Frequently Asked Questions

This is a COVID edition of the FAQ with the most frequent topics

Local Restaurants: dining, pickup & catering

Sebi’s Bistro in Seattle – a Polish-owned, Polish food restaurant; as of mid-October 2020 it is opened at reduced capacity and hours but opened most days – check their website for exact schedule. Sebi’s Bistro is on the popular food delivery apps for people who live in Seattle; otherwise, or if you prefer, you can also pick up takeout food yourself. They also do catering.

Polish Cuisine on Wheels – a new Polish-owned food truck with stops in Seattle and some other cities like Renton, Kent, Bellevue or Redmond. They have been open for business at the Polish Cultural Center Dom Polski parking lot, mostly on Fridays late afternoon. However, as the schedule changes from week to week, check the schedule on their website or call them for the exact schedule before going there. They also do catering.

Restaurant at the Polish Cultural Center Dom Polski in Seattle – the whole Center and the restaurant has been closed since March. There is no ETA when it would open.

Sages Restaurant in Redmond – this restaurant with Rustic Italian and European menu, has the Polish-American chef Bart, so you can talk to him. During pandemic it’s open with limited seating and by reservation only most of the week. You can order a takeout as well (you need to pick it up). Check their website for schedule.

Restaurants: when you travel

Stores

There is only one authentic Polish food store in the Seattle area, George’s Deli, and many “international” or “European” stores around, some with a significant Polish section. 
 
Seattle
 
Lynnwood

Bothell

Kirkland

Bellevue

  • International Deli 15015 Main St. Ste 110, Bellevue, at the mall at 148th and Main, tel. 425-865-0439. This is the best store on the Eastside, with a big selection of Polish products.
  • From Russia with Love, 1424 156th Ave. NE., Bellevue, at the Crossroads Mall (Top Food store plaza), tel. 425-603-0701

Renton

Special Foods

Pączki / Ponchki

Also, Sebi’s typically runs a ponchki and Polish pastry special event on Polish Fat Thursday and then on Mardi Gras, and before Easter and Christmas.

Biały ser / Farmer cheese

Farmer cheese is the best American equivalent of Polish biały ser or twaróg. Don’t fall for the cream cheese, as it’s not even close. Any store with Polish food would have at least one type of farmer cheese. Also available in stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, and more and more in big groceries.

Christmas Eve special foods

Opłatki / Christmas wafers

You can buy them at the Fall Bazaar at the Polish Cultural Center (on the first weekend of November) and at the Polish Parish on Sundays in the season. Also available at George’s Deli.

Barszcz/ Borscht

Nowadays, you can easily find beets at Whole Foods or other big grocery stores or buy a barszcz / borscht extract in bottles or in packets in Polish food stores.

Karp / Fish

If you really want karp / carp for Christmas Eve dinner, find a source at least a week ahead as it is considered a dirty fish around here and regular stores don’t have it.  Check Uwajimaya stores in Seattle, Bellevue or Renton, or order it ahead of time at a place like Tim’s Seafood  in Kirkland.

Still, most Polish folks around here find switching to salmon or halibut easier.

Polish Beer

Get it with your dinner

  • Sebi’s Bistro keeps Polish beer in stock, also for pickup during pandemic.
  • Polish Cultural Center Dom Polski – except that the Center, its restaurant and bar are all closed during the pandemic.

Buy it in stores

There are also several stores that sell Polish beer

  • Whole Foods market chain stores stock Żywiec and Okocim
  • Red  Apple stores
  • Malt and Vine in Redmond – Okocim, Żywiec, Warka
  • Also check Total Wine in Bellevue and other big liquor/wine/ beer stores

There are many Polish organizations and institutions in the Seattle area that you can contact or visit depending on your needs.

  • Polish Cultural Center Dom Polski
  • Polish Consulate with the Honorary Consul
  • Polish Parish
  • Two Polish Schools
  • Civic organizations
  • Cultural clubs
  • Social media groups

For the full list please visit the Polish Organizations page.

Please be aware that during the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, Polish Cultural Center is closed, the regular meetings of different organizations are suspended, schools operate remotely etc. Your best bet is the internet: social media for Polish interest groups, streaming for movies and Zoom for cultural club meetings.

