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Fr. Czeslaw Krysa
1994 awardee, Orchard Lake (Oakland County), Polish-American community leader and pisanki artist
Enthusiasm and dedication to Polish family customs mark Fr. Czeslaw Krysa as an outstanding bearer of Polish-American traditions, a promoter of traditional Polish art, and a cultural leader in the Polish-American community in Michigan. He is recognized and respected as an exceptional artist, creating numerous pisanki and weaving palms each year in preparation for Easter. These elements in combination distinguish Fr. Krysa as a community cultural leader.
Fr. Krysa, born in 1954, is a skilled practitioner of pisanki, the wax resist technique of "writing" Polish Easter eggs. "There is no one single thing, other than cycling, that I have been doing longer than pisanki," he stated. (1) He learned the batik method of egg ornamentation from his father, who would decorate eggs on the Friday and Saturday before Easter. When Fr. Krysa was a child, "We did them for the Easter basket and we'd eat right away." (2) Each year he would tell and retell stories of his aunt Stanislawa Paul in Poland who annually made over more than 60 pisanki to give to friends and neighbors. Krysa traveled with his father to Poland as a young man where he met Aunt Pauline, as she was called, and was inspired to learn as much as he could about the traditions and designs related to pisanki in Poland. In this he was thorough and academic. He returned to the United States and shared his knowledge with members of the Polish-American communities. Through classes, lectures, and informal apprenticeships he dedicated himself to teaching and sharing these traditions.
He learned palm weaving from his elementary teachers, the Franciscan Sisters of Hamburg, New York. "During the week prior to Easter the Sisters channeled our energies, excited by the holidays, in a creative manner. They brought in leftover palm fronds from church and taught us how to weave them into flowers, grapes, and wheat designs. For us children, the weavings were the first joyous sign of Easter"
As a leader among Polish-Americans, Fr. Krysa strives to reinforce traditions in the community. He supports the heritage of the community by aiding members in rediscovering their own family legacies of traditions through summer workshops and classes on family traditions. In 1993 he received a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship to teach Catherine Gyzywaca pisanki. His work to encourage an appreciation of Polish-American traditions in the community extends throughout the United States, and the revitalization of Polish customs in America through the efforts of Fr. Krysa has inspired pride in Polish heritage.
(1) Krysa, Czeslaw Michal. Cited in Susan Tipton, Nomination letter. 1992.
(2) Krysa, Czeslaw Michal. Personal communication to Rebecca Clark. 20 May 2002.
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