Dance to Remember
Directed and Edited by Joel Checkley and Produced by Belinda Ensor for Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, 2015.Contributors
Reproduction of this content for public purposes must be approved by the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria.Copyright
Copyright Joel Checkley + Belinda Ensor, 2015.
This film is inspired by Janina Archabuz, more affectionately known as Pani Babscha.
Pani sewed thousands of costumes for a Polish dance troupe called Wesole Nutki (Merry Notes) that existed and performed from 1985 – 2000. The costumes represent folk costumes from all the different regions of Poland.
Pani used photographs and record covers to create many of the costumes. The dance troupe no longer exists and the children have integrated into the Australian community. It flourished as a transitional phenomenon as the parents and children adapted to a new country but did not let go of the culture of their country of origin.
Included also are interviews with Elizabeth Drozd, a VMC Commissioner and an active leader of the Polish community, about Polish migration to Australia; and with Krystyna Popczyk, who is a younger friend of Pani Babscha, and worked with the dance troupe.
The film is in many ways about ‘place’. It explores the chain migration of Polish immigrants who moved to the then undeveloped western suburb of Ardeer from the 1950s and assisted each other in building homes and a community hall. This community hall was the focus for the children’s Polish dance troupe Wesole Nutki (Merry Notes) that existed and performed there and throughout Australia from 1985 – 2000.
Today this Hall, the Polish House "John Paul II" is still owned by the community but used by Maltese, Germans, Fillipinos and other groups. It therefore, to quote one of the interviewees, reflects the multicultural nature of Victoria.
Krystyna Popczyk: My names Krystyna Popczyk. I've been involved in this Hall probably since I was in my late twenties and I love my heritage. Anything Polish to me is special.
Elizabeth Drozd: Hello, I am Elizabeth Drozd, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Multicultural Community Services. So it is known that Australia is a land of migrants, from all nations and Countries in the world.
Krystyna Popczyk:My parents were taken by the Germans to, from Poland to Germany to work as slave labor. They met there after the war and I was born. We came out here on a ship from Naples.
Elizabeth Drozd: Between 1947 and 53 we had the displaced persons wave. The then Prime Minister of Australia, decided that Australia needed to ‘populate or perish' and there were thousands of Polish and other Eastern European migrants.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: My name is Janina Archabuz. I grew up, that was, the long time ago that was under Poland, but after when, after the revolution, that was under Russia.
Krystyna Popczyk: When I was two years old we arrived in Melbourne in December of 1949. We were separated.
Elizabeth Drozd: They had to fulfill the two-year contacts, which was part of the deal.
Husbands and wives were separated and children. Those were the times.
Krystyna Popczyk:And my mother and I were taken to Bonegilla, where we were for two years before we got reunited again with my Dad.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: In Australia, from the Greta Camp they separated my husband, they sent him to Charters Towers.
Krystyna Popczyk:They were happy to be away from where they came from, from the Germans.
Freedom - for my parents, freedom was the most important thing of all.
Elizabeth Drozd: Ardeer, for example, it had pockets were like 60-80% of people would be from, from Poland, from Ukraine so it was very Polish and I think just families kind of, it's that chain migration almost.
Krystyna Popczyk: Everyone was building homes at the same time. So one Saturday the men, once they finished their normal job, would got to this person's, this family's house.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: We help each other. We help each other, you know, if for instance, neighbour helping me today, I was helping him next day.
Elizabeth Drozd: So there is an extreme attachment to those homes that were built by the, those migrants. They often lived, that's the home they lived in, and it's the only home.
Krystyna Popczyk: The Polish men got together and formed a committee and at first it was just a committee to raise money, they'd hold dances in all sorts of places and raise money with the thought of building something.
Elizabeth Drozd: It was very important for those people, for that generation to have a place of their own, to have a community centre.
Krystyna Popczyk: The hall was built with the money that they made fundraising.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: We get no money from nobody, no government, no council, no, from nobody - just people.
Elizabeth Drozd: So there are these wonderful stories of migrants on a Saturday, Sunday coming and bringing their sort of milk crates to sit on and they would devote their Saturday and Sunday.
Krystyna Popczyk: And I know the wives used to get really angry - my mother included - that my father spent more time here than he did at home.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: And pick and shovel, and wheelbarrow. Yep. Was very hard, very hard way.
Elizabeth Drozd: There is just, it's a labour of love. They are very special.
Krystyna Popczyk: Once the hall was finished, and I mean I got married, I had children um, and then when we formed the dancing group - that's when my involvement became even bigger.
Krystyna Popczyk:When they came out here they wanted their children to remember, you know to be taught the culture, the costumes, the dance and everything else. And that's why the group was very successful.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: Sometimes it was up to seventy kids, four groups of the children, and they ask me to do something. And this is how it start with my costumes. That was my challenge and I was happy that I can do something.
Krystyna Popczyk: The dancing teacher, her name was Barbara, she would bring a picture or a photo of a couple and she would speak to Jenny about the materials that had to be used. Jenny would make up a doll-sized model of what she wanted and if she approved it then we went into full size.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: If I make something she said, ’Oh no, not that way, some different way'.
Because you don't see the back, you can see front but the back - she said 'I have to think', but anyway I said, ‘You think, because I don't have much material left'.
Krystyna Popczyk: She couldn't do all these cultural things when she was younger and here she had a chance and she was, she even played a grandmother on stage at one, you know she was, had a role.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: Sometimes two or three times I'd have to do it, before she agree – ‘That's the way'. But when it's finished, when they start to dance, ‘Oh, this was worth it, [laughs] worth the trouble!'.
Krystyna Popczyk: Jenny and I would go shopping at the markets and any material shops we could find to buy the materials.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: But I was lucky, sometimes, I went once, I got just a sample - it was much dear. Second time I went, was on special. Oh boy - I went.
Krystyna Popczyk:Metres and metres and bolts of material and then we'd take it back to her house and she'd start cutting.
Elizabeth Drozd: So that's really special to see this, this sort of a tradition, and the fact that it was all handmade and homemade.
Krystyna Popczyk: We travelled parts of Australia. We went to Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz:In shopping centres we were dancing, in Footscray Mall we were dancing.
Krystyna Popczyk: Westend Market, Moonee Ponds Market. We've danced in many, many places.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz:When they were dancing, they were happy, they were happy.
Krystyna Popczyk: We had a parents dancing group.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: The parents were dancing too. Yeah. Parents were dancing too. But mostly instead of helping me they were sitting watching [laughs].
Krystyna Popczyk: Every region in Poland has a different dance, so they danced all of them. We did the Charleston, the Polonaise and the Krakowiak which is the most traditional dance in Poland that everybody does.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: **Jenny sings a line from Krakowiak**
Krystyna Popczyk: And well you saw the costumes -they're just magnificent.
Krystyna Popczyk: We were very proud of our children. Even now there all grown up with their own families. Some of them are in their forties, but they still remember.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: It's a shame, because after, all the older people - younger kids
- they were working in the, like supermarket part-time job, so they couldn't get all together for the practice. So they stop.
Krystyna Popczyk: She's very proud of those costumes and so she should be. We all are.
I don't know if there'll be another generation who will use them. Not here I don't think. We have been approached about giving them to another group. It's, I mean, that's probably what we will do in the end, um, but it just seems so hard to let them go.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: We're still busy. We're still busy. Always, always, every weekend is booked. Yeah, but mostly like last Saturday in the month it's Maltese Senior Citizens, and they're dancing.
Krystyna Popczyk: We have a German Club that meets here once a month and they have a huge Gala Dance in, I think November.
Janina (Jenny) Archabuz: It's interesting. I like to see the different custom, and different food. Yeah, but every Sunday we have Filipino here, and so far we having really nice people.
Elizabeth Drozd: It's about all of us here - not just one community and so I am as someone of Polish background, I am really pleased that regardless of race and ethnicity those centres are just available and they are being used. And people are very welcome to use them.
Midnight at the Movies
Dance to Remember
This is How it Started
Those Women Who Cannot Love
A Windfall in Athens
Murder At Kolonaki
The Neighborhood Girl
The Little Mouse
The Lilly Of The Harbour
I Am Miserable
Greek Cinema Tickets
Wesote Nutki (Merry Notes) Polish Dancers
Wesote Nutki (Merry Notes) Polish Dancers in Traditional Costumes
Wesote Nutki (Merry Notes) Polish Dance Group
Wesote Nutki (Merry Notes) Polish Dance Performance
Wesote Nutki (Merry Notes) Polish Dancers Perform at Highpoint Shopping Centre
Wesote Nutki (Merry Notes) Polish Dancers Performing Outdoors
The Polish Community of Ardeer Building their Community Hall
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