Martynka Wawrzyniak, a Polish-born local artist driven by a creative vision, recently learned that local history eerily repeats itself. Researching Greenpoint history for her local site-specific artwork, she learned she was following in the footsteps of another Greenpoint Polish woman whose quest to create a local monument decades ago amazingly mirrored her own efforts.
Martynka is currently working on a community-engaged public art project, celebrating the disparate cultures comprising North Brooklyn. Her work titled Ziemia (which means earth in Polish), created in collaboration with local residents, invites locals to contribute soil from personally meaningful locations that symbolize their identity. Ziemia will take the form of a three-foot diameter ceramic orb sitting atop of a native plant meadow in McGolrick Park. Grenpoint clay will serve as the materials for the orb and the mix of soil contributed by residents will be used for the glaze. The piece will function as a collective community portrait, embodying the many Greenpoint homeland and migration stories. You can follow along with the sculpture’s progress on Instagram. Continue reading →
I was raised Catholic, so before I lived in Greenpoint I knew nothing about the beautiful Polish Easter custom of Święconka (pronunciation: shi’ven-tson-kah), meaning “the blessing of the Easter baskets.” On Saturday thousands of well-dressed Polish families will walk to either St. Stanislaw Kostka church on Driggs Avenue or Sts. Cyril and Methodius on Dupont Street with baskets in hand for one of the most colorful Polish traditions.
The holiday probably predates Christianity in Poland. Its original form began in the seventh century and today’s form dates from the twelfth. The food in each family’s basket is full of symbolic meaning. Poles carry eggs, which symbolize both Jesus and life. They also carry horseradish, which reminds them of the bitter suffering of Jesus on the cross. In addition, they carry bread, which is also a symbol of Jesus. The basket also contains salt, representing purity, as well as ham or kielbasa, which is symbolic of bounty and good times.
Poles will arrive at the church and say prayers of thanksgiving. The highlight of the prayer service is when the priest sprinkles holy water on the baskets. There’s a festive and joyful attitude amongst Poles on Saturday and Święconka remains one of the most colorful and authentic celebrations that defines the Polish community in Greenpoint.
Perhaps no local building defines Polish Greenpoint than St. Stanislaus Kostka Church at 607 Humboldt Street. St Stanislaus Kostka is home to the largest Polish Catholic congregation in Brooklyn. Each weekend nine masses are celebrated, five in Polish and four in English. This parish also has an elementary school with 300 students and another 300 who attend Sunday school. Each Sunday thousands of the faithful attend mass there. It is where many locals were christened, received their first communion and were married. When Pope John Paul II, the Polish Pope, visited New York he had to visit his people’s church. John Paul II, still as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, prayed in the parish during his 1969 visit when he spoke from the marble pulpit, prayed near the altar and received the heartfelt wishes of hundreds of local Catholics. There is a statue of John Paul II outside the church, which implores the faithful, “Nie Boj sie,” Don’t be afraid. Continue reading →
Check out some 80’s sci-fi films presented by Polish Filmmakers NYC this Friday night at the Park Church Co-Op (129 Russell St.), at 8pm—there will be Polish food and vodka! The films will be presented in Polish with English subtitles. Bring your own pillow and blanket and get cozy. Facebook invite here. Tickets are $15. Continue reading →
One of the most delicious dishes in Polish cuisine is Bigos, or as it is sometimes called in English, Hunter’s Stew. For many Polish Greenpointers it’s a staple, but many locals still do not know about this fantastic cold weather dish. Extremely hearty and filling, it’s a stew that is perfect for a cold day. No one is entirely sure how the word bigos entered the Polish language, but some say that it comes from German begossen, meaning “doused” or “basted.” Another explanation is that it comes from Italian bigutta, or “pot for cooking soup.” But wherever it comes from, bigos is a delicious stew that is worth the wait in cooking it. Continue reading →
WHAT: Greenpoint Walking Tour WHEN: Saturday, October 22, 2:00-4:30 pm
Join veteran Brooklyn tour guide Norman Oder on a briskly-paced, wide-ranging introduction to the neighborhood, including historic blocks, converted historic buildings, commercial corridors, religious institutions, parks, and civic buildings. The tour will touch on industrial history, immigration (notably Greenpoint’s enduring Polish presence), and the current (and future) signs of gentrification.
Martynka Wawrzyniak has always been a conceptual artist. She thinks deeply about her relationship to the world and comes up with self-portraits that are inimitable and brilliantly unique. These ideas often utilize unusual substances and require her to collaborate with specialists in an eclectic range of fields.
For example, in her 2012 project, Smell Me, she spent two years working with Hunter College Professor Donna McGregor and a team of chemistry research students to create an olfactory-based self-portrait utilizing the extracted essence of her sweat, tears and hair.
In another project, Feed, she collected a year’s worth of her used cloth dinner napkins in order to create a suspended double spiral where viewers walked through her life in the self-described “stains of my existence”.
I suppose there are some Polish vegetarians, but not many. The Poles are largely a nation of carnivores and great butcher shops have defined Greenpoint for generations. No Polish butcher shop has been more popular than the West Nassau Meat Market located at 915 Manhattan Avenue, much more popularly known as Kiszka, but about three months ago it shut down without any explanation and no one seems to know much about its closure. The closure of the butcher has been a topic of intense speculation amongst the local Polish community. Continue reading →
Beauty bloggers have consistently lauded the simple chicness of the beauty products found in the French pharmacy. They have praised the scientific brilliance of the 10-step Korean skincare routine. Consider this the long overdue ode to Polish beauty products, abundant, affordable, and yet perhaps still mysterious to many Greenpointers. The Polish beauty ethos—apparent in the products—is stick to what works, and to do it as naturally as possible. Here is a sampling of are some of the most popular products from around the neighborhood, no passport needed.
Summer in Brooklyn is a glorious time. Rooftop parties! Backyard barbecues! And lots and lots of sweat. Sometimes it feels like, scrub as you may, staying clean in the city in August is a fool’s errand. Before you resign yourself to a swampy, sticky month, might I suggest Bialy Jelen? This odorless, colorless bar soap makes no promises. It will not make you smell like rare flowers, nor will it magically reverse the aging process. It’s basic in the best way and does the only job you need a soap to do—get you really, really clean. You can use this unassuming bar to wash your face, your body, and even your lingerie according to one Polish model. Continue reading →