A traditional Polish welcome of bread and salt was served up to the many guests who arrived at the launch of Gorey’s PolskaÉire Festival recently.
The three-day event kicked off with the unveiling of Polish photographer Ryszard Tatomir’s exhibition at Gorey Library. Entitled ‘The amazing world of salt – Wieliczka Salt Mine‘, the exhibition features images of the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s underground landscapes, which are inaccessible to visitors on a regular basis.
“The photographer described the idea behind his interest in capturing the uniqueness of Wieliczka Salt Mine and answered many questions from people who attended the event. He kindly offered to donate one of the images to the County Wexford Art Collection,” said Public Relations Officer for the festival, Ola Riquet. “We were positively surprised by the amount of people that came to enjoy the exhibition, music and food.”
Also in attendance at the launch was Ambassador for Poland, Anna Sochanska, who opened the festival alongside Chairman of Gorey-Kilmuckridge Municipal District, Cllr Pip Breen.
“Very kind words about PolskaÉire Festival in Gorey were said by both the Ambassador and the Chairman. They expressed their appreciation for both communities bringing out the best in one another by sharing their art, heritage and culture,” said Ola. “The Ambassador said that Gorey is an example of what the festival is for the whole of Ireland. Everywhere she goes, she can see how well Polish people have integrated into the country, but she said she really notices it in Gorey. She has been here twice now. Gorey is the first place she visited outside of Dublin so she said it is a special place for her.”
Brother and sister duo Chulainn Ó Faoláin and Éire Ní Fhaoláin represented Gorey at the launch of festival with their traditional songs and music, which proved to be a big hit with the crowd.
“They played four different instruments and sang in Gaeilge and English. Everyone was blown away and mesmerised by that,” said Ola. “There is a possibility that Chulainn and Éire will play underground in the salt mine for next year’s festival. That’s how blown away the photographer was by them. We are going to work on that idea and see if that’s possible.”
The following night, crowds flocked to Breen’s Bar to enjoy the popular Irish-Polish Folk Night – an event that aims to strengthen Irish-Polish ties through traditional music. Representing Ireland was The Púcas, who got everyone out of their seats to dance and sing to some traditional Irish ballads. Meanwhile, The Kierpecki Band from the Beskid Region in the south of Poland gave the audience a flavour of folk music from the region. Later on in the evening, the two groups performed together, creating a blend of tunes and traditions.
A final day of festivities was reserved for families. The ‘PolskaÉire Festival for Kids’ saw families gather in Gorey Civic Square for a day of music, dance, experiments, giant garden games and much more.
“Every year, we are trying to bring something different to the festival. This time, we decided to do something with garden games so the whole family could get involved,” explained Ola.
“Some families came with picnic baskets and stayed for the whole afternoon. It was an excellent opportunity for parents and grandparents to spend quality time with their little ones.”
The Gorey PolskaÉire event is now in its sixth year. It is part of an annual nationwide celebration of Irish-Polish friendship. The aim of the festival is to further strengthen mutual relations between Polish and Irish communities by means of various cultural, sports, business, academic and community events. The Gorey event was organised by a group of volunteers.