Archive for the ‘Polish Traditions’ Category


On July 1, Poland will assume the six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union.  

This is a VERY big deal for Poland which has come a long way since the gloomy days of life behind the iron curtain. It’s also a great testament to the ambitious nature of the Polish people.

To commemorate the occasion the country commissioned celebrated filmmaker Tomasz Bagiński and the Platige Image company to create a short animated film titled Europe in Dance.

The film which took nine months to complete is based on a waltz metaphor and the transformations to which Poland is inviting Europe. You can view the film here.

But perhaps a more vivid showcase of Poland’s aspirations exist in a video which was shot last week.

On June 21st, the residents of Poznan, released 8,000 Chinese lanterns into the sky to mark Midsummer Night. The event was accompanied by the soundtrack Chariots of Fire by Vangelis. The effort set a national record and organizers are already planning to beat the World Guinness Record next year.

Poland’s future seems to be a bright one. And a sky filled with flickering lanterns seems like the perfect metaphor.


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By: Justyna Baraniecki

There are so many aspects of culture shock when a family moves to a new country, even more so, when a family skips continents.  When I was young, one of the first things I noticed was the vast differences in the raising of children.   Being that I’m about to embark on marriage soon myself, the idea of having children of my own is no longer a fuzzy thought: its becoming much more real!  I suppose the first thing I noticed as a difference between North American and European culture was the conservatism. 

The “ideal family” as it is portrayed in much of North American media and that I see in my own environment is strangely conservative and quite quick to ‘shelter’.  Friends of mine and people I know that have recently become parents here, I’ve noticed, immediately changed the way they dress,  the things they talk about (especially around the children), their interests and the people the used to be are a distant memory.   The sentence I seem to hear most often is When you have kids, you’ll understand

Of course there’s a certain amount of change to be expected when a couple starts a family. I guess I just remember growing up in Europe a little bit differently.  Our toys had their spots (and it wasn’t in the living room for every adult to see), temper tantrums were not an option, and if Ma and Pa wanted to go and have a drink with friends, the whole family would go.  “Vices” weren’t hidden, mini skirts were worn, sex, religion and politics were still discussed.  The idea of getting a baby-sitter so the parents go off and have ‘adult’ time didn’t happen in the Europe I grew up in. 

I find myself constantly in situations where I have to watch what I say in fear of a child hearing it.  I mean, I don’t exactly cuss like a salt at sea, but if you can’t talk about films on the Oscar short list, is there a limit to how much one should shelter their children?  I don’t know what method  of child rearing is best, and, I don’t think its about one method being better than another.  It’s just another thing to get used to.  Does being completely open with your children lead them to becoming balanced adults, or are there topics of conversation kids ought not be privy to?  Coming from Poland to Canada doesn’t seem like that big of a jump to the naked eye, but the differences are vast, and nearly 20 years after immigration, I find myself still feeling the culture shock.  What are you thoughts?

I had a great conversation with a friend of mine, a woman who also immigrated from Eastern Europe, and her experience seemed parallel to mine, in the sense that children were included in everything.  If an activity was too much for a child to bear witness to, it simply wasn’t done, period.   Being in the middle, I find myself wondering, what are healthy boundries and how do you establish them?  This months post opens up more questions than answers, but it’d be nice to hear what you have to say!  Do you find a difference between children raised in Europe versus North America?

Justyna Baraniecki

In addition to being a gifted stylist, part-time model and contributing style writer at the Ottawa Citizen, her passion for fashion has turned her into a vintage clothing collector. As if all this wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Justyna recently launched the stunning online vintage boutique chicshop.ca and keeps busy with her own blog.

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Several weeks ago we featured the lovely Justyna Baraniecki as part of our professional profile on our blog and are thrilled to say that she has agreed to write a bi-weekly blog for us. For those who aren’t familiar with Justyna, in addition to being a gifted stylist, part-time model and contributing style writer at the Ottawa Citizen, her passion for fashion has turned her into a vintage clothing collector. As if all this wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Justyna recently launched the stunning online vintage boutique chicshop.ca and keeps busy with her own blog.

