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Polish American Veterans Lodge offers sweet treats for Paczki Day

Kevin Garcia of Amsterdam, sets up a tray of cream-filled paczkis — a type of doughnut — at the Polish American Veterans lodge, 56 Church St., Amsterdam, for Paczki Day on Saturday, a traditional event that precedes Ash Wednesday and Lent. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

AMSTERDAM — Traditions are made to be memorable, but some are also sweet.

Members of the Polish American Veterans Lodge on Church Street were hustling Saturday to fill preorders for Paczki Day — paczkis are a doughnut-like pastry — offering a total of 35 dozen custard-filled doughnuts covered with confectionary sugar.

The day — like Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday and Carnevale — is the precursor to Ash Wednesday and Lent, a religious time of fasting, abstinence and penance. The variety of the pastries were destined to please most any palate — apple, chocolate creme, Bavarian creme, strawberry and jelly.

The proceeds will support Leatherstocking Honor Flights for veterans to visit Washington, D.C., including veterans memorials.

The city’s PAV has 100 to 150 members, many Vietnam veterans and a diminishing number of people who served in World War II and the Korean War.

Christine Mary and John Lesniewski of Amsterdam broadcast Polish music on several radio stations during for the annual Polish Paczki Day on Saturday, a traditional event that precedes Ash Wednesday and Lent, at the Polish American Veterans lodge, 56 Church St., Amsterdam. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

The paczkis were expected to bring in more members and their families than usual, said barkeeper David Kline of Amsterdam.

“This will be double and triple what a normal Saturday is,” he predicted, hoping the day would “draw in some new members.”

Kline said the lodge participates not only in Polish activities but citywide events, such as the SoupFest and the St. Paddy’s Day Pub Fest. They plan to give away corned beef and cabbage pierogis at the St. Paddy’s event from 1 to 8 p.m. on March 16, a food that went over well last year, he said.

Alicia Sheckton of Amsterdam, the lodge’s historian, said the group is involved in many community events, such as an annual clambake and a Christmas food drive for needy families. Even though the building doesn’t seem overly large, there is room for people “to dance all around,” she said.

The PAV was formed in 1946. It used to be on Reid Street, in the same building as the Polish National Alliance, but moved to 56 Church St. in 1961.

Kevin Garcia, left, and Kevin Hagadorn, both of Amsterdam, set up trays of cream-filled doughnuts at the Polish American Veterans lodge, 56 Church St., Amsterdam, for Paczki Day on Saturday, a traditional event that precedes Ash Wednesday and Lent. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

While the doughnuts were being packaged, Doug Weiderman of Amsterdam, whose dad is a veteran, was cooking eggs and cheese with bacon or sausage, depending on a person’s preference. He finds the lodge to be a comfortable place.

“All my close friends are here,” he said.

Providing Polish music for ambience were Christine Mary and John Lesniewski of Amsterdam, who broadcast on WCSS, WKAJ and WSPN, all in Amsterdam, and Polish Newscastle radio in Pennsylvania, something they do every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

All in all, Polish culture is preserved, veterans are honored, and the paczkis are tasty.

Doug Weiderman of Amsterdam, cooks up eggs and cheese with bacon or sausage at the Polish American Veterans lodge. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

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