History Of The White Eagle Polish Association
Until 1945, there were only a few Polish families living in Victoria. Following World War II, a wave of Polish immigrants arrived from Europe. Not being able to return to Poland after the War, they wished to recreate what they had left behind. They felt the need to unite the community, as they were each other’s only connection to their homeland.
In 1950, Father Planeta arrived in Victoria and started the first attempts to bring together the Poles in his parish. He was able to arrange regular meetings that took place in the parish hall by St. Andrew’s Cathedral. At one such meeting, it was decided to form an organization, whose aim was to facilitate ties amongst Victoria’s Polonia, and to help newly arrived Poles adjust to their new home. The organization became the “White Eagle Polish Association”. Its first president was Aleksander Bednarski.
After the creation of the Association, the members decided very quickly that in order for the organization to function, it needed its own headquarters. After raising funds, members began to plan and build the hall. Three empty lots were purchased along Niagara and Dock Streets. Back then, there were no other buildings there – the purchased land had an ocean view!
In the 1950s, the barracks at St. Joseph’s hospital (Humboldt St.) were torn down. The Association was able to purchase the materials and start the long process of transporting it to James Bay. By doing so, they gained most of the materials needed for construction.
There was great motivation to work. Much of the planning and construction was done by members of the Association, as there were engineers, contractors, plumbers, etc., who were part of the organization. Local companies and Canadian friends also helped in the process. After a lot of hard work, the Hall was built. Although it wasn’t completely finished, it served the Association well.
On May 24th, 1954, during Victoria Day celebrations, Mayor Claude Harrison officially opened the Hall for use. There was also a blessing ceremony, performed by Bishop James Hill.
Opening Day – May 1945