By Natalie C. McGovern, News Editor
Andrew Lewandowski comes from a heritage that is both meaningful, different and rich in tradition. Lewandowski and his sister Sarah, both UNO students, were adopted from a young age. Lewandowski was adopted as a baby from Calcutta, India and Sarah, was adopted from Daejeon, South Korea.
After moving with his parents from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Lewandowski’s family made Omaha their home. Over the years Lewandowski wanted to identify with his culture and feel the connection he yearned for with other Indian adoptees. Indian culture camps he has attended have helped him to reconnect and unite with other Indian adoptees and share their stories of triumph and struggle. Lewandowski first connected to his heritage after attending the Holt Camp in 1998, and made of lifelong friends that he still can relate to as brothers and sisters. Being involved in the music scene in Omaha and starting his own recording home business, Lewandowski Productions, he has found a creative outlet to incorporate Indian culture and share it with other adoptees.
Lewandowski, 23, graduated from Roncalli Catholic High School in 2006 and is an education major. He has been creating music for his adoptee camps for four years and has made Indian culture CDs for charities to help adoptees learn about and become more familiar with their grassroots. Currently studying to be a teacher and pursuing a degree in elementary education and special education endorsement, he looks to incorporate music elements into the classroom.
Serving as a mentor, for India Nepolise Heritage Camp through adoption agency Holt International and the International Mission of Hope, the agency he was adopted from, Lewandowski speaks on behalf of Indian adoptees.He talks to parents of adoptees about the struggles of what they go through in their day-to-day lives, incorporating Indian culture that’s relevant to life and covering issues such as finding adoptees’ birth parents and dating.
Lewandowski has been creating music for his adoptee camps for years and has made Indian culture CDs to help them learn and become more familiar with their grassroots. In the summer of 2010 Andrew revisited his first culture camp and reunited with his close friends he rarely gets to see.
“[You look] at their stories of connecting and the different challenges in their life because you look different,“Lewandowski said. “I listen to what the kids say and what counselors say as well. “The power of adoption is about a universal theme.”
Aspects Lewandowski touches on with his music are things that Bollywood culture in general does not teach adopted children. Lewandowski brings the spice of Indian tradition to life. His songs are about the Indian festivals of Divali, or how to count in Hindi.
Divali, the festival of lights, is similar to Halloween in which lanterns are lit to to symbolize the triumph of good over evil. Holi, the equivalent of the Jewish holiday Purim, is the festival of colors and celebrates by tossing dry paint thrown in the air, as well as on participants involved. Other holidays the culture the camps have celebrated are festivals Vaisakhi, and Navaratri.
Authentic Indian food is also another part of the culture camps. Traditional foods such as chicken pikka, a curry and spicy dish, is a favorite, as well as mango lasse and naan bread, a form of flat bread. __
Lewandowski plans to attend the India Nepolis Heritage Camp in Denver this July. He has performed in the Omaha Press Club Show, recorded with Chuck Pennington of Manheim Steamroller, and recorded with independent music composer Karen Javitch. In Feb 2012 Lewandowski participated in the annual Omaha Press Club show and had the opportunity to meet and perform with Warren Buffett. Proud of this achievement, Lewandowski marvels at the prestigious opportunites he has had in Omaha and the local celebrities he has had the privilege to meet while pursuing performance and musical aspirations.
While friends have visited India, he has not yet had the opportunity to visit his homeland. If he ever has the chance to visit India, Lewandowski said his ultimate goal is to visit the Taj Mahal. He said he would have loved to have met Mother Theresa and is inspired by her philanthropic legacy that’s lived on, influencing global and national adoptee communities.