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Written by Sr Lucyna Fraczek and Sr Agnieszka Misiak

What a night! What a joy! What a birthday gift!

On the 20th of August 2018, after morning Mass I was walking on our property with a box of chocolates: smiling and telling everybody that today is the birthday of our Holy Patron Saint Brother Albert!

Usually for a birthday we have a party but this party was very unexpected!

The gift of PRESENCE and the presents came from the most distinguished guests the President of Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda and the First Lady, Agata Konhauser-Duda.

It was my privilege to welcome the Presidential couple in front of our Polish War Memorial Chapel and walk with them to offer a short prayer in the front of Our Mother in the image of the Black Madonna. We, Polish people, call her Our Lady of Czestochowa – Queen of Poland. This is the place where for more than 52 years our Lady has been waiting for all people, no matter which background they have. She is always waiting…especially for Polish people who feel at home when they come.

After this short prayer, we walked to Holy Family Services, Aged Care – Br. Albert’s home where the Sisters, staff and residents were waiting to welcome the First Lady and show her around. The encounter with her was such a warm happy moment for all. The conversation included memories of Poland where our residents left many years ago and compliments they expressed about being “at home”.

It was hard to move on, but after taking a “family photo”, signing the guest book and exchanging beautiful gifts for the table and the altar in the chapel - liturgical cloths and coffee table serviettes - we had to proceed to the next point of the evening.

On the way to John Paul II Polish hall, the presidential couple stopped for the moment of silence and placed flowers by the “Smolensk - memory rock” for those who lost there lives in April 2010.

In a spirit of feeling at home, more the 800 hundred people welcomed the President and First Lady with much applause in JPII hall. Everybody was so happy to be there and had the opportunity to sing the national anthem in Polish in a loud voice like never before and the Australian anthem as well since this is our home now. Poland was here this night!

Then the words of official welcome on behalf of the Polish Community came from the Counsel General of Poland – Regina Jurkowska and Fr. Tadeusz Przybylak, SChr. – how good it is to be here…

And a very special moment for our Polish Language School which was represented by our young students, their dedicated teachers and parents. President Andrzej Duda and the First Lady were welcomed with song, poetry and a formal card prepared by our students. The atmosphere was electric, patriotic and warm. The President with his natural manner, interest and care entered into the spirit of the evening. But more was to come. Sr. Agnieszka Misiak was one of many people who were honoured with the presentation by Mr. President, of the Polish Gold Cross of Merit. Great joy and pride for our school, for Sr Agnieszka personally and the wider Polish Community. Sr Agnieszka, with the acknowledgement of the many Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth who paved the way for today successes. This day will be etched in our hearts and will be carried as a historical event that we, in our school, were able to be a part of history.

The concluding words from Mr. President with the invitation to go back to Poland were very touching…

Yes, we miss our country but we have our place – a very happy home for all.

The evening was so colourful with Polish national dresses and joyful like never before with singing and dancing…

The memory of this Birthday party with the PRESENCE and the presents that we/I was talking about in the morning will stay with us forever!

And the story-telling has just begun… for the next generation to come and call this place HOME.

The name of our place is Marayong which comes from the Aboriginal word meaning "emu" or "place of the cranes" but I have my own definition: “a meeting place”.

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