The Forgotten White Ethnics

Letter From Canada

I recently returned to Toronto from a long visit to Poland, a trip on a Polish LOT Airlines jet that took only nine-and-a-half hours but would have taken months in an earlier age.  In general, Toronto represents one extreme of modern development, to which Poland is a happy opposite.  Nevertheless, there is a considerable Polish presence here—the neighborhood centered around Roncesvalles Avenue, which lies to the east of High Park in western Toronto.

Roncesvalles Avenue was named after the gorge where Charlemagne’s warriors had, according to legend, stood bravely against the Muslims of Spain (the basis of the epic Song of Roland).  Although the center of the Polish community in the greater Toronto area has gradually shifted westward to Mississauga, where the Blessed Maximilian Kolbe Roman Catholic parish and the John Paul II Cultural Center are located, many Poles remain in the Roncesvalles area.

Standing at the foot of Roncesvalles Avenue, you can look southward to Lake Ontario and the huge Gardiner Expressway.  From above the lake, you can barely make out the monument to Sir Casimir Gzowski—probably Canada’s most illustrious Pole—by the shores of Lake Ontario.  At the foot of Roncesvalles, there is a comparatively small monument commemorating the Katyn Massacre.  From April to May 1940, over 26,000 Polish military officers and state officials who were...

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