Polish school in Riverhead begins preparation for 50-year jubilee celebration

Agnieszka Ogonowska has been working at St. Maximilian Kolbe Polish School in Riverhead since 2003. She is preparing to retire next year but first, she wanted to help fundraise for the school’s 50-year jubilee celebration later this fall.

She organized a GoFundMe page, setting a goal of $50,000. They have currently raised over $1,100. Another way to contribute is purchasing an ad in the commemorative jubilee yearbook.

The jubilee will take place at the Long Island Aquarium’s Atlantis Banquet Ballroom in Riverhead on Nov. 19.

“The planning for the jubilee started early this year because there is a lot to prepare and they want to celebrate the 50-year achievement in a big way,” Ms. Ogonowska said.

The school was named after St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Catholic priest who volunteered to die in place of another man with a family, in the German death camp of Auschwitz, in Poland during World War II. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 10, 1982.

“We want to make it more grand, because we’re very proud of how long we have been here in our area in Riverhead,” she said.

Over the past 50 years, students from St. Maximilian Kolbe Polish School have participated in the Polish Festival in Riverhead, in Culture Day at their American schools and more.

“It’s not like we are just part of the school and that’s it, we’re a big part of the police parade in New York City, also with the Polish civic association,” she said.

The school has been celebrating their anniversary with a jubilee event every five years since she’s been at the school, Ms. Ogonowska said. 

She said that other events had been held in the Polish Hall across the street from St. Isidore Church but they chose the Atlantis Banquet Ballroom to show how proud they are of achieving 50 years.

“We want to show with the [venue] how important it is for us [and] how proud we are that we survived these 50 years,” she said.

Ms. Ogonowska said she remembers when the women in the Polish community would go door to door when fundraising for events like the jubilee but she thought the GoFundMe was a perfect way to reach more people outside the Polish community who might want to help.

Although the celebration will be grand, at the heart of it is a celebration of the community the Polish people have built here in Riverhead, she said.

“The most important is that it’s a sense of community, we’re not family by blood, but we family by our roots,” she said.

To purchase an ad in the yearbook or to purchase tickets to the jubilee, contact [email protected] for any additional information.