"But Where are Your Children?"
Extract from a recent speech by Colonel W. Perchal of the Royal Regiment of Canada, addressing
Polish-Canadian World War Two veterans:
"Why are your children not here with you? Who will remember you, if they are not here, to learn
what you have accomplished? Who will remember, if not they? What will happen to your legacy, if they forget?" *
The Children Awaken
It is time to pass the torch of remembrance. In honour of their parents, Polish victims and survivors
of World War Two, the children have come together to keep the memory of their parents' odyssey alive.
THE KITCHENER, ONTARIO, CANADA GATHERING OF THE GENERATIONS WAS HELD ON THE WEEKEND
OF MAY 5/6, 2007 AT THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION - POLISH VETERANS' HALL.
THE TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA GATHERING WAS HELD ON SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2007 AT THE POLISH COMBATANTS' HALL,
206 BEVERLEY ST.
Planned with the second generation in mind by fellow members of the second generation, the events
are informal and conducted in the English language. The children and grandchildren of the Polish survivors, both veteran and
civilian, will trade stories and take advantage of the event to learn a bit of the history of the varied Polish experience
during World War Two through displays of memorabilia, text and photo life histories and visual displays of rare
WW2 film footage.
The living survivors are all invited to attend as the honoured guests of their children. They will be able
to share their first hand experiences with us and we, in turn, have set aside a portion of the program to pay tribute to them
and to the survivors and victims who are no longer with us.
For further information please call Henry Sokolowski at 905-569-0642 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Quote courtesy of Aleksander Borucki, Editor, SPK w Kanadzie, issue 2/175
Poor Treatment in Canada
For many years after the war Polish soldiers, who had fought alongside the British and
Canadians during World War Two, were unwelcome in Soviet-dominated Poland. This is not a huge surprise as the Poles,
who understood the ugly reality of Soviet Communism, were rabidly anti-Soviet.
As the war wound down and in the immediate post-war period, the British encouraged the Poles to
return home. The Poles however, did not want to return to a Soviet dominated state. Hundreds of thousands remained
in Britain, Italy, Germany and elsewhere and the problem of what to do with the Poles created a tremendous,
raging debate over their future. Many were given the option of emigrating to Canada, Australia or elsewhere.
However, within the Commonwealth, they were not allowed free movement, which they may have expected
after their service as loyal Allies of the British throughout the war, but instead, they had to submit to a two-year labour
contract, mostly on farms, before they were given their freedom. This was in effect, a form of forced labour, the very
kind of treatment they had spent the war years fighting against. Furthermore, a stay on a prairie farm during the winter,
with hard work, poor shelter and insufficient food, was ironically, almost identical to the conditions they thought they had
left behind in Siberia.
The first Polish veterans allowed to immigrate to Canada, arrived in 1946 aboard the SS Sea
Robin and SS Sea Snipe.
The following passages, the first of which appeared in the Edmonton Journal on November
12, 1946, alternatively refer to the Poles as veterans (honourable men) and as a commodity (labour) :
"First 1,700 Poles Arrive in Canada
Halifax... A happy queue of beribboned Polish war veterans
marched off a big transport early Tuesday onto the Canadian soil which has adopted them.
Captain Jerzy Marcinkowski, Polish commandant and British 8th
Army veteran spoke for the 1,700 special immigrants when he said 'We are in Canada because we want to live like free men.
There is no freedom in Europe today.'
This was the first draft of 4,000 Polish soldiers who fought
alongside the Canadians in the Mediterranean theatre and recently were selected for farm work preferring this rather than
return to their own country. Several hundred will go to Alberta."
This passage appeared on the front page a few days later, on November 16, 1946:
"Polish-Canadians Greet Ex-Soldiers
Winnipeg... Three hundred and fifty Poles, veterans of the
8th Army brought to Canada under an immigration scheme which calls for 4,000 to settle here, arrived in Winnipeg Friday to
be greeted by score of Polish-Canadians living in this district.
A brother met a sister he had not seen for 25 years. A grey-haired
woman flitted from one to another seeking one from the village she had left 22 years ago, and the soldiers thumbed through
worn dictionaries to find words to tell of the vastness of their new country and the plentitude of food.
At Lethbridge, 150 Polish veterans were unpacking their belongings
and finding their bearings in guards quarters at the Lethbridge prisoner-of-war camp Saturday. They will be distributed to
district farmers within a few days."
More news appeared on November 19, 1946, this time on page 2:
"100 Poles Sail: Bound for City
Montreal... A second contingent of 1,500 Polish immigrants will arrive in Halifax
Saturday, aboard the steamship Sea Snipe, the C.N.R. announced Monday. Special trains will carry the former Polish soldiers
to Ontario and the west. Winnipeg will get 200, Lethbridge 150, Edmonton 100, Chilliwack, B.C. 100.
Last week, a first contingent of 1,700 arrived aboard the Sea Robin and are now
being distributed to farms. The plan calls for a total of 4,000 to take up farm work in various parts of the dominion."
One further passage from a few days later:
"Halifax... On the second leg of their journey to new homes
in Canada, 1185 Polish veterans who arrived in Halifax on the transport Sea Snipe, were on special trains Monday bearing them
to distributing centres across the country from which they will be allocated to Canadian farms. Of the 4,000 hand-picked farmer
veterans about 2,900 now have arrived in Canada. The remaining 1,100, who will leave from Britain, are not expected to arrive
until next spring. Most of the 1,700 who made up the first contingent which arrived in Halifax about two weeks ago already
have been placed on farms."
A fear of foreigners, mostly due to ignorance and the general attitude of the times, fueled the
anti-Polonism which is illustrated in the "plan."
From the Edmonton Journal, November 13, 1946, page 12:
"Plan Makes Poles Good Canadians
Ottawa... Plans have been completed for the handling in Canada of the Polish
soldiers who are coming to take over the jobs on Canadian farms. Most of these coming are the so-called London Poles who fought
with the Canadians in Italy and who do not wish to return to their homeland. The first 1,700 arrived in Halifax Tuesday, and
300 will reach Lethbridge Monday for Alberta farms. There is what might be called a five point plan for handling them.
1. Teach them English.
2. Offer education facilities.
3. Provide entertainment.
4. Encourage them to mix with Canadians.
5. Go slow in forming Polish societies.
These Poles are going to eight
provinces, mainly as agricultural workers. So far Prince Edward Island has not asked for any (N.B. In 1946, Newfoundland
was still independent of Canada).
Learn English first:
The first thing, authorities here say, is to make sure these people learn English.
'We want them made into Canadians in the quickest possible time,' one official pointed out. Then if entertainment facilities
are provided, these men are not going to brood or espouse nationalistic causes in company with other Poles.
Some propaganda has been spread among these so-called London Poles, indicating
they are to be the nucleus of an army to fight the Russians in a couple of years, and therefore this is the only place for
the army to wait in the meantime.
The Canadian Government intends to knock that theory into a cocked hat. The Poles
are coming here to become good Canadians.
In the past, authorities say it has been found that among Canadians of foreign
birth much of the trouble develops when not understanding English and having no place to go, they crowd into Polish halls,
and Polish societies. Such societies are considered all right, if the Poles have been in Canada sometime and have developed
a sense of balance. 'But we don't want these newcomers brooding over Poland's troubles,' said an official. 'We want them to
become Canadians and to forget all Eurpoes's troubles, if they can.'"
Thanks to Anne Kaczanowska, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada