1: INTRODUCTION by Franek Rymaszewski     7: WITH MY BROTHER in WARTIME ENGLAND   11: POLISH CHRISTMAS and EASTER
2: MY FAMILY TREE   8: MY FAMILY SURVIVORS in POLAND 12: ANCESTORS - Part 1 : Origin and Records    
3: RELEVANT MAPS and POLISH HISTORY   9: MY EMIGRATION to AUSTRALIA       ANCESTORS - Part 2 : Family Tree
4: MY FAMILY ANCESTRY in POLAND 13: Rymaszewskis in present-day POLAND
5: PINSK UNDER COMMUNIST TYRANNY 10: Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 1     14: Rymaszewskis  WORLD-WIDE (Part 1)
    MIETEK'S MEMOIRS OF GULAG       Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 2       Rymaszewskis in the USA (Part 2)
6: MY ESCAPE FROM STALIN       Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 3 15: EMAILS from Visitors
 

POLISH  CHRISTMAS  EVE 
AND  POLISH  EASTER


We kept Polish tradition in Australia :
POLISH  WIGILIA
 :  CHRISTMAS  EVE
on 24 December - winter in Poland.



Merry Christmas !

in Polish :

Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia !

meaning :
Wesolych Swiat = Happy Holidays .....
..... Bozego Narodzenia = of the God's birth


"Wesolych Swiat !" by itself, means Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings, and is used at Christmas as well as at Easter
.

PICTURE >>>
Christmas greeting on a very old Xmas card
published in Poland in 1923, the year of my birth.

Xmas card dated 1923



"Wigilia" means to Poles the meal served on Christmas Eve at which members of immediate family gather together and break the "oplatek" strengthening family bond and a sense of belonging. It is a moment of love and forgiveness when past grudges are forgotten.

I have kept this ancient Polish tradition and I am happy to see my children and their families are following it with enthusiasm. Wigilia in a sense is what being Polish is all about. And I am sure they will pass this tradition on to their children.

Reviving tradition of wigilia wasn't easy for me after a very long time since I was completely uprooted from my home and family by communist aggressors at the age of 16. In spite of slavery and starvation in Siberia, long army service and many years of meagre bachelor existence alone, I remembered my childhood and all the happy customs in Poland but I didn't have conditions or any experience in preparing the wigilia dishes.

When I got married, however, I made sure that every year we bought a large, fresh and green tree which smelled of Christmas (unfortunately it was drying quickly in hot Australia), prepared a simplified meatless wigilia and of course bought presents for the children.



CHRISTMAS TREE
(choinka)

Poles decorate Christmas tree not earlier than one day before the Christmas Eve so that the solemnity of Wigilia and Christmas is better appreciated.


Christmas tree should be tall so that it would reach the ceiling, at least on a stand and with a star or pointed ornament on the top like this one.

Bigger children are allowed to help with the decorations. The most popular ornaments were Christmas balls, mouth-blown, hand decorated, delicate and brittle, of different shapes, round or like icicles. There were also moulded shapes of e.g. popular Santa Claus, or birds with tails added.

In my childhood lots of decorations were home made and children were involved in preparing. We were painting the empty egg shells in different patterns. Such blown egg could also be used for example as a body of an angel, harlequin or bird. We also were making vases by cutting them from coloured papers. And making long coloured paper chains.


In Australia apart from the decorations we also hang on the tree, according to tradition, real red apples (not easily available in snowbound Polish winter), star shaped iced gingerbread Xmas biscuits (with a hole in the middle) and many sweets. We always bought Paddington quality sweets with various fillings, made by Pulkownik, an old renown Polish firm in Sydney. And for children's excitement we hang (apart from the blinking lights) - the sparklers !

When all the decorations, yummy candies and lights were on the tree, the angel hair and the cotton pieces were thrown on tree branches to imitate the snow.

From time to time during Christmas holidays children were allowed to pick sweets, etc. from the tree.

 


A closer view of decorations


Xmas tree decorated with Polish traditional ornaments


OPLATEK (plural: OPLATKI)

The Oplatek is a thin unleavened wafer similar to communion wafers. In Poland oplatki are made in a shape of large rectangles which are embossed with pictures of Christ Child, Nativity scenes, etc. In Australia oplatki are quite small and embossing is poor.

