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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Polish - Page 2

Mining Communities

In addition to rural settlements, a significant aspect of the Polish community in Alberta grew from coal mining enterprises in areas such as the Crow's Nest Pass, Canmore and Ekshaw.

Poilsh miner A centuries-old profession in Poland, it was not surprising that many of the early Polish immigrants (in particular single men) were drawn to these areas, establishing associations and support societies. One of the most active Polish mining communities developed at Coleman in southwest Alberta, where in 1916 the Polish Society of Brotherly Aid formed to assist Polish miners in crisis and protect them from the type of discrimination they had undergone as "enemy aliens" during World War I. Many influential Polish community leaders emerged from these mining settlements.

The Interwar Years

Rail road Following World War I, Alberta experienced its second major influx of Polish immigration. Not only had the war had devastating economic and social consequences in the Polish Territories, but it also had stalled the efforts of many of Alberta's Polish immigrants to send for family members. With the end of the war, many of these families were reunited on the Western prairies.

Under Canadian immigration criteria of the time, Poland was a "non-preferred" source of immigration and, thus, only farmers, farm labourers and domestics were eligible. This second wave of immigration, nevertheless, saw the arrival of many trades-people and artisans who passed themselves off as agricultural workers. Unlike their predecessors, these new Polish-Albertans generally had a high level of education, experience in political and social organizations and a strong desire to preserve the customs, heritage and language of their homeland. Many did not settle in rural areas, instead seeking work in cities and towns.

Band As the Polish population increased during the interwar years, so to did the support associations and cultural groups. Working with the established Polish community, this new generation of immigrants bolstered the growth of their culture within the province. Notably, they established the Polish Canadian Society, which would become a leading force in the cultural development and social life of Alberta's Polish people. A strong support system was still in place for these new Albertans, a network that helped many Polish immigrants make their way through the difficult years of the Great Depression.

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