Entitled "Proud to Be Polish," the contest was for best student works in literature, film and the visual arts. The teachers, meanwhile, vied for “best lesson about grammar hidden in love poems."
At the awards ceremony in Warsaw's Royal Castle on Tuesday, lower-house Speaker Elżbieta Witek said she was proud of how young members of the diaspora expressed their Polish roots.
"You are the best ambassadors of all things Polish," she praised them. "What will be said about Poland and how, depends on you."
60 million Poles worldwide
Witek noted that the Polish community abroad is about 20 million strong, and so in total, "there are as many as 60 million Poles around the world," she said, “making for a powerful nation" and “representing a great asset."
Polish lower-house Speaker Elżbieta Witek speaks at the awards ceremony on Tuesday. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka
Gabriela Morawska-Stanecka, deputy Speaker of the Senate, the upper house, said she appreciated the effort required to cultivate Polish roots abroad, as her own daughter and grandchild lived outside the country.
"I am aware of how difficult it is when you live hundreds or thousands of kilometres from Poland," Morawska-Stanecka said, "to make sure that deep down inside, in their heart, your child feels Polish."
Thousands of miles away from home
The competition attracted 900 participants from around the globe, among them David Gola from the midwestern US city of Chicago, who said he was encouraged to take part by his Polish-school principal, teacher and family.
"My work was about what it's like living as a Pole away from the home country and how you miss Poland," David told public broadcaster Polish Radio.
He said he felt "at home" in Poland and was glad to have finally visited after a five-year absence.
In addition to prizes and diplomas, the winners of the contest were presented with Polish flags “to billow proudly" in their homes.
They were also taken on a tour that took in sites such the historic city of Kraków, the salt mines of Wieliczka, the mountain resort of Zakopane and the southern city of Częstochowa with its famous Catholic Black Madonna shrine.
Award winners pose for a family photo with Polish parliamentary Speaker Elżbieta Witek. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka
The teachers' competition was won by Aneta Zawacka-Uveges from the Polish SEN School in Dublin, Ireland, who said that cultivating Polish culture and traditions was the main objective of Polish educators abroad.
“It comes from the passion in our hearts, from our memories, our love, our imagination … and the part of ourselves that each of us left in Poland," she said.
Held annually since 2010, the "Proud to Be Polish" contest is jointly organised by the Świat na Tak (Affirmative World) Foundation and the Wspólnota Polska (Polish Community) Association, in media partnership with Radio Poland.
Click on the "Play" button above to listen to an audio report by Radio Poland's Michał Owczarek.