A BRIEF HISTORY OF BRANCH #7 1946 - 1996
After World War Two, some 300 Polish veterans arrived in Quebec. As the colonel who was elected in Italy to establish the Quebec branch did not arrive as planned, Mr. Czeslaw Domanski took it upon himself to organize the branch. He was greatly aided by the Marshal J. Pilsudski Association of Polish Veterans. This association had been established in 1930 and named after the Marshal in 1932 after he agreed to be its patron.
By this time the Polish veterans had scattered around the province and the Pilsudski Association was able to provide Mr. Domanski with a full and accurate list which allowed him to establish contact with them. The first meeting took place at the Pilsudski Association's premises at 57 Prince Arthur Street, on April 20, 1947. Almost immediately the branch had 137 members on board although a number later headed on to western Canada.
The branch benefited from the presence of some military commanders who settled in the Montreal area, such as: General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, former Commander in Chief of the Polish Armed Forces in the West; General Waclaw Stachiewicz, former Chief of Staff of the Polish Armed Forces during the September, 1939 Campaign; and General Antoni Szylling, former commanding officer of Army "Krakow" during the September Campaign.
As with most branches, the first and most important order of business was dealing with members' difficulties associated with the two-year work contracts. In addition, the branch quickly initiated a fund-raising campaign for Polish war invalids. The Invalids Association of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, in London, England, forwarded to the branch a list of some 50 invalids, the majority of whom were hospitalized, and needed help the most. Enough money was raised in the first campaign for the branch to send 20 parcels to England. In time, and in co-operation with other Polish organizations in Montreal, enough money was raised to help war invalids in Poland. In 1961, for example, 45 parcels were sent to war invalids in Poland, plus four parcels with medicine. Money orders were also sent to invalids in West Germany, Italy, Brazil and Luxemburg. By 1972, tens of thousands of dollars had been raised and the branch was sending out, on average, 200 parcels per year. By 1996, the total raised had reached an incredible $175,000. A number of branch members were decorated with the Gold Pin of the Association of War Invalids of the Polish Armed Forces.
Other events of note in 1947; Mr. S. Wojnarowicz established a theatre group; the executive board travelled to Nova Scotia to welcome a group of former soldiers just arrived in Canada; and the branch held a banquet (on the premises of the Association of Polish Veterans - free of charge) at the end of the year to celebrate the first year anniversary of the branch. The banquet was catered by the Ladies Auxilliary of the Association, under the watchful eye of branch #7 "Mother," Mrs. Kukurewicz.
In 1948, branch headquarters were moved from the Association of Polish Veterans building to the premises of the White Eagle Society, the oldest Polish organization in eastern Canada. Also, the branch joined the Canadian Polish Congress and organized help to the Polish combatants hospitalized in Brandon, Manitoba.
The branch had the honour of hosting the 2nd national convention of the Association in 1949 and a meeting with General W. Anders in 1950.
The Combatants Credit Union was established in 1955 and, later, members of the Association of Polish Airmen "Wilno" Squadron, were invited to become members as well. The credit union prospered and was able to donate substantial sums to the community and Branch #7. In 1971, it joined another credit union within the Polish community in Montreal to form the first "Polish Savings Bank" in the province of Quebec.
The events of October, 1956, in Poland mobilized the Polish community in Montreal to protest the repression of workers by the communist regime. The branch participated in a demonstration organized by community organizations. The branch also participated in the fund-raising campaign "Bread for Poland," organized by the Canadian Polish Congress.
The branch colours were consecrated on November 30, 1958 in the Mary of Czestochowa, Mother of God Church in Montreal. Mrs. Maria Babinska and General A. Szylling (replacing the ill General Sosnkowski) stood as godparents. Mr. F. Druzbacki, Mr. J. Przygonski, and Mr. S. Stefankiewicz formed the colour party. The celebratory banquet was attended by leaders of the Polish community in Montreal and government representatives, including Major General J. M. Rockingham, who represented the Canadian Military.
The dream of having their own building was, in 1961, still out of reach. The branch continued to hold its events at different locations such as the premises of the Army, Navy and Air Force Association.
In the fall of 1961, the branch hosted General Anders once again, and three years later, General T. Bor-Komorowski.
The Social Affairs Committee was established in 1963. It was responsible for visiting sick combatants, at home or at the hospital. The following year, in 1964, the Organizing Committee for Celebrations Marking the Anniversaries of the Polish Armed Forces was formed to co-ordinate the celebrations of military anniversaries. The anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino was marked with an assembly. In addition, Mr. M. Sangowicz wrote an article about the 2nd Corps which was published in La Patrie, a Montreal newspaper. Mr. Z. Celichowski and Mr. F. Schwetlich prepared a special program on the Battle of Falaise, which aired on radio station CFMB.
In 1965, an amalgamation of various veterans organizations in the Polish community came to fruition as the Federation of Polish Military Associations (in the province of Quebec), headquartered in Montreal. The goal was to co-ordinate the work of its member organizations, each of which retained its organizational autonomy. Members of the Federation were Branch #7, the Association of Polish Airmen "Wilno" #310 Squadron, the Independent Branch of the Home Army and the J. Pilsudski Association of Polish Veterans.
By 1966, it had become a tradition to celebrate Soldier's Day in August of each year in the town of Rawdon, 45 miles outside of Montreal.
