Krakus, Dragon Slayer

 

We’ve hear the legends of William Tell, Robin Hood, and King Arthur. But not many of us have heard the legend of Krakus.

The account of Kradus is as follows:

Almost too long ago to remember, Wawel Hill was covered in thick green shadowy forest. Today on that very hill, overlooking the Vistula River, stands a castle, and a cathedral in which the Kings of Ancient Poland are buried. Below the majestic scene, and close to Wavel Hill is the ancient capital city of Poland, Krakow. For centuries, great military leaders, statesmen, scientists, craftsmen, and townspeople have lived and flourished in the city of Krakow.

At the time of our story, there was no castle or cathedral, just gloomy forest. At the foot of the Hill, was a mere hamlet of hardworking people who farmed, and traded their goods with nearby villages.

The dark forest of Wawel Hill which overlooked the village held an equally dark secret—a cave that most people believed housed a ghastly and dangerous dragon, sleeping the years away. Many of the younger generation laughed at the story of a dragon living in the cave. But the elders of the village had heard the story from their father’s fathers and they believed that anyone who dared to disturb the sleeping dragon would bring down horrible misfortune on all of them.

The cave was cold and dank, and the entrance was choked by weeds and overgrown vegetation. The only thing missing was a “No Trespassing” sign. But like adventurous youths will, some of the young men decided to prove their elders wrong. They set out to explore the cave. They just knew that dragons did not exist even if their fathers believed the old superstitions.

On a sunny day, half-dozen of the most brazen young men climbed the hill. The further they went the gloomier the forest got. At last they reached their destination and tore away the dense brush and matted overgrown weeds in front of the cave. It had become so dark that they needed to light their torches before slipping through the cave’s entrance. The abyss was enveloped in darkness and a disgusting stench met their nostrils. Their lighthearted bravery was suddenly replaced with unease. Now tense and timid, they looked at each other. What should they do? They reasoned: We will not be real adventurers if we turned back now. In silence, they crept further into the long narrow passage and deeper into the cave. The youngest said he could hear breathing. Putting on brave faces, the others sneered at him. They crept further into the void.

All six of them jumped back in fear when they saw a huge, pulsating mass within yards of where they crouched. Their eyes grew huge at viewing the massive green scaly creature. Its nostrils flared and its eyelids popped open. The young men dropped their torches and ran for their lives. They were pursued by a bellowing monster. Its hot fetid breath singed their backs. The boys crashed and clawed their way through the underbrush and briar bushes. They tripped on huge stones as they ran, but were unmindful of scratches and bruises.

Krakow DragonWhen the dragon reached the entrance to the cave it shook its massive scaly head and blinked. Its yellow eyes were as large as saucers. It roared, and sharp dagger-like teeth glittered in the dappled sun light. Slowly, it dragged itself out of the cave then lumbered down the hill after the intruders.

Not having eaten for centuries, the dragon spied a herd of placid cattle. The poor creatures tried to run away, but the dragon snatched the fattest one and devoured it. The villagers watched the scene, and could not believe their eyes. Mothers held their children close. Men looked for their axes and other tools to defend their homes. The six silly young men hid in a barn.

True to its reputation, the dragon gave the community no peace. Each day, it carried off a victim, sometimes a sheep, sometimes a child, sometimes a man. The dragon was not choosy in what it dragged back to its cave.  The village men banded together, and lay in wait to to fight the beast, but their axes made not a dent in the thick armor-like scales on the dragon’s body. Many an upstanding citizen lost his life in the struggle.

KrakusA wise and learned man named Krakus lived in the village. People went to him for advice as well as herbal remedies to improve their health. Some people thought he was a magician. The only magic about Krakus was that he was patient and observant, and willing to work at experimenting with herbs and spices to improve the lot of himself and his friends.

The dragon was the foremost problem in the town, and Krakus’ wisdom was sought out. He always gave good advice, maybe he could help them kill the dragon or at least put it to sleep again. Krakus, deep in thought, stroked his chin, and stared out his window for a long time. Finally, he asked the men to bring him a fat, tender, young sheep. Krakus mixed up a concoction from the many jars he had on his shelves. The resulting thick yellow paste was smeared all over the young sheep. Silently, he alone crept to the mouth of the cave and tossed the animal inside. All was quiet. The suspense was almost too much for the villagers.

