Sister City Anniversary: October 1991
Achieved through the assistance of local Polish Heritage Society.
From 1975 to 1998 the city of Bielsko-Biała was the provincial capital of Poland, as it lies mid-way between Warsaw and Vienna. The city’s unique name is due to the merger of two towns: the older one, Bielsko, formed in 1263; Biała, the younger town, was recognized in 1723. Both towns, situated on opposite sides of the Biała River, were famous for their textiles. The trademark of Bielsko-Biała woolen cloth “BS” was well known in Europe. In the late 19th century, Bielsko-Biała became the third largest center of the textile industry in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Historically, the oldest traditions, going back to the Middle Ages, are associated with the textile industry. Today, the region around Bielsko-Biała is among the top industrial centers in Poland. The major share of domestic production belongs to the electro-equipment, textile and chemical industries, food processing, and forestry. The region’s enterprises offer cars, cranes, gliders, textile machines, tools, engines, paints and lacquers, wool and cotton fabrics, clothes, footwear, furs, food confectionery, meat, alcohol, and excellent beer.
Sister Cities Traditions
Whether your interest is in art, music, architecture, outdoor recreation, history, there is something to see in the region surrounding Bielsko-Biała. The Bielsko-Biała voivodeship is among the regions where folk culture, both material and spiritual, is still alive. These traditions are visible in buildings, sculpture, paintings, music, dances, and regional costumes. A very popular craft here is lace-making, unique traditional art. Laces from the village of Koniakow are famous not only in Poland but also in many distant countries.
Every two years Bielsko-Biała hosts the greatest world festival of puppet theaters organized by the world famous Banialuka Theatre. Also every May, the municipality organizes a festival of cultural and sporting events called Bielsko-Biała Days.
Tourism & Sightseeing
The Bielsko-Biała region is one of the most attractive parts of Poland. Tourists who come here to admire its scenic landscapes and nature can make use of good transportation connections and its well-developed facilities. The season never ends and there are many possibilities to choose from: climbing, trekking, skiing, water sports, gliding, paragliding, horse riding. There are also excellent opportunities for hunters and anglers. To preserve the unique environment, the Babia Gra National Park has been created. It is now included in the UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Preservation.
There are plenty of wonderful traditional foods to try such as pierogi (small white dumplings), bigos (stew with various meats and sauerkraut) or kielbasa (sausage) just to name a few.
Bielsko-Biała Recent Events
Pulaski Day Parade (Grand Rapids, MI)
In Fall 2017, three delegates from Bielsko-Biala, Ms. Aleksandra Podsiadlik – Head of Strategy and Economic Development, Ms. Anna Zgierska – Head of Promotion Department, and Mr. Waldemar Jedrusinski – Deputy Mayor spent a week in Grand Rapids. While in Grand Rapids, they met with city staff, enjoyed ArtPrize, and had special meals at local restaurants and homes of committee members. They participated in the Pulaski Day Parade as special guests walking with the Mayor and City of Grand Rapids float. Post parade, they had an opportunity to visit local Polish Halls who were celebrating Pulaski Days.
ArtPrize 2016 (Grand Rapids, MI)
The Committee hosted an artist, photographer Inez Baturo, from Bielsko-Biała during ArtPrize 2016. While in Grand Rapids, she completed a mural that is permanently displayed in a City of Grand Rapids Parking Structure.
The Bielsko-Biała committee has experienced exciting growth in the last few years and has added a number of unique and exciting projects to their agenda.
The Bielsko-Biała sister city committee connects Grand Rapids with the people of Bielsko-Biała. Some of our members are Polish speakers, but many are not. The Bielsko-Biała Committee is proud to partner with the Polish Heritage Society of Grand Rapids for many of its projects and events.
2019 Committee Members
- Kelli Jo Peltier – Chair
- Lois Degraaf
- Tim Fisher
- Jayne Schuitema
- Ruth Ann Loomis
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