Jan Lewan

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Jan Lewan
The King of Polka - Sundance Festival cropped.jpg
Lewan at Sundance Film Festival in 2017
Jan Lewandowski

1941 (age 76–77)
NationalityPolish, American
Other namesPolka King, Dowski
OccupationSongwriter, Polka band leader and Tour Guide
Criminal chargeFraud
ChildrenDaniel Lewandowski

Jan Lewandowski (Polish pronunciation: [lɛvanˈdɔfskʲi]; born 1941 in Bydgoszcz, Poland) known professionally as Jan Lewan, is a Polish-American songwriter and polka band leader. Lewan's financial crimes were described by The Morning Call as a "classic Ponzi scheme".[1]

Lewan's life has been depicted in multiple films, first in the 2007 TV documentary Mystery of the Polka King, the 2009 documentary film The Man Who Would Be Polka King, and the 2017 American comedy film The Polka King, in which Lewandowski is portrayed by Jack Black,[2][3][4] which was released on Netflix on January 12, 2018.[5]

Early life[edit]

Information on Lewan's early life is found primarily on his official website, which states that Lewan was born in Bydgoszcz in northern Poland in 1941 during the German occupation of the country during World War II.[6] As a young child Lewan loved music and enrolled in Conservatory of Music in Gdansk. He also sang in an opera. Lewan served in the Central Polish Army for several years as all young men in Poland were obliged to do at the time. Lewan played in music halls across Poland and Northern Europe including the National Philharmonic in Warsaw.[6] When Lewan came to the United States he later met his first wife Rhonda Lewan during a telethon and wed later on, and in 2011 officially divorced. Rhonda Lewan then married Steve Saive.


After his career in Europe, Lewan moved to the United States via Canada. He settled in Northeastern Pennsylvania where he continued his polka career. He was a main part in the foundation of Pennsylvania Polka on PCN. During this time Lewan toured frequently. Notable tours were to Poland, Ireland, Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, England, Israel, Russia, Greece, Egypt and Ukraine.

He created a polka oriented orchestra and recorded several albums. Lewan's self titled album, Jan Lewan And His Orchestra, was nominated for a Grammy in 1995. Lewan went on to perform even bigger polka shows in the prestigious Las Vegas Hilton Showroom, Las Vegas Sands Convention Center, and Atlantic City's Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Atlantis Hotel and Casino, and Trump Castle Hotel Casino.

Lewan's legacy was the focal point of the 2007 TV documentary Mystery of Polka King, its 2009 documentary film follow up The Man Who Would Be Polka King, as well as the 2017 comedy film The Polka King in which Lewan is portrayed by Jack Black.[7]

Legal issues[edit]

Lewan owned and operated a gift store in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. When he would tour back in Poland, he would bring back jewelry and other goods to sell in the store. To support the store, he also sold shares in the business and promised returns of 12 percent and 20 percent to investors, many of whom had traveled with him. The state of Pennsylvania warned him to stop selling securities, but he continued. In 2004 Lewan was arrested for defrauding some 400 people in 22 states of millions of dollars. Lewan was sentenced to five years and 11 months imprisonment by a federal court judge as well as a seven year sentence in New Jersey, which were served concurrently.[1] Lewan was prosecuted by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. The case was handled by Deputy Attorney General Francine Pozner-Ehrenberg. Lewan was sentenced by the Mercer County Superior Court on Money Laundering and Securities Fraud charges.

While in prison in Delaware in 2004, Lewan was stabbed in the neck by a cellmate. He was taken to a nearby hospital and was released back to prison several days later. The perpetrator of the stabbing had 15 years added to his sentence.[citation needed] Lewan was released from prison in 2009.[8][9]

Awards and honors[edit]

List of awards nominations[edit]

Year Award Result Ref(s)
1995 Grammy Award for Best Polka Album Nominated [10]

Vehicle accident[edit]

On January 26, 2001, Lewan's tour bus wrecked en route to Florida for six shows. Two of his musicians were killed, he was injured and his son Daniel suffered critical injuries.[11]


  1. ^ a b "Polka king's scamming ways get him jail time". The Morning Call. 2004-10-15. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  2. ^ "Polka, Ponzi and prison: Jack Black stars in Netflix film about Hazleton's Jan Lewan". The Morning Call. 11 January 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  3. ^ "How 'The Polka King' Turns A Real-Life Con Artist Into One Of Jack Black's Most Endearing Roles". MoviePilot.com. 9 January 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  4. ^ Patten, Dominic (December 5, 2016). "Sundance 2017: Robert Redford, New Rashida Jones Netflix Series, 'Rebel In The Rye' & More On Premiere, Docu, Midnight & Kids Slates". Deadline Hollywood.
  5. ^ "January premieres on Netflix". Screencrush. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  6. ^ a b Lewan, Jan. "About me - Jan Lewan Lewandowski - Official website". About me. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  7. ^ Jaafar, Ali (March 10, 2016). "Jack Black To Star In And Produce Jan Lewan Biopic 'The Man Who Would Be Polka King'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  8. ^ "Filming for 'The Polka King' gets started | The Valley Breeze". www.valleybreeze.com. July 19, 2016. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  9. ^ Smith, Andy (July 19, 2016). "Shooting in Cranston, Jack Black movie looking for extras". The Providence Journal. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  10. ^ "Jan Lewan Grammy nominations and bio". Grammy.com. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  11. ^ "When an American Dream Turns into an American Tragedy… Jan Lewan strives for redemption". cosmopolitanreview.com. Retrieved 2018-03-24.

External links[edit]