This is more difficult during the pandemic, as the normally bustling Polish Cultural Center is closed with no ETA to open. So you cannot just stop by there for a Polish dinner and beer to see it for yourself. Similarly, you cannot attend our festivals, exhibitions, lectures, singalongs, parties, organization meetings etc.

Advice for normal times

What I typically advice new people who want to join the community is this
  • Stop by at the Polish Hall! Have a great time with Polish or American friends while dining and wining at the Polish Cultural Center and breathing in the nice & friendly ambient atmosphere there
  • Get informed! Be aware of what’s going on in the community (normally: a lot!) and in the city. Sign up for the Polish News weekly email bulletin that will bring to you anything Polish anywhere in the city. Similarly, sign up for bulletins sent by different organizations. Also, join or watch social media groups on Facebook. In this way, you won’t miss an event that would be interesting to you and you can get in touch with the like minded people.
  • Attend Polish events! How do you know about them? See the above!
  • Join a cultural club or interest group! Just contact folks listed on this site or mentioned in the event announcements. How do you know about events or meetings of these groups? See the above!
  • Volunteer! No knowledge of Polish language or culture is needed! If you just want casual involvement doing something fun and interesting a couple of times a year, a great way to start is to volunteer at one of the big festivals that our community stages each year. There is Pierogi Fest at the Polish Cultural Center in May, the huge Polish Festival at the Seattle Center in July and then Seattle Polish Film Festival in October/November at different venues in the city. All are run by the volunteers. Similarly, there are two Polish bazaars, one in the spring and one in the fall where you can help. And then individual events you can help with. How do you know when and where the volunteers are needed? See the above!
  • Sing up your kids! If you want to involve your kids, to keep or acquire the language, there is the Polish Scout Troop and the children folk dance & singing group at the Polish Cultural Center where the kids can have fun while being immersed in the Polish culture and then there are two Polish Schools for children for a mixture of study and fun. Religious education is also available at the Polish Parish
  • Sign up yourself! Last but not least, you are welcome to join one (or more!) of the local Polish organizations. Get in touch with the contact people for the org that is interesting to you, come to a meeting, or help with the event they organize to see if you like it. 

Advice for the COVID times

During the pandemic, it’s harder to get involved, simply because the normal level of activity in the Polish community is way lower than usual. To give one obvious example, none of the big Polish festivals in the city happened this year. 

So, what can you do? 

Certainly the part about “Get informed!” (see the above!) applies. As the Polish News editor, I watch for interesting things on the internet to replace the usual lineup of local movie screenings, concerts, lectures, exhibitions and different events at the Polish Cultural Center and elsewhere. Watching interesting Polish movies online, or participating in one of the cultural clubs or groups via meeting on Zoom is certainly way to go. 
 

The cycle of life: one goes down, another is up

As I am writing this in mid-October 2020, I just miss the Seattle Polish Film Festival that should come in the second half of October or early November as usual.
 
But guess what, the Polish Film Festival in Los Angeles is coming up very soon in the online form! And then, in November, there comes the biggest of them all, the mother of all Polish film festivals in this country, the Polish Film Festival of America in Chicago. The Chicago festival will be in a hybrid form, with the opening and closing galas in the real world not virtual, and some screenings in actual cinema theaters. However, it will also have movies streamed online. Which I will be happy to report on to you!
 
So on this positive note let me go at it once again: Be informed! Sign up for the Polish News weekly newsletter to be aware what’s going on and what’s available!
 
 
 
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There are many specialists who speak Polish or are bilingual, as well as many businesses that have Polish speaking staff or cater to Polish customers and their specific needs. To find a bilingual notary public or a translator or interpreter, please see the current list at our Business Directory page.

Below are some general comments, touching on differences between Polish and American legal systems in relation to notaries and translations, as well as some notes on legal documents.

Notary Public

First, the services of an American notary public are quite different from ones provided by a Polish notary. A notary in Poland runs an office with services somewhere between ones provided by an American notary public and a real estate lawyer; this includes preserving copies of documents such as a bill of sales, handled by the notary’s office. Also, Polish notaries have a monopoly on some legal services, especially related to real estate; this is not the case at all in the United States. A notary public is basically a simple service confirming identity of a person signing a document; no copies are preserved by the notary. Hence, for anything more complicated you want a lawyer.

