CR welcomes summer, as does Poland. And nowhere is the summer solstice more beautifully welcomed than in Poland, with the ancient festival of Wianki (wreaths) when barefoot girls in white dresses bring floral wreaths to a river’s edge, cast them in the water, and leave them to fate’s caprice.
The wianki, elaborate works of art involving branches, flowers and candles, float downriver to the delight of children and adults alike.
More wreaths are fashioned into floral crowns embellished with figures of birds, butterflies and anything else the artistic imagination can come up with. Extravagance has no limits on this day; the hats of Ascot pale by comparison perhaps because wianki – as opposed to hats – is not a commercial enterprise. One can only hope that this festival will forever stay as it is, that Hallmark will never create Wianki greeting cards, and shopping malls will never have Wianki Day Specials. Though purveyors of food, drink and music are welcome. And we’ve just learned that there is a Wianki fest in Washington, D.C. Good to know in case you don’t make it to Kraków next year.
Luckily, “Poland” is wherever Polish people are, as is stated so eloquently in Hanka Ordonówna’s wonderful book about children when their Poland was just “two rooms.” For thousands of us, Poland has been, at one time or another, in India, Africa, New Zealand, Mexico and beyond.
In this issue, we highlight India, mainly because of the marvelous book by Indian author Anuradha Bhattacharjee, The Second Homeland: Polish Refugees in India. That Polish landscape included elephants, exotic fruit, generous Maharajas and a superb cast of characters ranging from cabaret stars to theosophists.
Books, as always. Michał Kasprzak weighs in on Marci Shore’s The Taste of Ashes; there’s a review of Magda Romanska’s new anthology of Bogusław Schaeffer’s works. And two writers have a problem with Agata Tuszyńska’s Vera Gran.
On the light side, an Englishman’s adventures – misadventures? – begin with his future bride’s father saying “No.” He also notes that while English weddings are heavy on speeches, Polish weddings emphasize food and dancing. He indulges in the eternal rivalry between Kraków and Warsaw as well, so to cool that, CR puts the spotlight on enchanting Zamość.
And now to food! As noted in The Guardian: No processed cheeses, no tinned fish, no just-add-water packets… think Provence, with beetroot. Which brings us to two new Polish cookbooks, Polish Classic Desserts and From a Polish Country Kitchen, both reviewed in this issue.
Finally, as noted above, Poland is wherever Polish people are and for several summers they were in Canmore, Alberta, at Poland in the Rockies. There were fond hopes that a new cycle of this lively symposium would begin again in 2014 but fate decided otherwise. In this issue, CR bids a formal Farewell to Poland in the Rockies.
A happy summer to all!