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Over 65,000 Calgarians (and 170,000 Albertans) of Polish heritage call Alberta home.
In recognition, in 2021 the Legislative Assembly of Alberta declared the second Sunday in June as Polish
Canadian Heritage Day to acknowledge “the impact and contributions that the Polish community has
had on Alberta”.
This year, we are remembering the Generation of WWII – veterans and civilians, men and women, and
children. A generation to be celebrated and never forgotten.
Their story begins in Poland, the first country to fight back against Nazi Germany, the only country to be
attacked in September 1939 not just by Germany but also by Soviet Russia; the first country not to
surrender; the country with the biggest resistance and the only resistance ultimately recognized as an
Allied army; the only country with a special POW camp in German-occupied Europe just for Polish
women; the only country that fought with the Allies on every front, on land, on sea, and in the air from
the first day of WWII until the very last.
And then, in an ironic twist, they were the only ones who were not able to go home, to enjoy a Victory
Parade. Instead, their allies gave their country to the Soviet Union which established a puppet
communist government. Stalin called the Polish resistance and the forces that fought in the West
“fascists,” a label Putin uses against the Ukrainian government. At this time of their mighty resistance,
we extend our support to our Ukrainian friends.
Unable to go home to a free country, the Polish veterans and families sought another refuge. Many came
to Alberta. Here, they rebuilt their shattered lives and made an important contribution to the building of
our province. It is their lives and their stories we want to honour.
It is a big story, with many chapters. On Polish Canadian Heritage Day, Sunday, June 11, you can hear
some of them.
Canadian lawyer and writer, Marsha Faubert, unravels the stoical silence of her Polish in-laws whose
experiences encapsulate the distinctly Polish war experience: both German and Russian captivity. With
legal discipline and deep insight, her book, Wanda’s War: An Untold Story of Nazi Europe, Forced Labour
and a Canadian Immigration Scandal is a master class in research and resolution. She will also be hosted
at Shelf Life Books on Thursday evening, the 8th of June.
Calgarian Aldona Jaworska, who grew up in Soviet-controlled Poland, arrived in Canada in 1990 never
heard about the Polish forces who fought with the Western allies, and why they couldn’t go home…
because that history had been banned. Shock led to curiosity to research and the result is a gripping
book, Polish War Veterans in Alberta: The Last Four Stories. A much-appreciated connection between
the generations.
Writer Irene Tomaszewski will present From the Snows of Siberia to the Snows of Kilimanjaro, A
children’s odyssey from Russian captivity to a variety of countries, cultures and, in each, unexpected acts
of strangers, a journey spanning four continents and two oceans with a constellation of places, cultures
and personalities, sorrows and joy, and a cast of thousands.
Book table by Shelf Life Books and Calgary’s Polish Library will display its collection of titles. All about
Poland, in English.
There will be also screenings of two documentaries.
A Forgotten Odyssey, produced and directed by London-based Jagna Wright and Aneta Naszynska in the
1990s, it was first broadcast on the British History Channel in 2001. The first documentary ever made
about the deportation of Poles by the Red Army to the camps and prisons of the Gulag in the Soviet
Union, it features survivor testimony and interviews with prominent historians. In English and Polish
(with English subtitles.)
A Web of War, directed by Brian McKenna, was the first documentary made for the CBC about Poland in
WWII. Broadcast nationwide in 1994, it features veterans of the Polish First Armoured Division and of the
underground resistance in Poland, as well as a liaison officer from the Canadian forces, Pierre Sevigny, in
time a defence minister in a Progressive Conservative government.
Adding more colour and spice (perhaps we should say “garlic”) to the weekend will be a series of Polish
folk-dance performances and a delicious array of culinary specialties from the Polish kitchen. Don’t eat
before you arrive.
Flag raising at the Province of Alberta McDougall Centre on Saturday June 10 at 10:30 am.
The full event program will be posted by the 3rd week of May on www.celebratingpoland.ca