Without warning, the dragon bellowed and went careening down the hill toward the Vistula River. He left a swath of broken trees and flattened shrubs and weeds in his wake. With an enormous splash, he jumped into the river and drank and drank until the townspeople wondered if he would drink the river dry. The beast began to swell up, but it kept on drinking. After about two hours, there was an immense explosion and the dragon burst, dying on the spot. But what had Krakus done that sent the dragon to the river?

While the town rejoiced, Krakus explained that he had smeared the sheep with sulphur that caused the dragon’s belly to be filled with a terrible fire that he tried to quench in the river. The dragon’s insatiable appetite was the means of his demise.

The people were so impressed with Krakus’ wisdom and ingenuity that they asked him to become their leader. Now that it was safe to climb, the happy villagers built Krakus a lofty stronghold atop Wawel Hill. Under his rule, the countryside prospered and a city grew up around the hill, which was named Krakow in honor of their wise and talented leader, Krakus.

Krakus MoundAfter his death, the people gave him a burial fit for a king. Men, women, and children carried earth to the site and erected a mound over his tomb. The mound has endured for centuries. It is still there to this day as a memorial to the love of the people for a wise and brave Prince.

 

Paraphrased from:

The Legend of Krakus, Who Slew the Dragon

Old Polish Legends

 

Read about second-generation Polish-Americans in:

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The 1950s Are Still With Us

ON writing A WOMAN’S ROLE: A 1950s ROMANCE

AWomansRoleCoverThe moment I decided to write a novel, I knew time period in which it would take place, the 1950s. There is something about that transitional decade that never grows old. We see it all around us.

 

 

1950s glamourFlip through any fashion magazine and you’ll find updated versions of the suits, dresses, and skirts that graced the bodies of stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. Up-to-the-minute restaurants are fantastic, but those everyday eateries called diners, with their perky waitresses, steaming coffee, and wedges of pie may be fewer in number, but they’ve never gone out of style.

1950s   80218-drive_in_movie_theaterRight here in Robinson Township we have an icon of the 1950s, the Twin Highway Drive-in Theater where cars line up to experience the big screen nostalgia. And the music—whether you appreciated rock and roll or the sound of a polka band, the tunes are, even now, loved by thousands if not millions of people.

The idea for A Woman’s Role took form when I noticed that I’d read excellent historical romances, about ethnic groups from around the world but none with a Polish-American as the main character. I asked, “Why not”?  I felt it was time to highlight the grit and perseverance of one of America’s great immigrant groups.

family dinnerA story needed told, and I would tell it. I fully believe readers will enjoy getting to know the main character, Celina, along with her family and friends. The story lets us into their lives and how their personalities are affected by the life force of the decade. Issues like politics, social structure, desire for conformity, and women’s lack of career opportunities set the stage for many of their actions—romance, women’s issues, mother/daughter relationships, family dynamics, and friendships.

Tipple wash OhioThe story’s background is typical of small coal mining communities in central Pennsylvania during the 1950s. Most people shopped at a single department store, a small grocery, a hardware store, and feed mill. And a bank stood in the middle of Main Street. It is here in Kenville where Celina Pasniewski determines that it’s time to assert herself as a person with hopes, dreams, and desires of her own.

It is here that she runs into resistance from her family, her employer, and society at large. Inadvertently, we stumble upon the first signs of a discontent flowing through the very core of American women across the country, when they tire of being pert little secretaries, and underpaid store clerks, teachers and nurses. They want more for their labors.

MarilynWe can relate to Celina even though, at times, she has been called stubborn and wrong-headed. We could describe her as the irresistible force that meets the immoveable object as she strives to break with the coal mining tradition of her Polish-American family and find a life and love of her own. She wants to be the daughter her parents’ desire, but she also wants a career in journalism, a college education, and she has her own reasons for refusing to marry a man who works underground in a coal mine. Tension rises for Celina in a decade when few women challenged the duel pressures of traditional culture and family. Ultimately, she will have life-altering decisions to make.

Carol Moessinger is the author of A Woman’s Role, a heartwarming romance set in the transitional decade of the 1950s. As a former social worker and counselor, she sets out to reveal the dynamics between the individual, family, and society when forces beyond an individual’s control intrude on one’s hopes and dreams. Visit Carol’s website at http://www.carolmoessinger-historicromance.com, or her blog at https://pcmoes.wordpress.com. A Woman’s Role is available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and other outlets.

What do you believe the 1950s were really like?

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AWomansRoleCoverThis heartwarming novel invites the reader to participate in the lives of the Pasniewski family as they navigate the restless decade of the 1950s.

