Dozynki attracts Polish crowds for 39th year in South End parish

August 20, 2017 GMT

STAMFORD — After starting the day with Mass, parishioners of Holy Name of Jesus Church marked the opening of the 39th annual “Dozynki” Polish Harvest Festival at the parish by carrying an ornate crown-shaped wreath of wheat, rye and other grains and decorated with flowers to a table near the entry gate.

The use of the crown as a shape stretches back to the origins of the festival in pre-Christian times in Slavic and Polish lands when serfs would present sheaves of grain or “dozynki,” to noblemen, said Greg Rus, a member of the church’s parish council and a Stamford resident for 25 years.

“This is a very special celebration to thank God for helping us survive the year,” Rus said. “Today we give thanks to God.”

Members of the local Polish community — along with others from throughout Connecticut, New York and as far away as New Jersey — gathered Sunday to celebrate Dozynki, an annual thanksgiving festival which traditionally marks the coming of autumn following the completion of the harvest.

In addition to traditional food, including kielbasa, pickles and pierogies, the festival included children’s games, bounce houses and souvenir booths selling mugs, shirts, and toys made in Poland.

Adding to the festivities was an hour-long dance performance by the Slowanie dance troupe, led by Stamford resident Lana Gabis, a Polish woman who emigrated to the United States 20 years ago.

Gabis wore a traditional fur fringed gown, similar to those worn by well-to-do women in the region around Krakow, Poland.

“Almost every region of the country has its own variations of dancing,” said Gabis, 33.

Proceeds from the festival, which were expected to be more than $70,000, will help support the upkeep of the Holy Name of Jesus Church building, which was built in 1925, said Father Pawel Hrebenko, the pastor of the church.

The festival began Saturday night with a dance in the gymnasium of the Washington Boulevard parish that drew several hundred young adults, Hrebpierogiesenko said.

In addition to two English and one Polish language masses each Sunday, the parish also runs a Polish Saturday School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. that has about 300 children of Polish descent enrolled to learn their ancestral language and the culture of their homeland, Hrebenko said.

“Traditionally, many of our parishioners come from the east of Poland, which has its roots in agriculture and farming, so even though they’ve left that behind they still remember it in their families,” Hrebenko said. “This is like an enormous Thanksgiving.”