Bernadette Zawisny was born in Brooklyn, New York to Stanislawa and Jozef Tluczek on April 13, 1966. She was a surprise package to her parents who had just emigrated to America from Poland nine months earlier. She is older sister to her brother John. Bernadette is proud aunt to attorneys, Mark, Yolanda and Marta, Businessman Christopher Zawisny. Nieces, Patricia and Natalia, Nicole and Joey. Bernadette attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help elementary school in Brooklyn and Bishop Kearney High School. Bernadette attended the Henryk Sienkiewicz School for Polish Studies at Prospect Hall every Saturday. She graduated the eight year program proudly after getting a degree in Polish language, history and studies. At the age of 15, Bernadette took a job as a volunteer at Miamomides Hospital in Brooklyn, but volunteering does not pay the bills. As much as she loved it! So not to be a burden to her parents, Bernadette took a job at the famous local Polish store, Eagle Provisions. It is there she met her jusband, Richard … a mere eleven years her senior. Sche couldn’t stand him when she met him either! She often debated quitting, but she adored his brother John and decided to stay! I guess opposites do attract and Bernadette fell in love with Richard. Bernadette and Richard married on August 26, 1984, two months after her high school graduation. Bernadette went on to Wagner College for one year … two months before giving birth to her first child, Janine Jennifer Zawisny. Bernadette planned on becoming a nurse, but motherhood took over. Richard Jr. followed eighteen months later. By the time Bernadette was 27, she was a proud mom to five children. They are her pride and joy. They are the loves of her life. Bernadette also had another love. She loved her Polish ancestry and heritage. She first became involved in the Polish community. Richard became South Brooklyn Marshal in 1991. Niece Yolanda bexcame Miss Polonia of South Brooklyn and Bernadette became hooked on the Polish community! “I was secretary of the South Brooklyn Parade Committee for a couple of years before the traveling took its toll. But I have and I will always love South Brooklyn, Atlas Savings Bank and Our Lady of Czestochowa! They are what made me love the Polish community. You can take the girl out of Brooklyn … but you cannot take Brooklyn out of the girl.”
Bernadette was active in several local charities both Polish and non Polish. Bernadette and her husband became very passionate about the Polish Gift of Life which is based in Long Island. The Polish Gift of Life raises money for heart transplants for babies and young children in Poland who need heart transplants. They have no chance of survival without the transplant. They have saved so many children. Not too long after, The Polish Gift of Life honored Bernadette and Richard for their efforts in helping save these children. One of the highlights of life was when Richard was nominated to become Grand Marshal of the Polish Parade in 1998. In the year 2000, Richard was nominated to be honored by the Center for Migration Studies on Todt Hill, Staten Island. Then they served as honorary chairpersons in 2003 for the Kosciuszko Foundations annual ball. An extremely great privilege within the Polish community.
One of the proudest moments of Bernadette’s life was the Father Marek Suchocki asked Bernadette if she would take Emilie LiGreci’s place as Miss Polonia Chairlady of Staten Island. Emilie’s unexpected death in 2001 left some pretty big shoes to fill and they thought of Bernadette? Very big compliment. Very shy and very unsure she could do the job, she graciously accepted.
Bernadette has also served as co chairlady of the Bell at the Marriott Marquis for Honorable Senator Raymond Lesniak, Grand Marshal 2005. She is a proud member of the Kosciuszko Foundation and the Pro Arte League.