The ancient tradition of oplatek sharing on Wigilia originated and was established only in Poland. It was adopted in Litva (Lithuania) which formed part of the Polish Commonwealth and where the Rymaszewski clan lived. The custom was partly introduced also in Czechoslovakia. It is single most important item in Polish Christmas festivities.

Oplatek is used not only by native Poles in Poland but also by people of Polish ancestry all over the world. See Xmas wishes from David Rymaszewski's family, the third and fourth generation Polish-Americans (Chapter 15: Emails from visitors to Site — email 004, dated 20 Dec 2002).

The braking and sharing of oplatek is accompanied by kisses, embraces and the exchange of best wishes, personalized to fit the individual hopes and needs of each person present, e.g. I wish you much health, happiness, fulfillment of all your plans, and everything you wish for yourself. Children are often wished that they get good grades and grow up to be their parents' pride and joy.

Oplatek is often sent with a greeting card to family members away from home. During our early years in Australia, my brother Zbigniew and my aunty Emilia in Poland used to send oplatek to us in Australia for Christmas, which we used on Wigilia night when the children were young and we couldn't get the oplatek in any other way.

oplatki

Oplatek is now available in Australia four weeks before and until Christmas from any Polish church after a mass, or a catholic church where Polish masses are held.

Check with Polish clubs or consulate for the location. There is very small charge for the oplatek.

Eventually, when Australian community of Polish ancestry and tradition grows larger, oplatek might be offered here over the Internet, like in the United States of America, by businesses specializing in Polish traditional products.

When I was in Melbourne before Christmas 2004, a Polish bookshop in the City (Polonia Bookshop) had oplatki for sale at very modest price.


star-of-Bethlehem


WIGILIA : The main event of the Polish Christmas is Wigilia - the Christmas Eve supper. It is the single most important day of the year, a festive family gathering. Hay is scattered over the tabletop before being covered with pure-white tablecloth. An extra plate is set at the table for the unexpected stranger. In Poland nobody must be alone on Christmas Eve. Everyone dons his holiday clothes, awaiting the evening's first star to appear.

When everybody is gathered at the table the candles on the table and on Xmas tree are lit and main lights are reduced. Then comes grace and the braking and sharing of oplatek. The eldest person present takes the oplatek wafer, breaks it and shares it with the next in line. Each then shares pieces of the oplatek with everyone else in the gathering.

In small families the father begins by breaking the wafer and giving his wife the other half. In Australia where oplatki are small, both parents take one oplatek each and each of them then breaks off a small piece of their spouse's oplatek. The parents exchange a kiss and good wishes. The same touching ceremony is repeated between the parents and their children as well as among the children themselves.

The traditional supper is meatless but it is compensated by the tasty offerings from the other major Polish food groups. It consists of twelve dishes. Although the dishes are simple, each is steeped in tradition, meaning, and fond memories. Some dishes are prepared only once a year. For instance freshwater carp fish. It is cultivated in ponds just for Christmas therefore they are bigger, tastier and are sold live.

After the supper the family usually gather around Christmas tree and sing the carols. For some, the last accent of Christmas Eve is a participation in Christmas midnight mass, called "pasterka" which is translated as "Shepherd's Mass". When we lived in Canberra and the children were bigger we went couple of times to Polish midnight mass in a church in adjoining Queanbeyan.

TYPICAL TRADITIONAL WIGILIA DISHES


Soups

• clear beetroot soup - borsch   (barszcz)
  with mushroom-filled   dumplings
  (little pierogi or uszka)
• cream of mushroom soup
• clear mushroom soup with   noodles
• creamy fish soup
• fermented ryemeal soup
• almond soup


Herring

• pickled herring
• creamed herring
• herring in oil
• herring salad


Sauerkraut dishes

• stewed sauerkraut with wild   mushrooms
• sauerkraut with red cabbage
• sauerkraut with peas or beans
• sauerkraut and potato   dumplings


Fish

• fried carp
• carp in aspic (jellied carp)  Jewish style
• stuffed carp
• cream-baked pike

