There are more than 56,000 people of Polish descent in Los Angeles (that’s the population of 4 Malibus!), and today is Polish Independence Day. To celebrate the freedom of Poland, let’s visit these five reminders of the land of Copernicus, Madame Curie, and Liberace.
1. Hidden in one of the dreariest mini-malls in the city are the delicious pierogis, heavy drapes and crystal-gold touch lamps of Polka. A recent renovation has opened up the claustrophobic room and cranked up the vintage easy listening music.
2. Every fashion house makes fine use of Polish models. The Victoria’s Secret catalog is full of them. Poland’s next top model might come from the Miss Polonia California contest happening this weekend at Hellada Gallery in Long Beach. Say, if you’re an adventurous gal under 25 with a bathing suit and a hundred bucks it could be you.
3. When Polish artist Jan Sawka encountered the razzle dazzle Sunset Strip after a lifetime in the Eastern bloc, he was moved. “”I took a notebook and markers and walked down Sunset Boulevard,” Sawka told the Los Angeles Times. “It was awful and strangely beautiful how billboards dominated human life.” That artwork became a cover for the Auto Club magazine in 1978 and it is currently on display as part of Scenic View Ahead: The Westways Cover Art program 1928-1981 at the Irvine Museum.
4. An Italian wine merchant paid for it, and Andrea Bocelli sang at the dedication, but the 9-foot, 14,000 pound statue of Wadowice-born Pope John Paul II is a tribute to the late religious leader currently on his way to sainthood. The white marble artwork is in the rose garden at the City of Hope hospital, near the Jewish chapel, between statues of Buddha and the Virgin of Guadalupe.
5. Poland has been famous for music since the Middle Ages. Renowned musicians including Frederic Chopin and Arthur Rubinstein are honored at the USC Polish Music Center, the only American library dedicated solely to music of Poland.