Dressed in traditional Polish garb, Tristan Smith, Grace Staskiewicz, Sharon Wood, Arline Marro, Ella Fryckowska and Mirka Wilczoch celebrate Polish American Heritage Month at St. Joseph Church in Claremont last October. (COURTESY PHOTOS)
Claremont church members will honor their heritage with special activities
CLAREMONT — Claremont's Polish roots are being celebrated by St. Joseph Church in its annual celebration of Polish American Heritage Month.
Polish immigrants flocked to the city and other communities along the Connecticut River Valley more than 100 years ago to find jobs, said celebration organizer Sharon Wood of Claremont.
';It was the Industrial Revolution, and jobs were available in the mills,'; she explained.
The Polish immigrants, many of whom were Roman Catholic, were able to worship at the old St. Mary's Church, which Wood said was the first Catholic church in New Hampshire.
St. Mary's had been built by French-Canadian immigrants.
';You were having a language problem when the Polish immigrants came,'; Wood said.
Back then, the Catholic Mass was said in Latin, she said, so worship wasn't the issue. But the Polish immigrants had a hard time joining the French-speaking church community.
';It was a difference in a feeling of community with a French priest and not what the Polish people were used to or comfortable with. So they decided to build their own church, and that's why to this day Claremont has two churches for a fairly small community,'; she said.
St. Joseph Church was completed in 1925, and the first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Day of that year.
In the 1980s, the church started celebrating Polish American Heritage Month, and the celebrations have grown every year, Wood said.
For Wood, who grew up in a Polish community in Connecticut, the language, food and culture of Poland is part of her family tradition. Before moving to Claremont in 1973 with her husband, the newly married couple had been living in Maine.
';I really missed being part of the Polish community,'; she said. ';Moving to a city with a Roman Catholic church with a Polish population, it was very comforting, and I jumped right in.';
Each year, organizers offer new activities or classes, but the Polish Cooking Class is a yearly favorite and a staple of the celebration. Sharing the recipe for Polish lemon sugar cookies this year will be Walter Hoszkiewicz of Greenfield.
Hoszkiewicz grew up in a Polish community in Cavendish, Vt., which sits across the river from Claremont. He and his wife were married in St. Joseph Church 26 years ago, he said.
Although his home in Greenfield is an hour-and-a-half drive away from Claremont, he teaches one of the cooking class recipes each year.
';To me it's about promotion of culture and tradition and connecting with people, and helping to ensure future generations can enjoy the food that our grandparents enjoyed,'; Hoszkiewicz said.
The events are open to all and start Tuesday, Oct. 9, with the 21st annual Polish Cooking Class at 6:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Church Hall, 58 Elm St. The cooks will demonstrate the preparation of several Polish recipes, and the audience will be able to taste the results.
A $6 donation is requested to cover the cost of food. Organizers ask that people register ahead of time so that enough food can be prepared. To register, call Wood at 542-6454543-5933;https://owa.unionleader.com/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.JourneyNH.org[URL].
On Thursday, Oct. 18, at 6:30 p.m., Anthony Bajdek, president of the Polish American Congress of New Hampshire, will give a PowerPoint presentation about the organization and show the film ';Nine Days That Changed the World'; about Karol Cardinal Wojtyla's rise to becoming Pope John Paul II. The event is free, and no reservations are necessary.
The annual Mass and Coffee Hour will be held on Sunday, Oct. 21, at 10 a.m. featuring hymns sung in Polish followed by coffee in the church hall with Polish pastries, a sing-along of Polish folk songs and storytelling. There is no charge.
The annual ';Dozynki'; or ';Harvest Festival'; will be held on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 6 p.m., following the 5 p.m. Mass. The menu will include kielbasa, kapusta, golumbki, pierogi and hot dogs for $10 a plate for adults and $5 for children. Tickets will be available at the door.
From Oct. 31 until Nov. 5, The Old Courthouse restaurant in Newport will feature its annual Polish menu. Greeters in Polish folk dress will be on hand to welcome and visit with diners. For reservations, call the restaurant at [/URL]863-8360;http://www.ccamherst.org/[URL].