Taste America 2006


Washington, D.C.–On July 27, 2006 the Polish American Congress (PAC) proudly represented the Polish American community at Taste America, an invitation-only event at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. attended by more than 650 guests primarily including U.S. Senators and Representatives with their families. The event was held under the theme of E Pluribus Unum — From Many, One and was tailored to present contributions of various ethnic groups to American history and culture.

When the Washington D.C. office of the PAC received the invitation to participate in this year’s event, Dr. Barbara Borzuchowska Andersen, director of research and internship program coordinator, spearheaded, developed, and presented the project on Capitol Hill together with the help of two summer interns – Marta Laskowska, a University of Iowa student, and Daniel Godlewski, a student from Chicago, IL who is now attending Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The invitation explained this year’s motto of E Pluribus Unum as “the coming together of the people and cultures of many nations to comprise the American nation, depicting the art, literature, food, music, and national dress of countries whose peoples emigrated to America, bringing with them their traditions that have combined to form the Great American Melting Pot.”

We agreed with the “coming together” element of the concept, but we interpreted the Unum as a brilliant mosaic by a Jan de Rosen, a magnificent tapestry, or painting by a gifted artist, where each stone, fiber and color keeps its true self and together brings life to the finished piece. Consequently, the PAC exhibit had listings of famous artists, scientists and public figures as well as presentation of Polish American history, i.e. a presentation highlighting Polonia’s accomplishments and contributions to the UNUM. A display of art and literature and samples of Polish confectionary and liquors were also arranged on our display table.

Most of the other exhibitors displaying at the event offered only one type of item such as wines, foods, or music and small dance groups in native costumes. Judging by the comments of the public, the PAC exhibit was the most attractive, informative and popular. We believe that the Polish sweets and attractive items we distributed added to the pleasure of the moment.

It took a great deal of coordination and effort to prepare the display. The time was spent on researching and collecting information, designing informational materials, contacting sponsors and vendors, as well as on consultations and meetings with other involved parties. All the work was done with one overreaching goal in mind — to better acquaint the event’s influential attendees with the Polish American community and its history, accomplishments, contributions and sheer size in the United States. The final effect was truly impressive.

The table, decorated with an ornate, hand-painted tablecloth done by the manufacturer Polish Silk (Jedwab Polski – Milanowek), included three sections: Arts, Information and Cuisine.

A wall-size map of the United States, created in the PAC Washington D.C. office, was behind the display table and detailing the Polish American population in each state. Two posters, also prepared especially for the event, and flanking both sides of the display table, presented more than 80 Polish Americans who have contributed significantly to American history, science and culture.

The Arts section comprised a display of Polish art, including hand-painted silks, traditional Christmas tree ornaments, artistic glass, and contemporary art. Specific items included a stand displaying elegant hand-painted Polish silk scarves and shawls by Polish Silk, handmade artistic glass by Seattle-residing Polish American artist Mr. Mariusz Rynkiewicz, a selection of hand-painted Christmas ornaments by Komozja, and albums with illustrations by Mr. Rafal Olbinski, a Polish American artist residing in New York City.

The central part of the display table was dedicated to Information about American Polonia and the Polish American Congress. The background was formed by two large, framed documents outlining the history of American Polonia and the PAC’s mission and accomplishments. In front there was a spread of various publications including: Role of the Polish American Congress in the Expansion of NATO, PAC’s 60 Years of Service, Role of the PAC in the Forced Labor Compensation Program, as well as a complimentary handsomely-bound book, The Accomplished Senator, by Laurence Grimald Gozlinski and dating from 1568 A.D. Compact disks with music by Chopin and Liszt performed by a Polish American pianist Jerzy Stryjniak, and a DVD entitled Honor of the City were also distributed with compliments of the PAC. Other items in this section included pamphlets and handouts, such as a listing and brief description of the most significant Polish American organizations in the United States and of American universities offering courses in Polish studies.

A line of navy-blue gift bags adorned with the PAC logo – containing samples of Polish chocolate by Wedel, Wawel, samples of Bison vodka and apple juice, and a newsletter summarizing the information available at the display – separated the Information section from the one dedicated to a display of Polish liquors and sweets. Ten bottles with Polish spirits (Belvedere, Chopin, Luksusowa and Ultimat) formed a background for a variety of baskets including Polish herbs, spices and seasoning, and trays with various kinds of chocolates and sweets laid out for tasting.

Particularly successful elements of the exhibit included the map that visibly drew the attention of the legislators, many of whom were genuinely surprised by our numbers in their home state and the two picture-filled posters highlighting the accomplishments of prominent Polish Americans throughout history.

All visiting guests were invited to review the contents of the table, to sample Polish sweets, and to take home an Honor of the City DVD or CDs with music by Chopin and Liszt performed by Jerzy Stryjniak. All visiting guests were also handed a gift bag.

The Washington office deals with a good number of interns throughout the year. We do attract young people, so it was interesting to hear the comments of those present. Here are the words of one of them:

“Reflecting back on last Thursday’s event of Taste America, at the United States Capitol, brings back the excitement, the thrill and a little bit of the nervousness I felt that night. The Polish American Congress has been working on this project for so long and with such dedication, and it all came down to that night. Walking down the hallways of the Capitol, and quickly setting up our rich display, I was not sure of what the night was going to bring. As the first attendees visited our table, however, I knew that we had succeeded in every way!

I can truly admit that I have never been as proud to be of Polish heritage as I was that very night. Taste America gave me the opportunity to not only share and display the research that I have put together and worked on this whole summer but also to educate others about my Polish origin and about my personal experiences as a Poland native. I have never felt more patriotic and proud to be not only Polish but also a Polish-American. My enthusiasm and passion towards this project has been increasing as we were counting down the days to the event, and that night was definitely at its highest! Words cannot explain how much I enjoyed discussing Poland, explaining certain factors of my culture, teaching visitors about my home country, and proudly displaying everything we have worked on over the summer.

I believe that Taste America was an extreme success for the Polish American Congress, but more than that it was a reward to me. It felt rewarding to be able to educate and enlighten the attendees, about my country and also about the PAC. I believe that it was a big privilege, to be able to take part in that event, and be able to represent the PAC and Poland.”

Marta Laskowska, July 31, 2006.

It is very important to note that the success enjoyed by the Polish American Congress would not have been possible without the help of numerous friends and supporters; the Polish American Congress is grateful for the generosity of the sponsors that made the exhibit possible. In particular, we would like to acknowledge Doma Export, Adamba Imports, Appetita, Bison Grass Vodka, Hortex, Knorr, Luksusova Potato Vodka, Prince Polo Chocolates, Ultimat Vodka, Vavel, Wawel, as well as sponsors of the Arts section: Komozja, Polish Silk, Mr. Rafal Olbinski, Mr. Mariusz Rynkiewicz, Mr. Jerzy Stryjniak, and the American Institute of Polish Culture in Miami, Florida.

Col. Casimir I. Lenard (AUS-Ret) &
Barbara Borzuchowska Andersen, Ph.D.
Washington D.C. Office

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