Translations: certified … or not

Document translations are much more informal in the US than in Poland. Most professional translators or interpreters are state certified or court certified. However, in many cases a certified or sworn translation is not required.  Quite frequently, you may translate a document from Polish to English yourself if you are competent enough and know the appropriate terminology; typically there is a requirement that one should not translate documents about oneself – but then a competent friend may do it for you. In any case, the translator needs to identify himself/herself in a note at the end of the document and to add a statement about being competent and about translation being accurate and faithful with the original (you can google a typical statement). For crucial legal documents or court appearances you should or might be required to seek help from a locally certified translator.

Sending legal documents to Poland

When preparing documents for sending to Poland everything depends on the type and purpose of the document.

Upoważnienie / Limited Power of Attorney

A simple Upoważnienie (Limited Power of Attorney) is typically accepted by Polish officials when the text is bilingual (such as in parallel columns) and the signature confirmed by a notary public. Sometimes Upoważnienie can by even written in Polish only and then signed & sent over without a notary stamp (!); check with the family or the officials in Poland what is actually required. If you need a notary public, a list of bilingual notaries is in the Business Directory. Otherwise, every bank, Pony Express, a Passport Photo service has a notary on staff.

Apostille

On the other hand, you need an apostille for American legal documents, such as birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, real estate contracts, court rulings etc., to be valid in Poland. According the Hague Convention of 1961 for the exchange of legal documents between different countries, the apostille is a special authentication or certificate for a legal document going to another country. If obtained in our state, it indicates that the document in question is in fact a legally binding document in the State of Washington and is valid in countries that agreed to the convention; Poland and the USA use this mechanism since 2005. You can obtain an apostille for your document from the office of the Secretary of State in Olympia by mail or in person. They return the documents promptly. No further confirmation by the Polish consul is necessary before sending the document with apostille to Poland.

 

Polish for Children 

Overview

Locally, children can learn Polish at two Polish elementary-level schools, one in Seattle and one in Bellevue. There is also a school at the Polish Parish in Tacoma. For religious education please see Polish parishes in Seattle and Tacoma. Another way of getting your child engaged is to join the Polish Scout Troop in Seattle or the children folk and dance group at the Polish Cultural Center

Summer camps and trips to Poland. Nothing beats a dedicated Granma or  close family in Poland; my own children, raised with both parents speaking Polish at home, still benefited greatly from these “family language rehabs” in the old country. If you lack family connections, there are different Polish language camps or summer schools that you can send your child to. Many have a cultural program mixed with language classes. In non-COVID times, Polish News carries such info, or you can find the info on the internet for the next, hopefully, COVID-less summer. 

Online. COVID-19 has changed everything. Among others, local Polish schools are teaching remotely, and of course the online schools run from Poland are as available as ever. See below for info on online schools following the Polish official curriculum.

Polish at the preschool level is mostly down to families and informal support groups, although Polish school in Seattle had a preschool group before the pandemic. A great additional opportunity over the years has been different incarnations of Polish Story Time, typically organized by a native Polish speaker Mom for a group of young kids in a public library. The last such program was Story Time Zielone Czytanki and was run by Ada at the University Branch of the Seattle Public Libraries. This is currently suspended because of COVID-19.

Local schools for children

Due to the pandemic, all classes at these schools are on Zoom.

The Fr. Jan Twardowski Polish School in Bellevue is a very popular school for children, both for young immigrants and for second+ generation. It has been around since 2005 and the current enrolment is about 80 kids. This school is more convenient for people who live on the Eastside, but it also enrolls students from all over Puget Sound. Before the pandemic, the school was using facilities at the East Shore Unitarian Church Education Building in Bellevue. The curriculum covers Polish language and literature as well as history and geography of Poland for children from grades 1 to 8, although students are grouped together based on language skills. There are no classes for adults. For more information visit the School website (in Polish). The School is open on Wednesdays from 6 pm. Please contact Principal Anna Cholewinska (425) 765-4935, or [email protected].

