Letters From Home: A Virtual Exhibit

The story of Huta Różaniecka, Poland, as told through seven decades of correspondence

Władysław Ważny, pictured in Poland ca. 1919. He was a Sergeant in the Polish Army and fought in the Battle of Lwow during WWI.
Source: OPMA A-2018-07.

In 1927, Władysław (Walter) Ważny set his sights beyond his home village of Huta Różaniecka, Poland, and embarked on a new life in the Canadian prairies. Departing by sea from the Port of Danzig, Władysław arrived in Canada on June 1st of that year. He must have wondered what changes awaited him in his new home, or whether he would ever see his family again. At 26 years old, he was the only one of his immediate family to take this journey, leaving behind his mother Agnieszka, father Karol, and seven younger siblings: Kazik, Wikta, Benedykt, Frania, Ludwik, Kasia, and Adam.

In Canada, Władysław grew new roots, doing agricultural and construction work in the Winnipeg area. He married his Polish-Canadian wife Victoria in 1931, and the couple settled in Oak Hammock, Manitoba, where they ran a homestead together and raised four children. Yet, Władysław remained strongly connected to his roots in his beloved Huta. For almost 70 years, he wrote letters to everyone back home, and received their letters back in return.

Władysław’s travel documents for his journey to Canada in 1927.
Source: OPMA A-2018-02.

 

Władysław’s children grew up watching their father opening the small envelopes that regularly arrived in their mailbox bearing Polish stamps, and faithfully drafting his handwritten replies. Over the decades, they also watched the incoming letters start to dwindle, as slowly people from home passed away and acquaintances moved on. Władysław was the last of his immediate family to survive, passing away in 1996. Apart from his children and his life’s work, he left another legacy: the story of Huta Różaniecka, as told through letters from home.

These letters were sent to Władysław by his parents, brothers, sisters, and friends, as well as by nieces and nephews, some of whom were born after his departure to Canada and whom he had never met in person. Together, the letters tell the story of the members of the Wazny, Rebizant, Kudyba, and Bundrya families over many years, depicting their relationships, struggles, and joys. They are also a testament to the shifting landscapes of one Polish village, offering a lens through which to view larger socio-political and economic developments in Poland in the years between 1937 and 1995. They bear witness to the upheavals of war, the misery of poverty, the hope for a better future, the joys of familial love and support, and the yearning for one’s homeland.

The letters also reflect the peculiar nature of family relationships. Although we are missing an important side of the story in not having access to Władysław’s outgoing letters, the complex relationships that the Wazny siblings shared come through in the correspondence. The letters hint at past disagreements and at renewed relationships. They speak of unbreakable bonds and of feeling each other’s joys and sorrows despite great distances and lengths of time. They also offer a glimpse into the difficult position that Władysław was in. Although Władysław was not wealthy by Canadian standards and himself struggled at times, the pressure to help his family back home was intense. Often the letters include appeals for material and monetary help, and almost every letter begins by thanking Władysław for sending money.

Ludwik Wazny, brother of Wladyslaw Wazny, ca. 1935. Ludwik was murdered in Auschwitz concentration camp.
Source: OPMA A-2018-07.
Wladyslaw’s brother, Kazimierz (Kazik), ca. 1930. In one letter, Kazik writes, “My Brother… if I had wings, I would already be there with you.”
Source: OPMA A-2018-07
From left: Wladyslaw’s mother Agnieszka, brother Ludwik, [Unidentified child], [unidentified female], father Karol, [brother Kazimierz]. [ca. 1930].
Source: OPMA A-2018-07.

 

This virtual exhibit presents excerpts of the correspondence received by Władysław Ważny from his family and acquaintances in Huta Różaniecka. The text of the letters has been translated from Polish into English and transcribed to type in order to allow for broader accessibility. Although the translations are literal and direct wherever possible, at times the sentence structure or wording has been altered slightly to better reflect the intended meaning.
The handwritten Polish originals are presented first, followed by the typed translations for each letter.

Exhibit researched, written, and arranaged by Marta Dabros, and translated by Marta Dabros and Christine Tabbernor. 
Based on records held at Ogniwo Polish Museum Archives,
CA-OPMA-A-2018-02 and CA-OPMA A-2018-07, Wladyslaw Wazny fonds.

Copyright Ogniwo Polish Museum, 2020.

This exhibit has been made possible by Library and Archives Canada.

19 thoughts on “Letters From Home: A Virtual Exhibit

  1. Great collection – very important part of Poland history. Hope this material will be available to many future generations.

  2. Thank you, Bo! We hope so too, and will do everything we can to preserve this piece of history for the long-term!

  3. Reading these historical facts and letters reminds me of my parents (DP’s) living in England. They both survived the German labour camps and were liberated by the Americans. My father was told by his brother in law not to return to Majdan Gorny, village just outside of Tomazsow Lubelskie, because the Russians were treating Poles worst than the Germans and there was very little left of the farm, buildings and livestock. We also had relatives that were imprisoned in Zamosc and Maydanik consentration camp just outside of Lublin. My father received many letters from his siblings letting him know what was happening in the village, how his parents had survived those war years and more often that not, requests for anything that he could afford to send, including money (if possible). Both my parents have since passed, but i still communicate with my Polish families in the Tomazsow Lubelski area. I have been to Poland in the years 1970 ( still under communist rule) and forty year later in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019. Love Poland, the people, the food and their generous hospitality. I invited my second cousin, his wife and 2 children to visit us here in Canada and they came in 2018. What a vacation they had and were totally suprised at how big a country Canada is.

  4. Thank you for sharing your family’s story, Eddie. It is amazing how resilient people were, how much they lived through. If you have any of those letters, or even your communications with your Polish family, please consider donating them to the Museum. Your records today are the archives of the future!

  5. Thank you to all involved in preserving these letters and putting together this exhibit, as well as translating them so more people could learn from the history of these families of Huta Różaniecka, and of Poland and the world more broadly in the 20th century. What a great collection!

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