There is a great sense of pride in Ewa Kozlowski’s voice when she speaks about how she and her husband came to America twenty years ago.
They left Poland with their two children, one-and-half year old Paulina and three-year-old son, Peter.
Nothing was easy for the Kozlowski family. They settled in New York and while her husband worked, she brought up her children. When they startedschool, Ewa enrolled at Staten Island College and completed her Master’s degree in psychology. But by the end of 1998, she started an internetbusiness from scratch after finding that her Polish friends were unable to find Polish-made products where they lived.
„I thought, ‚why not buy the real original products in Poland and distribute them in the US? My website was created with this one thing in mind: to give Polish people, especially those who live far from large Polish communities in North America, a direct opportunity to buy authentic Polish products over the Internet.
„I actually started designing my own website with a template and no knowledge of HTML,” she continued. „Step by step, I read a book and created the Polish Store at http://www.polstore.com. I began with two clients in my first month. It has not been easy but I worked hard. It meant I had no real personal life in the beginning. Moreover, there was always the unfinished work in the house. However, I was determined to succeed. ”
Since 1998, http://www.polstore.com has been offering top quality Polish products! It consists of six departments: medicinal herbal remedies, fruit and herbal teas, cosmetics, gifts, food products and delicious Polish sweets.
From the start, she identified the ever-growing demands for herbal products, like stomach, head and throat problems, which she was familiar with as a young girl. She knew that Polish herbal products were used for everything so she started introducing them. Every month, she introduces new products on her website’s „shelves.”
She has been in business for over two years on Staten Island and boasts a clientele across the United States and Canada from Hawaii to Alaska. The internet allows her to sell across the world in countries like Finland, Germany, and as far as New Zealand and Australia. Great care is taken on supplying everything fresh and of the highest quality – to be delivered right to the door with a 100% guarantee on all products sold. However, this expansion has brought problems: overseas shipping can be very expensive,
„You have to start small to grow,” says Kozlowski. „Especially when I had no degree in business management and had to learn through personal experience of successes and failures. I did not take any SBA loans and ente-red the whole process with an open mind of learning through trial and error- so I am not in debt and owe no one. It has all been like a great challenging adventure.”
Celebrating the Easter
Kozlowski is celebrating the Easter holiday with information on her website polstore.com about the Easter in Poland, which is as old and elaborate as Christmas celebrations. There are a great number of preparations.
Kozlowski recalls the celebration of Easter when she was young, which preceded Holy Week. One week before Palm Sunday, housewives stop baking bread, believing that the bread they bake throughout the rest of the year would spoil. Not until the Holy Week will they start baking again.
In some parts of Poland, housewives began baking on Good Friday, while in other areas, it was not permitted to bake anything all day long. If a housewife violated this ban, the entire village would be in danger of a long drought, which could be avoided only by throwing the pots and guilty housewife into a pond.
It begins with Palm Sunday where small strings of palm branches and twigs are indispensable accessories of the events of the day. They commemorate Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. After the festivities, the palm leaves were used for magic rites, such as conjuring up storms and consecrating women at childbirth and sick domestic animals.
The original palm branch was replaced by a willow or raspberry branch, and decorated with ribbons, flowers, and leaves. It was believed that swallowing a willow catkin from a branch consecrated by a priest would bring health, and when the palm branch was placed behind a holy image until the following year – the inhabitants considered themselves showered with good luck.
Everywhere, church bells toll from Palm Sunday until Holy Thursday, when rattles and clappers take their place. Fires were lit at crossroads so that wayfarers and poor people could warm themselves. Meals were also placed at these spots so that these people could nourish themselves – as good spirits bless the homes.
On the morning of Holy Thursday, the vestments are changed on the miraculous icon in the chapel of the Pauline monastery at Jasna Gora in Czestochowa. This was one of the most important sites of the religious cult of the Poles, and has been venerated as a national shrine since 14th century.
Next day on Good Friday marked the start of the vigil at symbolic tombs of Jesus Christ, which lasted until Holy Saturday. City and town people and villagers visited the „tombs of Christ — a ceremonial adoration of Holy Friday — where the tombs were called „the visitation of the tombs.” No animals were slaughtered and no bread baked, and all mirrors were covered, the use of combs not permitted, and it was a day of mourning.A special kind of bread was prepared for Easter Sunday, called ” pascha..”
It was made of flour and yeast where the surface was spread with fat and decorated with a cross made of dough and decorated with flowers and birds.
The tradition of preparing pascha involved women, because the master of the house was not permitted to take part of preparing the pascha, otherwise his moustache would go grey and the dough would fail. This was the day a „funeral of zur and herring” was organized. A clay pot with zur was shattered and a herring was hung on a branch as punishment „that for six weeks it had ruled over meat.”
On the next day, Holy Saturday, services accompanied by processions were held to commemorate the Resurrection. Inside the churches, priests sprinkled holy water on small baskets brought by believers and filled with paschka, cakes, eggs, horseradish, sausages, ham, salt, pepper, and tiny sugar lambs.
The consecration of eggs refers to egg being an ancient symbol of life. The consecration of horseradish refers to the bitterness of the passion of Jesus which, on the day of resurrection, changed into joy and sweetness.
The custom of coloring eggs for Easter is still observed. Eggs which are painted in one color are called „malowanki” or „kraszanki”. If patterns are etched with a pointed instrument on top of the paint, the eggs are then called „skrobanki” or „rysowanki”. Those eggs decorated with the use of treated wax are called „pisanki”. Another technique involved gluing colored paper or shiny fabric on them.
In early morning when the faithful flock to the sunrise Mass of Resurrection known as Rezurekcja was celebraated. Church bells, were ringing out triumphantly to announce Christ’s Resurrection. It begins with a solemn Eucharistic procession that encircles the outside of the church three times before the actual Mass gets under way inside. Little girls strew flower petals before the Blessed Sacrament borne by the priest in a monstrance beneath a canopy.
The most popular is ‚Weso3y nam dzio dzien nasta3’. During the proce-ssion and the Mass that follows, fire crackers set off by youngsters are heard exploding — a throwback to the loud rumbling believed the have accompanied the opening of Christ’s tomb.
In old Poland, this resurrection service was an opportunity to identify witches, for witches were believed to enjoy eating sausage during sermons during Lent. It was also believed that a priest could see which of the women attending mass was a witch, but was not allowed to reveal this information.
It was also believed that during an Easter procession, a female collaborator of Satan was unable to go around the church three times, and had to leave the procession after the second circuit.
After Mass, every one heads home to partake of all those mouth-watering delicacies waiting at Easter breakfast. A beautifully laid table is covered with colored eggs, cold meats, coils of sausages, ham, yeast cakes, pound cakes, poppy-seed cakes, and in the middle of it all, a lamb made of sugar, commemorating the resurrected Christ. No smoke was permitted; therefore no warm meals were served. Horse-radish was mixed with beets, or „cwikla,” was traditionally present on polish Easter tables. Sharing a blessed Easter eggs with one’s relatives was a tradition.
Each member of the household received also a piece of the consecrated bread.
When spread with horseradish, it was supposed to give protection against throat diseases and against illnesses and complaints.
Cakes were very important ingredients of Easter breakfast: gigantic cakes called „baby”, as well as „mazurki” were prepared only for those occasion.
The baby were either plain vanilla, steamed, saffron-flavored, grated with egg yolk, almond flavored, layered, chocolate-flavored, fluffy, lemon-flavored, bread-like, or many other different kinds. „Mazurek” is a flat cake, usually on a pastry or a wafer, covered with paste of nuts, almonds, or cheese, colorfully iced and decorated with jam and nuts and raisins. On top of this, imaginative decorations were placed, such as eggs of icing; willow branches made of marzipan, chocolate flowers, and other delicacies.
Artistic letters made of cream on top of the cake read „Hallelujah” – joy of the Resurrection. The possible ingredients in a mazurek cake are endless, ranging from almond flavored marzipan, chocolate, raisins, nuts and figs, poppy-seed, orange, crumbly with wine or vodka, apple, French-style, layered, and many others.
On Easter Monday there is a very ancient Easter tradition called „Smingus-Dyngus” or – Wet Easter Monday (Lany Poniedzia3ek) because boys try to catch girls unaware and drench them with water.