Back to the (Polish) Basics, with Suzanne Pietrzak

After wondering and wondering how to best use my Luczkowski-Habash Polish Studies Award, it finally came to me. I have spent much of my summer babysitting my Polish “cousins,” and by “cousins,”

Me holding my Luczkowski-Habash Polish Studies Award after the Spring Tea awards ceremony.

I mean very close family friends of my parents. These two girls are three and six years old. Although their mother is the daughter of Polish immigrants, the Polish language has not fully made its way to them. So, I decided to put my scholarship and long hours of babysitting to use by teaching these two “cousins,” Emily and Sarah, how to speak Polish.


Learning the basics of Polish allowed these two girls to better communicate with their grandparents and great grandma who live just down the street. Improving Emily’s and Sarah’s skills also removed the burden of their grandparents of having to speak in broken English just to talk to their granddaughters. With my scholarship money, I was able to buy them all the supplies they needed, from notebooks and pencils to Polish flash cards, to develop their limited Polish. A more exciting item I purchased for Emily and Sarah was a small pink purse that actually spoke and sang in Polish. I hope to be able to find more Polish-speaking toys for these two girls.

Although getting two little girls to sit and focus can be pretty difficult, I got the girls to practice their flash cards every week. I also chose to speak to Emily and Sarah in Polish throughout my days of babysitting. By speaking to the girls in Polish, I improved my own language skills as well as their understanding ability. Having Emily and Sarah hear Polish on a more regular basis vastly improved their strength in their family’s native language.


My favorite memory from babysitting the girls this summer was taking Emily and Sarah to the Toledo Zoo for a day. Our trip to the zoo was a learning experience in itself. The girls were able to learn the names of all the animals we saw in Polish.  Emily a

Three-year-old Sarah, left, and six-year-old Emily, right, posing with their Polish flash cards.

nd Sarah were so excited to see the pingwiny, słonie, małpy, and other animals. Although, I think their favorite part had to have been the ice cream we got after exploring the zoo on a hot summer day!


Being able to take the Polish language as a course at The Ohio State University has opened so many doors for me. By strengthening my reading and writing skills and perfecting speaking skill in the small classes, I was able to better communicate with my family here in America and back in Poland. Since most of my communication with family in Poland is online, gaining an understanding in reading and writing Polish allowed me to finally type messages to my cousins without the help of Google Translate or my mother. With my improved Polish skills, I was able to pass on my knowledge to Emily and Sarah with the belief that I am improving their family relationships. Helping these two girls learn Polish has not only improved all of our Polish language skills, it has helped me grow closer to them and it has helped them grow closer to their family. Their parents and grandparents have been very appreciative of my help and have agreed to continue furthering Emily’s and Sarah’s growth in the Polish language even after I go back to school in the fall.


As a student as The Ohio State University, I am minoring in Slavic Languages and Cultures because I want to set myself apart from the 50,000 some students on this campus. I am one of thousands majoring in Microbiology but I am one of few with a minor in Slavic Languages and Cultures. My minor has allowed me to broaden my knowledge of other Slavic cultures beyond that of my own Polish traditions. Taking Polish 1103 and 2104 allowed me to connect to my roots but taking Slavic 2367 allowed me to make connections of my own customs to that of other Eastern European cultures. The great honor of receiving the Luczkowski-Habash Polish Studies Award has given me the opportunity to share what I have learned during my first year at OSU with my two favorite little “cousins” and that is priceless.


In Memoriam: Jerzy R. Krzyzanowski


Image result for Jerzy R. Krzyzanowski.

It is with regret that the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures at the Ohio State University announces the death on October 7, 2017 of our emeritus professor Jerzy R. Krzyzanowski.


Born in 1922 in Lublin, Poland, the son of Julian Krzyzanowski, the scholar of Polish literature, and Emilia née Sobieszczanska, Jerzy Krzyzanowski served in the Polish Armia Krajowa during World War II. Like his father Julian, who was deported to Siberia in the wake of the first world war, Jerzy spent several years in a Soviet POW camp in Central Europe after the second. He emigrated to the United States in 1959 and earned his PhD at the University of Michigan in 1965. Before arriving at Ohio State University in 1967, Prof. Kryzanowski taught at the University of California, Berkeley, University of Colorado, and the University of Kansas. He spent the bulk of his career in Columbus, Ohio, where he influenced generations of students, teaching both Polish and Russian.


In addition to his service to Ohio State, Jerzy Krzyzanowski served numerous associations including the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America (P.I.A.S.A.), where he was a board member from 1980-86. Author of many materials for studying Polish, Jerzy also wrote the biography of Władysław Reymont (Twayne, 1972) and a companion to Sienkiewicz’s famous trilogy as well as novels, books, and memoirs in Polish, many of which have been published over the past two decades.


