About Community

 

The fall of the Kingdom of Ani and the conquest of Armenia by the Seljuk Turks during the 11th century and later the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, caused the first large emigration of the Armenians. Of course, emigrations had occurred earlier, but on a lesser scale.

The Armenian princes, who decided to resist the enemy, fought their way to freedom and climbed the mountains in Cilicia and there established a new state by the name of New Armenia, which would remain independent for three centuries.

Another part of the Armenians, numbering around 200,000, emigrated towards the Crimean Peninsula and Moldavia. During the 13th and the 14th centuries, when the Tartars occupied the Crimean Peninsula, some of these Armenians, around 50,000, settled down in Poland, especially in the province of Lemberg (in Lwow and Leopold). So, long before the fall of the (Armenian) Kingdom of Cilicia in 1375, the Armenians appeared in Poland, having been invited here by David, the Prince of Galicia.From then on, new streams of Armenian emigration periodically proceeded from the banks of the Pontus towards the hospitable country of the Sarmatians, and it must be said that these guests, coming from such a distance, proved themselves really ,,the salt of the earth,,, an exceedingly useful and desirable element.   Thereby, Armenians in Poland have an important and historical presence going back to the 14th century.

Through successive immigrations, the Armenians of Poland gradually formed a colony, comprising 50,000. They were welcomed by the Kings of Poland and were granted not only religious liberty, but also political privileges. Casimir III (1333‑1370) gave to the Armenians of Kamieniec Podolski in 1344 and those of Lwów in 1356 the right of setting up a national council, exclusively Armenian, known as the "Voit." This council, composed of twelve judges, administered Armenian affairs in full independence. All acts and official deliberations were conducted in the Armenian language and in accordance with the laws of that nation.

The Armenians of Lwów had built a wooden church in 1183; in 1363 it was replaced by a stone edifice which became the seat of the Armenian prelates of Poland and Moldavia. In 1516 King Sigismund I authorized the installation in the wealthy and aristocratic center of Lwow an Armenian tribunal called the Ratoushé.

The peaceful life of the colony was troubled in the 1626. An abbot named Mikołaj Torosowicz was ordained a bishop in 1626 by Melchisedek, a former coadjutor-Katholikos of Etchmiadzin who supported restoring unity with the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the ensuing rift between the majority of the Armenian community and the few followers of Torosowicz the Armenian community finally reentered into communion with the Holy See forming the Armenian Catholic Church which retained a separate hierarchy and used the Armenian Rite.

Armenians settled mostly in the cities, and in many places they became the nucleus of the Polish bourgeois class. The city of Lwów (Lviv), the most patriotic center of Poland, then the theater of so many historic turmoils, owes its luster in large degree to Armenian immigrants. Kamieniec-Podolski (Kamianets-Podilskyi) received its fame from the Armenians who settled there. In Bukowina and in all Galicia, the Armenian element plays a role of the first order in political and social life, in industry and in intellectual movement. Finally, in Poland proper and its capital, Warsaw, the descendants of those who once were the great nation on the Arax, rendered themselves illustrious in all careers. In the battles of Grunwald and Varna, the forebears of the Alexandrovics, the Augustinovics, the Agopsovics and Apakanovics took part. Also from their ranks came forth later renowned Poles, such as the Malowski, Missasowicz, Piramowicz, Pernatowicz, Jachowicz, Mrozianowski, Grigorowicz, Barowicz, Teodorowicz, etc.

 Armenian origin of many Polish families could be easily traced before World War II. They would intermarry among themselves; if they'd go on religious pilgrimages, they'd prefer visiting the Armenian cathedral of Lwów, built under the inspiration of the churches of Ani. The last Armenian Archbishop in Poland Józef Teodorowicz, as the head of the community was a member of the Austro-Hungarian Senate, together with Latin and Greek colleagues.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were about 6,000 Armenians in Poland living mostly in Eastern Galicia (today Western Ukraine), with centers in Lwów (Lviv), Stanisławów (Ivano-Frankivsk), Brzeżany (Berezhany), Kuty, Łysiec (Lysets), Horodenka, Tłumacz (Tlumach) and Śniatyn (Sniatyn). Polish-Armenians supported the movement calling for Poland's independence during World War I.Than the Polish Armenian community became dispersed all over Poland. Many of them were resettled in cities in northern and western Poland such as Kraków, Gliwice, Opole, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Warsaw.

To combat this dispersion they began to form Armenian Cultural Associations. Additionally the Catholic Church opened two Armenian Rite parishes with one in Gdańsk and the other in Gliwice, while Roman Catholic churches in other cities such as St. Giles in Kraków would from time to time also hold Armenian Rite services for the local Armenian community.

A number of  artifacts of Armenian culture can still be found with Poland's present day borders, particularly in the vicinity of Zamość and Rzeszów. Additionally a number of Khachkars have been erected in front of several churches in Wrocław, Kraków, and Elbląg as memorials to commemorate victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Armenians Today

After the Soviet Union's collapse thousands of Armenians came to Poland to look for the opportunity to better their life. It is estimated that there are currently between 40,000-80,000 Armenians in Poland today, with only about 8,000 from the so-called 'old emigration'.

The Foundation of Culture and Heritage of Polish Armenians was established by the Ordinary of the Armenian-Catholic rite in Poland, Cardinal Józef Glemp, the Primate of Poland, on April 7, 2006 to care for the books, paintings, religious remnants which were saved from perishing when carried away from Armenian churches situated in the Eastern former parts of Poland.

The Armenian Rite Catholic Church which had been historically centered in Galicia, now has two primary centers; one in Gdansk, and the other in Gliwice. A number of its members migrated to Sweden, which holds its own chapter.

There are also now schools in Poland that have recently opened or added on courses that teach Armenian language and culture either on a regular or supplementary basis in Warsaw and Kraków.

According to the Polish census of 2002, there are 1,082 self-identifying Armenians in Poland although Armenian-oriented sources cite estimates as high as 92,000.

Structure of Armenian community

August 9, 2009 was held Congress of Armenian organizations in Poland and formed a community-based organization ,,Congress of the Armenians of Poland,,.
Chairman - Karen  Hovsepyan.

There are five Armenian sunday school in Poland:  Warsaw - Education centre of the Armenians of Poland, Kracow - Sunday school under the Armenian cultural society, Lodz- Sunday school under the Armenian union, Gdansk - Sunday school under the Armenian communal union, Vroclav - Courses of Armenian under the Cultural society of the Armenans of Poland. 

Notable Poles of Armenian descent

Jan Józef Ignacy Łukasiewicz Kajetan Abgarowicz (1856-1909) — writer
Fr. Karol Antoniewicz (1807-1852) — Catholic priest, Jesuit and poet
Teodor Axentowicz (1853-1938) — painter
Anna Dymna, (1951- ), actress
Zbigniew Herbert (1924-1998) — poet and essayist
Fr. Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski (1956- ) — Catholic priest, shepherd of the Armenian Rite faithful in southern Poland, historian, charity worker
Jerzy Kawalerowicz (1922-2007), film director
Ignacy Łukasiewicz (1822-1882) — pharmacist, founder of the Polish oil industry, inventor of the kerosene lamp and philanthropist
Robert Maklowicz (1963- ), journalist
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933- ), composer
Fr. Grzegorz Piramowicz (1753-1801) — Catholic priest, educator and philosopher
Juliusz Słowacki (1809-1849) — poet
Szymon Szymonowic (1558-1629) — poet
Abp. Józef Teodorowicz (1864-1938) — Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Lviv, renowned for his religious and social work.
 

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