Polish Institute Kaszuby in Canada THE POLISH HERITAGE


About Us

Short History
of the Polish Heritage Institute Kaszuby

Located in the beautiful Ontario country of forests, hills. lakes and rivers in Renfrew County, lies the region of Barry's Bay, Wilno and Round Lake. To today's tourists it is known as "Madawaska Valley", but to people of Polish origin it is "Kaszuby"- named after the part of northern Poland from which the first settlers arrived here in the mid 19th century. The beauty of the Ontario's Kaszuby and its vibrant traditions have attracted many post World War II Polish immigrants. Consequently, scores of summer cottages have been built, many permanent residences have been established and Polish youth camps organized - Kaszuby became the focus of Polish scouting in Canada.

In 1985 a group of Polish Canadians, who have built their cottages in the "Kaszuby" area, founded the Polish Heritage Institute Kaszuby (PHIK). The initiative came from Dr. Teodor Blachut from Ottawa and he was the first president of the organization. In May 1987 the Institute obtained a "Charter" as a "nonprofit organization". The aim of the Polish Heritage Institute Kaszuby is to promote the Polish heritage and traditions in this area where the first Polish Kaszub settlers arrived and laid the foundations for the development of this beautiful part of Canada.

In the first years of existence the Polish Heritage Institute Kaszuby organized many cultural events during the summer seasons. They invited and hosted several choirs, Polish folk-dancing groups, artists and lecturers to this area.

In 1986 the Institute organized a photography contest to highlight the Kaszuby region. It was very successful and the opening of the exhibition of the photographs at Madawaska Valley District High School in Barry's Bay was attended by a large group of people and local dignitaries including our then M.P. Sean Conway.

That contest was the first step in the preparation for the book "The Polish Inheritance - Ontario's Kaszuby" which was published in 1991. It was a collective work under the editorship of Anna Zurakowski (152 pages, 172 photographs, 48 in full colour). The book was very well received and in the first 2 years 2500 copies of the book were sold.

The next project was to help local Polish Kashub people in creating a museum. Wilno, as the first settlement and the site of the first Polish parish in Canada was the best location for the museum. It turned out that this was not the best moment to continue with this project especially because the current president Mr. Ray Stamplecoski left the area. This was a difficult moment for the Institute but the members decided that there were many other worthwhile projects to pursue and elected Anna Zurakowski as a next president. She remained in that position to October 2008.

Farther activities of the Polish Heritage Institute Kaszuby:

  • The members of PHIK took part and helped during celebrations of 130 anniversary of Wilno Parish.

  • In 1991 and 2000, the Institute helped to bring to this area from Kartuzy in Poland dance and song group "Kaszuby". The Institute provided assistance with their board and accommodation as well as with their travel expenses.

  • In 1999 the members of PHIK took part in organizing the memorial celebration for Father Ignatius Grzondziel and helped to erect a stone monument with plaque, close to the Franciscan Centre at Kaszuby.

  • In 2000 during the "Polish Day" in Ottawa in the Nepean Centre, the PHIK set up a table with a display of books, pictures and folk art from Kaszuby area.

  • Also in 2000, the PHIK took part in the exhibition in the Bytown museum in Ottawa (close to the Parliament Buildings). The PHIK part of the display featured a wooden folding stand - ("triptych") with 15 openings showing maps, old photographs of people and places, and telling the story of first Kaszub settlers (in English and in French). This display was at the museum for seven months.

  • When the Wilno Heritage Society was founded the PHIK offered assistance to this organizations and supported the initiative of the Wilno Heritage Society to create a "Heritage Park" and later a museum. PHIK presented them with an oak display cupboard in the style of Wilno furniture as a showcase cabinet for artifacts. The PHIK also has provided the Wilno Heritage Society with letters of support and contributions of costumes, books and artifacts to museum and resource library.

  • The members of PHIK took part in translating several articles and lectures from Polish into English and assisted in the publication of the book "Kashubia to Canada, Crossing on Agda" by Shirley Mask Connolly.

  • In 2003 we prepared the second "triptych", this time telling the story of Polish immigrants who came to this area after the World War II. This triptych was displayed during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the building of the Chapel at Kaszuby by the Franciscan Fathers. For the same celebration, the PHIK printed a brochure in both Polish and in English with pictures and stories from these 50 years .

  • On several occasions at boy scouts and girl guides bonfires, the members of PHIK attended and recounted the history of the Kaszuby region in Canada.

  • During the last 20 years PHIK had hosted and assisted many scholars, professors and other guests from Poland who were visiting this area, including Prof. Jozef Borzyszkowski, Prof. Edward Breza, Prof. Tadeusz Linkner and Prof. Jerzy Samp from the University of Gdansk.

  • 1st of April 2005 there was an official celebration at the Museum of Civilisation in Ottawa of unveiling the Canadian textile artwork labelled "the Quilt of Belonging". In 1999 the PHIK organization was approached by the Canadian Polish Congress and asked to prepare a "Polish block" for this quilt - with a Kaszubian design, because the Kaszub settlers were the first large group who came to Canada from the Polish territories. This "block" was beautifully embroidered by PHIK member Halina Urbanowicz and is centrally placed in the "Quilt of Belonging" which measures 37 metres long. The quilt is made up of 263 "blocks" from all nationalities living in Canada.

  • In May 2005, the Wilno Heritage Society paid tribute to the Polish Heritage Institute Kaszuby for making an impact on their organization. A stone placed in the Wilno Heritage Park was unveiled during the annual picnic celebrating Kaszubian heritage and history.

  • The next project of the PHIK is to publish a guide book (in Polish and in English) to the Kaszuby region in Canada.

  • The Guide "Canadian Kashube" was complited and ready for distribution before the summer 2008 and was met with the very positive comments. Since the first printing of 500 was sold out during the summer season, an additional 500 copies were printed and are ready for distribution for the coming year.

  • 2008 was the year of celebrations commemorating the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Polish Kashubs in Canada. Our Institut was invited and participated in many celebrations connected with this anniversary:
    1. A reception on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 10, 2008.
    2. Polish Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dziwisz from Poland in Wilno, Ont. on June 14, 2008.
    3. The celebrations in Wilno Heritage Park - August 1, 2, 3, 2008

    The Institute contributed to the cost of celebration by printing their brochure in Polish and also donated 3 benches for the Wilno Heritage Park.

    On behalf of our Institute, Anna Zurakowski and Tadeusz Kay provided welcome and accomodations for the delegates from Kartuzy in Poland and during the celebration they both received Merit Awards of the Senate of the Republic of Poland presented by Senator Kazimierz Kleina.

  • At our Institute's request, the sign at the entrance to the Old Barry's Bay Rd. pointing to "Kaszuby" was reinstated.