There’s not many morning TV shows in America where you can get your traffic report and learn the proper pronunciation of the Polish word pączki. That’s because there’s not many on-air Polish traffic reporters like Jenny Milkowski.
Jenny brings a uniquely Polish personality to the weekday morning show at FOX-TV Chicago, “Good Day Chicago.” Aside from sprinkling informational tidbits about Poland in between her traffic reports, she serves as an on-air Polish guru. That’s right. Whenever anyone at the station is covering anything involving Polish culture, you can probably bet that Jenny will be involved. Her Polish pride shines through the TV camera lens, making her among the most passionate and visible proponents of Polish culture in the Chicago metropolitan area.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jenny to discover more about her Polish background. Here’s the full interview:
What is your connection to Poland?
“I was born in Chicago, but my parents where born in Poland. My mom came to Chicago in the seventies when she was 20 years old. She had just finished nursing school in Poland and came for a touring visit. Her mom, my grandma, was already in the states and convinced her to stay. My mom eventually met my dad while shopping at his father’s store, and they started dating shortly after and got married. Both of my parents are from the Tarnow area. My mom is from Miechowice, and my dad is from Wietrzychowice. My dad came here on a boat with his mom and some of his brothers when he was just seven years old!”
Did you grow up more Polish or American?
“I was born on the northwest side of Chicago, which is a heavily Polish neighborhood. My younger sister and I grew up in a very Polish household and didn’t speak English until we went to school, and even in preschool I didn’t know English that well.
When you’re a kid, you learn languages quickly, but I was very shy…so that didn’t help! So because I was shy and didn’t know how to ask my teacher if I could go to the bathroom, I would pee myself! Almost every day my mom had to bring me a new pair of pants to change into, but by first grade I was fluent in English so it wasn’t a problem anymore. In addition to going to “regular” school Monday through Friday, we also went to Polish school on Saturday mornings!”
How can people tell you are Polish?
“Being Polish has always been a huge part of who I am! Not only did I grow up with parents who came straight from Poland, but I knew the language. People can tell I’m Polish because I’m always sure to tell them, haha! I am proud of where I came from and my culture. Growing up and living in Chicago and being Polish is great because there is such a huge Polish community that makes you feel welcome!”
“I LOVE talking about the Polish culture and my Polish upbringing on TV! I think sometimes anchors on television can be a little stiff and don’t show the audience where they truly come from. I believe that I should be myself–which is Polish and quirky! I want all the Polish men and women and children who watch at home to say ‘wow, that’s really cool! She’s like me, and she’s on TV, and she is proud of who she is!’ My coworkers enjoy my stories, and they love to learn about how it was growing up Polish.”
Ok, most important question: What is your favorite Polish food?
“That’s a tough question! There is SO much good food! and get this, my family owns a Polish store! It’s called Bristol Deli on 5205 West Belmont in Chicago. We have an amazing chef that cooks delicious Polish salads and dinners! We call it Meals By Babcia! We also have tons of wonderful Polish candies and desserts. I think my favorite has to be pasztet, kielbasa and zurek!”
What’s the best part about your job in television?
“My favorite part of my job is being able to connect with Chicagoans and Polish Chicagoans and Polish people from all over the world! I am on Facebook almost all the time. Please see my videos and talk to me at Jenny Milkowski TV!”
Here’s some more videos/photos from Jenny:
We’ve all heard of vampires and werewolves. BORING! Few people realize that Polish and Slavic mythology has its own collection of horrific creatures straight out of your worst nightmares. If you dare, keep reading to discover why you should probably avoid walking deep in the Polish woods alone.
You’re taking a peaceful autumn stroll in the woods. As you approach a calm little creek, you observe a beautiful woman playing with her hair. Turn around. NOW! It could be a Rusałka, the ghost of an unmarried girl who drowned. Rusałki have long light-brown, red, or green hair and often wear white dresses with flowers on them. Although extremely pale, they are very beautiful and completely irresistable to men. If a man happens across one, she will seduce and try to drown him. Learn more about the Rusałka
When it comes to Polish monsters, you’re not even safe during the day. Meet the Południca, also known as the Noon Witch. She appears amidst whirling dust clouds during the hottest part of the day, carrying a scythe. Oftentimes, she will ask people very difficult questions or quiz them. It’s a high stakes game because if they answer incorrectly, the Południca gives them a haircut down to the neck. In centuries past, peasants used to blame the Południca for heatstroke.
Although not the meanest monster on this list, you would still be well advised not to cross paths with a Leshy. It’s a giant woodland spirit who can shapeshift into anything. Oftentimes, Leshy leave people alone, although they are known to lead travelers astray and sometimes abduct children. Some people believe they are evil, while others just think they are moody. I wouldn’t take the chance to find out.
If you are ever stuck wandering the woods at night, be wary of this vampire-like creature that can transform into an owl to appear unnoticed. When one does meet a Strzyga in its true form, it may be too late, as the undead being sucks the blood of humans and sometimes even devours their insides. Strzyga are born human, but die prematurely and return to haunt the living. Polish peasants once believed that if a child was born with teeth, it would become a Strzyga.