A Woman’s Role, set in rural Pennsylvania, follows Celina as she comes to the realization that the days of her life are dragging, but the years are rushing by. She is a twenty-three year-old spinster, chafing under her parents insistence that she find a husband before it is too late. Alongside her best friend, Pattie, she spends her days in a monotonous job at Duxbury’s, the local department store, planning her escape into a career in journalism—all of this in the man’s world of the 1950s when few women challenged the pressures of a traditional family and culture. Celina’s annoying but loyal older brother, Johnny, craftily manages to introduce her to a handsome Hungarian immigrant who throws her plans into disarray. And her elderly friend, Harriet, offers unsolicited advice on how best to live her life. After a fear filled confrontation with her employer, Celina is more determined than ever to take charge of her life in spite of family and cultural pressures.

After reading this introduction, what events do you think would happen in Celina’s life?

 

http://www.carolmoessinger-historicromance.com

https://twitter.com/CMoessinger

https://www.facebook.com/carol.moessinger

https://pcmoes.wordpress.com

 

 

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Interview with Polka Band Leader Fritz Scherz

Interview with Polka Band Leader Fritz Scherz.

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Interview with Polka Band Leader Fritz Scherz

Interview with Polka Band Leader Fritz Scherz

DSC02462FrankFritzMikeGabe_ezrFritz’s Polka Band has eighteen recordings to its credit and has achieved international airplay. They have performed on stage with such notables as Canada’s Polka King, Walter Ostanek, and America’s Polka King, the late Frank Yankovic. The group has also performed at B.B. King’s Club, The China Club, and the Metropolitan Club. The ban appears on The Manchurian Candidate DVD, released by Paramount Pictures in 2004. And has had two songs appear in episodes of the hit cable TV show ‘Breaking Bad.’

Fritz took the time from his busy schedule to do the following interview.

Who inspired you to take an interest in polka music?

My Dad, the late Fred Scherz Sr. was a huge inspiration.  When I was a kid, after he’d come in at night after milking cows, he’d get out his accordion and play. He and my Mom must’ve seen that I took quite an interest as they took me to my first accordion lesson when I was just six years old. My music teacher (John Newton) gave me more formal lessons…scales, reading sheet music, etc. Dad taught me polkas, waltzes, and some other tunes by ear. I was getting the best of both worlds. My years of accordion lessons and practicing paid off. I won the National Accordion Contest in Gibbon, MN, back in 1989.

When did you decide to have your own band?

I was just eight years old when my Dad, my brother-in-law, and me along with a trumpet player formed Fritz’s Polka Band. Yes, we had a trumpet player back in the day.

Where and when will you be playing in the next few months?

We play once a month at Finger Lakes Casino & Racetrack in Farmington, NY. This is usually on a Tuesday or a Monday (if a holiday) 11 am to 2 pm. During the winter we play a few times a month because of the unpredictable nature of CNY weather.

How long did it take you to gain a fan following?

The fan following grew as we kept playing. We were a more traditional polka band in the 70s and 80s. We have evolved to include various other styles, ranging from country to rock and even some blues. Our modern-style polkas, that we write, energize the crowd, whether eight or eighty years old. Once we got sponsored by Jagermeister (2002), I started noticing younger people taking interest in what we do. We do really break the polka stereotype.

Who are the musicians you most admire?

My Dad was the biggest inspiration, both personally and professionally. His work ethic was second to none. I miss him so much!

As far as other musicians, I admire those who put forth an incredible effort when they play. For example, if I attend a concert of a rock band, I expect more than 88 or 90 minutes from the headliner. Bands like Bruce Springsteeen, Dave Matthews Band, Bon Jovi, and Joe Bonamassa who regularly play more than two hour sets impress me.

In the polka field, I admire Walter Ostanek, as he’s been performing for many years and we are friends. He’s even a special guest on one of my band’s CDs. There are so many talented musicians out there that I admire. Truthfully, I admire the guys that are in my band now and those that were in my band before, as it’s a collective effort when we play.

Do you write any of the songs you play?

Yes, between my Dad and me, we’ve composed over 100 songs. I don’t play all of them at gigs, but I do make a point to mix in some originals with cover tunes when we play. As much as I love playing a tune like ‘Polka Time in The Morning’ that my Dad wrote, I also enjoy rocking out on ‘All Along The Watchtower.’

Give a short description of the members of your group.

I play piano accordion, button-box, and do vocals. Gabe Vaccaro plays bass guitar, guitar, and does vocals. Frank Nelson plays guitar and does vocals, and Mike Faraino plays drums. I can honestly say that Fritz’s Polka Band performs an eclectic mix of musical styles that appeals to all ages.

