After WWII many Polish veterans settled in Canada and wherever they settled they established Polish organizations. One of these organizations is the Wawel Villa Seniors Residences which was proudly founded and opened in 1982 in Mississauga near Toronto largely by and for Polish veterans. One of the most renowned veterans and residents was Col. Pilot Bolesław Orliński, a Polish aviator, who was known by many as the father of the Polish Air Force. When Orliński was a resident of Wawel Villa he was visited by many other famous airmen including Stanisław Skalski, Janusz Żurakowski, Kazimierz Szrajer, Władysław Potocki and Tadeusz Sawicz.
Orliński passed away on February 28, 1992. His formal funeral took place in Poland and many of his memorabilia were sent to Poland to be housed in a museum. However, some important material remained in Canada. Jerzy Kowalczyk, a close friend of Orliński, had many conversations with him about creating a museum in memory of the many Polish veterans who called Canada their home. Kowalczyk, an engineer, was also the administrator at Wawel Villa. Thanks to his leadership and Orliński’s dream, the Orliński Museum was officially opened on February 10, 2002, the 10th anniversary of the death of Orliński. Kowalczyk became the founding curator.
Once the museum was created it became the home for many valuable and historic items left by Polish veterans once they had passed away. Now the museum contains and displays artifacts and memorabilia, valuable archival material and a significant collection of books, including many rare items published by the Polish 2nd Corps as it made its way from the Middle East to Italy. The museum was significantly enriched with the transfer of a significant number of items brought together by Henryk Radecki, PhD, who was himself a ‘junak’ and who established the General Anders Room at the museum which is dedicated to preserving the history of the ‘junaks’. Radecki has written a book on this subject – ‘Youth of Anders. Junak Military Schools 1941–1947’
The museum with the assistance of historian and writer Stan Skrzeszewski has maintained an active publishing program and has produced such works as an English translation of Orliński’s book – “To the Land of the Rising Sun,” a history of two Polish army training camps in Canada – “The Polish Army Camp Kosciuszko Niagara Camp, 1917-1919” and “Chronicle: Camp Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1941-1942), Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada”.
Jerzy Kowalczyk resigned his position as chief executive in 2019, although he remains an active member. We all owe a great deal of gratitude to Jerzy for establishing and building the museum. Now following in his footsteps, we have the ongoing leadership of curators John Kaminski and Henry Sokołowski, and museum expert, Robert Stanczyk. The Museum has been officially incorporated and is continuing to work to fulfill its mission of collecting, preserving and exhibiting items which tell the story of the Polish Armed Forces and how so many Polish veterans came to Canada. Thanks to the Orliński Museum the memory of the Polish Veterans who settled in Canada will be preserved and future Polish-Canadians will come to know their stories.
Note: Because of the pandemic and since the museum is housed in a senior’s residence, it is not open to the public at this time. Donations are still being accepted by contacting Jon Grayson, CEO of Wawel Villa Seniors Residence.
author : Stan Skrzeszewski