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.

Remembering Genowefa Kuzia

November 3, 2019

With sadness and deep respect, the members of Ogniwo Polish Museum in Winnipeg remember and honour Pani Genowefa (Jean) Kuzia (nee Borowiec), who passed away on October 27, 2019. Pani Kuzia was a founding member of Ogniwo Polish Museum. She was instrumental in securing funding and a permanent building to house the Museum and its collections, as well as in incorporating the Museum as an organization. More than that, she worked tirelessly over many decades to secure donations of priceless artefacts and archival materials to document Polish history and culture, Polish settlement in Manitoba, and the work and contributions of Polish individuals and community organizations. She meticulously accessioned and described hundreds of items into Ogniwo’s catalogue. Without her foresight and dedication, much of this history would have been lost. We extend our sincerest condolences to her family. We are grateful for her dedicated spirit and her contributions to the Polish community in Winnipeg, and vow to continue the important work Pani Kuzia started. Wieczny odpoczynek racz jej dac Panie.

Raise Your Spirits 2019 Announcement

It’s official! Ogniwo’s annual “Raise Your Spirits” fundraiser will take place on October 19, 2019.
The theme this year is “Party at Auntie’s” (“U Cioci na Imieninach”). Join us for an evening of spirits and home-made Polish delicacies as we celebrate in the style of traditional Polish family gatherings.  We will drink, eat, laugh, and feel warm and cozy just as the weather starts to cool. Tickets available now via email or one of our volunteer members!

Marking the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino: New Exhibit

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino, which has its place in history as one of the most decisive battles of WWII. The great effort of the Polish 2nd Corps to capture the Monte Cassino Hill and Abbey, Hills 593 and 569, San Angelo and Mas Albaneta, came at a great cost. The 2nd Corps suffered 4,199 casualties, of which 1,150 were deaths.

We invite you to mark this anniversary with us on Sunday, May 19th, 2019, when we launch a special exhibit prepared by longtime Ogniwo volunteer and Executive Director of Polish Exiles of WW2, Krystyna Szypowska, as well as additional panels by Ogniwo Polish Museum. The exhibit also features the history of Wojtek the Soldier Bear.

It’s here! A new exhibit!

Join us on February 24, 2019 at 2:00 pm for the launch of Poles in the Canadian Mosaic, a special travelling exhibit prepared by Dr. Michalina Petelska of the University of Gdansk, Poland, in cooperation with the Emigration Museum in Gdynia, Poland, the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw, and brought to you by Ogniwo Polish Museum, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Toronto, and the Canadian Polish Congress Manitoba Branch.

Nic Curry, MLA for Kildonan, will celebrate along with us by presenting Ogniwo Museum with a special copy of his private member’s resolution, titled Celebrating Over 200 Years of Polish Culture in Manitoba, which was passed unanimously by Manitoba’s Legislative Assembly on December 4, 2018.

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CZAS Newspaper is now online!

Join us as we celebrate the official launch of the CZAS Newspaper online!

Nov. 1, 2018. 7:30 PM
University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections, Winnipeg.

CZAS, established in Winnipeg in 1915, is the oldest surviving Polish-language newspaper in Canada.
In 2003, Czas Polish Press Ltd., donated its collection of bound newspaper issues covering the period of 1915-2003 to the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections. That collection has been digitized and is fully searchable and accessible online. 


The archives of CZAS-Polish Press Ltd. are held at Ogniwo Polish Museum and include portions of the minutes, correspondence, and photographs of Polish Press Ltd.  Ogniwo Polish Museum holds bound volumes of CZAS for the years 1944, 1981, and 1986-2008.

Join us at the official launch of the CZAS digital collection. A number of the items from our archival collection will be featured on display.

Thank you Sponsors for Supporting Our Renovation Campaign!

Sept. 24, 2018

It’s been a busy year at Ogniwo Polish Museum, upgrade-wise. Thanks to the support of our community and volunteers, we were finally able to tackle some much-needed renovations! We paved the parking lot behind the building – which will make it so much easier to shovel once the Winnipeg winter hits. We have also begun the process of upgrading our lighting to LED with the help of the Thomas Sill Foundation.

Finally, with the hard work of our volunteers, we also built a new and more robust back doorstep, and added some security features to help protect our building and artefacts.

The back lot, before paving. Gravel and weeds aplenty!

The back lot, after paving. Thanks, Winnipeg Foundation!

New LED lighting helps modernize our interior and makes our exhibits shine!

Dennis and Christine Tabbernor dedicated many hours to building the new back steps!


We wish to thank the following for their support to this recent renovation and upgrade campaign:

The Winnipeg Foundation

Thomas Sill Foundation

St. John Cantius Fraternal Aid Society

Private Donors

And: Our Volunteers!

 

Culture Days 2018 at Ogniwo – “Surviving the Calamity”

We’re gearing up for this year’s Manitoba Culture Days, September 28, 29, and 30th, 2018. This year, we are featuring an installation by Winnipeg-born, Vancouver-based visual artist Julianna Zwierciadlowska titled “Surviving the Calamity.” Her works are influenced by her family’s survival of World War II and her experiences of Communist-era Poland.

Hours:
Friday, Sep. 28: 6-9 pm
Saturday, Sep. 29: 1-7 pm
Sunday, Sep. 30: 1-4 pm

 

Ogniwo Polish Museum on the Radio!

June 28, 2018

Our Archivist Marta Dabros was pleased to welcome Robert Zirk and Sonny Primolo of The Winnipeg Foundation to record an installment of the radio show River City 360, a one-hour radio program  93.7 CJNU FM that features stories about individuals and charitable organizations in Winnipeg.

Marta talked about the Museum’s history, its amazing volunteers, and some of the interesting materials and characters featured in its archival collection, including the letters of Walter Wazny, the story of Lukasz Kulczycki’s uniform, and the life and work of the amazing Mary Adamowska Panaro.

If you missed it, you can catch up now via the podcast on The Winnipeg Foundation’s website.

River City 360 airs Thursdays at 12:00 pm (noon) and is rebroadcast Saturday mornings at 8:00 am.