A BRIEF HISTORY OF BRANCH # 3
The branch was founded by soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces in the West who came to British Columbia in two groups, about 100 in all, in 1946. They first stayed at Camp Sardis, near Chilliwack. Having undergone medical tests, they were waiting to be told where they would live and work. In the meantime, on November 26, 1946, they held a meeting in the camp dining room and formed Branch #3. The combatants faced an uncertain future of working on two year contracts on farms and in forests and the prospect of re-building their lives in a new country, far from the support that the Vancouver Polish community offered them. The establishment of the branch was meant to lessen their isolation and was seen as a vehicle for promoting mutual aid.
The day after that first meeting, they were transported to their places of employment around the province, within a 300 mile radius. Consequently, the branch started its work with its members scattered around the province, without permanent headquarters or an operating budget. All it had was the dedication and enthusiasm of its members.
It received help from Father Franciszek Kosakiewicz, OMI, who was sent by the Catholic Church to establish a Polish parish. On the day of their arrival in British Columbia, he led a delegation from the Polish Society "Zgoda" to welcome the arriving combatants. Later, he helped them to establish contacts with the Canadian government. Father Frank, as he was called, eventually became Chaplain of the branch. To recognize his contribution, the Association named him an honourary member, and he was decorated with the Gold Cross of Merit by the President of the Polish government-in-exile. Members of Branch #3 were able to express their gratitude in a more tangible way by helping to establish the parish and in the construction of a new church, and later in the construction of the Polish school.
The first general meeting was held during the Christmas holidays in 1947, thanks to the help of Col. Wood, who looked after the combatants on behalf of the federal government. Acting on the request of the branch executive board, he sent a letter to the combatants' employers asking that they be given a four day leave of absence. The combatants ended their first general meeting with a banquet to which they invited members of the local Polish community to thank them for the warm reception they received upon their arrival in British Columbia. Ladies from the Polish society "Zgoda" helped the combatants organize the banquet.
In 1948, the first group of women arrived in Vancouver from Germany. The branch held a reception to welcome them to Canada. As was the case at other branches, many of them married Polish combatants.
With the end of the two year contracts, in 1948, many of the combatants moved to Vancouver. This allowed membership to increase. Branch activities increased as well. The pool of potential members grew with the arrival in Canada of Polish prisoners of war from Germany, and those former soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces in the West who spent the first few years after demobilization in Great Britain.
In 1949, steps were taken to unite the Polish community in Vancouver with the creation of the Inter-Organizational Consultative Committee which later became the Vancouver branch of the Canadian Polish Congress.
1950 was a year of adversity and conflicts. In addition to the problems resulting from the lack of permanent headquarters and financial difficulties, the branch was faced with ideological differences within the executive board, and personnel changes. During that term, the branch had three presidents and three secretaries. However, this was offset by positive developments. On February 12, 1950, the Women's Auxiliary was formed, drawing its members from the Service to Poland Women's Auxiliary. With the help of Father F. Kosakiewicz the branch was able to find suitable space. In addition, the branch was able to publish, free of charge, and distribute 9 issues (1,300 copies) of its newsletter, called for a short period of time "Kombatant nad Pacyfikiem." This was later changed to "Placowka nad Pacyfikiem." What was initially a newsletter of a few pages by 1988 had become one of the best newsletters published by Association branches, a quarterly magazine of 26-28 pages.
By 1951, the work of the Cultural Committee was highly visible and profitable. The Library was established with 350 volumes (which grew to over 2,000 by 1988).
The branch always remembered war invalids. By 1952, it had collected a substantial sum of money which made it possible to send parcels to war invalids in Italy and West Germany. The "Zgoda" Society in Vancouver and its branch in Nanaimo also helped in fund-raising.
The branch also raised funds for the National Treasury of the government-in-exile in London, England (Skarb Narodowy) and set up its own National Treasury Committee for this purpose thanks to the initiative of Mr. A. Kalinowski.
Despite the fund-raising for war invalids and the National Treasury, the branch was able to purchase a lot on Victoria Drive in 1954 and a house on the adjoining lot in 1956. In 1957, its first building was purchased on Joffre Street, but this was subsequently sold as it did not meet the needs of the branch.
