Friendship Force Dayton hosted a group of 12 Polish students for a week


Matthew Salazar, facilities manager, led the group. “I explained what we are doing, it is ecological education. The students said how much they enjoyed what we were doing, and we asked them to maintain the trails, making them wider and more accessible.

“They were a great group to engage with and work alongside, and their efforts to remove some of the invasive species on the property are helping restore the land,” Carr said. “Some spoke of their family’s gardens and farms back home in Poland.”

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While in Yellow Springs, they also visited the Glen Helen Raptor Center, Young’s Dairy Barn, and Clifton Gorge.

Back in Dayton, they toured one of Dayton’s most recently completed Metro Libraries, the West Branch and its Makerspace. Donald Stewart, information services assistant and “technician”, took them on a tour, “and they said they weren’t used to seeing libraries like this and they thought it was phenomenal . They loved all the artwork in the library and I let them know that most were done by local artists.

“I also gave them the history of this area, where the Wright Brothers hangars were, and told them about Paul Laurence Dunbar.

“Douglas Picard explained Makerspace to them, and they spent quite a bit of time doing a demo there.”

In downtown Dayton, the group took a walking tour of Riverscape, a tour of DayAir Ballpark and the Hub in the Arcade. “I think they were overwhelmed,” Nerny said. “The Hub made sense to us because of the Arcade. They didn’t understand the story but enjoyed looking at the building and learning that there were setups for new businesses happening at the Hub.

Of course, students ate at various establishments during their stay, and one student, Igor Porwot, observed that “Americans like things super salty or super sweet.”

But they had a pleasant surprise by visiting Marion’s Pizza. “One of our members knew that the owner of Marion’s was Polish,” Nerny said, “and he talked about his father’s village in Poland. The kids were excited when he said a word or two in Polish, but he was sorry he didn’t know more about the language.

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Interestingly, on the night they were supposed to hang out at Stage 75, the students wanted to go to a thrift store instead. “One of the boys was so excited because he received a pair of old jeans. We were surprised by that,” Nerny noted.

Another more active event was bowling at Poelking Lanes in Kettering. “They knew him and seemed to know how to score points and turn on the machines. They continued to receive gutter balls, but were happy with their “secondary coaches”.

The week ended with students preparing dinner – half Polish, half American – for their guests at the Czechoslovakian Club, followed by a traditional Polish dance.

The ages of the hosts range from 55 to 80, and their younger guests have expressed surprise at the activity of their “retired” hosts. “In Poland, once a senior retires, he expects to die,” said Vladyslaw Aleksandrowicz. This made the hosts, aged between 55 and 80, laugh.

Nerny, the 80-year-old, retired from teaching in Dayton schools in 1997, served on the school board for seven years, was involved with Friendship Force and other organizations on and off for 20 years , and certainly doesn’t “expect to die” anytime soon.

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