Over 600 visitors made their way to the Pope John Paul II Polish Center in Yorba Linda over the course of a recent fall weekend. Some came for the kielbasa, stuffed cabbage and Pierogi; while others came to see the colorful costumed folk dancers from Tucson and Las Vegas. Many came to attend Masses offered in English, Latin and Polish.
DANCERS DRESSED IN TRADITIONAL POLISH COSTUMES SHARE BREAD AT THE 43RD ANNUAL DOZYNKI FESTIVAL ON SEPT. 18, 2022, IN YORBA LINDA. PHOTO BY SPENCER GRANT/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
But everybody came to enjoy and celebrate Dozynki, the 43rd annual harvest festival of Polish culture.
The event was held on Sept. 17 and 18 and honored the Polish celebration of a bountiful harvest dating back to the 16th century. At the time, landowners thanked their field hands for their hard work by hosting a festival and sharing the foods of the harvest including
a loaf of bread baked from fresh grain to present to the lord and lady who shared it with everyone. Entire villages would don their Sunday best to celebrate.
As part of the Polish harvest tradition, a procession at the Polish Mass was led by Joy and David Lafranchi, named 2022’s “Lord and Lady of the Manor.” Wearing traditional dress, they carried a large freshly baked loaf of bread to the church’s altar while other
participants carried a display of harvested foods and a straw representation of the Polish white eagle.
Parishioner Michael Dutnowski explained the significance of the bread.
“Bread is a sign of life, the growth of the grain,” he said. “You make bread as a food but also as a spirit.”
David Lafranchi sliced the loaf into two pieces, one of which was offered to Polish Center Director Fr. Zbigniew Fraszczak while Joy Lafranchi offered pieces to everyone else.
Diners were treated to traditional Polish cuisine including Golabki (cabbage roll); Kiszka (blood sausage); Kielbasa (Polish sausage) also enjoyed artistic programs featuring traditional Polish dancers.
Polish Catholic presence in Orange County dates back to 1978 when services were held in the Polish language at Rosary High School in Fullerton. After the establishment of the Diocese of Orange in 1978, a growing Polish population sought a permanent home. Following the purchase of a former Seventh Day Adventist church in Yorba Linda, the first official Polish Mass was celebrated in 1983.
“I think that Polish Harvest Festival in Yorba Linda is an important event for all our community,” explained Fr. Fraszczak. “Every year it brings together many people who want to cultivate Polish culture, customs, food, performances of traditional Polish folklore groups with their beautiful vestments and dances.”
He added, “This event involves a lot of preparation, dedication and support from beautiful people we have in our community. It’s a time to enjoy the atmosphere prepared for them to share all these things with those who come and like to experience something different.”