How do you spend your spare time?

Ideally, I get to spend time with my family, as I love them so much. I do have other jobs besides my band, but the band doesn’t seem like a job because of how much I enjoy playing the music. My day job is at the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. I am also a Councilman on the Verona town Board. I’m an adjunct professor at Morrisville State College. I’m involved with various community organizations, such as the Oneida county Association of Towns, where I am currently serving as President. For more information on my non-FPB life, check out: www.fritzscherz.com.

Where can fans purchase your CDs?

My band’s CDs are available at our gigs as well as through the mail and on-line, at places such as iTunes, CDBaby, etc.

People who love an eclectic polka style should check out Fritz’s Polka Band and can attend whenever he is playing. The band does not repeat setlists. With a click of a mouse you can find out more about the band at www.fritzspolkaband.com, www.facebook.com/fritzspolkaband, and www.twitter.com/fritzspolkaband

eading sheet music, etc. Dad taught me polkas, waltzes, and some other tunes by ear. I was getting the best of both worlds. My years of accordion lessons and practicing paid off. I won the National Accordion Contest in Gibbon, MN, back in 1989.

When did you decide to have your own band?

I was just eight years old when my Dad, my brother-in-law, and me along with a trumpet player formed Fritz’s Polka Band. Yes, we had a trumpet player back in the day.

Where and when will you be playing in the next few months?

We play once a month at Finger Lakes Casino & Racetrack in Farmington, NY. This is usually on a Tuesday or a Monday (if a holiday) 11 am to 2 pm. During the winter we play a few times a month because of the unpredictable nature of CNY weather.

How long did it take you to gain a fan following?

The fan following grew as we kept playing. We were a more traditional polka band in the 70s and 80s. We have evolved to include various other styles, ranging from country to rock and even some blues. Our modern-style polkas, that we write, energize the crowd, whether eight or eighty years old. Once we got sponsored by Jagermeister (2002), I started noticing younger people taking interest in what we do. We do really break the polka stereotype.

Who are the musicians you most admire?

My Dad was the biggest inspiration, both personally and professionally. His work ethic was second to none. I miss him so much!

As far as other musicians, I admire those who put forth an incredible effort when they play. For example, if I attend a concert of a rock band, I expect more than 88 or 90 minutes from the headliner. Bands like Bruce Springsteeen, Dave Matthews Band, Bon Jovi, and Joe Bonamassa who regularly play more than two hour sets impress me.

In the polka field, I admire Walter Ostanek, as he’s been performing for many years and we are friends. He’s even a special guest on one of my band’s CDs. There are so many talented musicians out there that I admire. Truthfully, I admire the guys that are in my band now and those that were in my band before, as it’s a collective effort when we play.

Do you write any of the songs you play?

Yes, between my Dad and me, we’ve composed over 100 songs. I don’t play all of them at gigs, but I do make a point to mix in some originals with cover tunes when we play. As much as I love playing a tune like ‘Polka Time in The Morning’ that my Dad wrote, I also enjoy rocking out on ‘All Along The Watchtower.’

Give a short description of the members of your group.

I play piano accordion, button-box, and do vocals. Gabe Vaccaro plays bass guitar, guitar, and does vocals. Frank Nelson plays guitar and does vocals, and Mike Faraino plays drums. I can honestly say that Fritz’s Polka Band performs an eclectic mix of musical styles that appeals to all ages.

How do you spend your spare time?

Ideally, I get to spend time with my family, as I love them so much. I do have other jobs besides my band, but the band doesn’t seem like a job because of how much I enjoy playing the music. My day job is at the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. I am also a Councilman on the Verona town Board. I’m an adjunct professor at Morrisville State College. I’m involved with various community organizations, such as the Oneida county Association of Towns, where I am currently serving as President. For more information on my non-FPB life, check out: www.fritzscherz.com.

Where can fans purchase your CDs?

My band’s CDs are available at our gigs as well as through the mail and on-line, at places such as iTunes, CDBaby, etc.

People who love an eclectic polka style should check out Fritz’s Polka Band and can attend whenever he is playing. The band does not repeat setlists. With a click of a mouse you can find out more about the band at www.fritzspolkaband.com, www.facebook.com/fritzspolkaband, and www.twitter.com/fritzspolkaband

 

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In A Woman’s Role: A 1950s Romance, Polka Dances play an important role in the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Party Line: Listening in on Celina and Pattie

The Party Line: Listening in on Celina and Pattie.

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