Many initiatives had been undertaken over the first ten years; a theatre group under the direction of Mr. K. Wasowicz; a dance ensemble; a mixed choir; a men's choir "Chor Rewelersow" directed by Mr. Teofil Repel (very popular with the community); a Polish radio program, initiated by Mr. E. Plawski who was aided by his wife, son and Mr. K. Namietnikowski; afternoon entertainment programs "Podwieczorki Przy Mikrofonie," organized by Mr. W. Skalski; as well as many dances, bazaars, recitals and traditional events.
The members were unable to establish their own credit union, however they were successful in establishing a parish credit union which was beneficial to the entire Polish community. The credit union was founded by its first president, Mr. W. Zakrzewski.
On November 12, 1961, the branch was presented with its own colours by Mrs. Kazimiera Wasowicz (president), Mrs. Jadwiga Pazik and Mrs. Stefania Stawecka on behalf of the Women's Auxiliary, which had funded the cost. Mr. E. Plawski, Mr. A. Pazik and Mr. J. Stanczyk formed the first colour party.
In 1962, Branch #3 became embroiled in a political conflict. The Polish Society "Zgoda" rented its premises to the Communist Party of Canada which established its election campaign headquarters there. This was in violation of the Canadian Polish Congress Charter of which the Society was a member organization. The branch strongly condemned this decision and all branch members supported the National Executive Board and Executive Council in the anti-communist ideology.
In 1964 the branch celebrated Polish Armed Forces Day with style. Canadian politicians, military officers and academics were among the patrons, as well as Commodore E. Plawski and his wife. A Holy Mass was celebrated followed by an assembly. On August 29 a banquet was held thanks to Col. E. J. Bowmer. Col. Bowmer served with the Canadian Army in the Middle East during World War Two, where he established a good working relationship with Polish units, so much so that he even learned some Polish. He was the main speaker at the banquet and his speech showed how well informed he was about Polish history and literature, and the respect he had for the Polish Armed Forces in the West.
From the beginning of its existence the branch had to deal with the fact that many of its members were scattered around the province. While it was possible to form separate branches in Ontario, where large numbers of combatants settled, the small number of veterans in British Columbia permitted the establishment of only one branch. The solution to this problem lay in the formation of satellite groups, initially in Ocean Falls and Nanaimo. With time, more such groups were formed, for example in 1965 in Vernon.
It was only in 1971 that the branch attained its long time goal of owning a building which would meet its needs by purchasing property at 1132 Kingsway Street in Vancouver. It was renovated and in use by mid 1971. The branch quickly rented out space to a number of Polish organizations such as the youth orchestra "Polonia," the Scouts and Guides, the Sailing Club, the Bridge Club, the theatre group "Teatr 33," the Association of Polish Hunters, etc. In 1982 the branch paid off the mortgage it had with the Polish Credit Union. The branch had hosted a number of dignitaries in its early days such as Bishop Gawlina, General Karol Ziemski, General Stefan Sznuk, Arthur Rubenstein and General S. Kopanski. With the opening of the new building, meetings with distinguished guests increased.
Membership increased from 100 in 1971 to 139 in 1973 with 100 members in the Youth Section.
Mr. S. Zacharjasiewicz, who before the war played on the Lwow soccer team "Czarni," established the "Bialy Orzel" (White Eagle) sports club, managed it and trained the team. The branch assisted by paying for equipment and awarding sporting trophies.
The branch had some distinguished combatants as members, among them Commodore E. Plawski, Col. Stanislaw Maleszewski, Col. Adam Kropinski, and Capt. Franciszek Siudut of the 1st Armoured Division, all of whom were decorated with the Virtuti Militari Cross.
Former branch president, Mr. Wladyslaw Zakrzewski, was born in Brzozowka in the Polesie region in 1909. Before the war he was the Chairman of the Board of Education for the Brzesc-on-the-River Bug region. Arrested by the NKVD (forerunner of today's KGB) he was sent to the Gulag. He left the Soviet Union with General Anders' Army and fought in its ranks in Italy. He was awarded the Cross of Valour for bravery in battle. His house was the centre of organizational life of the branch which initially had its office and held its meetings there. In addition, Mr. and Mrs. Zakrzewski opened their house to choir practices and hosted official receptions.