• poached fish Polish style
• pike-perch (sandacz), Polish   style with
  chopped hard-boiled egg   topping
• marinated or broiled fish
• fish in horseradish sauce
• fish in sweet sauce
• fish in beer-almond-ginger   sauce

wigilia soup

wigilia dish

wigilia dish

wigilia fish

 


Mushrooms

• pan-fried, batter-fried,   creamed


Pastries

• filled soup pastries
• short-cut egg and rice   pies


Pierogi
(dumplings
• fried pierogi filled with   cabbage,
  mushrooms, cheese and   potatoes,
  mushrooms and   sauerkraut



Sweet dishes

• noodles with poppyseed   and raisins
• kutia - wheat pudding,   made from boiled
   wheat, poppy seeds and   honey

• waffles or wafers with   poppyseed
• dried-fruit compote
• noodles and fruit
• rice and apples
• stewed prunes and rice
• baked apples with red   wine
• oat pudding (kisiel   owsiany)
• cranberry jelly (kisiel   zurawinowy)



Cakes

• poppyseed roll
• nut roll
• gingerbread cakes
• honey spice cakes

• yeast-raised egg bread

• marzipan

pierogi

 

 

 

 

 

 



Christmas on Bondi Beach, Sydney

Part 1 - OPENING

  • Children may be lucky to spot the first star in the sky which in Australian summer appears rather late, but instead, just before Wigilia starts, Xmas tree lights are switched on for the first time! and...
  • background music starts to play Christmas carols. First "kolendy" i.e. Polish carols and later carols sung by popular Bing Crosby.
    .
  • All sit down at Wigilia table and start by making the sign of the cross, to cofirm that we are Christians.
  • This is followed by braking and sharing the oplatek and personal wishes to each other with love.


  • Then, before starting to eat, all together raise glasses with cherry vodka to toast "Merry Xmas!"



 


oplatek


Part 2 - COLD BUFFET

  • oysters - large platter
  • prawns - large platter
  • smoked salmon arranged in pieces with fresh dill on top
  • caviar canapés with boiled egg slices on top
  • gefilte fish, traditional jellied carp - cutlets or balls in jelly, from Jewish kosher shops
  • herring salad - Polish style
  • (see Recipes below)
  • herring fillets : bismarck (marinated), matjes (in soya oil, slightly salted), rollmops (marinated), Jewish style (marinated) - some decorated with egg slices, onion rings, sour cream, yoghourt, chopped chives

  • salads
    • creamy cucumber salad - "mizeria", fresh cucumbers in sour cream
    • potato salad / russian salad / coleslaw
    • fresh salad - small regular australian salad
    • dill cucumbers - "polskie ogórki" from Poland by Krakus

  • breads
    • rye bread - Polish light rye (Mazowiecki, Poznanski) or black, or sweet-sour bread
    • rolls - solid continental rolls with poppy seeds on top

  • drinks
  • chilled Polish cherry vodka - wisniówka
  • chilled Polish clear vodka - wódka wyborowa
  • red wine or chilled white wine
  • coca-cola and soft drinks


Part 3 - HOT DISHES


  • rainbow trout - baked 25-30 min. in foil with butter, or
  • burramundi fish - fried cutlets, or
  • smoked trout - heated in microwave
  • potatoes (chats - small size new crop) - boiled, sprinkled with chopped fresh dill
  • borsch (beetroot soup) - traditional "barszcz wigilijny". With sour cream and 2-3 "uszka", i.e. small "pierogi". (Or use non-traditional sippets or croutons instead). This hot colourful beet soup is welcome at this stage of feasting.

BREAK
The table is totally cleared except for drinks.
Small plates and desserts are placed on the table.
Part 4 - DESSERTS
  • compote of dried fruit - traditional follow-up, eaten with sweet biscuits
  • gingerbread biscuits - Polish "pierniki" xmas style, some with icing, etc.
  • "lamance" - waffles with poppy seed, poppyseed paste with cut to squares thin dough baked as wafers - this dessert is preferred to "kutia"
  • poppy seed strudel (picture) or almond strudel
poppy seed strudel

Part 5 - CLOSURE

• young children are put to bed - they'll get presents in the morning !

