The Polka King, Jan “Jan Lewan” Lewandowski, led a group of 20 participants for his farewell tour across Poland Sept. 3-15.
Over 12 days, participants visited the medieval treasures of Krakow, Zakopane, the Czestochowa shrine, Bydgoszcz, the Tatra Mountains between Slovakia and Poland, Warsaw and ended in the amber capital of Gdansk along the Baltic Coast.
JLewan is a Polish-American polka band leader. His life has been portrayed in multiple films, most recently in the 2017 comedy film, “The Polka King,” in which Lewandowski is portrayed by Jack Black. The film was released on Netflix on Jan.12. “The Polka King” film documents Lewandowski’s life as a musician, gift store owner and polka band leader sentenced to five years and 11 months in prison for fraud. At the height of his career, he operated a tour group company and organized trips throughout Europe and accompanied over 5,000 people to Poland over the course of 30 years.
The Farewell Tour across Poland was full of entertainment and food native to Poland. The entire tour was filmed and is being preserved in a 4-hour DVD recorded by Uniontow native John Koterba, who has filmed the life and career of Lewandowski since 1986 and was accompanied by his longtime girlfriend Jo McGinnis, who filmed additional footage which will be part of the commemorative DVD.
The Farewell Tour was filled with memorable experiences organized exclusively by Lewanandowski. These included a private audience with the now Cardinal of Krakow Stanislaw Dziwisz, who is considered a first-hand relic after serving as Saint Pope John Paul II’s secretary for all the years he was Pope.
Another tour highlight was a private meeting with the Solidarity leader and former President of Poland Lech Walesa, a lifelong friend of Lewanandowski. Tour participants fell to tears as they listened intently to Walesa describe how Europe changed with the downfall of Communism through Solidarity. As a result of his leadership, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.
According to Koterba, “It was surreal knowing this was the final tour I would be filming in Poland for Jan Lewan. Over three decades of traveling with Jan, I have been afforded the opportunity to meet so many people including many private audiences with Pope John Paul II, also arranged by Jan.”
While in Poland for his Farewell Tour, Lewanandowski was also interviewed by Polish newspapers and TV stations to talk about his upbringing in Bydgoszcz, his life in America, and the production of “The Polka King” movie.
When asked if he was planning to lead any future tours, Lewandowski hesitated only because his calendar is filling up with his daughter’s upcoming nuptials, speaking engagements, scheduled live polka performances, and a soon-to-be-released book on his life.
For more information on the Jan Lewan Farewell Tour Across Poland, or “The Polka King” movie on Netflix, contact John Koterba at 561-308-5972 or write to [email protected]