Monday, February 05, 2007

The Making of Our Polish Story

Detroit's Polonia is all a buzz lately with talk of Keith Famie's latest project. For the benefit of those who don't know who Keith Famie is... he's something of a local celebrity here in the Detroit area. He is a local chef and restaurateur who made a national name for himself as a contestant on the Survivor television series (the Australian Outback).

Keith obviously loves to cook and loves adventure, but he also has a soft spot in his heart for the less fortunate and has championed a charity or two as well. And he has another soft spot too, this one for his home town. He enjoys Detroit and its people and his latest project is all about that. Dubbed The Ultimate Detroit Documentary Series, the project highlights a variety of ethnic groups in the metro Detroit area. The first group documentary, called Our Italian Story, aired several times last December and is now available on DVD. His current project is called, Our Polish Story, and is scheduled to air June 16th and 17th, 2007. It will be followed by documentaries on the Arab, Greek, and German communities in metro Detroit later in the year.

In the last few weeks I've bumped into Keith and his cameraman a couple different times. The first time was on December 28th at St. Hedwig Catholic Church where he was filming the first public event for the West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society. The next time was yesterday at Sweetest Heart of Mary Church where he and his cameraman were filming the candle light procession celebrating Candlemas. Candlemas was actually on February 2nd but the celebratory Mass was held yesterday. Candlemas occurs 40 days after Christmas and marks the end of the Christmas holiday season for Poles. Liturgically speaking, Christmas ended some time ago. But for the Polish, Christmas ends at Candlemas. Traditional Polish churches leave their Christmas decorations up until Candlemas when they sing their beloved carols one last time and then pack away the decorations until the next Christmas season.

In Poland, Candlemas is known as Matki Boskiej Gromnicznej which is translated literally as Mother of God of the Thunder Candle. The candles blessed at Mass that day are called gromnicy or thunder candles because they are kept in the home for use especially during thunderstorms to protect the house from being hit by lightning, but also during other disasters as well. Lighted candles are carried in a procession around the church before Mass to remind all that Christ is the Light of the World. It was this ceremony that Keith Famie was filming for his documentary.

Actually, Keith and Co. have been making appearances at all the recent Detroit area Polonia events. Here is a list of some of the places he's been. The list is not complete (his appearance yesterday at Sweetest Heart of Mary isn't on the list) but it gives you an idea of just how thorough he is being about covering the culture that is Polish Detroit.

I'm looking forward to seeing this documentary when it is aired in June. I'll let ya know how it comes out!