Enjoy everyone!

Hi Everyone,

This is my first blog post for YouNxt I was asked to write about something connecting me to the Polish community.

First things first: introductions.

My name is Justyna and I’m a first generation immigrant from Poland. I was born there and while I was young when I moved to the West, memories connecting me to the mothership have always been smell and taste related. I moved here when I was quite young (9), but I still get a feeling for culture shock. Especially when it comes to food.

My Polish heritage, watching my parents entertain and be entertained, always revolved around proper etiquette of food: you feed your guests! You give them drink! But beyond that, you make the food with love.

I remember overhearing an older co-worker of mine talking about a dinner party she was to host. The lady was my mothers age. I asked her (in a very excited tone) about what she was going to make! In the Polish community, dinner parties are a big deal, right? She replied “Oh I don’t know, I’ll just get some Chinese take out.” It’s something I’ve never been able to get used to here. Food and cooking are often seen as a chore. That’s just so foreign to me! Had my mother been there, I think she’d have fainted! Another co-worker, (also European) was nearby and heard and let out a shocked GASP! “How can you do that!?” she exclaimed! Annie (lets call her that) said “Oh no one cares! I hate cooking anyway!”

Rule #1: If you invite people over, you must cook for them, and you must feed them until they can’t eat any more. What’s the point of inviting people over, if you’re just going to starve them with take out?

My first love is fashion. I own an online boutique but you could say that my TRUE love is food. If I had a million dollars, I’d lock myself in the kitchen and cook and watch people eat (and obviously eat tons myself too!). So for my first post, I’d like to share with you a recipe. Nothing sums up Polish cuisine like Borstch and Pierogi.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.



– A pot of chicken broth

– 2 onions, diced

– 2 garlic cloves, minced

– 2 celery stalks, trimmed, thinly sliced

– 1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced

– 1 leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced

– 1 bay leaf

– 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

-2 beets, peeled, grated

-1/4 cup dill, minced

-2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or as needed

-1/2 cup sour cream OR mashed potatoes

-A nice squeeze of lemon


Bortsch is quite simple. Basically, you take the broth and vegetables listed above and simmer. Slowly add the herbs, simmer some more and after about 45 minutes, squeeze in a bit of lemon juice. When pouring the soup into the bowls, discard all the veggies and just pour the broth OR puree all the veggies with the broth in a mixer/food processor for a thicker soup.

My mother and grandmother served bortsch in one of three ways: 1. when plating add a dollop of sour cream into the bowl. 2. Toss in some potato filled mini pierogi (ushka) 3. Put some garlic mashed potatoes on the side, dip a spoon full of potato into the soup and enjoy.

 The easiest soup to make, but oh so comforting in the winter!

The pierogi, well, if you’re going to attempt the recipe, (it’s quite easy) its time consuming. You’ll need 3 or 4 hours. But the results are so tasty and worth it! Make it a family tradition, and pass it on to the next generation. Every Pole should know their way around a pierogi dish, at least I think so!

PIEROGI – Wild Mushroom and Beef



-A hill of flour

-1 egg

-1/2 cup of warm milk

-A bit of water (warm)


-A splash of Oil


-Beef (for best results, use left over roast beef or you can substitute ground beef)

-Mushrooms (any type, for best results, use wild and forest mushrooms)

-2 cloves of garlic

-One onion


-Your favorite herbs (I recommend a sprig of parsley or two)

Instructions to make dough:  

Pierogi dough - step 1

Create an ant hill of flour and make a hole in the middle (it should look like a volcano). Break an egg into the hill, add a splash of oil and salt. (You can do this in a large bowl, it may be easier that way).

Pierogi dough - step 2

Slowly, pour warm (not hot, you don’t want your egg to scramble) milk into the hill and start mixing. Add warm (not hot) water and keep mixing until you reach the doughy consistency you want.

Pierogi dough - step 3

Cover with saran wrap and let it chill in the fridge for 2 hours (it will be easier to roll out).

For the filling:

-Saute the onions, garlic, mushrooms and beef. Set aside.

