When I was in high school, my mother asked if it would be ok if she entered me into the Ms. Polonia contest. I had no idea what this meant, but I knew that she had once been a contestant in her teenage years, and I was proud to carry on the tradition. She also explained it would mean a great deal to my grandfather, Charlie Russek, who was a member of the Port Washington Polish Club, who would be thrilled to say his granddaughter was a contestant.
I found out that Ms. Polonia is a beauty pageant, aimed towards women of the Polish descent. I was qualified since my mother and grandparents are Polish. It was pretty cool to participate in this event; my mother was a contestant 28 years ago.
I wasn’t really into the whole “beauty pageant” thing, but I was more excited for my grandfather. He couldn’t stop talking about it to his friends and family.
“Did you know my granddaughter is going to be in the Ms. Polonia contest this spring?”
I knew this meant so much to him.
And who doesn’t love a good competition? It was exciting to pick out a fancy dress and get my hair/makeup done. I also learned that the cadets of Kings Point would be accompanying us around the ballroom.
Helloooooo, men in uniform. Now, you got my attention.
The experience itself was great. I paraded around the room, in my fancy gown, with my hair and makeup done, big smile plastered across my face, with a handsome cadet from Kings Point on my arm. I mingled with the other contestants, cadets and my family. We danced, we ate, and we learned some Polish words. It was great to see my grandparents in their element. The look on their faces when it was my turn to walk the ballroom is something I will never forget. My grandfather was so proud of me. He showed me off to all of his friends and other members of his club.
And he showed me off, despite coming in second place. Two years in a row.
It’s rigged, I tell ya. Just kidding. I’m being a sore, second place, loser.
I mean, look at that beautiful white gown. And those gloves.
I am very glad I pretended to be a beauty queen for a day. I learned more about my grandparents and their background. I met some fantastic people from all over the country. I tried something I had never thought about doing before.
And I made my grandfather proud.
That means more to me than a crown, a parade and all the fame that comes with the Ms. Polonia title.