• coffee served with liqueur or port wine

• presents - adults exchange gifts by the Xmas tree

Easy Recipes for:
• borsch - beetroot soup (barszcz)
• herring salad - Polish style (sledz)
• creamy cucumber salad (mizeria)
• waffles with poppy seed (lamance)
• compote of dried fruit (kompot)
click >

CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS

The traditional Wigilia supper is eaten after sundown on Christmas Eve. That day is still part of advent therefore no meat was allowed. Prior to Wigilia supper many people abstain from any food all day (except bread and water).

But Christmas Day food is totally different from Christmas Eve menu. There are meats like smoked ham, smoked bacon, leg of lamb, also gingerbread type cakes and delicious tortes — but not as plentiful as at Easter. Cooking is avoided. Only previously cooked food is heated such as "bigos" - hunter's stew of sauerkraut and diced meats or leftovers from wigilia (for recipe see Easter below - picture on the right >>).

In Australia we have precooked turkey breast for dinner and baked leg of ham with horseradish, mustard and rye bread (shinkenbrot), as well as cakes and nuts. The day is spent with the intimate family at home.

Boxing Day, the second day of the holiday is a day for visiting friends and relatives and exchanging Christmas greetings. In Poland young carol singers with illuminated star or sometimes with a Nativity puppet show, walk from door to door singing carols and expecting some gifts.

The decorated Christmas tree is kept until 6th of January (the Three Wise Men Day) when the Christmas season finishes.


 

 


20th century - Christmas memories

 


2 years and 3 months old Lucian surveying his Christmas tree at home in London.


Visit to uncle Edward and grandmother in London.
27 years old Lena is holding Lucian.

47 years old uncle Edward is holding 10 months old Celina.

 
London - Christmas 1965
London - Christmas 1965

 


71 years old babcia (grandmother) Aleksandra in London
holding 2 years 3 months old Lucian.


71 years old babcia (grandmother) Aleksandra in London
holding 10 months old Celina.

 
London - Christmas 1965
London - Christmas 1965

 


We decided to emigrate to Australia on Christmas day in 1965. Lucek was 2 years 3 months old, and Celinka was 10 months old and Lena was pregnant — unfortunately booking sea voyage for pregnant women was not possible.

We had to await for Julek to be born in five months time around May so we could travel when baby was OK.

Julek was delivered on
12 May 1966 !

Now we can go to Australia !

 

 


LONDON - 2 WEEKS BEFORE DEPARTURE FOR AUSTRALIA.
Lena is holding three months old Julian at his Christening party on
20 Aug 1966, ready for travel.

One year and six months old Celinka is behind t
he cake which has a sugar stork figurine on top.

14 days later we left London for a new life in Australia.


SYDNEY - A YEAR AFTER ARRIVAL IN AUSTRALIA.
Our nuclear family, all alone, with no relatives of any kind.

Living in a prefabricated metal house at the Experimental Building Station (EBS) in North Ryde, Sydney.

Lucian 4 years
Celina 2.5 years
Julian 1.5 years

Lena 29 years

 
London - Julian's Christening - 1966
Australia  —  Christmas 1967

 


Celina 3.5 years

 


  Lucian 5 years
  Julian 2.5 years

 
Australia - Christmas 1968
Australia - Christmas 1968

 


Children, all happy after Wigilia, are singing Jingle Bells
next to Xmas tree.


More happiness after Wigilia next to Xmas tree.
Presents will be found next morning.

 
Australia - Christmas 1969
Australia - Christmas 1969

 


Lucian 7 years


Julian 4 years

 
Australia - Christmas 1970
Australia - Christmas 1970

 


Celina 5 years


Celina 6 years
Julian 5 years
Lucian 8 years

 
Australia - Christmas 1970
Australia - Christmas 1971

 


Carolers in Poland In front of Christmas tree in uncle Edward's house during children's visit to London, England.

Lucian 9 years
Celina 7 years
Julian 6 years
, sitting, with auntie Marta's pet dog.


Polish carolers in costumes with illuminated Bethlehem Star, traditionally visiting Polish homes on Christmas Day with Christmas greetings and singing Polish carols (outside the house).

Photo taken through the open front door of uncle Edi's house in Ealing (London) - the Polish community "ghetto" area at that time.
Lucian and Julian were asked to wear anoraks - it's cold in England. Lucian on left and hooded Julian.

