by Annette Pinder

Ania Duchon is owner and president of Chrusciki Bakery, Pierogi Pete’s, Sto Lat Bar, and Events by Sto Lat. The evolution of these businesses is a story about love, determination, and commitment to family, friends, and community.

Ania and her sister Monika were born in Gdansk, Poland, where they lived with their parents Hanna and Tadeusz Robieniek. “Gdansk is a beautiful city, rich in history and architecture,” says Ania. Life in Poland under communism was corrupt in the 1980s, so her parents left everything behind in 1984 to pursue safety and the American Dream. Unfortunately, that meant temporarily leaving Ania (age 9) and Monika (age 12) behind under the care of their Aunt Dorotka.

Tadeusz, who had been a physical education teacher, and Hanna, a Board of Education member who also worked with battered women, lived in Germany for 18 months before receiving a sponsorship to come to America from St. Stanislaus Church in Buffalo. As fate would have it, the Robienieks arrived during the Blizzard of 1985, unable to speak English, with $100 and two suitcases. They were taken to a sparsely furnished apartment on the East Side of Buffalo where they slept on a floor mattress, using coats for blankets. They met a Catholic Charities caseworker, Marta Golab, who helped them resettle, and Father Golombek and St. John Kanty Church parishioners who donated household necessities.

After three months, the Robienieks learned enough English to find jobs. “Mom worked at Buffalo China, and Dad at U.S. Sugar Company,” says Ania. They eventually met Elizabeth Poslinski, owner of E&M Bakery at the Broadway Market, where they worked part-time helping make chrusciki. Not long after, they purchased the business and renamed it Chrusciki Bakery.

Meanwhile, Ania and Monika were facing significant danger in Poland due to radiation exposure from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. “Our parents brought us to Buffalo in December 1986, where we immediately attended Catholic schools, and learned English from the nuns, but we never fit in.” We had an industrial kitchen at home and helped bake after school, which caused our classmates to comment about the smell of donuts during class. I was too embarrassed to admit I was the cause. It was mortifying. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I began to love myself and embrace my story,” says Ania.

In 2010, Ania took over the family business and opened a second location in Lancaster with the help of her advisor, Tom Kerr. In 2020, she opened Chrusciki Bakery, Simply Pierogi, and Sto Lat Bar in Clarence. Recently, Pierogi Pete’s, where you can build your own pierogi bowl, opened in East Amherst. Ania is now excited about her latest venture, Sto Lat with Ania, a television show that engages viewers with cooking, cocktails, and meaningful conversation with local leaders.

Reflecting on her success, Ania says it’s important to treat others the way you want to be treated, and to surround yourself with talented people who have good intentions. She believes in empowering, uplifting, and respecting others. Ania embraces many charities, including Hope Rises Network, P.U.N.T, Power of the Pack of WNY, and Chrusciki Champions, an initiative she created in partnership with Hope Rises to honor everyday heroes for their random acts of kindness. Ania also finds power in supporting and collaborating with other women. Her favorite women’s networking group is WINC Buffalo.

Ania is grateful for those who have supported her, including her husband and partner Andrew; Peter Coyle, co-owner of Sto Lat Bar and Pierogi Pete’s; Ben McBride, Executive Chef; and Dominique Emer, who contributed to Chrusciki’s success. Having been a single mom for many years, Ania’s children Cody (29), Austin (26), and Dylan (19) are proud of her accomplishments. Cody manages Sto Lat Bar and just recently welcomed Ania’s first grandson, Teddy, with his wife Alyssa. Austin lives in Spain with his fiancée Marta, and Dylan manages Pierogi Pete’s and is a production assistant on Sto Lat with Ania. Her parents, now married 54 years, spend time in Florida, Poland, and Buffalo. Her sister Monika owns Enchanted Market Gifts at the Broadway Market, and her Aunt Dorotka lives in Toronto with her family.

When asked how she manages to avoid gaining weight when surrounded by so much food, Ania says her secret is moderation, getting eight hours of sleep, eating lots of fruits and veggies, practicing Pilates, and weight training. She also emphasizes the importance of cancer screening, as it saved the lives of both her mom and middle son. Ania is currently loving being a new babcia, and says, “Being a grandmother changes everything!”