Remembered for his infectious smile and his kind manner, Prof. Jerzy Krzyzanowski was a consummate professional and gentleman who continued to attend university events well into his retirement. The department sends its heartfelt condolences to his sons Kris and Justyn, as well as to those colleagues whose lives he touched as a teacher and scholar.



Award Recipient: Emilio Suarez

A Trip up the Baltic Coast

by Emilio Suarez

Being awarded the Luczkowski-Habash Award for Polish Studies made my experience in Poland this summer so much more fulfilling.  In May, I traveled to Poland with family, exploring some parts I hadn’t seen before, despite going there almost biennially.  Despite the fact that I was already going to Poland regardless of the award, this award and the thought of this blog post helped me soak it all in, in such a way that I never had.

After an eight hour night time flight from Chicago, we landed rested in Warsaw around noon.  Warsaw was one of the only cities I hadn’t seen yet, simply because I only have family in Poznan, Krakow, and Gdansk.  However, this time we decided we wanted to see it once and for all.  I initially expected it to be another Polish city with relics of the Soviet occupation and remade historic artifacts, thankfully I was wrong.  Walking around Stare Miasto (Old Town), I felt an energy I’ve never felt in any other European city.

There wasn’t an unhappy person in sight, everyone was alive and enjoying the sights, music, and smells that flooded the main street.  There was an immense amount of national pride, even in such strange political times.  The Warsaw Uprising monument was the shining star, displaying the struggle and bravery of the Polish people during the occupations of both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.  At night, the streets were even busier, with people attending weddings, college students out drinking, and tourists taking it all in.  It was truly a phenomenal city, one that I will definitely make sure to visit next year if I have the time.

We drove to Gdansk up north on the Baltic sea coast for a short one day stay.  I had already been there many times, but I made an effort to go see a friend I’ve known since preschool who is there studying computer science.  My friend showed me all the food places that put High Street to shame.  He took me to a shack on the side of the road, that ended up serving the best kebab I’ve ever had.  We then had dessert at the Polish Buckeye Donuts, a pączkarnia, a place that cranks out fresh pączki by the minute.  Stuffed, we trekked to the Baltic sea coast, where I spent a lot of time as a child.  The weather had been cold recently, so not many people were out, which was nice seeing the beach not packed but still lively enough to where it wasn’t eerie.  Unfortunately, my friend had finals in two days, so I wasn’t able to get a full feel of the nightlife.  However, spending a quiet night in the Baltic city with my family was just what I needed after a stressful year of school.

The next stop was Torun, home of pierniki and Mikolaj Kopernik (a.k.a. Copernicus).  We explored the timeless streets, visiting the stores and even Kopernik’s home. The air was filled with the scent of fresh pierniki, a gingerbread only made in that city.  We only stayed briefly in Torun, because we had another stop before Poznan.

We made a pit stop in Gniezno, a smaller city with a population of 70,000 people.  We stopped here to visit the monument of mother’s uncle, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski.  It’s inside a massive cathedral on top of hill, it was magnificent.  We paid our respects, ate dinner in the square, and headed to my mother’s hometown of Mosina, a town just outside of Poznan.  In Mosina, we visited family I hadn’t seen in many years.  It was nice to catch up and be regarded as an adult in the family, considering the last time some of them saw me was when I was a child or a high school student.  We visited the usual spots, like the town square, the cemetery to see visit my grandparents’ grave, the parks, and surrounding towns.  We went out into the country to visit an old friend of my mother’s, who we hadn’t seen in six years. It was a home away from home. Unfortunately for me, I had to head home to start my internship while my family enjoyed an extra four days.


It’s always a good time in Poland, however, with the Luczkowski-Habash Award for Polish Studies, I was able to do more and really soak in what I was doing in my short time in Poland.  Without knowing I would write this, I probably wouldn’t take as much in as I normally do on my trips to Poland, since I go so often.  It was a great experience and I can’t wait to see what else Poland has in store for me!


Guest Blogger: Jared Dye “Dual Degree=Dual Career Path”

One of the great stresses our graduates experience on their way into the working world is- “How do I find a job?”

It would be lovely if a single simple answer existed for that question. But alas, it does not.

This does open up the entire horizon though.

Graduates, you are not limited by your degree, or defined by it. Think of it more as an enhancement to your personal resume. 

We checked in with Jared Dye, to see where his degree and studies were taking him, and as you’ll see, its unique, exciting, and possibly unexpected. The spoiler is, he leverages his college experience and studies into a position that not many people would consider. 

Let his story be an encouragement for you!

Starting this June, I will be an English Adaptation Specialist at CD Projekt RED, a video game developer in Warsaw, Poland that is best known for the award-winning Witcher franchise. Essentially, I will be adapting (or localizing) the original Polish dialogue and in-game text for the English-language versions of their games.

The road to getting this job was by no means direct or anticipated. If someone had told me three years ago at the beginning of my time at Ohio State that I would be working on video games after graduation, I would have been equal parts confused and excited. At OSU, I pursued dual master’s degrees in Public Administration and Slavic & East European Studies. To be honest, due to the nature of the two programs, I expected my career to begin in the public sector, working on either security or environmental/energy issues. I got interested in Polish studies in my first year at Ohio State when I wanted a second language to study alongside Russian, which I had been studying since beginning my undergraduate Russian degree at Grinnell College.

However, last fall a recruiter from CD Projekt RED reached out to faculty at Ohio State in their search for Polish speakers who might be interested in localization for their upcoming video game projects. SEELC Visiting Assistant Professor Daniel Pratt forwarded the job details to me and I was immediately interested. I’ve been studying Eastern Europe since 2008, but I have been playing video games since I was in elementary school. The prospect of working with a foreign language on a video game, while also getting a chance to live abroad, was too good to ignore.

After three interviews and two translation tests (totaling over 10 hours), they made me an offer. I think several factors helped get me to that point. First, my three years of Polish language study at OSU clearly got me to an appropriate proficiency level. Second, my background in another Slavic language helped me pick up Polish more quickly. Third, graduate level coursework in general gave me strong writing and grammatical skills, which set me apart from other candidates in the translation testing part of the recruitment process. Fourth, CD Projekt RED believed that I was ready to live and work in Poland due to my experience living in Russia for long periods. In other words, even though I did not take any courses at OSU in creative writing, translation, or any other relevant subject, I was still prepared well enough in the language and professional skills necessary to excel in the job.

I cannot wait to get started and am already looking forward to the day when I will get to hear the characters in CD Projekt RED’s games speak the words I have translated for them. I am confident it will be a fun and rewarding experience for me, and I hope my contribution to the games make it more fun for the millions of English-speaking gamers worldwide who play CD Projekt’s games.


Guest Blogger: Will Bezbatchenko “Fulbright in Action”

We recently caught up with one of our graduates, William Bezbatchenko, during his time in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan as part of his Fulbright Grant. His story is a great example of what a Slavic degree can do for you!

Hint: It’s far and beyond what you think 🙂 

Although I started studying Russian seven years ago, I never thought I would live and work in Central Asia. In fact, the path to my Fulbright was as strange as it was long but I am happier with the outcome than I ever thought I would be.

After transferring to The Ohio State University and after a year of studying economics major, I decided to change my major to international studies. The program at Ohio State requires students to graduate with at least a minor in a foreign language, and after completing two Russian courses, I needed more Russian study to use the language in a professional setting. To address this issue, I majored in Russian and in turn, continued my study of the region as a graduate student at OSU’s Slavic Center.

Between my first and second years as a graduate student, I worked as an intern at the US Embassy in Tashkent. This was the first time I used Russian in a professional setting: reading articles, and speaking to Embassy guests in Russian. The Embassy provided Russian lessons, giving me additional practice, and working in the political/economics section gave me my first experience working abroad. I highly encourage students who are interested in a career in the US State Department to apply for positions in the former Soviet Union. Too often students apply only to Russia where they receive hundreds of applications while embassies in other countries only receive a handful.

Armed with my knowledge of Central Asia and experience living in the region, I applied for an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) position in Kyrgyzstan. Although Russian fluency is not a requirement for a grant in Kyrgyzstan, my knowledge of Russian and Uzbek allowed me to stand out from the rest of the applicants. The other ETA Fulbrighters also know Russian, and one had lived in Central Asia before.

For the duration of my Fulbright grant, I have been living in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan and work at the International University of Central Asia. A young university, it is one of only a few institutions of higher education in Kyrgyzstan that is free of corruption. This transparency makes my job easy and stress free. My colleagues are very dedicated to their jobs and committed to bettering their students’ lives. The university and US Embassy have also been very supportive of my projects to collect more resources for students and instructors.

I hold many English talking, debate, and movie clubs throughout the week at the university and I also help the university with projects and curriculum development. While these activities are conducted in English, understanding Russian allows me to live in Kyrgyzstan and connect with people in the community. It also helps me identify and understand some of the mistakes my students make, as Russian can interfere with their expression of English.


Hello world! (Привет мир)

Students in SLAVIC 2230 Vampires, Monstrosity, and Evil: From Slavic Myth to Twilight

(Students in SLAVIC 2230 Vampires, Monstrosity, and Evil: From Slavic Myth to Twilight)

Welcome to the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures Blog!

This blog is all about the students, the what’s, where’s, and why’s of their lives in the field of Slavic Studies. We will host study abroad recaps, alumni interviews, and faculty guest spots. Stay tuned for all the amazing ways you can engage with students– past, present and future!


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