 
London - Christmas 1972
London - Christmas 1972

 


Another photo of the Polish carolers in London, watched by 9 year old Lucian and 7year old Celinka.


Lucian 12 years
Celina 10 years
Julian 9 years

 
London - Christmas 1972
Back in Australia - Sydney - Christmas 1975

 


1985
Last Christmas in our own house in Watson, Canberra.

Celina came from Melbourne where she was studying. Lucian and Julian came from Sydney where they were working.

All three were still single.


From left :     Lucian 22 years ,  Celina 20 years ,  Julian 19 years.
Lucian's mop of hair! - It was the period of hair fashions for men and boys.

 
Australia - Canberra - Christmas 1985

 

We kept Polish tradition in Australia :

Wesolego Alleluja ! = Happy Easter !
POLISH  EASTER  and  EASTER  EGGS
- springtime in Poland


At Easter everyone wishes everyone else "Wesolego Alleluja", meaning Joyous Alleluia, which is equivalent to Happy Easter
.


Also we can say Wesolych Swiat which means in Polish Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings, and is used at Easter as well as at
Christmas.


Easter card dated 1914

 

PICTURE >>>

Easter greetings dated 1914 on a very old Polish Easter card sent from MINSK before the First World War. It shows a picture of the Catholic Cathedral in Minsk, and a ribbon bears the words "Zyczenia z Minska" = Greetings from Minsk.

The main motif on the card is the traditional Polish Easter Table with the usual Easter fare : coloured eggs, leg of ham, bottle of drink, Polish sausages, babkas (cakes of inverted bucket shape) and mazurek (special flat crusty pastry).

The food is always blessed. It is sprinkled here with holy water by the angel.

At the top left hand corner of the picture is the Easter Lamb with a church banner.

 

 


DECORATED POLISH EASTER EGGS — "PISANKI"

Every Easter we prepared decorated coloured eggs called "pisanki". The name comes from the Polish verb "pisac" = to write. Strictly speaking this term used to refer only to those eggs decorated by the molten-wax technique — the batik process. Designs were "written down" on the egg. But nowadays the word "pisanki" has come to mean all coloured Easter eggs produced by any technique.

Pisanki

MAKING "PISANKI" BY MOLTEN WAX METHOD

In this technique a special metal stick (stylus) with attached miniature funnel at end is heated over the candle flame. The hot stylus is touched to a small cake of beeswax to form a puddle of molten wax which enters the stylus and becomes the "ink". With the molten wax we "write" a design on the egg. Next the egg is placed in an aniline dye. After 10 minutes the egg is removed, pat dried with a paper towel and held next to the candle flame (not over it) to melt the wax, which is wiped with a tissue, leaving white design on coloured background. This process can be repeated with different colour dyes.

Polish Easter eggs

MAKING "PISANKI" BY SCRATCHING DESIGN ON THE SURFACE OF EGG COVERED WITH SOLID COLOUR

This is the method that my children and I always used.
My youngest son Julian always helped me with scratching the designs and produced fantastic miniature works of art !

The eggs are dyed with solid colour by soaking and hard boiling in a colouring solution using dyes from plant materials or ready made organic dyes of various basic colours (yellow, orange, green, red, violet, brown, black) sold in packets in some Polish and Ukrainian delicatessen shops in Australia.

Alternatively natural plant dyes such as onion skins or beet skins may be used. I find that onion skins give greater depth of colour than do beets.

When the dyed eggs are cooled, the designs are scratched in the dye film on the surface of the egg by using a sharp metal implement, for example tip of a penknife, a pin point or edge of razor blade (with care). I prefered an old fashioned elastic razor blade because it is flexible and slides, while a rigid instrument can pierce the egg shell. Most frequent designs drawn by scratching technique are flowers and geometric patterns.

Various regions of Poland developed designs of their own which include floral and geometric patterns or typically Easter motifs e.g. cross, the lamb, pussy willow (used as a substitute for palm leaves in Poland) or the Easter greeting "Wesolego Alleluja" or simply "Alleluja" and the current year.


