The "Cztery Refy" were formed in 1985. All the founding members of the band were members of the "AKZ" (Academic Sailing Club) in Lodz. In their first year they took part in the "Shanties '86" festival in Cracow where they won their first award, 3rd prize in the classic shanty category. Over the years the band won many more prizes and appeared at all the major shanty venues in Poland. The band were involved in founding the annual classic shanty festival "Kubryk" ("Forecastle"), which AKZ - Lodz have been organising since 1985.
In 1991 the "Refy" were frequently abroad, but they did find time to record "Plyn z nami w Rejs" ("Sail with us on our Voyage"). In 1992 the band chartered the brigantine "Henryk Rutkowski" (now known as "Kapitan Glowacki") and sailed to Holland and England to take part in the Swanage Watersport Festival. In England the band met up with many old friends, including Ken, and recruited several new fans! Other concerts took place in Friesland, and in the club house of The Royal Solent Yacht Club on the Isle of Wight, where the "Rutkowski" with its singing crew made quite an impression. That year the Refy also appeared in the "Sang under Segel" festival in Karlskronie, Sweden and released "Sea Songs and Shanties", the first sea shanty collection to be published on CD in Poland.
1993 was planned on similar lines to 1992, the group performed at Karlskrona and once again chartered and crewed the "Rutkowski". This time thanks to the help of their friend, Andrew Goltz, the brigantine called at 18 ports and the "Refy" played in London's St Katherine's Dock, the Walton-on-Naze Folk Festival and the Rotterdam Sea Shanties festival, as well as in many dock-side bars and clubs in: Chatham, Ipswich, Ramsgate, Yarmouth IOW, Poole and Swanage.
The "Refy" continued to play a leading role in the Lodz "Kubryk" with the participation of many international artists including John Townley, Simon Spalding (USA), Irish Stew (Friesland) and Ken Stephens, and East Whistle (England). The joint sessions with Simon Spalding lead to a brilliantly successful Polish - American partnership which was immortalized on the cassette "Round the Capstan".
In 1994 the band visited the United States for the first time and provided a stirring musical accompaniment to the visit of the Polish tall ships "Zawisza Czarny" and "Pogoria". The "Refy" recruited new fans in Milwaukee, Chicago and Bay City. Returning to Poland the group found themselves sailing again, this time on board the "Barlovento II". In spite of bad conditions on the North Sea the band was able to perform on schedule at the international festivals in Wilhelmshaven and Rotterdam. In Autumn of that year the group performed at the festival in Workum in Friesland which is held just before the start of the Stront Race regatta.
In 1995 the "Refy" complete two more collections, "Kiedy z morza wraca Jack" ("When Jack returns from the Sea") and "Bitwy morskie" ("Sea Battles"). Also that year the band celebrated its 10th birthday and at "Kubryk '95" were re-united with many of their former members. 1995 also included another visit to England with appearances at the "Sea Fever" festival in Hull as well as concerts in Gainsborough and Manchester. Other concerts overseas, included Rotterdam and Goredijk in Holland, and Vegesack - Bremen in Germany.
1996 saw the band in England (again!) this time representing Central and Eastern Europe at the International Festival of the Sea in Bristol alongside nearly 100 artists from all over the world. Returning to Poland the band co-organised and played at the 1st Jeziorak Shanties Meeting in Ilawa. In 1997 the "Refy's" overseas performances include the Langesund Shanty Festival in Norway and the Korsør International Festival of Shanties and Sea Songs in Denmark. While there the band took part in the recording of the CD "Shanghaied Crew" together with Bob Webb (USA), the Rocky River Bush Band (Australia) and the founder - Helge Arildsø (Denmark). The band's co-operation with Simon Spalding gave birth to another cassette, "On Deck!". Towards the beginning of 1998 the band released "Czas w morze ruszac nam" ("It's Time to Go to Sea") on cassette and CD.
