by Dr. Mark Pienkos
Polish American Congress First Vice President
The brand new $14M Polish Heritage Center in Panna Maria, TX was officially opened on Saturday, October 23, 2021 with a ribbon cutting ceremony featuring many dignitaries, including Bishop Emeritus John W. Yanta.
Among the many people in attendance, author of this article and his wife, Ann, traveled from Sarasota, FL to Panna Maria to extend congratulations. Dr. Mark Pienkos is the Polish American Congress National First Vice President. Ann is President of the Polish-American Association of Sarasota.
Bishop Yanta has been the driving force behind the planning and building of the Polish Heritage Center, site of the first permanent Polish settlement in America. Immigrants from the Silesia Region of Poland came in 1854 to establish roots which have borne fruit over many generations. The Polish Heritage Center is meant to be a tribute to the many Poles who laid the foundation for a Polish presence in Texas and the United States.
The Polish Heritage Center is a state-of-the art 16,500 sq. ft. facility that includes permanent and temporary exhibits to provide an interactive experience from early Polish history to the present. The Center includes an archives collection, library and reading rooms, and space for educational programs. Also, there is a large meeting room for lectures and other events, as well as a theatre that presently boasts an outstanding professional video telling the story of those first Polish settlers to Panna Maria nearly 170 years ago.
Author of this article and his wife. both came away from their experience visiting the new Polish Heritage Center with a greater sense of the tremendous sacrifices the early Polish settlers endured to ultimately establish a new home in a territory that is now rich in Polish history, culture, and tradition.