Beginnings of Polish emigration onto Brazil

tpsdave (CC0), Pixabay

Thinking about the destinations of the polish emigrants the first countries which come to many minds are: United States, Germany, UK and Canada. Probably one of the most known cities with the biggest number of polish descents outside of Poland is Chicago. Surprisingly for many, the second city is called Curitiba in Brazil, the only Brazilian city which gained its proper name in polish language, being called Kurytyba. The polish immigration in Brazil started in August 1869 when a group of 16 polish families (around 80 people) arrived by ship to Brazilian coast. It was not easy to bring Poles onto territory of Brazil.

It involved many months of negotiations with the Brazilian government in order to make a space for them in the southern part of the country which was already occupied by other nationalities, especially Germans. At the end of these negotiations the Brazilian government funded the travel of polish families and all of them were provided with an accommodation in a city called Pilarzinho close to Curitiba, in the state of Paraná.

Brazil and the immigrants

Poles were not the only ones who emigrated at that time onto Brazil, actually there were many other nationalities who emigrated to this distant country such as Portuguese, Germans, Italians etc. The main reason associated with this trend was the agreement signed with England in 1830 talking about the transport of slaves from Africa becoming illegal.  Due to the lack of the cheap labor Brazil started looking for replacements in Europe attracting people very often were living in misery with prospects of better life, free transportation and accommodation.

Poland split since 1795 between three invaders did not exist, in many cases people were robbed from all their belongings and there were various attempts to eliminate or even totally destroy the polish culture. The Brazilian concept therefore appealed to many people. It is estimated that between 1869 and 1920 approximately 60 000 Poles moved to Brazil.

Poles, similarly to other foreigners, were suffering from many difficulties at the beginning such as learning the new language, adopting to the new climate etc. As with everything though, time helps to overcome all problems. With time they managed to create societies with polish churches and schools, people found their new home…

Changes in the XX century

It seemed like everything was going really well for the Poles living in Brazil but then something unexpected happened. The act introduced on 26.8.1939 just a few days before the beginning of the Second World War put many prohibitions onto foreigners living in Brazil. The main reason for this act was the increasing power of the German immigrants in the south of the country. To prevent their power from increasing even more, from that day onward, the Brazilian government made it obligatory for children to learn at schools everything in portuguese as well as learning about the history and geography of the country. The same related to using the mother tongues in churches, in public places or during military service. It was all about creating a single national consciousness. The natural impact from this was that polish descendants already not living in Poland for so many years, very often already born in Brazil started to forget about their origins and their culture.

16.10.1978 – Karol Wojtyla becoming the pope

A big change happened after Karol Wojtyla from Poland became the head of the Christian church. Since his election it can be observed an awakening of the Polish spirit among the descendants of immigrants, the search for their roots as well as appreciation of the polish cultures, traditions and customs.

Nowadays, Curitiba

If you travel nowadays to the region of Paraná you will see a lot of polish influence. Because of a huge number of people with polish origins you can observe many buildings following the polish architecture style, you can experience polish cuisine (such as pierogis, zurek etc) or participate in traditional activities, like dance performances or Easter mass. The city is also the location of the Polish Consulate in Brazil and in some universities there is a possibility of taking polish language classes.

Polish descendants have been contributing to the development of the Brazilian economy for many years at the same time teaching the Brazilians about the polish culture. Curitiba is considered one of the most developed cities in the home country and as a conclusion one can be said for sure… immigrants contributed to this status.  

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