Polish event shows pierogis bring people together

I love inaugural events, so naturally I'm excited about Gwinnett County's first Polish Pierogi Festival. But this is even more exciting to me, and I'm sure to thousands of other Yankees, because we'll be able to enjoy some good ol' homemade northern comfort food, along with a full day of fellowship and festivities.

The pierogis, dumplings stuffed with meat, cheese or potatoes, will be the main menu item Saturday at St. Marguerite d'Youville Church in Lawrenceville, home of the Polish Catholic Apostolate of Atlanta. Church members Mariala Krajewska and Ela Galazka spent weeks overseeing the stuffing of pierogis for this event. But that's not all.

Father Marek Ciesla, who notes that there are more than 5,000 Polish immigrants in the area, has lots of other treats in store. Golubki, known to Americans as either cabbage rolls or pigs in the blanket, will also be available for those of Eastern European descent to savor or those new to Polish cuisine to sample.

Adam Durczok, owner of Polish Smoked Meats and Bakery in Suwanee, will provide a roasted pig stuffed with barley, Polish kielbasa and a variety of Polish pastries, including kremowka, Pope John Paul II's favorite cake. (I tried it and I liked it!).

Gimza's, Gwinnett's only Polish restaurant, will provide salads along with an invitation for guests to enjoy Polish food any time they want in their facility in Norcross.

"Lots of Northerners love coming here. They say 'It's been 20 years since I've eaten like this. It really brings back memories' as they sit and reminisce. I love it," owner Mark Gimza said.

He said his restaurant is one of only a few places in metro Atlanta where people can get together over Zywiec, an imported Polish beer.

But the folks running this festival will feed not only the stomach, but also the soul. "Mrs. Joanna" will entertain children with music and games under a tree. Information about Polish history, culture and travel will be available to all. Matthew Sikorski, a Catholic who lived through the Holocaust will discuss and sign copies of his memoir, "Innocence and Reality." Magician Tom Bosco will perform and local artists will display paintings, pottery and jewelry.

I must say from growing up in an ethnically diverse city, that no Polish event is authentic without live accordion music. And the Pierogi Festival definitely qualifies. Janusz Komor and Marcin Godlewski will be pumping out polkas and mazurkas and probably Polish dances I never even heard of.

Any money made will support Polish Apostolate, but Father Ciesla stressed, "The main reasons we organized this Polish Pierogi Festival to show appreciation to the congregation of St. Marguarite d'Youville for accepting us, to bring people together and to show that we can do pierogis!"

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.

SideBar: If You Go

What: Polish Pierogi Festival

When: 3 to 8 p.m.


Where: Parish Hall, St. Marguerite d'Youville Church, 85 Gloster Road, Lawrenceville