Celebrating 150 years
of Canada’s Polish Kashub heritage
May 6, 2008, Bytown Museum, Ottawa
Ewa Zadarnowski, President of the Polish Canadian Women’ s Federation,
Ottawa Branch, Dr Piotr Ogrodzinski, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in
Canada, Mr. Jerzy Czartoryski, President of the Canadian Polish Congress,
Ottawa Branch, and David Shulist, President of the Wilno Heritage Society,
addressed representatives form Canada’s Polish and Polish Kashub communities
at the official opening of the Exhibit Celebrating 150 years of Canada’s Polish Kashub heritage.
Mr. Rick Norlock, MP (Quinte Northumberland) and descendant of the original
Kashubs in Canada, was delayed because of a late day vote in the House of Commons.
It is very fitting that this celebratory exhibit is featured in the capital
of Canada as Canada prides itself on being a multi-cultural mosaic enriched
by the heritage of its many peoples, some of whom still retain elements of their
original cultural traditions although they have been in Canada for many generations.
One such group are the Kashubs who are recognized as the first large group of Polish
immigrants to arrive in Canada with their Canadian history starting in 1858. Today,
the Kashubs constitute the most distinct regional and ethnocultural group in Poland.
Canada’s Kashubian cultural heritage has recently become more readily recognized with
the creation of the Polish Kashub Heritage Park and Museum in Wilno, which is
recognized as Canada’s first Polish Settlement and is still home to many descendants of the pioneer families.
Shirley Mask Connolly, curator of Polish Kashub Heritage
Museum in Wilno teamed up with Ewa Zadarnowski, President of the Polish-Canadian Women’s Federation,
Ottawa Branch, to co-ordinate this special 150th Anniversary Exhibit at the Bytown
Museum in celebration of this unique heritage.
The Exhibit features a variety of display panels using photographs and copies
of original documentation to describe the arrival of the first Kashubs in Canada
in 1858 and their struggle to survive on land with little agricultural potential.
Included are emigration documents as well as reports from the Canadian Government
Immigration Department [then under the Department of Agriculture].
The Kashubs came to Canada in hope of a better life and land to farm. They arrived
here penniless but were sustained by their strong faith. Through sheer determination,
they endured great hardship and deprivation and survived in the wild free grant lands
of the Opeongo Colonization Road and the nearby townships.
The exhibit at the Bytown also includes photographs of Kashubian immigrant families,
their first Canadian homes and farms, as well as an antique wedding portrait,
Crown Land Reports and a Free Grant deed. Artifacts include colourful contemporary Kashubian
revival pottery and embroidery juxtaposed with a few treasures of the pioneer Kashubian
home - primarily religious objects such as their precious Polish hymn books (Spiewniks), prayer books,
prayer beads and holy pictures. Also on display is the richly embroidered "ceremonial"
costume of a Kashubian woman.
This display is a reminder of the rich cultural heritage and proud inheritance of a unique
group of Canadians who can trace their roots back a century and a half - and whose culture
endures to the present day.
The Exhibit continues until June 22 at the Community Gallery in the Bytown Museum
in Ottawa and then will be moved [in part] to the McDougall Mill Museum in Renfrew for the month of July.
Shirley Mask- Connolly
Curator Wilno Heritage Museum
Photo gallery from the event