History of the Bal Polonaise
Polish Assistance evolved from a literary club called “Zielony Balonik” formed in 1953 by a group of Polish émigré poets, writers and artists. Their popular dances were called by the same name “Little Green Balloon.” Three years later, under the leadership of Count and Countess Jan Dembinski, this group formed Polish Assistance to aid the many displaced elderly Polish émigrés arriving in New York. They convinced many of their influential friends to establish the fledgling charity.
Thus, thanks to the maestro pianist Artur Rubinstein and his wife Nela, the first dance for the benefit of Polish Assistance took place in the Park Avenue penthouse of Princess Gourielli, better known in the world of beauty as Helena Rubinstein. This was not exactly a modest beginning, and since then, this social event, now called the Bal Polonaise, has been held annually in the most prestigious ballrooms of New York.
The Bal Polonaise found wide acceptance among American and European society as can easily be seen in the invitations and Souvenir Journals of the early 1960’s when it was held at the Sheraton East. The early Bal Polonaise Committee lists included such names as: Prince & Princess Stanislas Radziwill, Princess Lucie Shirazee, Count & Countess Nicholas Bobrinskoy, Countess Irene Cittadini, Count & Countess Henryk de Kwiatkowski, Count & Countess John Palfy, Baron Edward de Vegvar, Lady Blanka Rosenstiel, Dr. Robert Campbell, Mr. & Mrs. John C. Hughes, Mrs. Artur Rodzinski, Nina Mlodzinska de Rovira, Gertrude de Szentivanyi, Vera Gavansky, Basha Szymanska and Anita Colby-The Face. (Staunch supporter, Dr. Robert Campbell has only missed 2 out of the 54 balls!)
Celebrity guests who have attended the Bal Polonaise include: H.S.H, Princess Grace of Monaco; statesmen Zbigniew Brzezinski; divas Marta Eggerth Kiepura, Licia Albanese and Anna Moffo; Alexander Iolas; author Jerzy Kosinski; organizers such as the eminent Elsa Maxwell (the Washington hostess with the mostest) and Alan Feuer; actors Joan Fontaine, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Basil Rathbone, Charles Boyer and countless others.
Upon the closure of the Sheraton East, the Bal Polonaise made its home at the Pierre Hotel. When the Bal Polonaise outgrew the Pierre, it moved to The Plaza Hotel, and when the Plaza was closed, it moved temporarily to the St. Regis. With the re-opening of the Plaza, the Bal Polonaise returned to its beautiful Grand Ballroom. Over the years we have danced to music by the orchestras of Old Warsaw, Lester Lanin, Ben Cutler, Emery Davis and Alex Donner. Each year we are entertained and delighted by the Polish-American Folk Dance Company.
For the first 36 years, the President of Polish Assistance, Countess Maria Dembinska, invited many luminaries to chair the annual ball. Upon her passing, the torch was passed to Teresa Sulimirski who has been involved with Polish Assistance since the 1960s. Polish Assistance is now under the capable presidency of Jadwiga Palade, who was able to negotiate the successful return to the Plaza. The list of former chairs or co-chairs who continue to support the Bal Polonaise includes foremost, Nina Mlodzinska de Rovira, the previous Chairman of the Board; Robert Campbell; Cesare Santeramo; Teresa Sulimirski; Mariola Gorska-Haggar; Nina Boral; Countess Dagmar de Brantes and Ela Sulimirski Landegger.
It has now become the International Bal Polonaise and is considered to be one of the most important galas on New York’s social calendar.
We congratulate and thank those who have been part of this wonderful tradition for so many years and invite you to join us. As we celebrate each other during these balls, we never forget that the mission is to provide financial help to the needy in our Polish American community.