Students of Kashubian language and culture visit the Madawaska Valley

Photo: Dave Shulist

Recently, Kashubian students, Robert Kloskowsczi and Stanley Frymark (L-R pictured above) from the University of Gduńsk in Kashubia paid a visit to the Madawaska Valley to meet the local Kashubian people and learn about their preservation of the Kashubian language. They spent a week in the Valley exploring Canada’s first Kashubian communities of Wilno and Barry’s Bay and interacting with local Kashubs. Mr. Frymark’s university major is Kashubian Language Studies while Mr. Kloskowsczi is majoring in Kashubian Ethnology (Kaszëbskô Etnofilologiô) – the study of the cultures of contemporary societies, language groups and nations.

Interaction with local Kashubs offered the perfect field of study for their thesis work; the opportunity to meet with Kashubs, in a unique situation, who still speak the Kashubian language and continue to practice their Kashubian traditions which were handed down from the first pioneers who came from the fatherland of Kashubia starting in 1858. While in the area, the students’ goal was to meet as many Kashubs as possible and record their language, stories and traditions.

Since Mr. Frymark’s interest and research is the Kashubian language he discovered that we still speak the language very well but have created new words that are derived from English words. He noticed there are words that the people have forgotten, and some new English words were created which were not used in Kashubia when the immigrants first came to the Valley. For example, for the word “play” we created the word “playovac” which is a combination of an English word with a Kashubian twist; other words such as “kara” for the word “car” or golfovac for the word “golfing”. For the word “to change” we created the word “changovac”. Stanley Frymark referred to this type of words as Kashlish, the same as Spanish speakers outside of Spain refer to their new English-Spanish words as Spanglish. There were also words that our ancestors had to create because there were no Kashubian words for them. For example, for the word chipmunk they said “szczipniok” and for the word groundhog they said “grindiok”. Because there are no chipmunks or groundhogs in Kashubia, our ancestors had to make up words the best way they knew.

Robert Kloslowsczi’s research is about Kashubian cultural traditions. During his interviews with Edward Chippior, Adam Shulist, Mervin Olsheskie, Richard Shulist, Theresa Prince, Clifford Blank, Theresa Shulist, Peter Glofcheskie, Maxie Mintha and Gordon Lorbetskie, they talked about customs such as Pusta Noc (Barren Night) which is about wakes and funerals. Discussions centred around Christmas traditions and Easter traditions along with the Easter Monday tradition of Dëgùsa. They covered the story of our Kashubian roadside crosses which is important not only here, but also in the Kashubian fatherland.

Robert spent time with Theresa Chapeskie where she talked about carrying on the Kashubian embroidery tradition. Theresa Prince explained how an embroidery club was founded in 2006 and then about five years ago the members introduced a “Canadian” content by adding the red trillium and red maple leaf. Later the concept was further expanded by adding motifs of wild flowers that grow around the Polish Kashub Heritage Museum in Wilno, such as the black-eyed Susan, ferns, cow vetch, forget-me-nots, chokecherries, buttercups and wild asters.

Donnie Burchat, expert on Kashubian furniture, informed him about the craft of traditional Kashubian furniture building. This furniture was also known as Wilno Furniture.

In Wilno, they observed the strength of the Kashubian elements at St. Mary’s Church where the Blessed Mother of Sianowo, Queen of Kashubia (Matczi Bòsczi Swiónowsczi Królewi Kaszëb) makes her home; where the Lord’s prayer is written in the Kashubian language and a message from Pope John Paul II is written in Kashubian “Boże pomagôj” which translates to, “May God help you”. Both Stanley and Robert could not believe how strong the Kashubian culture is after sixteen decades of Polonization, and Germanization. Both were very amazed at how we have kept our Kashubian heritage and identity strong for so long and so far away from Kashubia.

Student Kloskowisczi received a bonus on the trip when he was invited to play on a Kashubian curling team at the Killaloe Curling Club. He joined skip Ed Chippior, Ken Kuiack and myself to play his first ever curling match which he won. He proudly wore a Kashubian Griffins Jersey and represented the Kashubian Nation with pride.  Everyone wished Stanley and Robert a safe journey back to Kashubia and wished them luck with their thesis work and their respective university degrees. The Madawaskas, where heritage and culture define us.

About the author: Dave Shulist is known as Johnny Kashub for his work promoting our local Kashubian heritage. He is the founding president of the Wilno Heritage Society, where the Kashubian culture is showcased in their Heritage Park and Museum. He is also the president of the Kashubian Griffins Hockey Club whose mandate is to promote all things Kashubian, where he has forged cultural ties between Canada’s Kashubia and communities within the Kashubian homeland of Kaszëbë in Europe.

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