Student’s research connects him with Polish community

Senior history major Daniel Flynn, left, with Fr. Czeslaw Krysa

Najee Walker/The Record

Senior history major Daniel Flynn, left, with Fr. Czeslaw Krysa

SUNY Buffalo State, much like other colleges in the United States, encourages its students to make a lasting impression while attending class here. One student has done just that – using an alcoholic beverage.

Daniel Flynn, a senior history major from Syracuse, was with his friends one weekend when they decided to try a new drink. When he arrived at the local liquor store, he found an unusual, golden-colored beverage. The label read: Krupnik. He bought and shared it amongst his friends, and it quickly became their drink of choice.

Unbeknownst to Flynn at the time, there was more to this drink than anyone would have thought.

He was given a folklore assignment by anthropology professor Lydia Fish last semester as part of Fish’s Folklore and Folklife course. The assignment called for some field research to be conducted. Flynn chose to write about his favorite Polish alcoholic beverage.

As it turns out, Krupnik is a popular Polish liqueur introduced to the world by monks in the 16th century. The drink was, and still is, wildly celebrated by many Polish men and women. It is mostly used in Christmas celebrations.

“Not knowing what to expect, I contacted a priest at a local church,” Flynn said. “To my surprise, he was more than willing to speak with me.”

Father Czesła    w Krysa, a priest at Saint Casimir’s church in Cheektowaga, gladly emailed back and forth with Flynn, giving much more information than necessary – about the drink’s heritage, tradition, and – Flynn’s favorite part — homemade Krupnik recipes.

“Not only did I get a ton of information,” Flynn said, “but I was having a lot of fun.”

Flynn began to experiment with his new favorite alcoholic beverage, creating a mixed drink that he and Krysa have dubbed “The White Pole.” The drink calls for a few ingredients: a Thai Tea – which is a black tea, anise, and other light spices, as well as orange peel slices – topped off with half and half and a dash of allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg. The taste can only be described as something that reminds you of Christmas.

The father was so impressed with Flynn, his research and his mixed drink that he invited him to a large fundraiser at the Polish Villa II on Jan. 25. It attracted at least 100 people who came to enjoy authentic Polish food, music and of course drink – at 11 a.m., no less.

“(Krysa) asked me to serve my mixed drink at the fundraiser,” he said with a grin. “I was shocked, yet surprisingly excited.”

The funds from the event went to church renovations at Saint Casimir’s in the Kaisertown neighborhood of Buffalo. The church is hoping to replace the brick and mortar under the church’s dome, which has not had much work done since 1927. It raised $5,000 at the event that day, nearly half of which came from tickets sold at the door.

“St. Casimir’s is a Buffalo landmark church,” Krysa said. “(It is) the only Byzantine and Romanesque sacred structure of its kind in Western New York.”

Flynn made an interesting and unique impact on the Polish community here in Buffalo. Not only was the church parish happy to meet someone who held interest in their traditions, but many of the churchgoers were also amazed at what Flynn had accomplished.

“There was a light, happy spirit like our parent’s home for dinner,” Krysa said.

Flynn raised over $125 by selling his mixed drink for the fund-raiser.

“I was very upset when he said there was some left,” one of the churchgoers said. “It was a huge hit.” One woman kept coming back for more after a few minutes.

“It’s just too good,” she said as she offered Flynn the money.

Flynn has been featured in several local Polish newspapers as well, giving him something of a fan following.

“I really just hope that a lot more people learn to love Krupnik,” Flynn says. “And if the White Pole gets popular, that would be pretty cool too.”

Email: [email protected]