$1,000 reward offered for stolen Polish folk outfits

SHARE $1,000 reward offered for stolen Polish folk outfits
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Soprano Marlena Dzis (right) wears a handmade Polish folk costume in a recent Lira Ensemble performance. The outfit she is wearing is one of five stolen from her car just before Christmas. | Photos by Warren Johnson, courtesy of Dzis.

A criminal defense lawyer says she’ll pay a $1,000 cash reward to the person or people who can safely return five handmade Polish folk outfits stolen in a smash and grab, no questions asked.

The painstakingly made and hard to replace garments, on loan from The Lira Ensemble, were stolen last weekend from singer Marlena Dzis’ car in Wicker Park.

The passenger-side window of Dzis’ car was smashed and the only thing taken was a green garment bag containing the clothing Dzis wears in performances, including two scheduled for next weekend.

“There is no useful purpose that those costumes will serve anyone on the street. If they are hanging on to them or trying to get rid of them, this would be a motivator,” said Donna Makowski, a West Rogers Park resident and South Loop lawyer.

Makowski has worked as a criminal defense lawyer for more than 25 years and says that the experience has helped her to “get into the mindset” of a criminal.

“I thought to myself, going to a police station, they are not going to turn it in,” Makowski said.

Though she hasn’t seen Dzis or The Lira Ensemble perform, as a fellow Pole who grew up in Brighton Park, Makowski said she felt compelled to help and will be offering the reward on behalf of the National Advocates Society, a group of American lawyers of Polish descent.

It was in the waiting room of a Palos Park hospital early Wednesday when Makowski read the Sun-Times story about Dzis and decided she needed to help.

“My sister-in-law just pulled through from a heart attack. I was sleep deprived and praying for her. I was thinking, ‘I have to give back,’ the Polish community needs to help this young lady,” Makowksi said.

There is a security guard on duty 24 hours in Makowski’s law office at 53 W. Jackson Blvd. in the South Loop’s Monadnock Building, and Makowski said she has told her building management to be aware that the clothing could be possibly returned there.

Dzis, 31, was at her job as a fundraiser for a music school on Thursday, and said via email that she is “overwhelmed with gratitude” to learn of Makowski’s offer.

“If you have them, please consider returning them in exchange for this $1,000 gift. I hope this shows how important they are to The Lira Ensemble and to myself and how much joy they will bring to our audiences during next weekend’s performances,” Dzis told the thieves in an appeal.

In addition to Makowski, a St. Charles resident heard about the stolen outfits and wants to donate six colorful and hand embroidered vests that her sister wore during the late 1960s and ’70s to Dzis.

Cassie Fullem, 45, said her older sister participated in a Polish dancing troupe named “The Polka Dolls” and performed at St. Michael’s Church in Cohoes, New York, which at one time had a large Polish community.

Handmade vests from the 1960s and ’70s that a Good Samaritan plans to donate to Marlena Dzis, whose folk costumes were stolen. | Photos courtesy of Cassie Fullem

Handmade vests from the 1960s and ’70s that a Good Samaritan plans to donate to Marlena Dzis, whose folk costumes were stolen. | Photos courtesy of Cassie Fullem

Based on the photos she’s seen of Dzis, Fuller said she thinks that the garments would fit.

“I had the box of clothes in my closet and I would be happy to see them used instead of sitting in the closet,” said Fullem, whose maiden name is Miazga.

Dzis said she plans to accept Fullem’s donation.

“It is so generous of Ms. Fullem to offer these family treasures. They are in perfect condition and just beautiful. I feel so supported and hope to honor Ms. Fullem’s family by putting them to good use!” Dzis said.

Two of six vests that a St. Charles resident will be donating to Marlena Dzis. | Photos courtesy of Cassie Fullem

Two of six vests that a St. Charles resident will be donating to Marlena Dzis. | Photos courtesy of Cassie Fullem

Lucyna Migala, the founder and director of The Lira Ensemble, said she plans to call Fullem to discuss the donation.

“It’s a terrible thing to have these costumes stolen but it just shows how nice people can be,” Migala said.

Migala, a singer, said it has taken her 52 years to get the collection of outfits worn by The Lira Ensemble performers.

“We fit the clothing to the performer’s measurements and over time we’ve gotten better with making them bigger and smaller, people wear these costumes for a long time and their bodies change. The nice thing is to have an outfit made just for you and that fits you so well. It takes time and effort, and to have someone that has no use for them while we need them so desperately, that’s the sad part,” Migala said.

Dzis previously said she had expected to wear the handmade outfits, sewn and embroidered in Poland just for her, for as long as she could.

“People see their families in us, their mothers, their grandmothers. They see them in our faces and in the music we sing. It means the world to be able to do that for someone. I had planned to be with this company for a lifetime. These costumes are so hard to replace,” Dzis said.

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