Cultures combined at the PolskaÉire Festival in Gorey

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A traditional Polish welcome of bread and salt was served to the many guests who arrived recently for the launch of Gorey’s PolskaÉire festival.

he three-day event kicked off with the unveiling of Polish photographer Ryszard Tatomir’s exhibition at the Gorey Library. Titled “The Amazing World of Salt – Wieliczka Salt Mine,” the exhibit features images of the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s underground landscapes, which are routinely inaccessible to visitors.

“The photographer described the idea behind his interest in capturing the uniqueness of the Wieliczka Salt Mine and answered many questions from people who attended the event. He kindly offered to donate the one of the images to the County Wexford Art Collection,” said Ola Riquet, the festival’s public relations manager. “We were positively surprised by the number of people who came to enjoy the exhibition, the music and the the food.”

Also present at the launch was Polish Ambassador Anna Sochanska, who opened the festival alongside Gorey-Kilmuckridge Municipal District Chairman Cllr Pip Breen.

“Very kind words about the PolskaÉire festival in Gorey were spoken by the Ambassador and the President. They expressed their appreciation for the two communities bringing out the best in each other by sharing their art, heritage and culture,” Ola said. “The Ambassador said Gorey is an example of what the festival is for all of Ireland. Wherever she goes, she can see how well Poles have integrated into the country, but she said she really notices it in Gorey. She’s been here twice now. Gorey is the first place she has visited outside of Dublin, so she said it was a special place for her.

Brother and sister duo Chulainn Ó Faoláin and Éire Ní Fhaoláin represented Gorey at the launch of the 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 mesmerized by it,” Ola said. “It is possible that Chulainn and Éire will play underground in the salt mine for the festival next year. That’s how blown away the photographer was by them. We will work on this idea and see if it is possible.

The following night, crowds flocked to Breen’s Bar to enjoy the popular Irish-Polish Folk Night – an event which aims to strengthen Irish-Polish ties through traditional music. The Púcas represented Ireland, who got everyone up from their seats to dance and sing along to traditional Irish ballads. Meanwhile, the band Kierpecki from the Beskydy region in southern Poland gave the audience a taste of the region’s folk music. Later in the evening, the two groups played together, creating a mixture of melodies and traditions.

A final day of festivities was reserved for families. The ‘PolskaÉire Festival for Kids’ saw families gather in Gorey’s municipal square for a day of music, dancing, experiments, giant garden games and more.

“Each year we try to bring something different to the festival. This time we decided to do something with garden games so that the whole family could get involved,” says Ola.

“Some families came with picnic baskets and stayed all afternoon. It was a great opportunity for parents and grandparents to spend some quality time with their little ones.

The Gorey PolskaÉire event is now in its sixth edition. It is part of an annual national celebration of Irish-Polish friendship. The aim of the festival is to further strengthen mutual relations between the Polish and Irish communities through various cultural, sporting, business, academic and community events. The Gorey event was organized by a group of volunteers.

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