Celebrate Your Heritage, Sunday, June 9th
Isabella Szutkowski, 2013 Festival Chairman
Preparations usually begin in January for the annual Polish Heritage Festival in June at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. This year the 41st annual festival will take place on Sunday June 9. Admission and parking are free. Whether you are traveling north , or south, on the Garden State Parkway, take Exit #116 which is the access road to the PNC Bank Arts Center. The 2013 Polish Heritage Festival will take place rain, or shine. The festival begins at 10:30 a.m. with an English/Polish Mass.
This year Ms. Isabella Szutkowski is Chair of the 2013 Polish Heritage Festival. She is the daughter of World War II era Polish immigrant parents.
Her paternal grandfather, Leonard Szutkowski, an engineer and member of the Second Polish Repubic’s elite, built the town of Janowa Dolina, which was destroyed during the war. He was murdered with approximately 25,000 other Poles in Katyn Forest, and other killing fields in its environs, by the NKVD on Stalin’s orders. Stalin’s lethal social engineering project was designed to destroy the Polish elite to pave the way for a communist seizure of power in Poland.
Her father, Leonard Szutkowski, grew up in eastern Poland (Kresy Wschodnie) and served in the Polish II Corps commanded by General Władysław Anders. The II Corps defeated the Germans in 1944 at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy.
Isabella’s mother’s family included teachers and school directors who suffered in occupied Poland during World War II.
Only Isabella’s nuclear family emigrated to the United States after the war. Isabella benefited from her education at her Polish Supplementary School in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to studying the Polish language, she learned the true history of Poland in the context of European history. At Polish School she also first learned how to perform on stage, recite poetry, and dance for an audience. These skills served her well in later life. Isabella observes that the many services provided by the devoted staff of Polish Supplementary Schools “are seldom fully appreciated.”
This year’s Chair first became involved with Polish American organizations through her Polish School, or her dance company. She has been a member of the Polish American Heritage League(PAHL) since 2006. PAHL produces the annual Polish Heritage Festival.
Isabella earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and thereby continues the family tradition started by her grandfather who was a distinguished engineer. She also earned the MBA Degree. Moreover, her husband is a Polish born engineer. They have two teenage boys. Their oldest is pursuing a degree in engineering. The family frequently visits Poland. They are rearing their sons to be proud of their Polishness.
Soon the Chair of this year’s Polish Heritage Festival will announce the attractions and performers at this year’s event. Isabella’s leadership is sure to make this year’s festival especially memorable. Mark June 9 on your calendars and be sure to come to the 2013 Polish Heritage Festival.
– John Czop