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Welcoming New Year with song

By Maggie Schumacher & Judith Pannebaker

This past New Year's Eve The Nine, a group of vocalists from Lublin, Poland, was invited to sing at the evening Mass at Bandera's St. Stanislaus Catholic Church.

Father Stan Oleksy introduced the group and Monsignor Franciszek Kurzaj, known as "Father Frank," who had organized the singers' month-long tour. Father Frank, parish priest for St. Paul's Catholic Church in San Antonio, also serves as president of the Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation and as a member of the Polish American Council of Texas.

He set the tone for the performance of The Nine by stating that a trip to Texas would not have been complete had the group not visited Bandera.

Father Frank also commented on the old building of the St. Stanislaus Church with its new paintings; the young Polish choir re-introducing the old "language" back to the Church; and the old year passing into the new one.

Father Gabriel Kamienski officiated at the Mass and the nine-person choir seamlessly joined in the service. The voices of the acappella group filled the entire church with a powerful harmony that transfixed the audience.

Although most in attendance did not understand the Polish words, the audience appreciated the poignancy of the young group singing in the second oldest Polish Church in the United States against a backdrop of murals painted by Polish artists and the lovely altar.

About halfway through the service another dimension was added when a child's voice emerged through the voices of the young adults. The voice of Jadwiga Pucia was pure and well trained but still childlike. Yet, its remarkable power allowed her voice to remain distinct from the other choir members. For those not able to see who was singing, it sounded like an angel had joined the group.

Extended applause filled the Church when the group finished. It was a wonderful way to honor the old year and the older parishioners and a magnificent way to begin the New Year - with song and hope.

Director of The Nine is Mariusz Pucia, a professor of music at the University of Lublin. Singers included Anna Dzwonkowska-Pucia, Pawel Jablonic, Katarsyna Presta, Anna Kusy, Anna Waloszczyk, Slawomir Kuczek and Stanislaw Hajda.

On Wednesday, Jan. 4, under the auspices of Bandera County Historical Commission Chairman Roy Dugosh and Special Ambassador Elenora Dugosh Goodley, tireless supporters of Bandera's Polish heritage, the group offered an impromptu concert at Bandera City Hall.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King, liaison to the historical commission, Mayor Horst Pallaske and Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Schumacher welcomed the singers to the Cowboy Capital of the world. Listening to the political and religious renditions of Serdeczna Matko, the Polish National Anthem, prompted Roy Dugosh to state, "This feels like we've come full circle as God intended."

"This song has special significance," noted Father Frank. "For the 134 Poland was without a country, it gave hope to the people. It was often song with hands high with fingers making a 'V.' This signified, 'Bring us freedom'."

Performance of the moving anthem was forbidden for 134 years while Poland was absorbed by the countries of Germany and Russia and while the country was under the iron fist of the Soviet Union. During the Revolutions of 1989, the 45-year communist rule was overthrown and democracy was re-established.

Pictured: Top- Photo by Elaine Mazurek Stephens
After a horseback ride at the Twin Elm Guest Ranch, The Nine from Lublin posed on an authentic Texas “uncovered wagon.”

Bottom- BCC Staff Photo by Judith Pannebaker
Jadwiga Pucia, the youngest member of The Nine, a cappella touring singers from Lublin, Poland, who performed at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church on New Year’s Eve, received a perfect gift during the group’s visit to Bandera – a cowgal hat!