The branch once again had the opportunity to meet with famous military commanders, when in 1967 General Wladyslaw Anders and General Klemens Rudnicki visited Montreal. Three years later the branch hosted a meeting with General S. Kopanski.
The Montreal community celebrated Centennial year by funding a statue of Copernicus, the famous Polish astronomer. It took four years to raise the required funds with a number of branch members actively involved in the fund-raising campaign.
By 1972, the branch's 25th anniversary, membership had reached 198 members.
The branch hosted the 23rd National Convention in 1989.
In August, 1992, branch members travelled to Poland to attend the reunion of former members of the Polish Armed Forces in the West and to take part in the Victory Parade, denied them by the English government in London when World War Two ended. The branch also contributed more than $3,000.00 towards the purchase of a fully equipped ambulance destined for Poland.
1994 was an anniversary year of famous battles of World War Two. Together with other veterans' organizations in Montreal the branch established an Anniversary Committee to plan and organize events. The first event took place on May 8th, when, to the sound of bagpipes, wreaths were laid at the cenotaph by Polish veterans and Scouts. Girl Guides held signs with the names of famous battles which brought glory and fame to the soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces in the West: Monte Cassino, Falaise, the Warsaw Uprising, and Breda. Following a number of speeches, the combatants marched through downtown Montreal. In the afternoon, a Holy Mass was celebrated at the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, after which a reception was held at the Polish Consulate where the Consul General, Malgorzata Dzieduszycka, decorated former soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces.
The branch was visited by many distinguished guests in1995, among them Polish Consul, Maciej Ziemba; Polish Military Attache, Col. W. Procner; the famed historian, Prof. Jerzy Gieysztor; Deputy Solicitor General of Poland, Stefan Sniezko; from Hrubieszow, Chaplain of the Polish Army, Father Andrzej Puzon; and three officers of the Polish Army, in training at the College Militaire in St. Jean.
Some Names Associated with Branch #7
Eugeniusz Baranowski (Copernicus Statue fund-raising, 1967)
F. Bauer (Social Affairs Committee, 1963)
A. Bortnowski (War Invalids Fund)
Z. Celichowski (branch president, 1952, 1960-62, 1967)
Jan Chojnowski (member of the first Board of Directors, 1947)
Leszek Czajkowski (War Invalids Fund)
Czeslaw Domanski (first branch president, 1947)
Mrs. H. Druzbacka (Women's Auxiliary)
E. Dziemian (branch president, 1990-94)
S. Frankowski (War Invalids Fund)
Franciszek Gajewski (member of the first Board of Directors, 1947)
Kazimierz Gajewski (member of the first Board of Directors, 1947)
R. Gintowt (War Invalids Fund)
A. Gorak (branch president, 1971)
M. Grabowski (branch president, 1969)
Father R. Gruza
T. Gwiazda (War Invalids Fund)
Natalia Jablonska (Women's Auxiliary)
Albert Jancewicz (branch president, 1949, first coordinator of fund-raising for war invalids)
S. Jaszczyk branch president, 1975-76)
Z. Jaworski (branch president, 1978-1983)
Piotr Jelonek (member of the first Board of Directors, 1947)
D. Kakowski (branch president, 1948)
W. Karasinski (branch president, 1966)
Mr. J. Kolano
Jozef Korz (War Invalids Fund)
Mrs. P. W. Korz (Women's Auxiliary)
Father L. Krolikowski (author, Stolen Childhood)
S. Kucharski (War Invalids Fund)
W. Lachman (W. Lachman Choir, 1969)
A. Lagowska (Women's Auxiliary)
F. Lubinski (branch president, 1959, War Invalids Fund)
Andrzej Madejski (Copernicus Statue fund-raising, 1967)
Father Edwin Malak
Klemens Muszynski V.M. (V.M. awarded in 1967, former pilot)
M. Nawojski (War Invalids Fund)
Stanislaw Nicewicz (member of the first Board of Directors, 1947)
Aleksander Olesko-Ferworn (branch president, 1963-65, 1968, 1970)
Mrs. B. Oner
Jan Lukasz Pagowski (branch president, 1955)
L. de Peyrbrune (War Invalids Fund)
Father A. Pietraszek
F. Potworowski (War Invalids Fund)
Wladyslaw Potylicki (member of the first Board of Directors, 1947)
J. Rawicz (branch president, 1995-96)
A. Rodyno (member of the first Board of Directors, 1947)
Kazimierz Ruminski (branch president, 1987-88)
A. Sas-Korczynski (branch president, 1956-58)
General Kazimierz Sosnkowski
General J. Stachiewicz (branch president, 1951, 1953)
General Waclaw Stachiewicz
Mrs. Stefankiewicz (Women's Auxiliary)
S. Stefankiewicz (branch president, 1972-74)
General Antoni Szylling
J. Trzcinski (branch president, 1989)
Jan Urbanek (member of the first Board of Directors, 1947)
T. Z. Wojcik
S. Wojnarowicz (branch president, 1950)
Mrs. S. Wozna (Women's Auxiliary)
L. Wozny (branch president, 1977, 1984-86)
S. Zaleski (War Invalids Fund)
Jan Zwolski (member of the first Board of Directors, 1947)
Kazimierz Zycki (War Invalids Fund)