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Polish Parade Broadcast Relies on Amateur for Expert Commentary

By Patty Wetli | May 3, 2014 8:53am | Updated on May 4, 2014 4:21pm
 Anna Zolkowski Sobor will team up with TV reporter Alan Krashesky during the broadcast of the Polish Constitution Day Parade.
Anna Zolkowski Sobor will team up with TV reporter Alan Krashesky during the broadcast of the Polish Constitution Day Parade.
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ABC Ch. 7

CHICAGO — Did you know that Chicago's Polish Daily News is the oldest continuously published Polish-language newspaper in the world? That Poland didn't exist on a world map for 124 years? That there's a Great Lakes Polish Lowland Sheepdog Club?

That's the kind of the color commentary Anna Zolkowski Sobor will be providing as a member of Channel 7's broadcast team during Saturday's annual Polish Constitution Day Parade, which steps off from Columbus Drive in Grant Park at 11:30 a.m.

Vice chairman of the parade committee and the 1982 parade queen (representing the Polish-American Congress), Sobor added the once-a-year television gig to her resume a decade ago.

The daughter of Polish immigrants, raised in Humboldt Park and now a resident of Old Irving Park, she's fluent in both English and Polish, which comes in handy when announcing the Zwiazek Harcerstwa Polskiego (Polish Scouting Organization of Illinois).

Where other parade announcers might talk in general about the weather or performers' costumes, Sobor crafts a detailed script in advance, packed with factoids about each school or organization participating in the celebration.

"We see this as an opportunity to educate the audience at home about the Polish community...and show off the diversity of Polish culture," she said.

This year's theme — honoring Pope John Paul II's canonization to sainthood on April 27 — had her cramming extra hard for Saturday's assignment, reading and watching hours of coverage of the event.

"People were very moved by this whole canonization," said Sobor, adding that she was "in close proximity to John Paul II three times" in her life.

"Every Pole in Chicago seems to have a story about the Pope," she said, and speculated that as a result, the mood at this year's parade might be "more emotional."

Having grown up during a time when "dumb Polack" jokes prevailed, Sobor credits John Paul II with changing people's perceptions of Poland.

"All of a sudden there was this Pole who speaks seven to 12 languages fluently," she said. "He goes to Poland and finally the world's TV stations went to Poland."

On Saturday, she'll be partnered during parade coverage with ABC anchor/reporter Alan Krashesky, just returned from the canonization ceremony in Rome.

The two will be taking in the action from a perch 20 feet in the air.

"I'm usually very cold," she said. "We're up so high, with the wind coming right off the lake. I usually have a blanket and three or four layers."

For parade newbies or those unfamiliar with Polish culture, Sobor offered a few tips on what to expect.

"There will be a lot of interpretations of red and white," in homage to Poland's flag, she said.

Representatives of the country's various regions can be distinguished by their ethnic garb: Poles with a connection to Krakow sport more colorful clothing, she said, while highlanders from Poland's mountainous area dress in woolens.

Contemporary Polish culture — motorcycle clubs and pop music — will be on display alongside the traditional, she said.

"You need to move forward. You have to include everyone's version of culture," said Sobor. "It's the whole quilt of Polish culture, that's the beauty of a parade like this."

Just don't expect to hear any polkas.

"Polka is not Polish," said Sobor. "They don't play the polka in Poland."

With Chicago's Poles more dispersed than in the '50s, '60s and '70s, when the city's Polish enclaves were so tight-knit "you could get by not learning English," the parade serves as a way to "keep the younger generations in touch with their roots," she said.

"We're all from somewhere," said Sobor. "It's important for people to know their history. It puts things in perspective."

Parade coverage will be available on-demand at www.abc7chicago.com. A tape delay of the proceedings will air Saturday night on Ch. 7, 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

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