Common throughout Poland and other Slavic countries is the tale of Baba Yaga, an old witch who lives in the forest, waiting for someone to get lost and stumble upon her hut, which sits on chicken legs and is surrounded by a fence composed of human bones. The keyhole on her door is filled with sharp teeth. When she catches you, she will kill and eat you, adding your bones to her fence. Her favorite meal? Small children.
Wila are nymphs who inhabit the winds. They are the spirits of women who acted loosely or frivolously during their lifetimes. Now they are forced to haunt the night, leading young men astray with their seductive charm. If the wind is heavy, it means the Wila are dancing; if it’s loud, they are singing. So watch out, because those thin wispy clouds under the full moon on a chilly autumn night may actually be the vague outlines of the Wila.
Beware of the Nocnica, or night hag, who is probably the most frightening monster on this list. Composed of shadow, the Nocnica is an evil spirit who visits people during sleep to draw their life force. Those who sleep on their back are especially vulnerable, as she will sit on their chest while slowly sucking their life out over the course of many nights. Her favorite victims are defenseless infants. In fact, she is to blame for babies having trouble sleeping at night. Their cries are due to the night hag tormenting them….
Czernobog is the king of all Polish and Slavic monsters. His name literally translates to “black god,” and in Slavic mythology, he was the accursed brother of Bielobog, the “white god.” The source of all evil in the world, Czernobog regularly enjoys stealing and devouring souls. He is also responsible for the most creepy Disney cartoon ever made called “Night on Bald Mountain.” Don’t be too afraid, though, as he hides like a wimp from the sunlight.
My last trip to Poland was slightly more than one year ago, and sometimes I find myself reminiscing and missing my time there. Today, as I walked into a large Polish store in the Chicagoland area, I was struck with “the feels” for Poland. It was a full force collision with the nostalgia train, or, shall I say, the nostalgia pociąg.
In any event, I thought I would share short phrases of things I think about when I miss Poland. I hope that some of you identify with a few of these thoughts as well. Although many are very specific to me, others are more universal. Even if you’ve never visited Poland, perhaps they will trigger memories of your busha growing up or of those delicious pierogi your mom used to make.
Here are 50 things I miss about Poland (no particular order)
…my grandma looking out the second story window as I play in the backyard.
…Polish Nesquick cereal in the yellow bag
…the small kiosks on the street corners
…walking, instead of driving, to the town center
…encountering random stray animals
…a kotlet dinner
…having a different soup for “pierwsze danie” every day
…grandma listening to Msza Święta on the radio
…medieval churches and cathedrals
…picking cherries in my grandma’s yard
…picking raspberries in my grandma’s yard
…picking red currant berries in my grandma’s yard
…picking gooseberries in my grandma’s yard
…picking plums in my grandma’s yard
…shelling peas with my grandma
…walking in to visit neighbors or relatives at a moment’s notice
…neighbors or relatives visiting me at a moment’s notice
…taking the bus to town
…grandma bringing me a large, delicious loaf of bread, freshly baked, before a long trip
…helping my grandma walk to the kiosk down the street
…deciding whether to watch TVP 1, TVP 2 or Polsat
…feeding chickens on my relatives’ farm
…having a goat try to eat my clothes
…walking all day
…riding in my uncle’s Fiat
…buying fresh vegetables from an old lady on open market day, aka “na targu”
…Kinder eggs with the surprise toys inside
…watching Dobranocka before bedtime
…walking up the stairs of an old kamienica (tenement)
…being struck by how beautiful Polish girls are
…listening to that Polish narrator that seems to dub every foreign film
…watching the rural countryside while taking a train
…seeing rolled hay on farmland
…lying in a hammock near my grandma’s garden
…that feeling after exchanging dollars for złoty at the Kantor
…playing with the latest kitten at my grandma’s house
…buying a Prince Polo
…reading Kaczor Donald magazine
…hearing the legends surrounding a local castle
…watching the old Godzilla movies, dubbed in Polish, with my grandma at night
…getting up early because I couldn’t sleep but not being able to watch TV because it was still off the air
…giving and receiving gifts with friends and relatives
…the reklama announcement before a set of television commercials started
…that moment I step off the airplane onto Polish soil
I’ve said before that Polish women are among the most beautiful on earth. The million dollar question is: how do you land a date with one?
Perhaps these 10 pick-up lines will work. The other possibility is that you’ll get a pączek in the face and never go on a date again. Whether you try these or not, I hope you find them amusing.
1. Girl, life without you is like a pączek without jelly.
2. Baby, I’m falling like communism for you.
3. Poland must be heaven, because it sent me an angel.
4. You and I go together like kapusta and pierogi.
5. You Polish? Because my heart longs for Solidarity with you.
6. Hey girl. Let me Chopin the door to your heart.
7. Roses are red, violets are blue, I’d save Poland from 123 years of Russian occupation for you.
8. Wanna [Polka] Dance?
9. I know why they say Polish is the hardest language to learn. Looking at you makes me speechless.
10. Knock Knock.
Krak OW! You’re gorgeous!