-Boil the sauerkraut (you can get a jar of it at the supermarket, use about 1/2 a large jar) for 45 minutes and drain

-Add the kraut to the beef mixture

-In a food processor, blend the mixture until it turns into (almost) a paste

-Chill. The filling must be completely cold before you try and stuff your pierogi. You can do this one day ahead.

Putting it together:   

Pierogi - step 4

Roll out the dough and with a cookie cutter cut out circles. Use about a teaspoon and a half in each circle. Fold in half and seal the edges with a fork. Repeat until you’ve used up all your dough & filling. Or until you’ve had enough.


Once all your pierogi are assembled, you’ll need a large pot of boiling salted water. Gently drop your pierogi in the salted water. Once they float to the top (about 5 minutes) they’re ready! If you have any leftover onion and garlic, you can saute that with bacon and pour it over your pierogi. Enjoy with sour cream on the side!

Lots of love and yummy Karma! Justyna (or Tysia, as my mama calls me!)

Justyna Baraniecki

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Remember when not so long ago Poland was a hot bed for the very best in automotive technology?

No, Poland didn’t produce Mercedes-Benzes…

…Ferraris …

… Alfa Romeos

or Pagani Zondas…


…or hot McLarens.

These cars weren’t yet on Poland’s radar. But Poles did do some mean cruising in…

The Maluch!

That’s right!

The Maluch, the Syrena, the Polonez and Trabant – remember those slick warriors of the Eastern Block roads? They bring back so many good memories.

Primarily created by the Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych (FSO) (Factory for Passenger Automobiles) in Warsaw, these little bad boys ruled the streets of Communist Poland.

Here’s a flashback to the best of the best:

The Warszawa

The first Polish car built after WWII. It was manufactured in 1951 under license from the Soviets. It made for a great taxi because of its sturdiness.

The Syrena

Six years later, the Syrena hit the market. It was named after a mermaid but weighed just about as much as an elephant – 950 kg.

The Trabant

This East German made speedster was originally supposed to be a three-wheeled motorcycle. It hit the streets in 1957 and was named after the Soviet space satellite Sputnik.

The Fiat 125p

In 1965, the Polish government partnered with the Italians and license agreements with Fiat to manufacture the Polish Fiat. They started with the Fiat 125p. Nicknamed the “Kredens” (cupboard), “Kant” (edge) or “Bandyta” (bandit) it was most commonly know as “Duży Fiat” (the big Fiat)

The Fiat 126p aka The Maluch

In 1973 FSO introduced the Polish Fiat 126p. The iconic car of the Solidarity era. It was quickly labeled the “Maluch”, which means “the toddler” some also called it “Kaszlak” (“cougher”) because its engine’s sound resembles a cough when it is started.

The Maluch was versitalile…

…easy to maintain…

…great on gas…

And the girls loved it!

Finally,there was the car named after a Polish dance – The Polonez (named after the polonaise)

Introduced in 1978 it was also exported to Chile and Colombia (where it was used as a cop car and taxi)

And if you’re familiar with the 80’s Polish cop show 07 zgłoś się (07 come in) you’ll recognize it from the series.

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The beginning of December means the onset of the annual Christmas Party bonanza. And we got into the act right off the bat. On December 1st YouNxt and the Canada-Poland Chamber of Commerce hosted a Christmas party in Toronto. Thanks to everyone who came out. It’s always great to see old friends and meet new people. We hope that Christmas for all of you this year is especially magical.

And many thanks to Maciek H. for the great photos.

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Yesterday afternoon the Polish Consulate in Toronto hosted a glamorous Gala Concert to commemorate Polish Independence Day and Canada’s Remembrance Day (both of which occur on November 11th)

The concert, which took place downtown, Toronto in the Churchill Salon of the Delta Chelsea Hotel was performed by the Toronto Sinfonietta Orchestra and conducted by Music Director Matthew Jaskiewicz.

Over 300 special guests watched as featured performers Clarinetist Kornel Wolak, Violinist Ewa Sas and Pianist Jacqueline Mokrzewski dazzled the audience with their breathtaking musical talents.

