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News > 24/5/2012

Short report about the festival

Image: Launch

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It was a truly multicultural festival. For the first time, the Kosciuszko Festival (organised every year by the Polish community) succeeded in gathering communities that have a long settlement history in the Snowy Mountains area: the Aboriginal Ngarigo people, who have been in Monaro Land ever since the Dreamtime; the descendants of the first Irish convicts, followed by Irish pioneers settling in and around Jindabyne; and the Polish, who cherish the memory of Paul Edmund Strzelecki, their great countryman who explored the Snowy Mountains and named Mt Kosciuszko. And obviously it was Strzelecki himself who was the connecting factor: an admirer of indigenous culture, a man who befriended his Aboriginal guides, and a great humanitarian who played such a significant role during Great Famine in Ireland.

The sixth Kosciuszko Festival, named the Over the Moonbah Festival, under the patronage of the Polish Ambassador, Andrzej Jaroszynski, was held on April 14 and 15, 2012, in Jindabyne, in two fabulous venues.

On Saturday, a Polish-Irish picnic was held next to the historic St Thomas church in Moonbah (with land donated by Thomas Pendergast in 1861). The descendant of the Pendergast family, Councillor Neen Pendergast, was naturally in attendance. The highlight of that day's program was the launch of a monograph written by Felix Molski, The Best of Human Nature: Strzelecki's Humanitarian Work in Ireland. It was interesting to hear what the Mayor of Snowy River Shire, John Cahill, said about his great-grand-mother, who, having miraculously survived the Great Famine, was brought as a small girl to Australia.

Amongst surrounding hills, Celtic tunes were played by Lynn and Darryl of the Canberra Celtic Pipe Band. To the applause of the public, Polish folkloric ensembles danced elegant polonaises and fiery obereks on a portable stage provided by an Irish man. After the picnic at Moonbah, and Polish lunch washed down with Australian (Kosciuszko Pale Ale) and Slovak (Złoty Bażant) beer, the action moved to Banjo Paterson Park. During the traditional photo session under the Strzelecki Monument, photos were taken of the visitors, for the first time with Aboriginal guests. So it was an historic moment.

In the evening, two piano recitals took place, featuring 14-year-old Olivia Urbaniak playing Chopin and, after an intermission, maestro Krzysztof Małek playing Chopin as well as J. S. Bach and F. Liszt.

The next day, the public moved to Jindabyne Aero Club to watch Polish-Aboriginal Fraternity Flights over Mt Kosciuszko. On both days, they enjoyed perfect weather, while just a few day before the festival, unexpected heavy snowfall occurred in Jindabyne. All went well. Ten flights were organised altogether (three on a Cessna, two on a Mooney, three on a Jet Ranger helicopter and two on a Nanchang).

Four local pilots (donating their time for the good Polish-Aboriginal cause) - Michael Fischer, Ian Funnel, Mike Roberts and Paul Duncan - took seven Ngarigo passengers (the oldest being 83 and the youngest just 6 years old) along for a ride with representatives of the Polish community, including cameramen and photographers. Two VIPS also enjoyed a flight over Mt Kosciuszko and Lake Jindabyne: the Hon. Peter Phelps, representing the premier of NSW, and the Polish Consul-General Daniel Gromann. Two brave women - the Jindabyne journalist Carole Thomas and Małek's girlfriend Adriana Crugnale - agreed to fly with Mike Roberts, who made the helicopter dance and pirouette in the air.

All of the Aborigines, as well as the pilots, said they were looking forward to the continuation of the fraternity flights next year. A documentary film about the flights is to be produced by Kosciuszko Heritage in time for a movie premiere at the Jindabyne Cinemas during the 2013 Kosciuszko Festival, which will be held from February 23 to 24.

By Ernestyna Skurjat-Kozek

Text courtesy and photo courtesy of Puls Polonii
Kosciuszko Heritage  
Over the Moonbah festival