Barbara Strutynski, an outstanding longtime member of our Polish community died on August 24, 2022, in her home with her family by her side. She was almost 86.
Known to everybody as “Pani Basia”, Barbara was a community pilar, active since the early 1960s untill the pandemic. During this time, she founded and directed different performance groups involving children, youth and adults. Her name was most notably connected with the Młodzi Polanie / Young Polanie group.
Barbara Janina Obmińska was born on September 6, 1936, in Lwów , then a Polish city, now Lviv in Ukraine. In 1941 her family was deported to the infamous Soviet Gulag labor camps. It was there that she learned to entertain herself to take her mind off the horrors of the camp life. She survived through the end of the WWII with her mother Janina, whose indomitable spirit and resourcefulness made this possible. They returned to Poland and settled in Silesia. Barbara was a very good student and graduated from the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice with M.Sc. in civil engineering. After graduating, she worked as an industrial waste engineer in the region, having responsibility for several steel mills and coal mines.
Barbara met her future husband Marian at the university. As he came to the United States in 1960, they married by proxy, and she joined him in Seattle in 1961. At that time, there were very few women in this country with a master’s degree in civil engineering and so even with her not so great English she immediately obtained a job at the Metro’s Renton Sewage Treatment Plant as a senior process analyst. She worked there 37 years until her retirement.
Both Barbara and Marian were very active members in the Polish community centered around the Polish Home, now the Polish Cultural Center in Seattle. Barbara’s energy and enthusiasm, especially her love of the performing arts greatly enriched the region’s Polish community. In 1967 she founded a children folk dance group; as there was an adult group called Polanie she called the new group Młodzi Polanie / Young Polanie. The group performed under her direction at many venues and festivals over the years, including several times at the International Children’s Festival in Seattle before the pandemic. Several generations of children and young adults were members of the group. In 1992 she created the theater group Biedronka / The Ladybug that gave performances of children fairy tale classics. She also was instrumental in creating a Polish Cabaret at the Polish Home and directed several performances, starting in 1981 and going on through the early 2000s. An important aspect of all these activities was hosting of different folk groups and artists coming to Seattle. Over the years, Barbara and Marian hosted many groups and hundreds of artists from the United States, Canada and Poland at their home on the Eastside.
Barbara was a lifetime member of the Polish Hom Association (PHA) and for several years served as the PHA Vice President for Cultural Affairs. She was also a longtime member of the Polish Women’s Club, helping with the organization of the Polish bazaars where she was the dining room manager, and other events; for several years she was managing the dining room for the Pierogi Fest organized by the Seattle Polish Foundation with the Polish Women’s Club. For a long time, Barbara and Marian were teaching Polish at the Polish School in Seattle. Barbara was also active in her St. Margaret’s of Scotland Catholic Church, particularly tending to the grounds outside and to her favorite roses.
Barbara’s cultural activities were noticed and appreciated. She was awarded an Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland and a Siberian Exiles Cross, both bestowed by the President of Poland; an Angel award and recognition diplomas from the Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles as well as recognitions and awards from the local Polish community.
Barbara is survived by her husband of 62 years, Marian, her son Adam with daughter-in-law Theresa, and her three grandchildren Michael, Matthew, and Kathryn, along with their spouses Stephanie, Cari and Dixon.
Remembrances on Tuesday, September 6, 2022
St. Margaret’s Catholic Church in Seattle
- 10:00 am, a vigil and viewing
- 10:30 am, rosary prayer
- 11:00 am, the Funeral Mass
Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, WA
- around 1:45 (following the mass), a graveside service
Polish Cultural Center Dom Polski in Seattle
- around 4:00 pm (following the interment), a reception and a celebration of life
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation in Barbara’s name to the Seattle Polish Foundation’s Cultural Fund in support of cultural events or to the General Fund.