DYEING EGGS WITH ONION SKINS

Ingredients:

  • 12 fresh eggs
  • one and a half litres of cold water
  • half a cup of vinegar
  • one tablespoon of salt
  • skins collected from 3 kilos of onions

Add onion skins to the water, then vinegar and salt, and gently eggs one by one. Any egg that floats is not fresh.

You might add additional onion skins to cover the eggs thoroughly. A greater quantity of skins increases the colour depth.

Bring the water, eggs and onion skins to the boiling point. Then reduce heat to medium level to avoid cracking eggs and boil for approx. 10-15 minutes. Remove pot from heat and allow eggs to cool in the mixture. Then, using a spoon, remove eggs.

The eggs, while still little warm, may be "polished" with bacon fat or shortening for shine, if desired.


DYEING EASTER EGGS WITH NATURAL DYES

If you cannot buy any ready made organic dyes, it is possible to use natural ingredients that can be found in almost any kitchen and come up with a number of colours. One or two of these colours may not be quite perfect for scratched designs, however they will all produce a nice variety of coloured eggs.

  • Skins of yellow onions produce orange
  • Peels of oranges or lemons (also carrot tops, celery seed or ground cumin) will produce light yellow
  • Peels of yellow Delicious apples produce green-gold
  • Spinach leaves produce pale green
  • Red cabbage leaves (or canned blueberries) produce blue
  • Fresh beets (or cranberries, frozen raspberries) produce pale red
  • Strong brewed coffee produces beige to brown
  • Ground turmeric results in yellow

Here's what to do:

    1. Put few eggs in a single layer in a pan.
      Pour water in pan until the eggs are covered.
    2. Add about a teaspoon of vinegar.
    3. Add the natural dye for the selected colour
      (the more eggs, the more dye you need).
    4. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 min.
    5. Remove the eggs and then the material you used to colour the eggs with. Put eggs in a bowl.
      If you want your eggs to be darker shade, cover them with the liquid dye left and let them stand overnight in the refrigerator.

POLISH EASTER FEAST — "SWIECONE"

Easter food in Poland is very rich in cold meats and special cakes after 40 days of lent and fasting. My parents, for example, had only bread and water on Good Friday while I was given one salted herring and tea for the whole day.

The Sunday feast is called Swiecone - the delicacies that have been blessed in church on Saturday. The word "to bless" in Polish is "swiecic", hence the name "Swiecone" for the Easter Buffet - the blessed things.

THE TABLE

The table is covered with a white tablecloth. The centerpiece are the traditional Easter lamb (baranek wielkanocny) made of sugar, holding a banner (eg. with a red cross), and "pisanki", the coloured or decorated eggs . It is spring in Poland , so the table is decorated with branches of pussy willow ("kotki"), daffodils and fresh green boxwood.   "Wesolego Alleluja" appears on various items. For instance, it is "written" on the ham with cloves or lard, and on the "mazurek's" with almonds and raisins.

SHARING THE EGG

The first thing before the celebrations is the sharing of the blessed eggs. The shell is removed, each egg is cut into 4 wedges and placed on a plate. They may be sprinkled with salt. Then, the head of the family goes around and offers a wedge to each person present. Each one has an opportunity to exchange best wishes in much the same way as when "oplatek" is shared on Christmas Eve.

Simplifying the procedure, the dish may be passed round. When each person preferably standing, has their wedge on their fork, everyone wishes everyone else "Wesolego Alleluja" (joyous Alleluia, equivalent to Happy Easter) and consumes their piece of egg. Then all continue to enjoy the feast.

THE FEAST

No hot meals are served during Easter Sunday. The feast is busily and extensively prepared beforehand so there is rest and no cooking over Easter days.

Except a traditional hot sour rye soup with potato and sausage called in Polish
ZUREK (ZHOO-rek) - see recipe below.

  • Cold buffet dishes predominate, placed on long side-table, such as:
  • smoked and baked hams;
  • smoked bacon;
  • coils of country style pork sausages (kielbasa), some flavoured with garlic;
  • a whole roasted piglet decked with flowers and easter egg in its mouth for decoration;
  • roast meats, especially veal and lamb;
  • roasted duckling or goose;
  • jellied pork or brawn;
  • pâté (pasztet);
  • hard boiled eggs, they are delicious served with fresh horseradish, little salt and rye bread;
  • plenty of dill cucumbers (polskie ogórki);
  • stuffed cabbage;
  • eggs in various sauces;
  • cwikla - traditional relish made from beets, horseradish and a spoon of brown sugar;
  • white or pink horseradish;
  • mustard.