Mr. Marian Zelichowski, a member of the Rewelersi" choir, was an officer cadet before the war. He was captured by the Germans during the September campaign and spent the war in an "oflag," a POW camp. Elected frequently to the executive of the Board of Directors, he also worked on the Polish radio program "Polska Fala nad Pacyfikiem."
In 1978, the branch was visited by the VP of the World Federation of Polish Combatants Associations, Mr. Stanislaw Wasik. General Antoni Grudzinski came to celebrate the branch's anniversary in November.
In 1983, the branch lost one of its more distinguished members, Mr. Leon H. Fus. Mr. Fus graduated before the war from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. He fought in the September Campaign as an officer of the reserves and after the cessation of fighting made his way to the Middle East via Hungary and Turkey. There, he joined the Independent Carpathian Fusiliers Brigade and fought in its ranks in Africa. Later, as a member of the 4th Battalion of the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Carpathian Division, he fought in Italy. Initially a 2nd lieutenant, he was later promoted to Captain.
In 1994, Mr. Wladyslaw Jerczynski, multiple times branch president, passed away. Mr. Jerczynski was born in Lodz in 1921 and fought with the 31st Infantry Regiment from Sieradz during the September Campaign.
Also branch members are Prof. Jan Solecki, who taught at the Department of Slavic Studies at the University of British Columbia, and Prof. Krzysztof Szafnicki, a sociologist at Simon Fraser University.
NAMES ASSOCIATED WITH BRANCH # 3 VANCOUVER
Branch # 3 Presidents
Michal Awsiukiewicz (1967)
Boleslaw Czubak (1950)
Leon Fus (1957, 1960-61, 1964-65, 1969-73)
Jozef Gajda (1946-47)
Brunon Jaroszynski (1986)
Wladyslaw Jerczynski (1989-90, 1992-93)
Aleksander Kalinowski (1958-59)
Stanislaw Maleszewski, V.M. (1948)
Waclaw Mokrzycki (1951, 1966, 1968, 1980)
Commodore Eugeniusz Plawski, V.M. (1962)
Henryk Radziszewski (1987-88, 1996-96)
Capt. Franciszek Siudut, V.M. (1956, 1974)
Jozef Stawecki (1981-83)
Kazimiera Wasowicz (1984-85)
Wiktor Wierzbicki (1991, 1994)
Boleslaw Wilinski (1978-79)
Wladyslaw Zakrzewski, K.W. (1949, 1952, 1954-55, 1963, 1977)
Stanislaw Zalot (1953)
First Executive of the Board of Directors
Jozef Gajda, President
Henryk Ostrowski, Vice President
Wladyslaw Zakrzewski, Secretary
Jozef Skubisz, Treasurer
Father Franciszek Kosakiewicz, OMI
First Branch Members (as of December 1947)
Col. Adam Kropinski, V.M.
Presidents of the Women's Auxilliary
Janina Kurzynska-Cavanagh (first President)
Invalid Fund (1952)
National Treasury Fund (1954)
Mr. A. Kalinowski
Culture and Community
A. Bartyzel (dance and banquet organizer)
L. Fus (National and Military anniversary organizer)
J. Kostrzewa (National and Military anniversary organizer)
W. Mokry (national and Military anniversary organizer)
Mr. K. Namietnikowski (Assistant, Polish Radio Program)
Mr. E. Plawski (Polish Radio Program Director)
Teofil Repel (Men's Choir Director)
A. Siudut (Polish School Teacher)
Mr. F. and Mrs. Teofila Siudut (Ran the Scout/Girl Guide camp on their farm)
Mr. W. Skalski ("Podwieczorki Przy Mikrofonie," Newsletter Editor)
S. Slezak (dance and banquet organizer)
J. Stawecki (Polish School Teacher)
A. Tokarczyk (dance and banquet organizer)
Mr. K. Wasowicz (Theatre Group Director, event organizer)
L. Wilinska (Polish School Teacher)
Mr. S. Zacharjasiewicz (artist and singer, Bialy Orzel soccer team)
Mr. W. Zakrzewski (Polish Parish Credit Union Founder and 1st President)
C. Zwanska (Polish School Teacher)
Other Notable Members