Wilkes University

The Polish Room

Since 1950, Wilkes University’s Polish Room has shared the Polish culture and heritage through original artifacts and publications located in the room. The Polish Room is located on the second floor of the Farley Library and has been operated by the Polish Room committee since 1950, when Wilkes University was known as “Wilkes College.”

Stefan Mrozewski, one of the world's leading engravers and a former Kozciuszko Foundation grantee, was engaged to design the room which would serve both as a reference and reading room in the proposed library. Mr. Mrozewski designed the room and furniture in the Zakopane style, the artistic tradition of the Tatra mountaineers. He and Stefan Hellersperk of Dallas, Pennsylvania, constructed and carved the furniture.

The Polish Room was originally located in the Parish Hall Guard Building, then later relocated to the Farley Library. Wilkes University’s first president, Dr. Eugene S. Farley, was inspired to open the Polish Room when he visited the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh. He encouraged local ethnic groups to establish their own room on campus, because this would be a way that individuals could express their cultural heritage. The Polish room allows people with Polish heritage to gather and feel at home in Poland.

Dedication

This room is dedicated to the memory of settlers from Poland who since 1856 have made their homes in Wyoming Valley. By their efforts they contributed to the development of its major industries mining and farming. By their sense of fair play they encouraged the principle of collective bargaining through their homes, schools, and churches they have proclaimed their faith and love of country.

This plaque is erected by their descendants so that their sons and daughters, together with the sons and daughters of those from other lands may take courage from their lives and deeds, and forever be reminded in these halls of Wilkes University that opportunity, wisdom, and justice are for all Americans.

The Polish Room Committee

Mission

The Polish Room Committee is a non-profit organization that fosters an appreciation of Polish heritage by providing an enriching environment filled with cultural based artifacts. The organization takes pride in student higher education by offering financial opportunities in an annual scholarship to those of Polish decent.

It was established in 1972 to express appreciation of services rendered to Wilkes and the community of Northeastern Pennsylvania by Dr. and Mrs. Joseph J. Kocyan

Polish Room Committee Scholarships

Scholarships are awarded annually to students of Polish descent with exceptionally high cumulative grade point averages and demonstrated financial aid.

The Polish Room Committee Scholarship welcomes applications from those who meet the following criteria:

  • Be a sophomore, junior, or senior.
  • Have a permanent residence in Luzerne County.
  • Be of Polish descent.

Please contact Vera Krewsun at vera.krewsun@wilkes.edu for more information on the Polish Room Committee scholarships and how to apply.

Artifacts & Publications

The Polish Room is home to multiple cultural and historic artifacts and is affiliated with several publications.

Furniture

The furniture in the Polish Room was constructed by the late Stefan Hellersperk, Dallas, Pennsylvania. He used heavy birch which was imported from Washington. to construct the seven foot bench. It weighs approximately 450 pounds. The large oval table with its highly polished finish has half inch deep carvings in the Goral tradition.

Samovar

On the table is an antique samovar from 18th Century Warsaw. This samovar is a silver tea urn with a Greek design.

Eagle Carving (Above fireplace)

The carved wooden eagle is a replica of the 12th century eagle which is the symbol of Poland. The carving was executed by the late Stefan Hellersperk, Dallas, Pennsylvania. The Polish Room collection also includes many ornamental wood carvings and sculptures.

"Jesus" Mask

Wladyslaw Theo Benda came to the United States in 1899. Before he became celebrated as the creator of a new type of masks, he was well-known as an illustrator. Benda's masks are made of hard, unbleached paper, glued in tightly compressed layer reinforced with brass wires, protected from atmospheric conditions by coats of varnishes, painted with oil colors and gilded. W.T. Benda's "Jesus" mask rests on a high pedestal which was carved by Stefan Hellersperk, Dallas, Pennsylvania.

Kilims

Imported Polish kilims grace the two walls of the Polish Room. On kilim is of a North Baltic scene. The other kilim is a typical floral pattern.

Map (Right side of fireplace)

The map of Poland from the 16th Century was executed by Abraham Ortelius, royal geographer to King Philip II of Spain.

Paintings

The painting, Farmer with his Horses (Chlop z Konmi), is an original oil painting by Joseph Brodowski. Brodowski was born in Warsaw in 1828 and was a student of January Suchodolski. He is generally known for his battlescenes and enre pieces.

The Polish Room also contains paintings and lithographs of the American Revolutionary war heroes, Casmir Pulaski and Thaddeus Kosciuszko, astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, Nobel Prize winner Maria Sklodowska-Curie, Pope Jan Pawel II (Pope John Paul II), Anthony Mroz, a Tatra bagpiper, and many others.

Commemorative Plaque (Outside the door)

To commemorate the contributions of the early Polish immigrants to Wyoming Valley, a bronze plaque celebrating their achievements is place near the door.

Piasanki (Decorated Eggs)

The pisanki in the glass case at the entrance to the Polish Room were designed by Anna Kalonick and her mother, and by Sophie Yurkowski (Yurko) both of whom resided in Luzerne County. The artistic designs are etched with beeswax and dipped in coloring fluids several times. Other techniques for decorating eggs during the Easter season are skrobanki or rysowankiwhere the outline of birds, flowers, and animals are delicately scratched with sharp instruments. The colors and designs have different symbolic meanings. The glass case also contains traditional handmade Christmas ornaments.

Books

The library in the Polish Room has a fine collection of books in both Polish and English. The topics of the books include history, the poems of Adam Mickiewicz, poetry, art, music, cookbooks to mention just a few topics. The library collection has contains a music collection and a stamp collection. The Wilkes University Polish Room is in the process of inventorying the entire collection. When this inventory is completed, a database of the collection will be created. It is hoped that this database will become resource tool for Polish and Polish-American studies.

Clothing

The Polish Room has clothing which was worn traditionally in the Krakow and Zakopane regions. The clothing is embellished with hand embrodiery in the style representative of the regions.

Dolls

A doll collection representing various regions in Poland and historical figures is located near the entrance door.  Above the mantel inside the Polish Room are two sets of wooden dolls in regional attire.

Goblets

A set of goblets from the Royal Palce of Wawel in Krakow, Poland, are located in the bookcase to the left of the fireplace.

The Poems of Anton Piotrowski

  • Compiled by Mrs. Jule Znaniecki (past president of the Wilkes University Polish Room Committee).
  • Edited by Dr. Harold E. Cox, Professor Emertius of History, Wilkes University.

This bilingual publication is a collection of the poems of Anton Piotrowski. The poetry is part of the story of both the Polish immigrant community in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania and the anthracite coal industry of a century ago.

Lania: An American Woman in Nazi-Occupied Poland

Melania Kocyan Hellersperk (past Polish Room member) This book is a firsthand account of an American woman who fought in the Polish underground movement during the Second World War.

Wilkes College Polish Room Cookbook

Originally printed by the Wilkes College Polish Room Committee this collection of recipes submitted by members was updated and reprinted in 2009.

The Extraordinary Journey: The Eastern Europeans of Northeastern Pennsylvania

A WVIA (PBS local affiliate) original documentary film contains an interview with Jule Znaniecki (past president of the Wilkes University Polish Room Committee).