YouNxt was delighted to be involved as Filip Terlecki (YouNxt Director) acted as Master of Ceremonies.

Following the concert guests were treated to a wonderful reception. Below are some of the photos with more on our Facebook page.

Clarinetist Kornel Wolak, Music Director Matthew Jaskiewicz and the Toronto Sinfonietta Orchestra in rehearsal

Pianist Jacqueline Mokrzewski performs works by Fryderyk Chopin

Maestro Matthew Jaskiewicz and the Toronto Sinfonietta receive a standing ovation

Violinist Ewa Sas with Guest

Pianist Jacqueline Mokrzewski

Clarinetist Kornel Wolak with actresses Maria Nowotarska (left) and Agata Pilitowska

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We’re returning with Part V of our Polish Perspectives series by guest blogger Cailin Szczesiul

Wrocław Market Square Photo By: Cailin Szczesiul

Having spent a substantial amount of time in both regions, it is apparent that there is a difference between the east and west side of Poland.  I quickly discovered whereas the east side of Poland truly treasures their culture and way of life, the west side of the country is considerably Americanized. That’s not to say western Polish residents do not respect their own culture, but in my eyes Poland is at a crossroads with it’s own identity.  To maintain its deep-rooted culture for generations to come or to become just another country sacrificed to American ideals and values.

Hotel Monopol in Wrocław

The next city on my journey was Wroclaw.  This city boasts a population well over 600,000 residents and is where my husband was born.  The city is built on tiny islands surrounded by the Odra and several smaller rivers.  Wroclaw has over 100 bridges within the city limits. Wroclaw is Poland’s fourth-largest city and a driving force in the country’s current economic boom.

Grunwaldzki Bridge over the Odra river - view from Wybrzeże Wyspiańskiego street

Wroclaw’s history is long and tumultuous.  Having belonged to a handful of countries at one time or another, Wroclaw was finally given back to Poland after the Second World War.  With first inhabitants dating back to the 10th century Wroclaw is filled with rich historical backgrounds and striking architecture.  It’s because of this innate connection to Poland’s early history that I found it surprising that much of this lovely city is being engulfed by American fast food chains and big box stores. 

Department store Renoma (old name Wertheim) in Wroclaw, 40 Świdnicka str.

Arkady Wrocławskie Shopping Centre

Take for example the historic and visually stunning Rynek (market square).  I cannot even begin to explain the true beauty and sheer size of this magnificent place.  It is said to be the most beautiful square in all of Europe and I do not doubt it.  While I was extremely pleased that most of the shops and cafes maintained the Polish ethnicity I have come to love, there are small signs that things are slowly starting to change.

Market Square

Although Wroclaw is changing and building, efforts are being made to protect and preserve it.  For example, take the astounding Racławice Panorama. This panoramic painting depicts the historic Battle of Racawice during the Kosciuszko Uprising.  The painting is said to be one of the most historical artifacts in all of Poland.  It was hidden during the Second World War and communist era and only opened to the public in 1985 after extensive restoration.  The painting should be on the itinerary of every tourist visiting Wroclaw.  It is an excellent work of art and Poles should be proud of its historical significance and beauty.

Another piece of Wroclaw history untouched by modern times is Ostrów Tumski, meaning Cathedral Island. Being the oldest part of the city, this small island dates back to the 9th century.  I loved this exquisite little place with its fascinating architecture and poignant sculptural art.  I cannot put into words what it was like walking around this extraordinary place.  You must see it for yourself.

Ostrów Tumski

All in all, I recognize that things change and that without it, progress cannot be made.  It just saddens me.  I find that too many countries have fallen victim to American ideals, values and corporations.  I also understand that without industrialization the country would not be what it is today.  I ask that the Polish citizens stop and take a long hard look at what is happening to their county and culture.  My wish for Poland and her people is this; as much work is put into changing and revitalizing the country the same amount of effort must be used to preserve it.

Photo By: Cailin Szczesiul

About Cailin Szczesiul

In addition to being a successful young professional Cailin is an avid traveler and blogger. She writes about everything from baking to music to home décor.  For more information please check out her blog .  You can also follow her on Twitter.

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