After three days of hitchhiking from Ouro Preto, we manage to reach Curitiba. We have a perfect timing, we will spend Easter in a place where there is the largest Polish community in Brazil.
On Holy Saturday, we are going to a Polish festival to the forest of John Paul II (Bosque Papa Joao Paulo II), where there is a mini museum – huts of the first Polish settlers. Every year ‘Swieconka’ takes place here, that is a Polish community feast during which Polish folk dance groups and choirs perform. You can also try typical Polish cuisine such as dumplings, bigos, apple pie, cream-cookies and other delicacies. During ‘Swieconka’, there is also a traditional blessing of Easter baskets.
While hanging around the perimeter of the festival, we pass by many Brazilians wearing shirts with Polish embelm, ‘Poland’ inscriptions, and folk patterns. We listen for our native language, but we only hear Portuguese. When the performances start, we sit in the audience. I have never been a big fan of Polish folklore, but seeing young Brazilians, some with a characteristic dark complexion, dressed in beautiful folk costumes and dancing traditional dances, I can’t stop smiling. I’m talking to two ladies sitting next to me (in Portuguese): “Good morning, do you speak Polish?“. The ladies smile and answer with the only known Polish sentence “Nie rozumiem“. We continue talking in Portuguese. “My grandparents were Poles, but my parents didn’t speak Polish anymore. At least not enough for me to learn.“The second lady interrupts:” And I don’t have Polish roots, but my husband’s grandparents were from Poland, so we come here every year. “
The daughters of both ladies are dancing in the folk band Wisła. I am asking if easter eggs are made in their homes and sour soup i eaten. “No, our parents didn’t make easter eggs, and we didn’t learn it. And from Polish food we mainly know dumplings. Here probably aren’t even such ingredients to make this soup.” In a moment she asks where we came from. “Michal is from Warsaw, and I come from such a small city in the east of Poland, Chełm. Probably you haven’t heard of it.” At this moment, the lady makes big eyes and smiles. “My daughter is dancing dances from Chełm. That’s where the mine and ghost are, right? Near Lublin?” I can’t believe that, but actually – after a moment, there is announced “Dance from the east of Poland, from Chełm“. I am totally shocked and joy filled my face. I didn’t even know that there is a characteristic dance of my city. And never in my life I wouldn’t think that I would find it out in distant Brazil. The icing on the cake for this situation is the ghost Bieluch entering the stage and the lady who shows me with pride “Oh, this is my daughter!‘” (Legend of the spirit to read here).
After the performance, the lady acquaint us with Caroline, one of the organizers of ‘Swieconka’. A smiling young girl speaks very good Polish, with a slightly audible Portuguese accent. “My great-grandparents were Poles. I wanted to get to know this country, I went to Poland for three years. First, for a year I learned a language, and then I did a master’s degree in biology in Krakow. I came back here and I try to run Polish courses so that people would know at least the basics. But it’s a very difficult language.” Carolina laughs. I say that I am impressed by the Chełm dances, after all it is such a small city that even in Poland few people know where it is. “Well, we’re just trying to find such less-known folklore. Because everyone knows Krakow, and we want to show that there are interesting things in other regions as well.“
We talk to small girls passing by. They are happy to pose for photos, proudly presenting colorful dresses. Talking to some older dancers, we learn that the band Wisła is a very strong representative at folk festivals in Poland. The largest such festival takes place in Rzeszów, and some groups from Curitiba have already participated in it 5 times.
After the performances, the time has come to bless the baskets. I shyly take a glance to see what Brazilians are blessing. As you can guess, the local baskets look a bit different. We saw in them sweets, fruit, coffee, sometimes even a bottle of wine or liquor. In some baskets there were also easter eggs – the tradition survived 🙂 In Brazil there is no traditional Easter breakfast with specific dishes, which is why the composition of the easter basket is more ‘flexible’. Here, families just meet to eat dinner together, but the menu is not dictated by the tradition.
Throughout the day, smiles don’t come off our faces. The bands consist of the kids (about 4 to 5 years old) to adults. It is amazing that for most of them Polish roots reach in past to three or even four generations. And yet, young Brazilians willingly put on colorful costumes and dance or even go to Poland to learn a language (as in the case of Caroline).
And here comes the reflection: let’s not be ashamed of the Polish countryside! I have the impression that our folklore in Poland is considered to be a bit “embarrassing”. Meanwhile, going anywhere abroad, it is the rural landscapes and rural art that delight. Is the Polish village worse than Moroccan or Georgian? Of course not! It is in country costumes and dances that Polishness can survive for many generations, somewhere on the other side of the world.