„Follow me, I’m right behind you.”

When our son was in third form, he and his classmates used to laugh at this favourite saying from one of their non-English-speaking teachers. On face value, they had a point but, whether it was a grammatical error or not, that teacher gave his pupils a lesson in leadership.  

And new leadership is exactly what we in the Auckland Polish Association are looking for right now.

Dariusz Koper, our current president, is taking on a new career opportunity in Sydney, and is stepping down.

Much as we are glad for our Darek, we will miss him. His are huge shoes that now need to be filled.

When Dariusz took on the role two years ago, he knew that he was busy—many of us would have heard him front on the news as part of his role at Auckland Transport—but he found time for his Polish community. He got to know a mostly new committee. He was always one of the first at any function to help set up, and one of the last to leave. The reason he was not milling around with the crowds at our last market was because he had stepped in at the last minute to help fry the pierogi in the kitchen. His business mind steered many a decision that helped strengthen our Dom Polski’s financial situation.

Dariusz guided us during the past two difficult years with a decisive and inclusive leadership that he bestowed with his natural calm, grace, humour, and seemingly infinite patience. It is never easy managing a committee of disparate volunteers. We followed him—because we knew that he was always right behind us.

Our vice-president, Przemek Dawidowski, will also be retiring. He has already served on the committee for eight years, and was president before Dariusz. Janek Lis has agreed to remain in the role as treasurer. He’s the one usually helping Helena Konarska behind the bar, and pictured with her here at the Easter market. Helena has had several stints on previous committees, and is one of our valued outside-of-committee volunteers, as is Agnieszka Pyka, who continues to do a sterling job with our hall hire.

We are also looking for a secretary, whose main function is to take down the minutes of meetings, and deliver them to committee members within a week.

Previously, our secretaries have also been roped into writing newsletters and organising functions, but the outgoing committee changed that: too much work for one person, especially these days when we are all so busy. We now have Kelly Mills putting out a monthly newsletter, and we share function organising.

What we know to be true about Polish people is that they value their culture and—if the queues are anything to go by at our markets—especially traditional Polish food. We would love to have a “foodie” on the committee, someone who will support our Kitchen Angels, Anna Swain, Jackie Rzepka, and Małgosia Stechy during functions. They are the smiles behind the counter, but they need someone to source and cook the food.

We are hoping that this “foodie” will be able to help organise Polish cooking classes, something that several people who answered our survey said they were interested in. Currently we buy in our pierogi, which makes us very little profit. We are hoping that the cooking classes will have a dual purpose: people can come to learn the craft at no cost to themselves, help make pierogi, take some home, and help to fill the kitchen freezer to go towards the Dom Polski.

(For those who don’t know: we are striving to build a disability toilet, and the proceeds from the kitchen, the bar, and the garden and book stalls that the committee runs at markets go towards that goal.)

Agnieszka Porczyk, who has done such a good job organising our market stallholders for the past few years, is also stepping down. She has been another outside-of-committee volunteer but, ideally, this would be a role within the committee. When we spoke to market stallholders at our Easter function (Ania Biazik, left, was one) they were keen to be part of a WhatsApp stallholder group, so the committee member organising them would have to be able to initiate and support the group and keep it abreast of market news. Our clash with a cricket game last Easter market showed us how important instant communication is.

We Poles in Auckland are typical of a modern Polish diaspora. A large number of us come from families that were forced out of Poland in WW2, and did not return. A large number arrived in the Solidarność era of the 1980s. Many were born in New Zealand, and have grown up with the Dom Polski. But there are always new Poles to welcome. In some ways we could not be more poles apart, yet we have something in common: that Polish thread that sneaks around our bodies, makes us drool at the thought of pierogi, bigos, makowiec, or sernik, makes our forthright nature sometimes frustrating to be with, and makes gatherings like annual general meetings interesting.

That thread includes a need to stay connected to our language. Our children’s Polish classes closed when we could not find an interested teacher, but our adult classes are still going strong under the tutelage of Łukasz and Marta Adamczyk. Thanks to our former adult class teacher and outgoing committee member Martyna Wala, we now have several series of books from ORPEG (the Centre for the Development of Polish Education Abroad) that cover different levels, including for children. Łukasz has confirmed that he and Marta will be willing to take on more classes for members and member’s children if there is the demand.  

The outgoing committee invites you all to join us on Sunday, 7 May. Even if you are not keen on joining the committee, your vote as a member of the APA is important to us. As usual, only paid-up members will be allowed to vote, but as usual, you will have an opportunity to pay subs as the door. The AGM starts at 2pm, but we will open the doors at 1pm for those who’d like to join us for a cup of tea or coffee and cake beforehand.

See you on Sunday!  (7 May!)