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Saturday, 05 December 2020 04:19

Cape Breton Hosts Conference on  Polonia

On July 25-28, Cape Breton University, using venues in the community, hosted a Conference of the Canadian Polish Research Institute. The title: “Polish Communities in Towns and Small Cities: A Conference on Culture and Community Development.”

Participants emerged with a greater understanding of some under-studied aspects of Polonia, as well as opportunities for applied research, collaborations between academia and the broader community, and inter-cultural cooperation in a manner that helps to sustain distinctive communities and a living heritage. Attendees heard from local tradition bearers, met with practitioners, and had fun!


The opening reception saw the launch of an exhibit marking the 100th Anniversary of St. Mary’s Polish Roman Catholic Church, the only Polish parish in Atlantic Canada. It was held in the newly refurbished, historic Polish Village Hall, which boasts a refreshed exhibit area. The hall is owned by the St. Michael’s Polish Benefit Society (established in 1909), a member organization of the Canadian Polish Congress.

Participants were also treated to a “Memories and Stories” workshop and participated in a dialogue with other local cultural organizations about opportunities for greater collaboration in cultural tourism, use of facilities, and administrative support.

The Saturday evening banquet was centred on a dinner theatre presentation of an adapted version of Prof. Al Balawyder’s book The Odyssey of the Polish Treasures, a true story linking Canada and Poland. The actors were members of St. Mary’s Polish Parish. It was presented to a full house at the Polish hall.

Teresa Berezowski, President of the Canadian Polish Congress, addressed the banquet, speaking about the work of the Congress and recognizing local organizations that have persevered in keeping Polish heritage in Cape Breton alive over the course of generations.

The conference program can be consulted here: .

On Sunday morning (July 28), a beautiful new roadside shrine (kapliczka) was blessed. It is a community beautification project in which Cape Breton’s Polish community has played an active role, and includes a carving of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

All of those who received acknowledgement have helped in promoting and maintaining Polish culture and history in Cape Breton. However, much thanks is due to Tom Urbaniak, who is the "inspiration" for the whole initiative and the driving force behind keeping St. Mary's Polish Parish open and viable.