Walking through the streets of Parana one can notice quite a lot of people with Slavic features. In Kurtyba surname that sounds a bit Polish is no exception. It is estimated that the total number of Brazilians with Polish origind reaches even 3.5 million. How come?
The immament presence of Poles in Brazil – the largest country in South America – has a abundant and well-documented history. As early as in the 17th century, traces of their activities can be easily found. The first Pole to come to Brazil, artillery general Krzysztof Arciszewski, who had joined the Dutch West Indian Company, arrived in 1629 on one of the ships supposed to take part in the battles combated by the Dutch with the Portuguese and the Spanish for the maintenance of the colony in the north-eastern territories of Brazil. Meanwhile fulfilling his military activities, he also conducted ethnographic observations on the abode of Indians and made maps and plans of hitherto unexplored areas. His merits were appreciated and paid tribute to in the form of the obelisk in his honor, located in Recife in the state of Pernambuco. Other Poles that had been fighting alongside Arciszewski – captain Władysław Konstanty Wituski, a nobleman who, after returning to Poland in 1639, held numerous land offices and was twice elected for a deputy to the Seym, and Zygmunt Szkop from Silesia, who in 1646-1654 was chosen the governor-general of the Dutch possessions in Brazil. Worth mentioning is the first Polish clergymen in Brazil. He was a Jesuit missionary, Father Wojciech Męciński known as Albertus de Polonia, who during his short stay had become known as a researcher and cartographer.
The great immigration process of Poles to Brazil vastly took place in the first half of the 19th century. In Poland, then under the partition, freedom and all independent activity were suppressed. Some of the Poles, having auspicious opportunities, sought freedom for their own development and fulfillment of aspirations elsewhere, not only in Western Europe, but also overseas. It was Brazil’s exotic nature that attracted attention of emigrants.
Poles that came to Brazil in the early days were mostly excellently educated researchers, engineers, doctors, people of culture and social activists, many of whom have contributed significantly to the economic and scientific development of Brazil, leaving behind multiple permanent traces of their activities. Obviously, at least a few characters are worth mentioning.
Andrzej Przewowski (1799–1879) was an engineer and geologist. In 1839 he settled for a permanent stay in the state of Bahia in the northeastern part of the country, where he conducted pioneer scientific research in the field of geology. As an engineer, he became famous for the construction of a metal bridge, according to his own design called Pedro II on the Paraquacuçu River.
Engineer and cartographer Florestan Rozwadowski (1805–1879), who was participant in the November Uprising, stayed in Brazil in 1850-1863. He was the first person to conduct topographic research and measurements in the Amazon Basin. He was also the author of maps of the Brazilian interior, which is why he is called the creator of the Brazilian topography. Rozwadowski was one of the originators and promoters of the mass agricultural colonization of Europeans coming to Brazil. He expressed his point of view in the dissertation entitled „Government and colonization or reflecting on Brazil and bringing foreigners.”
Piotr Ludwik Napoleon Czerniewicz (1812–1881) has significantly contributed to the development of Brazilian medicine and pharmacy. After arriving in Brazil in 1839, during several years of his stay, he undertook activities aimed at improving the poor hygienic conditions of the local population and promoting medical knowledge. He was the author of many valuable works – a medical encyclopedia and a dictionary of popular medicine and auxiliary sciences. Both works, reissued many times, have gained recognition of the medical world not only in Brazil, but also in some other South American countries. The contribution of Czerniewicz, co-founder and member of the Imperial Medical Academy in Rio de Janeiro, were appreciated by Emperor Pedro II himself, who awarded the Pole with the order of „Cavalheiro de Christo” and the commandery of „Cruzeiro da Rosa”.
Polish engineering input has also contributed to the development of this country, which needed new communication networks to facilitate the movement and transport of goods. In the second half of the 19th century, the construction of railways, transport channels and ports became an urgent economic need. Polish engineers: Bronisław Rymkiewicz, Ludwik Malajski and Aleksander Brodowski contributed to the construction of the railway line from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo – Santos, and then in the city of Manaus in the Amazon, they have built a river port from which valuable rubber was transported from nearby plantations. As a token of recognition, the Manaus authorities erected a monument for them. Worth mentioning is also the fact that in the state of São Paulo, one of the cities – Brodosque, is named after Aleksander Brodowski.
Sebastian Edmund Woś Saporski, who came from the village of Siołkowice in the Opole region, was a person who had a unique impact on the process of settling Polish emigrants in Brazil, and due to that fact was known as the „father of Polish settlement”. To avoid being incorporated into the Prussian army, he decided to emigrate. As a destination of his journey, he chose Brazil, where he arrived in 1867, and settled in the state of Santa Catarina. After completing the required courses, he passed an examination before an engineering commission. Working on the designation of land for the construction of railway and telegraph lines, he had the opportunity to learn a lot about the local social, economic and climatic conditions. This knowledge turned out to be extremely helpful when, together with Father Antoni Zieliński, the guardian of the Polish settlers living in German settlements, he took steps to bring Polish emigrants to southern Brazil and sought a suitable location for them. The country’s authorities, striving to populate the uninhabited areas, conducted a propaganda campaign and recruitment policy, paying for travel from Europe to those offering free land. Encouraged by this, Polish peasants sold their farms and emigrated.
