To Vienna again

Agnieszka Dziarmaga

The Song and Dance Ensemble ‘Gorzkowianie’ from the parish of Gorzkow near Kazimierza at the far end of the Diocese of Kielce, popularises their folk traditions and make the Poles living in Lithuania, Ukraine, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy cry from emotions. They performed for the Pope. The tournée in Vienna in April 2008 was a culmination of their several years of work.

After a night’s travel by coach, directly from the parish house in Gorzkow, 40 members of the ensemble, together with their parish priest Andrzej Biernacki (founder, conductor, director and manager of the group) and naturally, with all costumes, reached the hill of Kahlenberg.

Kahlenberg breathes in Polish

The Polish church commemorates the place from which the winged Polish Hussars set out for the final battle against the Turkish onslaught. Therefore, this place is symbolic and historical. During the Eucharist one cannot stop thinking of the battle of Vienna and the military genius of John III Sobieski, which had saved Christian Europe in 1683, when the ensemble performs patriotic songs. One cannot stop thinking of John Paul II who visited Kahlenberg on the 300th anniversary of the relief of Vienna. Among the monuments in Kahlenberg one can see one of the few monuments to this great king and a wonderful panorama of Vienna with a population of 1.7 million, crossed by the ribbon of the Danube, located on the area of 414 square metres. Vineyards, vineyards everywhere (no other European city has such a huge complex of vineyards), stylish villas behind blossoming cherry tress and magnolias, a village of wine makers in cascades of lilac bushes and the memory of Ludwig van Beethoven lingering over the Vienna Forest; Beethoven who understood here that he lost his hearing for good… And then the wonderful monuments of Vienna, with the winter residence (Hofburg) and the summer residence (Schoenbrunn), the Baroque gems of Europe, with the Belvedere palace, the secession riches, fountains, monuments, cathedrals (with St Stephen’s) and churches: of St Charles Borromeo, of St Ruprecht, of St Augustine’s, of the Capuchins…A tasty meal in the centre thanks to the invitation of Wlodzimierz Szelag, director of the Polish Tourist Centre. ‘Gorzkowianie’, tired but happy, are absorbing Vienna. This is another city on the map of Europe that hospitably shows them its charm. It would not have been possible if the ensemble had not existed and if Fr Biernacki had not used his charisma and organisational talent. He does his best to show the world his musicians and to show them the world. And they, who are several years old and who are 80 (such people form the ensemble), admit that ‘Gorzkowianie’ has made the little village of Gorzkow famous but the ensemble has let them, farmers near Kazimierza, leave their parish fencing.

‘Dearest, we are singing for you’

The destination of the Vienna tournée is the Polish church and Polish Catholic Mission with the pastoral house ‘Emmaus’. This is a special place, between Rennweg and Strohgasse, near the Belvedere palace. Concerts, concerts, concerts; singing during the liturgy in the Polish Church of the Holy Cross, showpieces of the wind instrument orchestra in the costumes in front of the church, next to the monument to the Pope (more and more inhabitants of Vienna are coming, the emotions of the gathered Poles are at the zenith and applauds, and more applauds), and at last ‘Gorzkowianie’ presents the standard programme to the large Polish audience on the small stage in the Emmaus house (on Saturday and Sunday); the programme consists of the polonaise ‘Pozegnanie Ojczyzny’ [Farewell to Homeland] by Oginski, suites of Krakow, Rzeszow, Lublin, national dances, simple refrains and skits promoting the local folklore (Oj, Gorzkow, oj, Gorzkow, piekna okolica, gdyby nie stodoly, bylaby stolica...Oh, Gorzkow, beautiful place, if there had not been any barns it would have been a capital), patriotic and national songs. The Polish uhlans in the costumes of the Warsaw Duchy walk in a dance to the girls, the ribbons of the Cracovian dances flutter; the peacock’s feathers tremble in the hats of the orchestra. No wonder that the Viennese Poles are moved, that they sing ‘Sokoly’ together with the singers, that they join the lajkonik’s dance [a person dressed as a Tartar riding a wooden horse]… ‘Dearest, this is our mission – to sing, play for us, for the Polish communities all over the world; to remind you that Poland remembers about you and that hot Polish hearts beat in your chests’, says Fr Biernacki on the stage.
The ensemble has fulfilled this mission for 11 years. The first group in the parish of Gorzkow was a genuine wind instrument orchestra consisting of 20 musicians and then a dance ensemble, with a choir and soloists, was founded. The Ensemble ‘Gorzkowianie’ from a small village near Kazimierza has performed in most European capitals and the musicians sang for the Pope several times (for the first time in 1987). The ‘headquarters’ is located in the parish house, which has been partly changed into a dressing room with collections of music works, original works and screenplays of theatre and religious shows as well as musicals, which ‘Gorzkowianie’ has prepared. The collection is quite big. It is worth mentioning that the Ensemble collaborates with some soloists of the Slaska Opera and the environment of the Jagiellonian University.

In the Polish Catholic Mission

‘Here we have everything that is necessary for the spirit abroad’, explains Danuta Golba from Vienna (she is connected with Kielce and with her birthplace Witow near Kazimierza, so she could not miss the performance of ‘Gorzkowianie’). Danuta and her husband Wawrzyniec often attend Polish Masses; she belongs to the prayer group ‘Galilea’ and she takes part in pilgrimages, too (e.g. the pilgrimage to Maria Gugging). She belongs to the Rosary circle and other parish communities. It is hard to estimate the number of Poles attending the services in the Polish Church of the Holy Cross (the number varies) but certainly this is the heart of Polish Vienna, this is its centre. Gardekirche, called the Polish church, has been run by the Resurrectionist Fathers for over 100 years. They have preserved the church and they have cared for Polish parishioners. Besides services in Polish they run a family planning centre, the Choir ‘Gaudete’, a youth ministry and they publish a bulletin ‘Nasza wspolnota’ [Our community]. The Emmaus House is opposite the church. There are rooms for various pastoral activities there. There are: a library, a kitchen (Viennese Poles like having Polish lunch and a dessert, e.g. cheese cake and a cup of coffee), a shop with books and newspapers. Danuta buys the latest issue of ‘Niedziela’ on Saturday (‘they can run out of it later’) and she is looking to reading the article about the meeting between the Polish community and ‘Gorzkowianie’ in Vienna. ‘Polish Catholic papers. Here you are. We have several of them! This is our great joy, a piece of Homeland and as if a signpost for every day’, she adds. After the performance of the Song and Dance Ensemble ‘Gorzkowianie’ in the Emmaus House the integration with the Polish community is developing, which is so nice to see. The world is small; people meet their fellow countrymen and ask about the people they know. And then – it is hard to say good-bye! The tubas, the clarinets and the drum with the inscription ‘Gorzkowianie’, the vests and peacock’s feathers go inside the coach. Nobody asks whether the effort, sleepless nights, undermined health of Fr Andrzej, who is not very young, make any sense. Nobody asks, ‘What will happen when our priest is gone?’ There is simple trust when they look at Kahlenberg at dusk and when they see the dark Danube for the last time. They feel that they have fulfilled their mission well, the mission that Fr Biernacki has instilled in the members of the Ensemble. They believe in Divine Providence that favours ‘Gorzkowianie’ so much. They can return home in peace and bow their necks to the soil, which they must not leave for long in spring. Vienna has been won. The mission has been accomplished.

"Niedziela" 22/2008

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: