Dyngus Day (Volunteer Appreciation) – Apr. 17, 2017

Dyngus Day is an old Polish Easter Monday custom. Every year on that day, Polish Museum volunteers are recognized for their service over the last year. On April 17, Fr. Paul Breza, Museum founder, served up a banquet of ham, German and American potato salads, cucumber and tomato salad, and home-made blueberry sauce over ice cream for dessert to recognize the efforts of 40 volunteers who make the Museum one of the top tourist attractions in the city. Sheila Daly was honored for 40 years of exceptional volunteer service to the Museum.

Polish Pottery Sale – Aug. 14, 2017

After a yearlong wait, the museum has received an order of 4000 lbs. of pottery direct from Poland.  We have pottery everywhere and to make space for this new inventory, we are having a Polish pottery sale in our museum gift shop. Prices are quite low when compared with other stores because we buy direct with no middle man and our clerks are volunteers.

The sale is being held every Friday and Saturday in August, 10:00 am. to 3:00 pm in the Museum Gift Shop.

Lubiana pottery is noted for its very white clay and Polish designs. We have many new styles along with our old standbys. Some of the new designs are trimmed with 10k gold making them very attractive. There is also a large selection of coffee cups in many different sizes.

Now is the time to think of Christmas gifts for family or friends, or something special just for you.

Exchange Student Reception – Aug. 12, 2017

Julia Fravel, Lauren Graf, and Emily Roettger, Winona exchange students to our sister city of Bytow, Poland, have returned to Winona after a month-long visit. The exchange students were sponsored by the Polish Cultural Institute and Museum and hosted by families in Bytów.

This exchange is an annual summer event with students from Winona going to Poland in odd numbered years, and students from Poland coming to Winona in even numbered years. This is an opportunity for the students to experience the family life of local host families and to create lifelong friendships. These exchanges help in promoting and preserving our heritage.

There will be a reception for the students at the Polish Museum Annex, 363 East Second Street on Tuesday, August 22nd at 6:30 pm. The students will talk about their experiences in Poland, and an audience question and answer period will follow. The public is welcome to attend and learn more of the exchange program and Poland.

We continue to recruit students for future exchanges, For more information contact Father Paul Breza at (507) 454-3431.

New Board Chair – Aug. 11, 2017

I would like to introduce myself to you. My name is Tim Breza (no known relationship to Father Paul Breza) and I was elected President of the Polish Museum’s Board of Directors.

Many of you may have seen me around the museum as a volunteer guide and as chairman of the Apple Festival.

My background is long and varied. I was the owner and sausage maker at Tushner’s Market located in the East End of Winona’s Polish fourth ward for 25 years. I also served as an elected city council representative for 22 years on Winona. I have experience working for Governor Jesse Ventura administration in Saint Paul.

My wife Mary and I have been married for 46 years and have a son and daughter who have three children.

I look forward to serving the Museum membership in the future with new ideas, while keeping our heritage strong.

I will need tour help and hope you find time to volunteer as there are many ways to help. Give me a call (504)454-3431) to talk about your ideas and how we can make them work. As a team we will make the museum better.

Dyngus Day (Volunteer Appreciation) – Mar. 28, 2016

Dyngus Day is an old Polish Easter Monday custom. Also, Polish Museum volunteers will be rewarded for their service over the last year. Festivities will begin at 5 pm on Monday, March 28, 2016.

The following article was contributed to Nowy Wiarus by Polish Museum volunteer Dan Schyma of Minneapolis, MN:


Dyngus Day is the name for Easter Monday. One theory is that Dyngus originated back in 966 AD when Duke Mieszko I was baptized and Poland was founded as a Christian nation. Dyngus and S’migus were twin pagan gods; Dyngus representing water and the earth and S’migus representing thunder and lightning and the whooshing sound it made. The custom of pouring water was an ancient spring rite of cleansing, purification, and fertility. Some claim it is from an early tradition when Christians were immersed in water for Baptism. Early on the two were differentiated: Dyngus being the exchange of gifts, usually decorated eggs, under the threat of water splashing if no eggs were prepared, while S’migus referred to the striking which became the switching with pussy willows as an aspect of ritual courting. Some suggested the striking tradition comes from the ritual “slap” of a Christian Confirmation.

The presence of eggs in Easter customs dates back to ancient pagan nature rites celebrating spring. The egg became a symbol of life, seemingly lifeless and breaking through as a young creature. As a symbol of fertility, the egg played a role in various customs and traditions throughout the year. The decorated eggs, called pisanki, served as a gift in the Polish wooing and courtship process. Pisanki was a decorated egg style where wax was applied in patterns with a stylus before they were placed in colored dyes. Many of the patterns are unique to the region of Poland they represent. Other styles known as oklejane and nalepianki were when the outside of the egg was decorated with a variety of materials such as colored paper or straw.

Dyngus would begin in the early morning when the boys crept through a window or were let into the house by the girl’s father or mother, and the girls were awakened by being liberally doused with water. The girls would be shrieking and hollering, but in their hearts they were glad because they would know that the ones who hadn’t gotten wet would not be married that year. In some villages the merriment would continue with water being thrown from second-floor windows and the legs of the young girls being switched with pussy willows throughout the day. Those who saw themselves as too refined and above pouring water on a friend or loved one would sprinkle cologne on their hands from a small flask instead. In other places the lashing took place with branches of birch, gooseberry or juniper until the girls cried out for mercy, at which time they had to buy their way out by offering to give the boys colored eggs as a way to get them to stop. This gave meaning to the translation of dyngus as “ransom”. Easter Tuesday was the day when the girls would retaliate just as fiercely by dousing the boys with water and go around switching the boys with pussy willows. They too often received pisanki in return.

An interesting Polish legend about how the pussy willow got its name is that long ago some baby kittens fell into a river while chasing butterflies. The mother cat sadly cried at the river’s edge, pleading for help for her drowning kittens. The willows heard her cries and swept their long graceful branches into the water. The kittens grabbed the branches and held on tightly until they were saved.

Some form of Dyngus has been practiced in countries like Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as Poland, to an extent even today. In the U.S., many parties began about mid-morning with a large buffet of Polish Easter foods; kielbasa, ham, fresh breads and eggs. Buffalo, New York is the Dyngus Capital of America. In 2012, it was reported that more than 50,000 attended Dyngus Day events. Other cities with large Dyngus Day celebrations include, Cleveland, Chicago, Hamtramek, Michigan, South Bend, Indiana and Hanover, New Hampshire, and of course Winona, Minnesota.

Dan Schyma

Smaczne Jablka – October 4, 2015

By Jon Masyga

On Sunday, October 4, 2015, the Polish Cultural Institute and Museum hosted another successful and highly attended Smaczne Jablka or “Tasty Apple Festival” at and around the Museum at 102 Liberty Street, in Winona, Minnesota to celebrate Winona’s Kashubian Polish heritage. Smaczne Jablka takes place the first Sunday of each October.

The Festival included local artisans in the museum, Kashubian food, a silent auction, entertainment (including Polish attired dancers), live music, and the “Polish Business Power Street”, featuring local businesses that have Polish ties and/or beginnings. There were more than 800 attendees, 15 vendors, and 40 volunteers that made this one of the most successful fundraisers in the history of the event – up 400% over last year’s proceeds.

The festival started an hour earlier this year at 11:00 AM. A small crowd gathered as the preparations were completed. Entertainment outside was provided by the popular “Misty Mountain Boys” and the crowd grew steadily throughout the day. Inside Don Wodek played the accordion followed by Patti Darbo with vocals and guitar. There was plenty of food available and it proved to be very popular. The golabki and perogi were all consumed.

The early Poles ate “Survival food” to get by when they had little or no money. There were free samples of smoked catfish and carp, examples of early survival food. “Peasant food” is the food Poles purchased, made, and consumed for very little money. The typical lumber mill employee made a $1.00 per day and had to feed large families and pay for other expenses. The peasant food stretched the money and exhibited the Polish knack for making great tasting food out of just about anything. Free samples were available of kluski, drop noodle soup, and grits baloney. Many attendees tasting the peasant food smiled and commented that the food took them back to happy memories of simpler times with their families.

The pies were popular, completely selling out. Even more popular was the classy man in the bow-tie handing out the ice cream on pies – although there were other servers, people waited in line for him to serve them.

Freshly baked pretzels from the outdoor ovens sold out. Polish beer was available until it, too, sold out. Regent apples, t-shirts and memberships to the Museum were available for sale. The outside events were shepherded by the white longhaired Polish Sheep dog, which continues to be a crowd favorite. Outside on the Power Street were canoes, the Franklin Car, and other local business attractions.