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Heritage program keeps Polish pride alive

| Monday, Oct. 27, 2003

TARENTUM:The Polish National Anthem could be heard resonating through the halls of the Alle-Kiski Historical Society Sunday.

At least half of the nearly 100 people who attended the Polish Heritage Program proudly sang the words to the song which represents the country their ancestors came from.

The smells of kanapies and stuffed cabbage permeated the air at the program which was held in honor of Polish Heritage Month and dedicated to Pope John Paul II. Organizers and those who attended said such programs are important to keep Polish heritage alive.

"It is very important they (Polish immigrants) brought with them not only themselves, but culture and tradition," said the Rev. Miroslaw Stelmaszczyk, pastor of Holy Family Church in East Deer.

He said Americans of all nationalities have learned to mingle with one another, but he said Polish people are still very proud of who they are.

Event organizer Cynthia Maleski said the Historical Society held a multicultural event three years ago, and this year she was asked if she could put together a Polish program.

"It's a great place to celebrate diversity and see the treasures of the Alle-Kiski Valley," she said of the historical society.

Woman of the Polish National Alliance, which is located in the Natrona section of Harrison Township, made sure that all who came were well fed. They worked for several weeks preparing the food to feed the standing room only crowd.

Marilyn Barker, Betty Bednarz, Laura Zalenski, and Marsha Zendarski dished out the food, and handed out Red Ribbon pop from the Natrona Bottling Company. The woman are used to preparing food, holding dinners at the club usually at least once a month.

Barker said unlike other area clubs which are struggling for members, the PNA is thriving. It celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.

She said when Maleski asked for their help they were more than happy to lend a hand. They said it's important to keep pass down Polish traditions to the younger generation.

"We have parties for our children because we don't want to lose our Polish Heritage," Barker said.

She said a program such as the one held Sunday also gives them a chance to network with other Polish organizations, including the Kosciuszko Society, the Polish Roman Catholic Union, and the Polish Falcons.

"Even though we belong to different organizations we help each other out," Barker said. "United we stand, divided we fall."

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