The first half of 2007 was filled with different activities related to Poland.
Idaho, with the size of 2/3 of Poland has only about two million residents compared to 40 million people living in Poland. Idaho Falls, where I live, a town of 54 thousand residents, is located in southeastern Idaho, not far from the border with Wyoming in a semi-arid high altitude region.
We had several Polish activities this year. It all started with my lecture about "Poland as Part of Central and Eastern Europe" in the big auditorium of the Idaho Falls Learning Center. The lecture was a part of the educational program of "Friends For Learning" (FFL). About 60 people, mainly seniors attended. I started the lecture with general information about Poland; then we went through a Polish history course, since it is impossible really to understand Poland without knowing anything about its complex history. The most interesting part for the audience was a series of slides from different regions of Poland. I had many questions; one I especially remember question about the education system in Poland. The person who asked was surprised that there is no illiteracy in Poland! I was surprised that she thought there might be illiteracy there! Yes, Eastern Europe was poor and Communistic but we had a good educational system.
My lecture was followed by the Polish Cuisine Dinner which was also organized by FFL. Such an ethnic dinner takes place just two times per year (one per each semester). Lila Szpakiewicz, IF resident , prepared the recipes for Polish dishes which were then prepared by the volunteers from FFL.
Several members were engaged in decorating the facility for 60-80 people, extra information and quizzes were prepared about Poland as a part of the dinner. Since the dinner coincided with Easter, some volunteers prepared eggs colored with natural dyes, like red cabbage, spinach, and onion skins. Many said that this was the best dinner ever organized by Friends For Learning! These Polish activities would not have been possible without the encouragement of my friend, Earline Reid, a retired Foreign Service Officer. I wish all of you have joined us and enjoy!
The elementary school attended by my daughter had a series of enrichment classes. The topic this spring was countries around the world. Just before Easter I volunteered to help to prepare the enrichment class about Poland. The class consisted of two hour-long activities (crafts and cooking) after the regular school day. For the crafting session we prepared several activities: the girls did beautiful paper flower head bands while the boys made Polish flags. All the kids were involved in doing paper-cuts according to some professionally made paper cuts based on Polish folk tradition. The children also did some egg-painting since it was Easter time. In the same time when one group of children was busy with crafts - the other group was doing some cooking and food decorating. Children filled bagels with poppy seeds for poppy cakes, makowka, then they were decorated Easter mazurka cake with nuts, raisins and chocolate. We were lucky, since we were able to buy delicious wafers for mazurka in the newly opened Russian store in town. We also boiled some eggs and let kids to fill them with different fillings.
Both activities - crafting and cooking - required quite a lot of work before the class for me and some other mothers who were involved in this session. We had an unexpected visit of the journalists from the local newspaper, they interviewed me and some other organizers. The information about the Polish enrichment class with the photo was posted in the front page of Idaho Falls Post-Register.
This is not the end. I just enrolled my daughter in the art class in summer, and they will have a special session devoted to Polish art here! So, it seems that with each year Poland and Idaho are getting closer together!