Polish carnival by the Daugava. Do we still remember those old days? / Script

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● Oryginał w języku polskim poządze przeczytać tutaj.
● Русский перевод is available here.

The minority multimedia platform Rus.LSM.lv publishes materials in one of Latvia’s national minority languages ​​- Polish, and these materials will also be available in Latvian and Russian.

The project “Łotwa po polsku” (Latvia in Polish) was implemented with the participation of representatives of the new generation of Poles – students of J.Pilsudska Daugavpils State Polish Gymnasium and Polish professional journalists.

Tomasz Otocki, deputy editor-in-chief of the magazine “Przegląd Bałtycki” (“Baltic Review”, www.przegladbaltycki.pl) is a Polish journalist who covers events in the Baltics. For 12 years he has been writing about topics related to the Baltic States. He has been visiting Latvia regularly since 2013, having fallen in love with Riga, Ventspils and Cēsis.

Translated from Polish by Alina Smilgina, student of J.Pilsudska Daugavpils State Polish Gymnasium.

In 1936, a reporter from the weekly newspaper “Nasze Życie” (“Our Life”) participated in a masquerade ball organized by the local Polish sports organization “Reduta” (“Redute”). He expressed regret that too few young people came, but overall the reporter liked the event very much:

“If we started with compliments, then we will not be stingy: so, a hall with adjacent rooms [..] looked very good, decorated simply but exquisitely, a lot of effort was put into it. There were countless masks: original, rich, beautiful. Nice, albeit symbolic gifts for the most creative outfits were given to a young lady looking for a husband with a candlestick (these are the times when young men are more valuable than gold!), a little old lady (fake, because it turned out to be a man!) in a night cap, a bag with sugar (who turned out to be a lovely young woman) with an encouraging inscription “sugar strengthens”, and a miller with a nice mask on the equally nice face of one of the “Reduta” athletes.”

Two years later, at the beginning of January 1938, the author of “Nasze Życie” chronicles still called for “Christmas trees” organized by Polish activists in Latvia: scouts and members of the Polish Youth Society. On the other hand, in Daugavpils, a carnival ball was held at the Railway Theater, organized by the Polish Charity Society, one of the most important Polish organizations in Latvia.

In 1939, a lot of interesting things happened in the Polish Youth Society branch in Ludza: an “evening with donuts and kolduns” was organized for the local Poles (“kolduna” is the Lithuanian analogue of “pelmeni”, popular among the Poles of Latgale). A small Polish society (once again a problem of attendance, which is also known for contemporary Polish activities in Latvia) had fun, as the chronicler noted, “with great vigor”.

Also that year, Latvian Poles celebrated Fat Thursday, glazed donuts and “favorki”, which are called “žagarini” near the Daugava, were served on the table. Treats were mostly made at home, but they were also offered for purchase by Polish pastry shops operating in Latvia.

Our life, 01.01.1935

Photo: National Library, LSM.lv collage

What is the significance of carnival in Polish culture?

According to the online encyclopedia, it is “a period of winter balls, masquerades and processions. It most commonly begins on Epiphany and ends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent and the anticipation of Easter.”

The Polish name “karnawał” (“carnival”) comes from the Italian word “carnevale”, from the Latin: “carnem levāre” (“to exclude meat”) or “caro, vale” (“goodbye, meat”). There is another Polish word “ostatki” (“leftovers”) that describes the last days of the carnival just before Fat Thursday and Ash Wednesday, which mark the end of the carnival.

Carnival is not only a celebration of food, several costume parties and masquerades are organized every year.

In the former Polish-Lithuanian Union, large events were held at lavishly laid tables (of course, mainly for the richest nobles and magnates, but also for the peasants, although the “food selection” was different). There was a phrase “after a fat Maslenitsa, the house will be empty”, the Polish nobility, who “ate like in the days of the Saxon king and loosened his belt” (“Saxons” is a dynasty that ruled the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century), simply emptied the food stocks of their houses.

Modern Poles celebrate carnival in pubs and restaurants, where parties are held, but mostly they meet at home, where sweets and good alcohol are brought to the table. Every year on Fat Thursday, long queues form at pastry shops to buy donuts and “favorks”. “People take as many as 15-20 donuts, they can afford sweets on this day,” says a kind owner of a pastry shop in Warsaw in an interview with LSM.

Of course, in times of inflation, people complain about prices. At the famous restaurant owner Magda Gessler, you can pay up to 22 zlotys (5 euros) for one donut, while a kilogram of “favorku” costs 105 zlotys (24 euros). There will also be queues there on Fat Thursday, but let’s be honest – Poles will buy donuts in cheaper pastry shops, Polish discount stores also offer them every day and on holidays.

How will Poles have fun in Latvia? Very different, certainly also with donuts or pancakes, although this tradition is disappearing over the years.

Unfortunately, many have already forgotten about it, because it is not an official holiday. Beautiful Fat Thursday is celebrated by Polish ladies from the club “Gawęda” (“Story”), which gathers on Slokas street in Pārdaugava, says Danuta Szawdyn, a Polish woman from Riga, who also occasionally bakes “zagarinis” (that is, Riga and Vilnius given name; in Warsaw they are called “faworki”). “In our family, we celebrated Fat Tuesday more often, so we baked donuts and jagarinis much less frequently,” adds Halīna Drozdowska, the former president of the Riga branch of the Latvian Polish Union.

Today, Fat Thursday has returned, mainly thanks to the Polish Union and Polish schools in Latvia.

In order to introduce Polish traditions to children and young people from the Juzef Pilsudski State Polish Gymnasium, the Daugavpils Polish Cultural Center, headed by Żanna Stankiewicz, organizes a carnival for primary school students every year. This year, nine classes participated in the celebration. The children had fun with Saint Nicholas, they sang, danced, said riddles and recited poems in both languages. Colorful carnival costumes and masks filled the hall with bright colors. The ceremony ended with the presentation of sweet gifts.

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The article is in Latvian

Tags: Polish carnival Daugava remember days Script

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