Wiarus Polski

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The “Wiarus Polski” (Polish Campaigner) appeared for the first time in Bochum in September 1890. It was the first newspaper to cater specially for Polish immigrants to the Ruhrgebiet and as a result it quickly became the most influential newspaper for the Catholic Poles in the Ruhr.

The “Wiarus Polski” (Polish Campaigner) appeared for the first time in Bochum in September 1890. It was the first newspaper to cater specially for Polish immigrants to the Ruhrgebiet and as a result it quickly became the most influential newspaper for the Catholic Poles in the Ruhr.

Father Franciszek Liss was 35 when he arrived in the Ruhrgebiet in 1890. He not only succeeded Józef Szotkowski in ministering to the spiritual needs of Polish citizens, and fought for Polish interests in the Ruhrgebiet and the whole of the German Kaiser Reich, but was also the founder of the newspaper, “Wiarus Polski”. He wrote the following about his motives: “I have been completely successful in protecting 25,000 to 30,000 Poles from the plague of socialism” [1]. From the very start the “Wiarus Polski“ regarded itself as a form of opposition to the “social democratic” paper, the “Gazeta Robotnicza” (Workers Paper). It took its motto:“Módl się i pracuj!” (Pray and Work) from one of the basic principles of the Benedictine order. Thus Franciszek Liss prayed and worked for Poles as well as setting up 13 new Catholic-Polish societies, alongside his duties as a pastor and publisher.

Once the “Wiarus Polski” became the most important organ of the Polish Catholic societies, it was observed with distrust by the state. Indeed its articles were translated and passed on to the appropriate authorities. These came to the conclusion that “Wiarus Polski” was a political danger. Pressure from the Prussian authorities on Franciszek Liss grew increasingly until he was dismissed as a “Polish pastor” by the Bishop of Paderborn and instructed to abandon the “Wiarus Polski”. The Bishop could never have suspected that the dismissal of Franz Liss would turn him into a hero far beyond the borders of the Ruhrgebiet.

Liss was followed as the head of the newspaper on 1st April 1893 by Jan Brejski who continued to propagate Polish-national points of view, as well as appointing his brother, Anton, editor-in-chief in Bochum. Nonetheless Jan Brejski continued to exercise political influence over the newspaper. Once the two brothers had taken over the newspaper they proceed to turn it from a mostly religious paper to a radical national-political organ. Now the “Wiarus Polski” began to preach the virtues of Polish consciousness even more strongly than before. The moralising overtones were unmistakable: “Polish parents! Teach your children to speak, to read and to write Polish! No Poles should allow their children to become German!”[2], wrote the editors on 20th June 1893. It should be noted here that Jan Brejski was not only the founder or at least the initiator of many Polish choirs, “Sokół” gymnastic clubs and church societies, but also the co-founder of the Polish trades union "Zjednoczenie Zawodowe Polskie" (ZZP). The foundation of their own trades union had a huge significance for the Poles in the Ruhrgebiet.

The “Wiarus Polski“ was not only a daily newspaper, it also published two extra supplements at the same time: the Posłaniec Katolicki (Polish Messenger) and Szkółka Narodowa (National School). In addition the “Wiarus Polski“ printed and distributed a brochure entitled “Odczyty dla towarzystw“ (Talks for Societies) to the heads of societies once a week. This contained important information and practical tips for the members of Polish Catholic societies. The newspaper’s own printing press in Bochum even printed postcards with pictures of Polish national heroes, saints and historic events.

The “Wiarus Polski“ had access to a network of local authors who provided reports on the activities of the many Catholic Polish clubs. These were active in their own church communities and had informal links with the “Wiarus Polski”. The result was that readers could find out the dates of club meetings, up-and-coming jubilees and organisational matters from the paper. But the “Wiarus Polski” also published information about current events in other towns in the Ruhrgebiet and Polish sectors. (In 1772, 1793 and 1795 the neighbouring powers of Russia, Prussia and Austria divided the United State of Poland/Lithuania amongst themselves step-by-step. For over 120 years there existed no independent Polish state until the end of the First World War in 1918). In 1923 the newspaper ceased publication in the Ruhrgebiet. In the following years the “Wiarus Polski” followed the Polish workers who had moved into the North French-Belgian industrial area. The “Wiarus Polski” continued to appear in Lille (1924 -1961) and Lyons (1940-1949) with a single break during the German occupation.


Adam Gusowski

 

[1]  Christoph Kleßmann, Der „Wiarus Polski“, Zentralorgan und Organisationszentrum der Polen im Ruhrgebiet 1891 - 1923, in: Beiträge zur Geschichte Dortmunds und der Grafschaft Mark, (1974) 69, p. 383

[2] Rodzice polscy! Uczcie dzieci swe mówić, czytać i pisać po polski! Nie jest Polakiem, kto potomstwu swemu zniemczyć się pozwoli!, in: Wiarus Polski, No. 70, 20. June 1893.

 

Porta Polonica is preparing a comprehensive digitalised version of “Wiarus Polski“ in collaboration with the Institute of Newspaper Research in the city of Dortmund. (http://zeitungsforschung.dortmund.de)

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