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Rising Stars: Meet Gerik Flaczynski

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gerik Flaczynski. 

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I’d like to introduce myself; my name is Gerik Flaczynski, I am 18 years old and have lived in Toledo, Ohio my whole life. I will be attending The University of Toledo this fall as a business major and I am the creator of the @polish_village_419 Instagram page. From a very young age, I have always had a love for history and I loved every bit of my social studies and history classes. I am very interested in my ancestry and have been for a very long time. If you couldn’t tell by the name, I am Polish, half Polish anyway. I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents who were both of Polish decent. During the time I spent with them, which was a lot, I learned about my Polish heritage constantly. That is one trait that I have is that I love to listen so during the summers and after school, I listened to stories and learned about the past and I fell in love with the past, and I thought it was fascinating. I cherish all of those moments with them and still do today with my grandma (Busia). My grandpa (Dziadzia) passed away in 2018 and I was devastated. It was such a horrible several days of seeing him in the hospital unresponsive and I wish that upon no one to have to see a loved one die in that way. But during the next year, I did a lot of reflection and took upon drawing and sketching as a way to cope with the loss. Yet I felt that it wasn’t enough, I felt I need to do more and I wanted to not just honor him in the right way but I felt that I need to honor my heritage and culture. After he died, I spent many hours and days with my grandma (Busia) and I spent quite a long time going through old photos and papers. During that time, I felt that the best way to honor my culture was to show the world the Polish American Culture through pictures and I came up with the account name Polish Village 419 in honor of the community where my grandpa (Dziadzia) came from. Now Toledo, Ohio had two Polish settlements the first named Lagrinka the original Polish Village, and the second community called Kuschwantz. I designed a logo that represented both Polish communities and launched the account in mid-2019. I initially did it as a way to cope with my grandpa’s loss, and it did help me. It allowed me to express my love for history and my Polish American Culture. I was proud of it as a 15-year-old. Time passed, and I got over the loss. I got busy with athletics in Highschool, I played football and basketball and started to make more friends by my sophomore year. I also did community service and worked out consistently. Almost 2 years later in 2021 after covid, I went back to the account and I was stunned that it had accumulated over 400 followers even with little to no activity. It showed me that people really care about what I care about and I wasn’t alone. There was a whole community of people some Polish and some not who wanted to learn more about the Polish in Toledo. So, I started posting more on the account and started to perfect my marketing skills by revamping the logo and really doing research on Polish Village, and giving people educational information on the different pictures I posted. It has now become a hobby of mine that every couple week I post a picture and a fun fact about Polish Village. I also want to start telling stories about certain people In Polish village or important buildings too. So now in 2022, we have almost 700 followers, and the base is growing very fast I am so excited to have more history-loving people to learn about Polish Village 419. Plus, out of all this, I have found that I really love marketing, graphic design, and photography, and I want to pursue all of those in my future through college. So, I want to thank my Dziadzia and my Busia for inspiring me to do something great and do things that I truly love. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I would say that yes it was a pretty smooth road because there was no pressure. This is just a hobby of mine and when you enjoy doing something it is easier. Although, there are always a few bumps in the road. The biggest challenge from a marketing aspect is figuring out a way to advertise what you want to do. Obviously, Polish Village 419 is just an account that posts historical data and pictures and shares them to people. The thing is it is such a streamlined topic, and people would only recognize it if they are familiar with local history or if they are from NW Ohio. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
A little bit about what I do, I am the editor and creator of the @polish_village_419 Instagram page. I am not a marketing specialist however, I will likely be pursuing a career in marketing in the future as I will start college this fall. I’m regards to Polish Village 419; I find relevant content that represents and honors the Polish Culture in Toledo, Ohio. I edit and restore the quality of some of these images and post them with a caption explaining the historical importance of the picture. I am proud to do this because there aren’t that many different places where you can find content like mine there are only a couple other pages that represent Polish American culture, especially in Toledo, Ohio. Two historical images I will have featured at the end of the article. 

We love surprises, fun facts, and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
Something surprising about me is that I am very good a photography. As a young age, I had a disposable camera that I used and I always loved taking pictures of nature. I have quite a few different pictures and pieces of photography on my other Instagram page @flaczynski_film. I have done portraits and do a lot of nature photography. I have also done sports photography as well and I consider myself pretty good as a photo editor. 

Contact Info:

  • Instagram: @polish_village_419

Image Credits

Levi Phillips
Polish Village 419

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