Polish community marks anniversary
By Wieslaw Kusyk
Last Saturday, the Polish National Association
on 554 Hill St. celebrated its 80th anniversary.
To the beautifully decorated Polish Hall
came the Consol General for the Republic of Poland, Jacek
Junosza-Kisielewski, Liberal MP Joe Fontana, London Mayor
Dianne Haskett, Controller Ross Monteith and others to watch
Polish folk dances performed by the Cracovia.
They also listened to speeches about Polish
connections in London. The Polish community has grown in
the last decade and may now be the largest immigrant community
in the city. In 1996 there were about 15,800 Polish people,
about three times that of 10 years earlier.
Before 1900 there were two people from Poland
whose influence on London was significant. In the spring
of 1841 Casimir Stanislaus Gzowski came to London and stayed
until about 1845. He built a railway bridge across the Thames
River and six harbours with lighthouses, including Port
His most famous work was the International
Bridge between Fort Erie and Buffalo and Niagara Falls Park.
He was also lieutenant governor of Ontario.
Another man who came to London from Poland
Isaak Hellmuth, later the Anglican bishop of Huron. Hellmuth
was primarily active in the fields of religion and education.
He was born near Warsaw in 1817, son of a rabbi, and later
converted to Christianity.
He came to Canada in the year 1844. In 1863,
he became the first principal of Huron College. He was instrumental
in founding Western University, now the University of Western
Ontario, which he opened in 1881. People like Gzowski and
Hellmuth left a mark on London.
The first group of Polish settlers in London
arrived sometime after 1900. By 1905 there were five families
of Polish origin in the city.
The first Polish organization in London, the Brotherhood
of Mutual Benefit of the Sons of Poland, was established
Mutual help of members, maintenance of the national character
and preservation of its own religion were the organization's
main goals. In 1925, the association changed its name to
the Polish Club and in 1930 it received its own charter
under a third name, the Polish National Association Ltd.
There were many celebrations in the Polish
Hall before and after the Second World War. One of the greatest
was 1,000 years of Christianity in Poland in 1966, and in
1967, Canada's centennial.
In 1977 the Polish National Association acquired
a piece of land in Nilestown and built the Polish-Canadian
Thanks to the Polonia Cup tournament in Nilestown, the White
Eagles and the Polish National Association of London have
gained wide recognition.
We extend greetings to members of the Polish
National Association and its current president Piotr Pytlik.
We must remember history is not only made
up of bridges, lighthouses and cathedrals, it is being made
We would like to show our appreciation to
the longest serving president of the Polish National Association,
Bazyli Balicki (23 years and Julia Sierechon (11 years),
the longest serving president of the Polish Women Association.
London Free Press, November 10, 2000
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