Sunday November 17.
Taking over Federation Square, the Polish Festival will transform Melbourne’s central space into Little Warsaw.
Now in its 15th year, the Polish Festival will once again expose Melburnians to Polish culture in a huge celebration of the European country’s entertainment, hospitality and cuisine. It’s been some 200 years since the first Polish migrant landed on Australian shores, with 200,000 Poles having joined since. The Polish Festival aims to look at how the Poles have contributed to the Australian landscape over the past two centuries.
Not only is this an opportunity for Polish people to embrace their roots without having to return to their homeland, it provides people from a range of cultural backgrounds with a glimpse at Polish tradition in order to foster a cultural understanding. Having survived against the odds in war, Poles are incredibly proud of their country and are humble and hospitable as such. There’s a special generosity here.
The festival continues to grow year after year and regularly attracts over 50,000 people. It’s become Australia’s largest annual Polish not-for-profit community event which is a testament to the organisers who put together the event.
Magda Szubanski has been a special guest in the past. She appeared at the 2015 iteration alongside her book, Reckoning, which explored her Polish roots and the harrowing details of her father’s experience in Poland during WWII.
Volunteers play a huge part of the occasion as well – the Melbourne Polish community is made up of incredibly generous individuals giving their time to their heritage. Former president of Polish Festival Inc. and Order of Australia medal recipient, Jan Szuba, has been quintessential to the festival’s rise and once shared his thoughts on the importance of the event’s volunteers.
“The festival is without a doubt the largest annual Polish event in Australia and competes with other international events outside of Poland, a testament to the work of over 400 volunteers from the Melbourne Polish community.”
The Polish Festival is all about celebrating cultural traditions. Activities across the festival range from performances by Polish language schools, folkloric and other entertainment groups, children’s activities, craft demonstrations, art exhibitions and much more.
Take a Polish dance class or sit back and see how it’s done with a range of dance and live music performances. Polonez and Lowicz dance troupes will fill the stage, featuring first and second generation Australians keeping in touch with their heritage. There’s an element of spontaneity to the Polish dance craft so don’t be surprised if there’s some random outbreaks of dance amongst the crowd – it’s the jolly way.
The family friendly festival will also ensure that the kids don’t grow restless, with a whole heap of children’s activities to occupy their attention. There will be face painting as well as arts and craft activities that will teach the littlies how to make masks of Smok Wawelski – a famous dragon in famous folklore – as well as Wianki (wreath) making. They can even dress up in traditional Polish costumes and get snapped at the interactive photo booth.
Take something home with you
If you want to take a little slice of Poland home with you, take advantage of the unique shopping opportunities and get your hands on some handmade wares such as amber jewellery or Boleslawiec ceramics. Talented local artisans will also be displaying their stuff too. It will feel like Sukiennice (Krakow Cloth Hall) in no time.
Food and drink
Take your tastebuds to Poland with a delectable selection of pierogies – think Polish dumplings wrapped with unleavened dough; kielbasa – meat sausages and a staple of Polish cuisine; and bigos, a hunter’s stew containing sauerkraut, fresh shredded cabbage and chopped meat. You may have some difficulty wrapping your tongue around the names of these traditional delicacies, but you’ll have no trouble gobbling them down.
Everyone knows the Poles love their alcohol, so make like a local and quench your thirst with a variety of Polish beers and vodka. Piwo is the top hop drop and will be the perfect accompaniment to your scrumptious food selections.
This will be happening right in the heart of the city at Fed Square, which is easily reachable by tram and train. Recommend leaving your car at home though.
This is a free event.
For more on the Polish Festival, visit polishfestival.com.au