Jeanmarie Evelly

Read the original story in Polish at Nowy Dziennik
Translated and condensed by Aleksandra Slabisz

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many to revise their plans for 2020: Some things had to be postponed, while some will never come to fruition. Polish Americans from the New York region talked with newspaper Nowy Dziennik about how the pandemic has disrupted their 2020.

First Communion

Marcin from northern New Jersey says her daughter’s First Communion celebration had to be postponed from early May to mid-October. “Is it going to happen then? I really don’t know,” says Marcin, who originally invited 60 people – including relatives from Poland – to celebrate her daughter’s big day, and made a reservation at Polish catering hall Royal Manor in Garfield, N.J. “It all depends on the number of infections. If the pandemic is not going to be over then we will postpone the celebration until next year,” says Marcin.

Missed her daughter’s wedding

Barbara from Rockaway, Queens, was planning to go to Poland in May for her daughter’s wedding and her granddaughter’s First Communion. “I did everything I could to be able to go there to be part of these important events,” Barbara says. Her original flight in mid-May was cancelled, but she managed to get a ticket for one of two flights from New York to Warsaw offered by the Polish Airlines LOT in May. She arrived in Poland on May 27th. “Unfortunately, I had to go through a mandatory two-week quarantine. I could not leave the apartment in Bialystok, where I was staying. A police officer would check twice a day if I was observing the restrictions,” says Barbara. Because of the quarantine, she was not allowed to attend her daughter’s wedding or the reception on June 7th, nor was she able to participate in her granddaughter’s First Communion a few days later. “It was a day before my quarantine ended. If I had left the quarantine apartment I would have to pay PLN30,000 [equivalent of approximately $7,600],” says Barbara. 

Unable to return home

Henryk and his wife, who lived in Clifton, N.J. for 20 years, came back to the U.S. from Poland in February to visit family. “We came for my brother Krzysztof’s 60th birthday party. It was a great family celebration,” says Henryk. He and his wife managed to visit Chicago in early March. Before their scheduled return to Poland on May 11th, they’d also planned to see old friends, walk around Manhattan, and fly to Florida for a short stay to catch up with friends who live there. “Unfortunately, the coronavirus disrupted all our plans,” says Henryk, who instead has been staying at his brother’s house for the duration of the pandemic. “We are happy to spend all that time together, but we don’t know when flights will resume so that we can go back to Poland. Our grandchildren in Poland keen asking when we are coming back,” he says.

A longer stay in the U.S.

Each year, Helena also comes to the U.S. from Poland for a couple of winter months to stay with her daughter in Dumont, N.J. This year, she got stuck for much longer than she anticipated: Her flight back to Poland scheduled for April was cancelled, and at press time, the Polish Airlines LOT hadn’t resumed regular flights from New York to Warsaw yet.

“On the one hand, I am not complaining. One of my grandsons and my daughter have worked from home during the pandemic so I am able to spend more time with them than during my visits in previous years. I cherish the meals we can have together and the baking of cakes – a different one each week. My daughter has a big patio and a garden which allow us to be outside a lot. I help my daughter in the garden,” says Helena, adding that she and her relatives do not feel imprisoned, just restricted in their daily routine. “I know everyone observes the pandemic guidelines, particularly carefully because of me and my age. I appreciated it when my other grandson’s wife made me a face mask that matches my scarf.” says Helena, who adds she is happy to spend the extra time with her family, but is anxious to go back to Poland to work in her garden. “The Polish Airlines may resume flights after July 10th. I may fly then,” she says.

Two wedding dates

Jakub and Emily from Rutherford, N.J., were supposed to get married in May. Everything was planned and ready in early spring: Hotels for quests were booked, the invitations had gone out, and the wedding gown for the bride was made. “We started to worry in March, when the restaurant where Emily’s bridal shower was to take place, canceled the reservation two days prior to the shower,” says Jakub. Then everything happened quickly: cancellations, ban on gatherings, the lockdown. “We didn’t want a small wedding. We wanted it to be a happy celebration with all our friends and relatives. We really dreamed about sharing our joy with all of them,” says Jakub. 

He and his fiancé decided to postpone the wedding until late September. “We sent out new invitations, but we are still concerned hearing news of a predicted second wave of the pandemic. Are we going to postpone the wedding again? I don’t know as of yet,” Jakub says.

In the meantime, family and friends celebrated their first wedding date by calling to say they remembered and assured they will be there in September. “We had a lot of laughs. Our parents sent us beautiful cards with wishes, some pre-wedding gifts, and my mom made us our favorite hazelnut cake. It was a really nice day,” says Jakub, adding that from now on he and his fiancé are planning to celebrate two wedding anniversaries.