The ethereal voice of Joanna Kolinska echoed through the vaults of St. Ladislaus, one of the most prominent and beautiful churches in Hamtramck.  Founded in 1920, St. Lad’s (as it’s affectionately called by its parishioners) served as an anchor for many generations of Polish Americans as well as a refuge for newly arriving immigrants.

Joanna is one of those immigrants, have arrived in the United States a mere four years ago from her native Lodz.  Like countless forebears, she came in search of adventure and prosperity, finding life in Poland somewhat restricting.  And like many of her ancestors, she discovered that the streets here aren’t necessarily paved with gold.

Still, she is blessed with a strong faith and an angelic voice, and, without family here, she has been adopted, in a sense, by the Polonaise Chorale, where she is a prominent soloist.  “They are my family,” she says.

On Sunday, January 28, following a beautiful mass and chorale performance by the Polonaise Chorale, Joanna was kind enough to remain behind and sing a soul-inspiring rendition of the Polish national anthem, Mazurek Dąbrowskiego,  written by Józef Wybicki in 1797.  The stirring sincerity with which she sang about the land which, by her own admission, she misses terribly, brought tears to the eyes of many parishioners who lingered after mass for the rare treat.

Following the anthem, Joanna also sang Boże, coś Polskę, which she described as a religious song whose words were altered during Communism’s relentless grip on Poland, which began in 1945.  “The words were changed when they sang this tune in church,” Joanna explained.  “It became a song of freedom, of comfort to those oppressed beneath the regime.”

And it worked.  Communism fell in Poland in 1989, the result of prayer, faith, and of course, the will of the Polish people, whose iron will proved tougher than Russian steel.



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