In 1999 the "Refy" underwent a few personnel changes and played at many well known Polish festivals as well as on some new stages. They also performed in Norway, Denmark and Germany. The band, which has over many years stubbornly refused to yield to the pressures of commercialisation, demonstrated its continuing appeal by receiving three prizes at "Shanties '99". In 2000 a some of their songs were published on CD's containing sea songs collections sung by various artists. In Poland: "W tawernie buja bezpiecznie" ("In a Tavern it's safe to Rock") - with Polish performers, and in Germany: "Lieder von den Küsten der Welt" ("The Songs from the Bays of the World") - with well known performers attending the Festival Musik Maritim '2000 (Vegesack) from Denmark, England, France, Holland and Germany.
"Refy" enters a new century without any personal changes. In 2001 they visited Liverpool (International River Mersey Festival), Karlskrona (Baltic Sail 2001), Porstmouth (International Festival of the Sea) and Lübeck (International Hafenfestival). At some festivals they performed with a new honorary member - Ian Woods.
In January 2002 "Cztery Refy" started to record a couple of new pieces. A new album - "Wszyscy na deck!" ("All Hands on Deck!") was released two months later. In February (XXI International Festival "Shanties'2002" in Cracow) we were awarded the Grand Prix.
In 2003 the band first time visited Scotland (Edinborough - International Festival of the Sea). This year they sailed and performed aboard the biggest sail training vessel of the world - "Sedov" which took part in "Cutty Sark Tall Ship Races" in Gdynia. Next year "Refy" released their "new" 2 CD's album - "Tak bylo (1987-1992)", containing the old recordings in CD edition. They performed also in Liverpool (at International River Mersey Festival).
In 2005 the group created some special programmes which were performed at some major concerts in Poland to celebrate its 20-th birthday. After 10 years break they also performed in the Netherlands. The band met again Ian Woods and they performed together in a few places in Poland. They also decided to finish a joint recording session. A recapitulation of the 20 years output of the band is a master's thesis written by Katarzyna Wasilewska-Strzalkowska: "Szanty i piesni zeglarskie w repertuarze zespolu Cztery Refy (1985-2005)" - ("Shanties and sailors' songs within the repertoire of the band Cztery Refy) (1985-2005)".
In 2006 the "Refy" issued the CD "Time and Tide" which was recorded with Ian Woods - their English friend and a "honarary member of the band". This year the band was invited to the United States to join "The Tall Ships Celebration" in Bay City. They also performed in Chicago and its surrounings, and at the end of the year again in the US, in New York. After a longer break the "Refy" visited Karlskrona (Sweden) and next year also Rotterdam (the Netherlands). The band was also active at many festivals and performed on many stages in Poland.
In 2008 the "Refy" were awarded the Stan Hugill Prize, and the Audience Prize at "Shanties '2008" in Cracow. Between a dozen of folk groups or so called "shanty groups" they are still one of the most known and most experienced, however, now they are also one of only few Polish bands that prefer a natural and traditional way of performing.
In 2010 Cztery Refy celebrated their 25-th anniversary. A new album containing two CD's with mostly known songs (in English) and tunes was released in 2011. That year the band visited the Netherlands (Appingedam, International Shanty Festival "Bie Daip") and England (Harwich Shanty Festival 2011 and Oxford).
In 2012 the band takes part in a new project "Opowiesci i piesni z kubryku i wacht" (which means "Tales and Songs from Deck and Below" joining interesting stories, account of sailing trips, photos, films and songs from the repertoire of Cztery Refy, connected with a topic of the meeting. The project includes the series of meetings also in next years. Next year the band recorded 2CD album "Live" from the concert which took place at Radio Lodz. The album contains mainly well known songs. These are first concert CDs in the history of the band.
The band's repertoire consists of over 250 shanties, sea ballads, whaling and fishing songs, songs about sea battles and instrumental pieces based on the folklore of Ireland, Scotland, England and Brittany. The "Cztery Refy's" repertoire is still being added and some of the old songs are getting better. And still the band has not yielded to the temptations of commercialisation.