The Ottawa branch was formed on May 3, 1947 although the first executive was not elected until July, 1947. The founding meeting was organized with the help of the Polish Club (later Polish-Canadian Club).
Because Branch #8 was located in Ottawa, it was expected to provide support to the National Executive Board (today Head Executive Board) in its contacts with the federal government. Initially, Col. Stefan Sznuk played this role, thanks to contacts he established during the war. Later, when Mr. Kazimierz Klimaszewski worked for the department of Labour, he was able to help the National Board resolve many of the problems encountered by the combatants. In 1953, the Ottawa branch hosted the 5th National Convention (Walny Zjazd), one of the more important events in the life of the Association since it was attended by representatives of the federal government, Members of Parliament, and representatives of the army. The establishment of Branch # 8, especially after it purchased its own building, facilitated contacts for the National Executive Board with the government. For years, the national president of the Canadian Polish Congress, Dr. Andrzej M. Garlicki, was the official liaison between the Board and the government.
On General Wladyslaw Anders' second visit to Ottawa (the first was in 1950) in 1961, he was greeted by branch president Mr. A. Korzeniowski, with the traditional offering of bread and salt. The next day, General Anders met with the Prime Minister, The Right Honourable John Diefenbaker.
One of the most important events for the Ottawa combatants was the unveiling of a memorial plaque dedicated to Canadian airmen who died flying supply missions to the Home Army in Poland. The plaque, funded by the former soldiers of the Home Army, Montreal Branch, was unveiled by Lester B. Pearson, the Prime Minister of Canada, on December 12, 1964.
The original building was purchased in 1952 and enthusiastically renovated by the members. It was ready for use by the late fall of 1953. Bishop J. Gawlina blessed the new Combatants' Centre at its official opening on November 2, 1953. The building was then made available to the entire Polish community including the Polish school. A library was opened and, by 1971, it had grown to 1,500 volumes. By 1964, the need for a larger building spawned the Building Committee which oversaw the purchase of adjoining properties. However, in 1970, a property was listed for sale which met the needs of the branch. The current building was purchased and renovated in the years 1970-72 and blessed by Bishop Wladyslaw Rubin on July 28, 1972, when it was officially opened.
The branch acquired its colours in 1976, funded by the Women's Auxiliary, thanks in large part to the efforts of Mr. Ryszard Urbanski. The colours were presented to the branch in a ceremony on August 21, 1976 during which the president of the Women's Auxiliary passed the colours to the national president of the Association, Mr. Jan Kott who, in turn, presented them to branch president Mr. W. Wolkowycki.
In September 1981, the branch hosted a reception for the President of the Polish government-in-exile, Mr. K. Sabbat. In earlier years, the branch received visits from General Wladyslaw Anders and General Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski.
The Women's Auxilliary included among its members Mrs. Jadwiga Domanska, a former actress of the 2nd Corps Drama Theatre and a tireless organizer of artistic events and anniversary celebrations. Mrs. Berlach-Tukalska left her cottage to the branch in her will. The cottage was subsequently used by branch members and their families as a summer retreat.
The Polish community in Canada reacted swiftly to the introduction of martial law in Poland by staging demonstrations across Canada, the largest one in Ottawa in December, 1981. Branch #8 took part in that demonstration and organized others in the months to come.
In the first half of the 1980s, the branch was very involved in helping refugees from Poland. It opened an information office, INFO-SPK, for the newcomers and sponsored many families to Canada. By 1989, it had sponsored 541 persons, of whom 332 had either friends or family in Canada and only needed nominal sponsorship and the remaining 189 were able to forward sufficient funds to cover their living costs for one year. Letters with requests for sponsorships continued to arrive well into the early 1990s. By 1993, the branch had sponsored 820 refugees, of whom 600 arrived in Canada by the end of the year.
With the change of government in Poland, Poland still needed help. Responding to Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the branch deposited $3,000.00 to a Fund bearing his name.
Shortly before his passing, the famed Ref-Ren (Feliks Konarski, lyricist, "Red Poppies on Monte Cassino") performed at the Centre for the last time in Ottawa. Since the war he had been the favourite performer of the combatants, one who made them laugh, but frequently also brought them to tears.
SOME NAMES ASSOCIATED WITH BRANCH 8
Wlodzimierz A. Czajkowski (first principle of the Polish School, 1954)
Dr. Jerzy A. Dobrowolski (theatre group founder, 1956)
Roman Gapski (worked with the Scouts)
Zygmunt Nowak (architect, chief of renovation, new Combatants' Centre, 1970-72)
Wiktor Podoski (instrumental in establishing the Polish school, 1954)
Henry Wilk (formed the Friends of Scouts branch, 1964)
Mr. W. Wrazej (worked with the Scouts)