The Juliusz Slowacki Polish School in Seattle is located at the Polish Cultural Center Dom Polski and has traditions going back till the 1950s. This may be a more convenient choice for elementary school children from the Seattle area. The school is also offering adult classes. Enrollment before the pandemic was is about 30 kids and about 30 adults. The curriculum for children is similar to the Polish School in Bellevue. Adults can join the beginners’, intermediate or advanced group. The School website is a page at the PHA website. The School is open on Monday nights from 6 pm to 8:45 pm. Please contact Principal Maria Grabowska, 425-271-3669.

Hewing closer to the official curriculum

There is always a family or two who is interested in the official Polish curriculum availability for their children, so a few words about it. 

Non-accredited programs for expanding horizons

There is a mixture of available programs, both paid and free, and you need to do a due diligence to be happy with what you get for your child. Be aware that the graduation certificate will not be recognized as equivalent of a cert from a regular Polish elementary or high school

If you are interested in online education that is closely following the official curriculum of elementary schools in Poland, a local Seattle parent with a Polish speaking child and experience using the site recommends Polinijka.edu.pl. You can choose a variety of programs depending on the scope (number of subjects), and they come with quality materials for a reasonable price. 

The Consulate General in Vancouver, BC recommended in the fall of 2020 the following sites for children fluent in Polish: www.pistacja.tv with free video lessons on math and chemistry and www.poluni.org for children 6-13 years old with extensions program covering subjects from biology and math to electronics, architecture and robotics.

Accredited programs

As far as I know, in recent years, there have been only two ways to receive an officially recognized graduation certificate abroad. One is to attend an accredited Polish school abroad. This is popular in Europe, but in the United States there is only a handful of these schools (such as the school at the Polish Embassy in Washington DC, and two or three schools in Chicago, including one at the Consulate). There is no such school in Seattle. The other way is through a program abroad that requires the child to travel to Poland for the final exams; this typically is hard to arrange while the child attends a local American school. Also, regulations regarding this approach tend to change, so be careful.

For more info, try the Ministry of Education site. The principal sites for the topic seem to be these:  Osrodek Polskiej Edukacji za GranicąOtwarta Szkola (more of a consultation and support system, some pages have cobwebs).

Polish for Adults

Adult classes at the beginner and intermediate level are available at the Polish School in Seattle (see the description above). Polish is also taught at the Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures of the University of Washington in Seattle. Polish courses at other local colleges or local chapters of language schools tend to be ephemeral, but they are available from time to time, so do your own research. Also, there are local tutors who can be contacted for private lessons. Please check the Business Directory or watch the  ads section for current references. And then of course there is the internet for individual lessons online.

University of Washington’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures offers first- and second-year Polish language courses: first-year Polish (Polish 401, 402, 403) and second-year Polish (Polish 404, 405, 406). These sequences are typically taught in alternating years during fall, winter, and spring quarters. Independent study is also available.

The above Polish courses are also available to people who are 60+ years old through the Access program for a token fee (in the range of $10 per course). The Department is located on the main UW campus in Seattle. The faculty is happy to accommodate additional students. Please contact Prof. Kat Dziwirek, the current Chair of the Slavic Department and a native Polish speaker who teaches Polish courses, or  Lani Phillips who is a secretary at the Department, for more info. 

In addition, since 2006 the University typically has a native Polish Fulbright scholar each year who teaches classes on Polish culture, politics, language etc. that can also be attended through the Access program. Fulbright scholars are supported by the UW Polish Studies Endowment Committee – check their website for current info on the course availability and about events related to Polish culture organized by the Committee.

Finally, Polish culture, history etc. are frequent subject of courses at other departments and they can also be available through the Access program. Please contact UW PSEC for more info or check our the Other News section on this website for seasonal information.

Many places offer help to immigrants in learning English. Your children can get ESL classes at a local school they attend. Placement and the length of the course depends on demonstrated proficiency level. Adults can attend courses at local colleges and community colleges. For example check these ESL courses

There used to be free classes available at public libraries and in other place, but it seems that they all have been suspended because of COVID-19.