• May 1, 2016
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45 years of “Wilenka”!

The oldest from all of the children-and-youth folk ensembles in Lithuania “Wilenka” is celebrating its 45th anniversary. However, solemnity and the prospect of settling down do not pose a threat to our dear jubilarian. “Different, modern, creative, excellent” – such words addressed to the ensemble could be heard during the celebratory evening.

The song and dance ensemble “Wilenka” was founded by Władysław Korkuć, then it was directed by Maria Kasperowicz, and for over 20 years now Janina Łabul has been its artistic director. Currently, “Wilenka” consists of seven groups and nearly 200 members.

“It’s the third generation already – now grandparents bring here their grandchildren. A passion for folklore comes from the family. All of the ensemble members are very dedicated, and each group works very well. There is creative competence in the positive sense – each group wants to do as much as possible,” says Janina Łabul, the artistic director of the ensemble.

Even the school graduates cannot part with “Wilenka,” which is run by the Władysław Syrokomla Secondary School. Currently, former students sing among others in the ensemble “Folk Vibes,” which mixes folk motifs with contemporary music. Moreover, people unrelated to the school perform with “Wilenka” as well; these are Russians, Lithuanians, even Italians – children from mixed families who want to be in touch with the Polish culture.

The engagement in music, singing, and the folk dance begins relatively early – when a child is 5-6 years old even.

“It’s the parents who decide that a child should dance. They bring them to rehearsals, and then, when the children after a year or two have experience on stage, they don’t give up – just the opposite, they bring their friends with them,” says the choreographer Irena Brazis. She adds that the ensemble is experiencing its renaissance and is highly popular among both parents and students.

At the ceremonial jubilee, congratulations and words of appreciation were given to “Wilenka,” members of the ensemble were granted decorations and medals.

“45 years – it’s thousands of children, youths, and adults who have been in this ensemble. It’s wonderful that you want to cultivate the Polish culture while living on your grandparents’, your parents’ lands – you cultivate traditions related to your roots,” said Bożena Kamińska, a member of the Polish Sejm. As the director of the Suwałki Culture Centre, she invited “Wilenka” to give a concert in the performance hall with 700 seats.

The congratulatory letter from Jarosław Czubiński, the Polish Ambassador in Vilnius, was read by Consul General Stanisław Cygnarowski.

“Almost half a century of the life with the group means hundreds of rehearsals and concerts, a lot of meetings and travels to the farthest corners of the world. It is history full of many successes, but, above all, many young members of the ensemble, who cultivate and popularise the Polish folk culture in Lithuania, as well as abroad. Today, on the day of its honourable jubilee, “Wilenka” is entertaining us with its varied repertoire, whereas children and youth, along with the ensemble artistic director Janina Łabul, director Danuta Korkus, conductor Rajmund Burzyński, choreographers Irena Brazis and Aneta Kozłowska, choirmaster Renata Łabul-Juzokienė, violinist Mirosław Dmuchowski, form a buoyant organism, which has worked out its strong position among Polish ensembles in Lithuania,” wrote the ambassador.

President of the the Foundation “Help for the Poles in the East” Janusz Skolimowski, in turn, decorated the ensemble with the Meritus Patriae medal.

“I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure of watching performances of this brilliant group for years. I will never forget their performances given not only in front of Poles and Lithuanians, but also in front of my guests from the diplomatic corps, and  how they did it in so modern a way, a different one, not only folk, and they did it splendidly. The feelings they’d left me with helped me afterwards in establishing fine diplomatic contacts. It was a way of representing Poland in Lithuania that was wonderful and at the same time lovely,” mentioned Janusz Skolimowski.

Wishes and congratulations were also expressed by, among others, Artur Zapolski, a representative of the Department of National Minorities; Eglė Stonkutė, the head of the Department of Education, Culture and Sport of the Local Government of Vilnius; Renata Cytacka and Edita Tamošiūnaitė, representatives of the AWPL faction in the city municipality. A congratulatory letter was given to the ensemble by Mayor Remigijus Šimašius as well. Also representatives of other Polish ensembles in the Vilnius region, heads of Polish institutions and organisations there, as well as sponsors and partners from Poland congratulated “Wilenka.”

The main subject of the jubilee concert was spring.

“Each part was made up by songs from different regions of Poland, Vilnian and Lithuanian compositions, folkloristic pictures. ‘Zielony Gaik,’  Jan Kupała – all that we associate with spring, for which we’d waited so much, and we wanted to choose this very topic,” said Janina Łabul.

Translated by Karolina Katarzyńska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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