There are also many traditional Easter treats on the side-table, baked especially for this occasion:

  • "mazurek" - special crusty pastries of different varieties and flavours, a softer version of shortbread. "Mazurek" is a flat cake on a pastry, covered with paste of nuts, almonds, cheese, etc., colourfully iced and decorated with jam and nuts and raisins. Other decorations placed on top could be eggs of icing, pussy willow branches made of marzipan, chocolate flowers and other delicacies, or letters "Alleluja" made of cream
  • ."babka" - tall round cakes of inverted bucket shape, made of rich yeast dough, yet it has a cakelike moistness, enhanced with raisins, and flavoured with grated lemon and orange rind, some iced or glazed. Recipes vary and are housewife's secrets. "Babka" means "grandmother" in Polish.
  • "sernik" - type of pastry made with cheese, a cheesecake.
  • "makowiec" - poppy-seed roll (optionally, a walnut roll).
Cinnamon and raisin "babka"
Traditional Easter "babka" covered with chopped almonds and almond glaze
Hunters' sausage "kielbasa mysliwska"
Poppy-seed roll "makowiec"
Flat pastry "mazurek"
(shown cut)
Chocolate or poppy-seed "babka"
 
ZUREK (ZHOO-rek)
sour rye soup with potato, sausage
and egg.
This traditional Easter Sunday hot soup is welcome after initial feasting on cold buffet.
Recipes for:
• ZUREK - "white barszcz"
BIGOS - hunter's stew
click >

zurek (zhurek, zhoo-rek)

zurek with potatoes
 

BIGOS

The tradition of having pre-cooked dishes to eat at Easter is very practical. Thus the cold buffet and easter pastries can last for a few days and can be offered (plus vodka or wine) to various invited guests visiting the family on Easter Monday or Tuesday.

But on Easter Sunday the celebration is mainly the family affair. The only hot dish (apart from "zurek" on Sunday) which is prepared during Easter holidays is the "hunter's stew" - in Polish "bigos". It is a sauerkraut and meat ragout made from leftovers meats.



bigos - hunter's stew
(see recipe above).
 

VODKA

With all that stuff to eat a popular holiday beverage is Polish vodka. Sometimes it is flavoured, for instance with cherry syrup (wisniówka).

There is also traditional spicy Easter vodka flavoured with honey, called "krupnik" - the fire vodka. It is easy to prepare - see recipe on the right.

Polish hospitality is a virtue which has survived. You will never walk away from the table not feeling full.

   KRUPNIK (Fire Vodka)

- 1 bottle of vodka
- 1 and 1/2 cup of honey
- 2/3 cup of water
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 8 sticks of cinnamon
- 2 whole cloves
- 3 strips of lemon peel

  • Combine honey with water, vanilla, spices and lemon peel in a large saucepan.
  • Bring this to a boil, cover and simmer about 5 minutes.
  • Add vodka, remove from heat.
  • Serve hot or cold.
On the subject of hangover cures, dr Karl Kruszelnicki, a Polish Australian scientist, in his book Bizarre Moments in Science, recommends vodka as the best alcohol to drink because it has very little poisonous methanol in it, which gives hangover.

However, few glasses of water should be drunk before going to sleep to counteract dehydration.


BLESSING OF THE FOOD — "SWIECONKA"

The blessing of the Easter food takes place on Saturday morning before the Easter. Small portions of symbolic food are brought in a small basket to the Polish church to be blessed by the priest. There is no Mass, but short prayer and a hymn is sung while the baskets are sprinkled with holy water and blessed.

The "swieconka" basket is decorated with a colourful ribbon and sometimes springs of greenery. It is lined with a white linen or lace napkin. After the blessing the food is set aside until Easter Sunday.

 

The family meal on Sunday is as important as the Christmas "Wigilia". At the beginning the head of the house shares the blessed egg with the members of the family.

What is usually put into the basket?

