On Saturday May 7, 2016 during the annual Kashub Day festival in Wilno, Ontario Joshua C. Blank (MA, 2010) officially launched his book, Creating Kashubia: History, Memory and Identity in Canada’s First Polish Community.
Several hundred descendants and residents – some who travelled from as far away as Northern Poland – unveiled family stones, listened to traditional music, heard a short lecture from Blank, and enjoyed other festivities in and around the Polish-Kashub Museum. Quite quickly, all of the copies of the book that the Wilno Heritage Society had in their store were sold and many were autographed. Many stopped by Blank’s table to discuss his book and his findings.
“The book covers around 500 years of history and the complete sequence of migration,” says Blank. “It looks into the pre-existing conditions in Prussian and Austrian-occupied Poland, delves into the world of immigrant recruitment and analyzes the transatlantic voyage. But it doesn’t stop there. It analyzes the socializing influences in Canada and the re-ethnicization of the settlers from Polish to Kashubian in the 1980s and 1990s. It also looks at the creation of the Wilno Heritage Society, the promotion of ethnic events and offers alternative views to those who think that the ethnic group is losing its heritage.”
Blank’s research started at Carleton and then, with encouragement from Drs. Bruce S. Elliott, John C. Walsh and Jan K. Fedorowicz, he continued to expand the manuscript after graduating. Creating Kashubia was accepted and published by McGill-Queen’s University Press and is a part of the Studies in Ethnic History Series. “The subvention from the Carleton Centre for the History of Migration and the Shannon Fund were crucial in the development of the book,” remarks Blank. “Additionally, I would not have been able to conduct research in Poland had I not received generous grants from Carleton University and the Estate of Frank Underhill.”
Elliott and Marilyn Barber made the trek to Wilno for the festivities and were impressed by the events and development of the museum and park. Dr. Elliott, who runs a fourth year seminar on gravestones and cemeteries, was particularly interested in several old wooden grave markers and crosses from the old Polish cemetery.
Joshua Blank teaches at St. Francis Xavier HS in Ottawa. Creating Kashubia can be ordered online through MQUP (http://www.mqup.ca/) or can be purchased through the WHS (www.wilno.org/articles/books.html).