The festival at St. Maximilian Kolbe Roman Catholic Church is a celebration of all things Polish, as well as a fundraiser for the church, helping it maintain its facilities and carry out its humanitarian mission.
One of the most popular ethnic festivals in Pacific Beach, the Polish festival attracts as many as 5,000 people from all around San Diego, as well as international visitors during its three-day stint.
“It’s a celebration of our culture,” said Bogdan Maziarz, a Polish Festival Committee church member.
Maziarz said the festival, which charges $3 for admission, is an open invitation to San Diegans to become better acquainted with Polish Americans.
“It’s there for Americans to come and see what Poland is all about,” Maziarz said, adding traditional Polish cuisine like pierogis (dumplings stuffed with sauerkraut or potato and cheese), golabki (meat-stuffed cabbage rolls), bigos (hunter’s stew), potato pancakes and famous grilled kielbasa (Polish sausage) are worth the turnout. The festival menu is rounded out with Polish pastries and soft drinks, coffee and tea.
To go along with the repast is a beer garden for ages 21 and up, which will feature well-known Polish beers like Zywiec, Okocim and Warka.
And don’t forget the entertainment, said Maziarz.
“On stage we will have groups presenting traditional dance in costumes from different regions of Poland,” he said. “They are very colorful.”
Entertainment will include Polish folk-dance groups Polonez from San Diego and Krakusky from Los Angeles, as well as a polka band and a DJ who will entertain festival guests until close.
St. Maximilian’s festival “is meant for the whole family to come and enjoy,” said Maziarz.
Father Jerzy Frydrych of Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe said the church’s primary mission is to “serve the needs of Polish people.”
Part of that is having Mass said in Polish.
“People prefer their national language during clergy,” Frydrych said, adding there is a Saturday service in English.
Noting St. Maximilian was built in 1995 to serve the Polish community, Frydrych said funds raised from the annual festival “go to renovate the church.” He said improvements have included stained-glass windows and a new church sanctuary.
During World War II, the churh’s namesake, Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, provided shelter to refugees from greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary, according to a Polish website dedicated to him. Kolbe was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned.
In July 1941, a man from Kolbe’s barracks vanished, prompting the deputy camp commander to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men was a young husband and father, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
During the time in the cell, Kolbe led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only he and three others were still alive. Finally, he was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid.
Father Kolbe was beatified as a confessor by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 10, 1982. Upon canonization, the Pope declared St. Maximilian Kolbe not a confessor, but a martyr.
For those who want to learn more about St. Maximilian church and also join in prayer, daily Mass and tours of the church will be offered. Veneration of the relics of Blessed John Paul II, St. Sister Faustina, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio and other saints will also be offered.
All proceeds from the fundraiser will go toward the parish, the main goal being the continued renovation of St. Maximilian Kolbe Roman Catholic Church.
For more information, visit polishmission.org or call (858) 272-7655.