  • eggs (about 3 or 4 pisanki) - symbol of life and rebirth
  • sausage (kielbasa) - small ring or segment of Polish sausage
  • ham (szynka) - small portion of smoked Easter ham
  • smoked bacon (slonina) - optional
  • cheese (ser) - small ball of cheese
  • rye bread (chleb) - small round home made loaf topped with a cross
  • horseradish (chrzan) - white or pink (i.e. with grated red beets)
  • salt (sól)
  • holiday cake (babka) - miniature size or cheese cake (sernik)
  • symbolic lamb (baranek wielkanocny) made from sugar, white chocolate or cake dough

The items that have to be there are eggs (most important), the little lamb, kielbasa, horseradish and salt for sure, and of course bread and babka - the little "sweet bread" with ruffled sides.

Easter basket for "Swieconka"

A bit of history :

This picture was sent from MINSK in 1918.
It shows the blessing of Easter food.

The blessing of the Easter Table was done by the local priest who was visiting homes with his altar boy and sacristan (or organist), seen standing here on the left.

On the table covered with a white table cloth the usual Easter fare. On the wall there are religious pictures and a statue.

The family stands on the right . This is the year 1918 - the end of World War One. Poland has just became an independent state. One family member is in the uniform of Marshall's Pilsudski Polish legionnaires. The boy is wearing shorts and long socks (not old enough to deserve long pants)


Year 1918


EASTER FUN  —  STRONGEST EGG COMPETITION

When our family was young and together, we enjoyed the strongest egg competition by cracking the Easter eggs on Easter Monday. I hope my now late-thirties children and their families will still enjoy this Polish tradition and pass it on to grandchildren.

Each person, including adults, selects one of the "pisanki". Each child gets to select first its favourite egg. Then the adults can be allowed to select an egg from the remainder — or better still, let the children select for the adults. Assigning eggs adds to the fun for the youngsters.

Cracking eggsWe proceed down across the ages. Beginning with the oldest versus the next eldest (the parents first), they crack by gently tapping the point of one egg against the other's pointy end, once, or if necessary a bit harder the second time.

The looser with the cracked egg turns his egg around and presents the flat end to the winner's flat end, for another go to confirm his defeat. He finally looses if his flat end also cracks or even both flat ends crack. In case only the winner's flat end cracks, then there is a tie breaker with whatever end is left that's not cracked.

The winner of the first "battle" cracks (with the same egg, of course) against the next oldest and so on, until the youngest gets the last "crack". Anticipation is great for the younger ones. Best of all because the winning person's egg is a bit strained with all this tapping and as the last egg has been "untested", it is usually sturdiest and the youngest child most often turns out to be the winner of the competition!

In Poland, in my childhood, we also competed on the street with neighbours' children. Each had an egg or two and we challenged whomever we wished. The rule was that the looser had to hand over his cracked egg to the winner. And the winner goes on to challenge other winners. Occasionally there was an argument when the looser claimed that his egg was hit on the side, instead on the top!

We also won or lost eggs without cracking in the egg race. Easter eggs are rolled down an inclined wide plank or slope. The egg that rolled farthest won the other that stopped behind.

 

Easter eggs for Polish children to colour and draw a picture on the last white egg or just write your name on it.

 
1: INTRODUCTION by Franek Rymaszewski     7: WITH MY BROTHER in WARTIME ENGLAND   11: POLISH CHRISTMAS and EASTER
2: MY FAMILY TREE   8: MY FAMILY SURVIVORS in POLAND 12: ANCESTORS - Part 1 : Origin and Records    
3: RELEVANT MAPS and POLISH HISTORY   9: MY EMIGRATION to AUSTRALIA       ANCESTORS - Part 2 : Family Tree
4: MY FAMILY ANCESTRY in POLAND 13: Rymaszewskis in present-day POLAND
5: PINSK UNDER COMMUNIST TYRANNY 10: Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 1     14: Rymaszewskis  WORLD-WIDE (Part 1)
    MIETEK'S MEMOIRS OF GULAG       Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 2       Rymaszewskis in the USA (Part 2)
6: MY ESCAPE FROM STALIN       Descendants in AUSTRALIA - Part 3 15: EMAILS from Visitors