Celebrating Poland away from Poland, 200 years on.

Frydyrik Chopin, famous for being one of the most brilliant exponents of the 19th-century Romantic movement, has also been one of the most popular cultural exports to come out of Poland. He brought the nation's lively folk dances and stately polonaise to the world stage, at a time when back in his homeland, Polish culture was being stomped out under the boots of Prussian and Russian imperialism. 2010 marks the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth in Warsaw, and not only his music but his image as a patriotic Polish émigré has endured – a sensitive, melancholic figure who spent most of his adult life outside of Poland, but carried it with him in his heart. It is a special year, then, for the Polish Festival @ Federation Square, which encapsulates so much of what Chopin stood for. Like Chopin’s music, the festival is an expression and celebration of all things Polish, turning Melbourne's iconic landmark into a market square typical of Warsaw or Krakow, full of spectacular dancing, mouth-watering smells and beautifully crafted merchandise. However, it is not so much a get-together of Polish people as it is a chance for ordinary

Melburnians to experience this colourful, 1,000-year-old culture. It is, as the official motto states, about “bringing a taste of Poland to Melbourne”. This year, Chinese virtuoso pianist Lang Lang performed at the first of a series of memorial concerts in Poland, a sure sign of how internationally beloved and acclaimed Chopin's work has become. Likewise, as in previous years, the Polish Festival anticipates visitors from not only around Victoria and Australia but as far away as south-east Asia. Much like Chopin's celebrated music, the Festival is unashamedly patriotic in nature but in a deeply warm and inviting way, opening its arms to the Melbourne public to come along and join the fun. And with all of the food, drink and entertainment on offer, it’s a difficult invitation to refuse.

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