Priceless Polish Costumes Stolen
by Geraldine Balut Coleman
CHICAGO — This past Christmas Eve, as everyone was preparing to celebrate the holiday, Marlena Dzis (inset) walked to her car and received a shock that she
never expected. Five priceless Polish costumes packed in a garment bag that she had left on the back seat of her car, were gone in a “smash-and-grab” robbery.
Dzis frantically spent the day wandering the alleys of her Chicago Wicker Park neighborhood, searching through dumpsters and garbage cans for the Lira Ensemble
Polish costumes. She even followed a garbage truck in hopes of finding them. She contacted the Chicago Police Department, which is investigating the case.
The police stated that the car was broken into between 8:00 p.m. on Sat., Dec. 23, and 9:00 a.m. on Sun., Dec. 24. Marlena has since contacted resale and pawn
shops and is hoping that nearby security cameras might offer some clues. Statistically, her chances that these priceless costumes will be recovered are poor.
Each of these costumes is hand-beaded and hand-embroidered in Poland with each representing a different region of Poland. They are so unique that they are
virtually impossible for someone else to wear or even sell. The value of each costume is approximately $600, but to Marlena they really are priceless. Unfortunately, it is likely that they were discarded by the
The costumes were on loan to Dzis from the Lira Ensemble, for which she is a vocalist. She doesn’t care who stole the outfits or why. She just wants them
returned. No questions asked. They could be dropped them off at any police station.
Donna Makowski, a Chicago criminal defense lawyer, on behalf of the Advocates Society, an association of Polish American attorneys, has offered
to pay a cash reward of $1,000 for the safe return of the costumes. Additionally, Cassie Fullem of St. Charles, Illinois, has offered to donate six hand-embroidered vests once worn by her older sister, who was a
member of the “Polka Dolls” dance troupe during the 1960s and 1970s. Marlena has graciously accepted Fullem’s offer, but acknowledges that she has learned one important lesson, “Never
leave anything in my car.”