No content may be taken or reproduced from this site without the author’s expressed written permission.
September is a very important month for Poland and all people with a Polish background. Two significant, yet contrasting, events occurred during this month in Polish history: the 1683 victory at Vienna, which halted the Ottoman Empire’s advance into Europe and the 1939 conquest by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.
In both cases, Poland proved to be central in deciding Europe’s fate, a centrality that is all-too-often overlooked in studies of European and global history.
During the decades leading up to the 1683 Battle of Vienna, the Islamic Ottoman Empire had gradually been eroding Christian power in southeastern Europe. The rivalry between Christianity and Islam had persisted for centuries, and both sides had committed horrible atrocities against each other. In the summer of 1683, the Turks set their sights on Vienna, which would serve as a gateway to conquer the rest of Europe.
For months, a massive Ottoman army of 150,000 laid siege to Vienna. The city’s fortified walls and handful of brave Austrian defenders managed to impede the Turks from attaining a quick victory, but by September it became clear that, bar some miracle, Vienna would fall.
Poland would provide the miracle. Polish King John III Sobieski had long feared Ottoman encroachment into Europe and recognized that if Vienna fell, Poland might be next, followed by the kingdoms of the west. In early September, Sobieski marched an army of 60,000 men toward Vienna to relieve the desperate defenders.
On Saturday, September 11th, Sobieski’s forces, including his prized Winged Hussars, charged upon the dumbfounded Turkish camp from atop a ridge. The Ottomans were slaughtered, their leader Kara Mustafa Pasha, forced to flee for his life. After the victory, Sobieski wrote to the Pope, “We came, we saw, and God conquered.”
Exactly 256 years later in 1939, Poland’s fortune would be the opposite. On September 1st, Nazi Germany invaded Poland with 40 infantry divisions and 14 mechanized divisions. They utilized a strategy called Blitzkrieg, which relied on an overwhelmingly fast-paced armored assault.
Although the Poles mobilized around 1,000,000 men, they were technologically outmatched, especially in armor. Furthermore, Germany’s powerful air force wreaked havoc on Polish military establishments and transportation lines.
To make matters worse, the Soviet Union had allied with Nazi Germany and invaded Poland from the east on September 17. Surrounded by two invading powers, it is amazing that Poland lasted as long as it did. The Polish army completely capitulated on October 5, which meant Poland had resisted for 35 days (In comparison, France lasted about 45 days against Nazi Germany alone). The western powers failed to provide Poland with any significant military support, despite their promises to do so before the war. Along with Poland fell the flood gates, and the Nazis quickly went on to control or influence most of the European continent.
Although the results of these two historical events were drastically different, they share two major similarities: 1) In both instances, Europe was threatened by an enemy bent on total conquest. 2) In both instances, Poland was among the first to fight this grave threat, and the consequences of that struggle impacted Europe’s overall fate.
Had Poland failed to halt the Turks at Vienna, Europe would have been vulnerable to further bloodshed and destruction. Similarly, had Poland succeeded in halting the Nazis, it would have interrupted Adolf Hitler’s designs and possibly rallied the rest of Europe against him in a moment of weakness.
In that sense, Poland has been the historic linchpin of Europe. Its fate has been inextricably tied to the fate of the rest of the continent. This is in no small part due to Poland’s central geographic location within Europe, which has time and again put it on the front lines of the immemorial struggle between east and west.
As Poles and people of Polish descent, we should be proud about our central place in history. At the same time, we should learn from our past and be prepared for the possibility of once again having to play a difficult, but crucial role in future events.
Each country has fun little tidbits of information that set it apart from others. Poland is no exception, except it’s often not the first country that comes to people’s minds.
Here are 10 fun facts about Poland you may not have known about–no particular order. If even one or two of them surprise you, I’ll consider my mission accomplished.
1. At 2,120.7 ft tall, the Warsaw Radio Tower was the second-tallest man-made structure ever built.
2. Not counting Russia, Poland is Europe’s 8th largest country in both population and land area.
3. At its peak in the early 17th century, Poland, along with its partner Lithuania, controlled 450,000 square miles. That’s roughly 3.7 times its current size.
4. Many consider the Polish constitution of 1791 to be the world’s second oldest—after the United States.
5. Malbork Castle in Poland is the largest castle in the world by surface area.
6. The Polish flag is the exact opposite of the Indonesian flag.
7. Poland is one of the world’s most Catholic countries—92.2% of Poles follow the religion, according to a Pew Research poll.
8. There are an estimated 60 million Polish people in the world. More than one third of them live outside Poland.
9. Mount Rysy is the highest point in Poland, standing at 8,199 feet.
10. Poland’s Białowieża Forest is one of Europe’s last primeval forests and the last remaining home of European bison.