Polish Language Class Immerses Soldiers in Cultural Landscape

2nd Lt. Matthew Kemelek, assistant operations officer (Photo by 2nd Lt. Robert Bannon)

Story by 2nd Lt. Robert Bannon
2d Cavalry Regiment

Educational opportunities abound in the U.S. Army, enriching Soldiers who actively seek them out and reap their benefits. Even in the midst of a six-month rotation in Bemowo Piskie, Poland as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence initiative, Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment are still finding the time to expand their knowledge base as they juggle multiple responsibilities.

Kasia Kardasiewicz, a Polish linguist for Mission Essential currently working at the Battle Group Poland, has played an essential role in supporting Soldiers’ education. She teaches a beginners’ Polish language class every Tuesday and Thursday. It was conceived purely through her initiative. During the 3rd Squadron, 2CR’s rotation, Kardasiewicz approached the Battle Group leadership with the idea. Upon receiving approval, she planned and resourced the lessons.

“I volunteered to do it because I wanted the Soldiers to get to know not only Polish language, but also Polish culture, customs and history,” said Kardasiewicz. “Teaching a language is much more than teaching grammar and lexical structures. It’s about sharing the knowledge of your society.”

The first class was a small, but close-knit group according to Kardasiewicz. At the conclusion of their rotation, the Romanians presented her with flowers and a diploma signed by their Commander as an expression of their gratitude.

Building on the foundation established with the first group of students, the class has since grown. It currently consists of twenty Soldiers from across the Battle Group along with three Polish students from Bemowo Piskie who facilitate the lessons. In addition to furthering the Soldiers’ education, it provides them with a forum to strengthen bonds with their foreign counterparts.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to motivate yourself to go after a long day of work,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Kemelek, a regular attendant from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1/2CR. “But once you get to the class, you realize that it’s worth it. It’s fun, relaxing and just a great opportunity to get to know people from across the Battle Group.”

Acknowledging the language’s difficulty, Kardasiewicz cultivates a “friendly atmosphere” that encourages students to participate. She incorporates games, songs, videos and other engaging activities into the curriculum.

“All students participate actively in my lessons,” Kardasiewicz said. “All have chances to speak and make sure their pronunciation will be corrected if needed. I personally think that it is crucial to give students feedback, so they know what they do wrong and what is correct.”

Furthermore, she supplements the classroom sessions with periodic excursions, in which the students can intermingle with the local community and practice their Polish firsthand. For example, the students traveled to Krutyn and enjoyed a day of kayaking 13-kilometers along the river, May 20, 2018. Throughout the day, they relied on their rudimentary language skills to interact with the locals as Kardasiewicz provided assistance.

These experiences have ensured that while the Soldiers may not leave Bemowo Piskie with a complete fluency in Polish, they will be instilled with enduring memories – as well as the ability to order a plate of pierogi.