Early Polish Settlers and the Church
R-8086 to R-8118
Lang. of recordings:
Summaries of interviews
Interviews conducted in 1981 under a contract of the Saskatchewan Archives Board. The first Polish immigrants arrived in Saskatchewan in the late 1890s. They came from Austrian and Prussian Poland and homesteaded in several areas in the province. Small groups, however, were concentrated near places like Rama, Ituna, Krydor, Kuroki, Candiac, Wishart, Fosston, Prince Albert and Melville. Another group arrived in Otthon from the Silesian Polish colony of Panna Maria, Texas. The Polish nation and Roman Catholicism had been inseparable for centuries, and when Polish immigrants arrived in North America they brought their ancestral faith with them. The Polish parish became the centre where people from Poland regrouped after immigrating. The clergy served the newcomers by not only offering spiritual guidance but often by being the intermediaries between newcomers and the sometimes frightening civil authorities. The church building itself, or an attached hall or school, became both the rallying point for the community and the main physical manifestation of new fellow-feeling. The Polish parish also tended to ward off assimilation and acted to preserve the culture and language of the immigrants. Attached to the parish were smaller organizations such as language schools, dance groups, drama clubs, credit unions, mutual aid benefit societies, rosary associations, men's clubs, women's clubs and others. The 19 individuals interviewed in this project include active parish supporters and priests. Their stories span a period of nearly eighty years and relate mostly to parishes which no longer exist. The forces of assimilation and acculturation, combined with a dwindling rural population, have caused a drastic decline in the number of Polish parishes in Saskatchewan. These oral histories, therefore, are significant as they examine the infrastructure of the Polish ethnic parish as the centre of Polish cultural life. Struggles between different groups, individuals and clergy, and the interrelationships with other ethnic communities such as the Ukrainians, Germans and French also come to light. The attempts of the American-based Polish National Church to seed dissent and divide the communities is also well documented.
Language of Record: