|Last Monday morning, a few Wet Mountain Valley Rotarians spent about an hour in Patrycja Niewinska’s living room in Olmonty, Poland. Seated on a comfortable sofa with her mother Joanna, Patrycja warmly welcomed Dale Mullen, Monty Lee, Mike Liebman, and Troy Bomgardner into her 16 year old world.
Patrycja is the newest Rotary International Youth Exchange student to be headed to Custer County High School for a junior year abroad. The lively conversation across the Atlantic was made possible through a live video conference, on this side of the ocean from the West Custer County Library Community Room. The vibrant signal vividly portrayed Patrycja equally vividly.
An active teen with many academic and extracurricular interests, she has a particular musical passion, manifested in several years with the touring band Mloda Folkowa Krew (Young Folk Crew). Initially a singer with the group, she also learned to play the ukulele for performances. Young Folk Crew has appeared across Poland, as well as in Lithuania and Italy. The group has recently disbanded, but Patrycja continues vocal coaching and singing. As a matter of fact she recently won an award in an all-Poland singing competition.
The well-traveled student has also visited the UK, Germany, France and Greece. With her language skills including Russian, it is not a surprise to learn that her career interests currently lean to the travel industry—with an eye still turned to music and theater.
“I love traveling,” she said during Monday’s video chat; “and the opportunity now to live abroad, do school, meet new people is amazing!” Her mother Joanna expressed, through her translating daughter, the mixed emotions most parents would express when their child is about to embark on a year overseas. “I have some anxiety,” Joanna said in Polish, “but I know this is Patrycja’s dream, and I really want her to realize it; she has this opportunity and she should take it.”
Patrycja will leave behind not only her widowed mother, but two older brothers, both in business; Joanna operates her own jewelry shop. But Patrycja eagerly looks ahead to life and study and play in the Valley. When she mentioned that she plays volleyball and basketball, Bomgardner asked her, “How tall are you!!??,” reducing Patrycja to laughter.
“I am very thankful and excited to have a place to come to in your place,” she exclaimed. The Lees will be Patrycja’s transitional home when she first arrives in August, chooses courses, and begins to settle in. The Rotary is asking interested host families to contact them through Dale Mullen at 720-937-9702. Three families are being sought to host Patrycja for equal portions of her roughly nine month stay in the Valley. The hosts should be able to provide her with her own bedroom while she is living in their home.
This extraordinary young woman should be a wonderful international addition to the school and to the Valley, thanks to the local Rotary club’s continuing exemplar participation in this global friendship and peace building cultural exchange. Patrycja wrote in her application letter that she would like to “try new things, e.g., food, culture, activities, etc. I want to have an amazing year which I’ll never forget.” With last Monday’s engaging conversation, the mutual adventure is underway.
– W.A. Ewing