From across the world and through decades torn by war, Polish culture is alive and well in Flagler County. Former residents of Poland gather regularly from Palm Coast, Ormond Beach and elsewhere to the Polonia Society of Korona to sing, dance and share the old culture.
The brilliant costumes and traditional dances of Poland will be on display this Friday at the International Food and Wine Festival, which celebrates not only Polish but also many diverse cultures of Palm Coast. The festival is set for noon to 8 p.m. Aug. 31, at Central Park in Town Center, 975 Central Ave. Admission is free. Ethnic cuisines, wines, beers, music, cultural displays and entertainment will be available throughout the day.
A former figure skater
One of the features of the festival will be dancers performing in native costume, including Stanley and Ela Ziemlinski, of Ormond Beach, who are originally from Poland. All the dancers will talk about the traditions of the native dress before their performances.
Stanley Ziemlinski said he has been involved with Polish organizations since he came to America in 1981. He said the focus of the organizations is to keep Polish culture and traditions in foreign countries. When he lived in Poland, he was a member of dance group that represented his city in national and international events.
His wife, Ela, was a figure skater in Poland and she later became a teacher in the U.S. Two years ago, the Ziemlinskis moved to this area and have been active with the Polonia Society of Korona.
“Our goal is to continue teaching new generations of Poles our culture and traditions,” Ziemlinski said. At the International Food and Wine Festival, the couple will be dressed in Krakowski national folk costume.
A woman sponsored by nuns
Poland will also be represented by a woman from Palm Coast, Janina Gomolka, 84, who will also dance in costume.
Gomolka was sent to Siberia from her native Poland in 1940 at the age of 10 when Germany and Russia divided Poland, she said. In 1941, she was allowed to travel to India.
When she was 17, nuns in Reading, Pa., sponsored her and 49 other teenage girls to come to the U.S. She came alone because her father had died in Siberia and her mother remained in India.
She helped the nuns with the young children in the orphanage and later attended Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, majoring in elementary education. She raised four children and has been widowed twice.
In 1948, she was able to sponsor her mother and siblings and bring them to America.
Gomolka said she loves this area because of the large Polish population. She is very active in the Polonia Society. At the International Food and Wine Festival, she will wear her folk costume from the Krakow region.
A day of culture
Exhibitors at the festival also include the Afro-American Caribbean Heritage Organization, the African American Cultural Society, the Italian American Club and the United Caribbean Club.
Event wine glasses will be available for $5 each. With the purchase of a wine glass, adults will receive a coupon for a free 3-ounce glass of wine. A full bar will be available.
For more information visit palmcoastgov.com.
BOX: Main stage entertainment
Noon — DJ Vern Festival Kickoff
12:15, 1:15, and 2:15 p.m. — Dennis Fermin Spanish Guitar and Flamenco Dancer
12:45, 1:45, 5 and 6:15 p.m. — Quite a Catch Juggling
3:15, 4:45, and 6 p.m. — Ancient City Pipes
3:35 and 6:30 p.m. — Polonia Society of Korona
4 to 4:45 p.m. — Palm Coast Community Band
6:45 p.m. — Enchanted Caravan Belly Dance Troupe
7:30 p.m. — Matanzas High School Steel Band