In 1869, Sebastian Edmund Woś Saporski and priest Antoni Zielinski obtained a concession from the Emperor of Brazil, Pedro II, to start the Polish colonization process in this country. The same year, the first group of Polish peasants, consisting of a dozen families from his native village, came to the Brusque settlement in Santa Catarina. Poles did not feel welcomed there, due to the prevailing difficult natural conditions, unfavorable to cultivation and the development of agriculture, as well as the unfavorable neighborhood of German colonists. That is why Woś Saporski, using his contacts among officials and politicians, made it possible for this group to resettle in 1871 in new areas in the Curitiba area, where living and working conditions in the land were much more favorable. In the following years, thanks to his efforts, new settlers came to this area, creating a network of Polish settlements around the capital of Parana.
The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th were the periods of the greatest immigration of Poles to Brazil. At that time, there were three waves of Polish settlement, known as the „Brazilian fever”. As a result, over one hundred thousand emigrants from Prussia, Galicia and the Kingdom of Poland came to Brazil. It was a peasant emigration with little participation of the intelligentsia. The climatic conditions favorable to farming were an important magnet.
The conditions in the state of Paraná resulted in the economic development of Polish settlements, including Abranches, Orleans, Don Pedro, Lemenha, Don Augustus. Their focus around Curitiba resulted in the creation of a community called „Nowa Polska”, which began to organize its life through emerging organizations, schools and the press. From the very beginning, Polish immigrants founded Polish settlements, such as Orle, Warta, or Nova Dantzig (today’s Cambé, but here German-speaking emigrants from Gdańsk dominated).
The first Polish organizations established in 1890 were the Polish Society of Tadeusz Kościuszko in Curitiba and the Consent of the Polish Society in Rio de Janeiro. The first Polish school opened in 1876 in Orleans.
President of the Polish Society of Tadeusza Kościuszko ”It was Sebastian Edmund Woś Saporski that was elected the first president of the Polish Society of Tadeusz Kościuszko. He was also a long-term editor of Gazeta Polska. In 1912, he became the first deputy of Polish nationality to the Paraná state parliament.
Until 1938, emigrants married mainly among themselves. The basic language was Polish, and Polish traditions and lifestyle were cultivated. In 1929, about 230,000 people lived in Brazil. Poles. They settled mainly in the state of Parana (120 thousand), in the state of Rio Grande do Sul (80 thousand), in the state of Santa Catarina (20 thousand) and in the state of São Paulo (5 thousand). About 95% of the total Polish emigration settled in the land, and the rest represented the craftsmen and workers. Intelligence was a negligible percentage. In 1920, the association of Polish societies Kultura was established, and a year later the association of Polish Catholic schools of Education was established. These associations organized the Polish education system with 113 schools attended by approx. 6 thousand. kids. In addition, there were teachers’ unions, agricultural unions and numerous sports organizations grouped in the Association of Sports Societies. The Polish press was represented by the non-party weekly „Gazeta Polska”, founded by Karol Szulc in 1892, and the periodical – also the weekly – „Lud”. In the interwar period, a few more Polish diaspora magazines were published, mainly devoted to spreading education. There were also sports clubs such as SEF Junak Kurytyba and SE Sokół Porto Alegre. In Ponta Grossa, the first Polish Catholic parish of the Polish Church in Brazil was founded in 1930.
Paraná began to become the most „Polish” state in Brazil, and Curitiba became the second largest Polish diaspora in the world. Today in Curitiba you can visit an open-air museum, which was built from buildings erected by the first settlers. It is located in the forest of John Paul II, near the Niemeyer Museum. The buildings were taken to the open-air museum to show visitors how Polish immigrants used to live in Brazil. The resemblance to open-air museums in Poland is striking.
Many famous Brazilians have Polish roots. One of them is the famous racing driver and two-time Formula 1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, whose mother Józefa Wojciechowska comes from Poland. The model Alessandra Ambrosio, who comes from the south of Brazil, also has Polish ancestors, as well as a singer, actress and TV presenter Xuxa.
Taking into account the number of people with Polish origins, at least some of them could potentially be interested in visiting the country of their ancestors or even regaining the Polish citizenship. If all of the conditions and requirements ascribed by the Polish law are met by such person, a successful administrative process is highly feasible. In order to gather all the necessary documents, we can offer professional help, that will ensure the highest chances at obtaining a positive decision. The whole procedure may be conducted in Brasil without any travels to Poland.
Łapaj Justyna, Polacy w Brazylii: aspekty historyczne i współczesność, Pisma Humani- styczne, Muzeum Historii Polski, 2013
Malczewski Zdzisław, Polacy i osoby polskiego pochodzenia w Brazylii. Zarys histo- ryczny i współczesność polonii brazylijskiej, https://kurytyba.msz.gov.pl/pl/ polonia_w_brazylii/polonia_w_brazyli
Mazurek Jerzy, Kraj a emigracja, Muzeum Historii Polskiego Ruchu Ludowego, 2006 Notatka informacyjna nt. Federacyjnej Republiki Brazylii i stosunków dwustronnych,
Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych, 2019
Stenogram z posiedzenia Komisji Spraw Emigracji i Łączności z Polakami za Granicą, 22 września 2009 rok, http://ww2.senat.pl/k7/kom/ksep/2009/046.pdf
Towarzystwo Polsko-Brazylijskie, strona internetowa, https://polskabrazylia.word- press.com