200 Years of Polish Immigration to Manitoba

1817–2017 200 years of Polish Immigration to Manitoba

Canadian Polish Congress Manitoba District


The first Poles to arrive in Manitoba were a group of ex-soldiers from the de Meuronregiment. They came to the Red River Settlement with Lord Selkirk expedition in 1817.

In 1795, Poland lost its independence and was partitioned between the Monarchy of Austria-Hungary, Imperial Russia, and the Kingdom of Prussia. Without the ability to re-establish Poland’s independence on their own,thousands of Poles enlisted under the banners of Napoleon, who was fighting the coalition powers that partitioned Poland. During the Spanish and Italian campaigns, Poles were captured by the British who at the time were fighting on the side of thecoalition. As prisoners of war, their only hope for freedom was to volunteer for service in foreign regiments, such as de Waterville and de Meuron who were brought to Upper Canada to strengthen the British in the British American war of 1812.

In the early nineteenth century, attempts to control the extremely profitable fur trade in Western Canada caused a violent conflict between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company. In 1816, the battle between the two sides of the conflict ended in tragic bloodshed. As a result, Lord Selkirk, who owned a large area of land along the Red River, decided to recruit some 100 volunteers from the dissolved regiments of de Watteville and de Meuron (among whom were 10 Poles) in order to restore order and provide protection for the Red River Colony. A few of these Poles eventually settled on the banks of the Red River in 1817after Lord Selkirk generously offered them monetary incentives as well as .large tracts of lands.The rest of them departed to other parts of Canada or United states after the Great Flood of 1826. These 10 Polish recruits were Michel Bardowicz, Pierre Gandroski, Andrew Jankowski, Michael Kaminski, Martin Kralich, Wojciech Lasota, Laurent Kwileski, John Wasilowski, Michel Isaak and Antoine Sabatzki.


The largest mass of Polish immigrationto Manitoba from continental Europe started in the late 1890s of the 19thcentury and lasted until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. After the war it resumed and continued until the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

 Towards the end of the 19th century, the Canadian Government and Canadian Pacific Railway led a wide-ranging campaign in Europe that encouraged people to settle in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. As a resultof the favorable changes in the immigration policy introduced by the Canadian government between 1891-1914, more than three million immigrants settled in Western Canada.

These new immigrants were mostly poor peasants from overcrowded areas of continental Europe. The most numerous group came from Galicia (part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), others from Polish lands controlled by Prussia and Russia. Decisions on emigration were made mainly due to the political situation of the occupied country, high taxes, overpopulation and the promise of better living conditions in Canada.


The post- World War II immigration started after 1945. It mainly comprised of Polish soldiers from the Polish 2nd Corps and other formations, along with many civilians, who reached Canada and Manitoba.

After the end of World War II, the government in Poland was taken over by communists supported by the Soviet Union. In the first years after the war, police terror prevailed in the country, all opposition parties were liquidated and political opponents were arrested. Poles who remained outside Poland (both soldiers and civilians) could not return to their homeland. Fearing repression, thousands of Poles decided to emigrate to various parts of the British Commonwealth and South America as a result of anagreement between the Polish government in exile and the British government. Many of them came to Canada, specifically to Manitoba. They were better educated and better prepared to live in their new homeland than their predecessors.


The Solidarity group arrived in Canada in the 1980s. Over one million Poles fled the country after the end of martial law. Many of them settled in Manitoba.

After the Second World War, Poland found itself in the sphere of influence of the communist Soviet Union. The dissatisfaction of Polish society with the political and economic system imposed on Poland was manifested by periodic, violent protests, which were bloodily suppressed by the authorities. In 1980, the protest took the form of a general strike that embraced the whole country and paralyzed the functioning of the state. Under pressure from the strike committees, the authorities were forced to register the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarity“. However, this did not improve the relationship between the authorities and the public, and on December 13, 1981, martial law was introduced by the Polish government. Thousands of Solidarity activists were interned, many of whom were banished from the country. After the cancellation of martial law in 1983, emigration from Poland gained momentum and strength. During the 1980s, over one million Poles departed from Poland. They were mostly young and well educated people whosepersistence and determination allowed them to succeed in their adopted country and to contribute to the economic and cultural development of Manitoba and Canada.

Platinum sponsors

Canadian Polish Congress Manitoba District
Canadian Polish Millennium Fund
Holy Ghost Fraternal Aid Society
Polish Combatants Association Branch #13
Polish Fraternal Aid Society of St. John Cantius
Polish Dance Ensemble SPK Iskry
Polish Gymnastic Association SOKOL Winnipeg
Polish Combatants Association Branch #13
Knights of Columbus Jan and Albert Kulawy Council
Drs. Wlodzimierz and Monika Czarnecki
Jan and Maria Oleszkiewicz
Ryszard and Grazyna Czajka and Family
Lech and Grazyna Galezowski
David and Bozena Langtry
Chris and Maria Lorenc
Henry Kuzia
Boleslaw Lucki
Dr. Danuta and Stan Ciecierski
Jacek and Agata Chojczak
Leszek and Basia Sytkowski

Gold Sponsors

In Memory of Lech and Emilia Fulmyk
Polish Canadian Women’s Federation Branch #7 in Winnipeg
Dr. Kazimierz Patalas
Will and Mavis Tishinski

Silver Sponsors

Paul A. McCulloch and Margaret Kellermann McCulloch
Royal Canadian Legion Branch #246
Peter and Karen Jarmasz
Dr. Edmund Kuffel
Fred Rakowski

Bronze Sponsors

Zofia DeWitt
Marek and Elzbieta Kornowski
Jerzy and Maria Bibik
Polish Museum Society “Ogniwo”
Margaret and Adam Von Lau
Canadian Polish Athletic Club
Dr. Angelica Galezowski
Martin Cielen
Sokol Polish Folk Ensemble
Waldemar and Elzbieta Antos
Mirek Weischel and Beata Biernacka
Kazimierz Pater
Anna Gebczyk
Dr Krystyna Winogrodzki