In this Q&A, senior Natalia Chreptowicz, discusses her heritage through an organization on campus she’s been involved in now for four years. The Polish Student Association is an important part of Natalia’s life as she shares her passion for her Polish heritage with fellow Scholars, fellow Badgers and others in the Madison community!
What is Polish Student Association and what do you do?
Polish Student Association (PSA) is an international club of students at the University of Wisconsin who enjoy sharing the Polish culture with both the campus and the greater Madison communities. We meet bi-weekly not only to explore and discuss traditions, pop culture and current news relating to Poland, but also to plan our exciting semester events. These include the annual Polish Film Festival at the Marquee Theater, trips to Milwaukee and Chicago, friendly sports games and social dinners (for which we prepare traditional Polish dishes). We have also incorporated song and dance performances into our yearly agenda. On alternating weeks we provide our members with a great opportunity called “Polish Table,” during which they casually practice their Polish language skills together at a local coffee shop on State Street.
Do you have to be Polish or speak Polish to join PSA?
No Polish heritage or language skills are required. We have had members without any Polish background who joined and played important roles in our club. All students are welcome to join PSA!
What is your role in the organization?
I became the President of PSA in the spring semester of my first year at UW-Madison (2013-14). It has been a rewarding experience to oversee the growth of our club in size and its increasing involvement on campus and in the greater Madison community since then. Of course, this would not have been possible without the help of my strong and dedicated team of officers, current and past.
What got you interested in the PSA?
Before I began my studies at UW-Madison, I was quite involved with the Polish community in Chicago, my hometown. There I met my lifelong Polish friends – all first generation Americans as well – and grew up learning about Poland’s history, geography, language and literature at the Holy Trinity Polish School on Saturdays, playing piano with the Paderewski Symphony Orchestra, and performing various traditional Polish songs and dances with the Song & Dance Ensemble Lajkonik. Furthermore, I was a member of the Polish Club at William H. Taft High School, where I also helped choreograph the club’s Polonaise dance for the school’s International Nights. In college, PSA was the first student organization I signed up for because it represented an important piece of my life back at home. My Polish culture is a sort of treasure that my parents passed onto me and something I wanted to hold onto and share with my new community in Madison.
What is the most recent campus event PSA has organized?
This fall 2016 semester we organized our 26th annual Polish Film Festival, which took place on Nov. 20 and Dec. 4. There were two films shown on each day, one at 1 p.m. and the other at 3 p.m., at the Marquee Theater in the Union South building. The purpose of the annual Polish Film Festival is to present a series of contemporary Polish films to an audience consisting of university students, faculty, staff and other members of the Madison community. The Polish Film Festival is the oldest film festival on campus, dating back to 1992. Every fall semester it attracts approximately 400 people to the Marquee Theater, making it PSA’s biggest yearly outreach event. UW-Madison students are the primary audience, but we also welcome viewers from the greater Madison community, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Dells, Stevens Point and Chicago areas.
Has PSA shown any recent involvement with the community outside of campus?
Definitely! On Nov. 13, the PSA had the pleasure of giving a Polish song and dance performance for the residents at the Sylvan Crossings Assisted Living and Memory Care in Westshire Village. The program included two dances, two songs, a violin duet and a short informational presentation about PSA and Poland. I would like to thank all of our performers for their focus, dedication and positive attitude during our many practices and the day of the event. The residents were very thrilled with the beautiful performance, and invited us to visit them again soon. A special thanks also goes to Margaret Naczek (treasurer) who helped me choreograph the Polonaise dance and taught the Spisz dance. While I am naming individual members, I will also note that two other Wisconsin Evans Scholars joined me that Sunday afternoon – Natalia Kaniewska and Will Black. You can spot us three together at the far left end of the group picture in our Polonaise costumes (borrowed from Taft HS’s Polish Club)!