of Marshal J. Pilsudski
Polish War Veterans Society
History of the Polish War Veterans Society
OUR FOUNDING MEMBERS
The Polish War Veterans’ Society of Marshal J. Pilsudski was founded in 1930 by Polish Veterans of World War I residing in Montreal, to provide mutual support during the difficult years of the Great Depression. During this time, many Polish veterans often sought help and company in the only Polish meeting place at that time in Montreal, which was the White Eagle Society Hall. There they met frequently with Captain of the reserve Ludwik Wiktor. During these meetings was born the idea of setting up an organization that would bring together Polish War Veterans of World War I. The group of original founding members included Captain Ludwik Wiktor, Piotr Budzik, Kazimierz Czapski, Tadeusz Kociszyn, Józef Morganty, Antoni Piątkowski, Stefan Sękowski and Florian Szuszkowski. Soon afterward, they were joined by 22 other veterans, and on Sunday September 21, 1930 a first meeting was held, and the members entrusted with the leadership of this new organization were: Captain Ludwik Wiktor, president, vice-presidents Eugeniusz Michaelis de Henning and Antoni Piątkowski, Stanisław Batowski, secretary, and Florian Szuszkowski, treasurer.
Established as an apolitical organization, loyal to Canada and faithful to the historical ideals and traditions of Poland, the Society's mission was to bring aid to its members and their families, and to promote education and strengthen the sense of national unity.
During a meeting of the Society, on 22 May 1933. Julian Topolnicki made the proposal to add the name "Polish War Veterans Society" the words "of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski", the members unanimously voted in favor and the following request was sent to the Marshal to Poland:
We, Your Former Soldiers, gathered here in a distant land at the Polish War Veterans Society in Montreal, have decided unanimously to turn to "Your Fatherly Heart" with humility for acceptance of a protectorate over our Society. At the same time we vow that neither distance nor long years of separation will rip from our soldier's hearts this fervant devotion that we, your former soldiers feel for you and our Homeland, and will remain ever faithful to our principles and traditions as soldiers, and that we will worthily represent the good name of Poles in a foreign land".
The reply from the Marshal was prompt, expressing his great joy and acceptance of the patronage of the Society. Next, the design of the Society Banner was finalized, and it was sewn and embroidered in Warsaw, for a cost of $60. The Banner arrived in Montreal on March 18, 1934, in time for the celebration of Marshal's Name-Day.
Sadly, 13 months later, the members of the Society attended the funeral mass for the soul of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, who died on May 12 1935. Since then, every year in the month of May, the Society takes part in a Mass celebrated in memory of our Patron and deceased members of our organization.
WORLD WAR II AND POST-WAR ERA
Even before World War II, our members actively supported Poland and created the National Defence Fund to financially support their Homeland in times of war. During WWII Montreal hosted many Poles, among them Polish engineers in various fields related to the defense industry, bomber pilots who arrived for training, as well as pilots who flew the planes from the Canadair plant to deliver them to the front. All were given support and aid by the Society. Among Polish Canadians there were also many volunteers enlisting in the Polish Forces, organized by Gen. Br. Duch, Gen. Haller and Gen Sikorski, who visited our Society in Montreal three times in the years 1941, 42 and 43. In 1944, Gen. Kazimierz Sosnkowski settled permanently in Montreal.
Already during the war the Society members began thinking about acquiring a building and a resolution was passed on February 8, 1942 to begin the process. It was not until February 11, 1945, however, that the building at 57 Prince Arthur East was purchased, for the amount of $ 42,500. Four years later a fire destroyed part of the building, including the first banner of the Society as well as a part of the library and archives.
After the reconstruction in 1950, numerous Polish organizations such as Canadian Polish Congress, The Polish Combattants’ Association Branch no.7, The Polish Technicians Society, the Home Army, The Air Force Association Wilno Wing 310, The "Lachman" Choir, and even a Polish School all had a place within the walls of the Society’s building. Additionally, as part of the reconstruction, rental space was created which allowed the Society to rent out these premises and thus become a financially independent organization and could also help finance other Polish Canadian organizations. The society also helped the newcomers who joined its ranks, veterans of WWII, offering them financial aid which was very necessary and useful at the time.
PRESENT DAY AND BEYOND
Today the Polish War Veterans Society consists of over 100 members and although our war veterans are slowly departing, the military traditions of the Society are ever present. Due to a change in the Society’s bylaws, the families of our veterans now play an active role in the running of the affairs of the Society. Also, new members are joining the ranks: Polish Canadians with past military service in the Polish Forces, now residing in Canada, as well as Polish Canadians serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.
- adapted from and based on an article by Zbigniew Małecki written in 1995 on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Society.