Association of Polish Engineers in Canada

Association des Ingénieurs Polonais au Canada

Stowarzyszenie Inżynierów Polskich w Kanadzie
Founded in 1941, Incorporated in 1944

Bankiet z okazji 70-lecia Stowarzyszenia Inżynierów Polskich w Kanadzie

Contribution of Polish engineers in the development of Canada and the Polish community in Canada - presentation by Jerzy Bulik



Jerzy BulikJerzy (George) Bulik. Photo by S. Wyka.

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Koleżanki i Koledzy !

Association of Polish Engineers in Canada was founded 70 years ago, in 1941, by a group of 29 Polish engineers, who arrived in Canada to fight for victory of the Allies, dedicating to this great cause and to this land their patriotism, efforts and enthusiasm, their professional knowledge and experience. Their wisdom and ability to see things in longer perspective led them to creation of our Association. We owe them respect and gratefulness, which we should express especially today.

It does not mean that before their arrival there were no Polish engineers in Canada. The best known and the most famous among them is Sir Kazimierz Stanislaus Gzowski, who entered Canada from the US exactly 100 years before the founders of our Association, in 1841. Many roads, railways and bridges in southern Ontario were built by him. His activity was not limited to the area of civil engineering. He was a cofounder of Toronto Stock Exchange, he was the first Commissioner of the Niagara Parks Commission and he also served as acting Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1896 to 1897.

As I mentioned Sir Kazimierz Stanislaus Gzowski was not the only Polish engineer in Canada before 1941, the year when our Association was founded. There were others before and after him. However those who were here before World War II did not organize themselves into an Association, most likely because a kind of critical mass was not achieved: there was no sufficient and determined number of people at one place at one time. Our Association, is the first professional organization of Polish engineers in Canada. As such, it accepts an obligation, resulting from this fact, to represent all engineers of Polish descent: those of the past and those of the present time, those who are our members and those who are not our members.

People, who choose the engineering profession share not only an interest in mathematics, physics, chemistry and other areas of science but they also share a passion to apply theoretical knowledge in real life, to create new reality. Let’s mention just few examples of inventions in technology, implemented and developed by engineers, which have dramatically changed peoples’ lives and created entirely new sociological and cultural environment on our mother earth. Things like car, aircraft, radio, television, computer, ultrasound imaging, plastic and isotope materials, space ships and many others, the list goes on and on. Not all engineers are given possibilities to contribute to these spectacular technological achievements but all of them, as a result of their work, leave certain marks, sometimes only short lived, sometimes more permanent ones. Polish engineers arriving in Canada, similarly as all other engineers, worked at various places, at various positions, and some of them were lucky to find themselves in places and conditions enabling them to make significant contributions to various areas of Canadian technology, industry, architecture, education, and others. At least some of their achievements deserve to be mentioned at today’s jubilee.

Majority of Polish engineers, arriving in Canada during, and just after the war, were specialists in the area of aircraft technology. So, naturally their contribution was made to aircraft industry. Such projects as new version of wooden fighter Mosquito, aircrafts Beaver and Chipmunk, and a jewel of post-war Canadian aircraft industry supersonic jetfighter Avro Arrow were designed and implemented in significant degree by Polish engineers; some outstanding members of this fairly numerous group were: Błachut, W. Brzozowski, W. Czerwiński, W.Jakimiuk, and E. Kosko.

Stepping down from sky to earth we may see around us, here in Toronto, many civil engineering projects, which have Polish hands on them: Eaton Center (L. Alejski), CN Tower (A.Rozwadowski), Gardiner Expressway, Yonge Street Subway Line (W. Wyszkowski), several campuses of community colleges as well as several buildings of UofT.

Talking about institutions of higher education it is worthwhile to mention that Polish engineers who arrived during and after World War II organized some departments of technology at Canadian universities, for example: Aeronautical Departments at UofT G. A. Mokrzycki), XXX.

It should be also mentioned now that Canadian School of Management was founded by Polish scientist, Jerzy Korey – Krzeczowski.

Polish immigrants were not only organizers of certain areas of studies at Canadian universities, they were simultaneously outstanding academics, whose achievements have been recognized not only in Canada but also outside our country (G. Glinka and R. Varin – UofW, J. Lipkowski –UofG, XXX); some of them hold Canada Research Chairs (J. Lipkowski. UofG, J. Pawliszyn, UofW).

It should be also noticed that there has been a kind of export of Polish engineers from Canada to the US. To illustrate it I will mention only two of them. Mieczysław Bekker, who after several years of work in Canada, accepted a post at GM, where he designed and built a lunar rover vehicle, absolutely instrumental and critical piece of equipments for Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions. Another one in this group and a more recent case is Ryszard Malinowski, who after few years of work in Canada, accepted a post at Intel and now is one of the vice presidents of this world class corporation.

Polish engineers have been active and successful not only in the areas of technology, education, managements, administrations and some others but they have been also active in other organizations, “delivering” presidents to such organizations like Canadian Polish Congress (S. Orłowski, A. Garlicki), Association of Polish Combatants (A. Garlicki) as well as Professional Engineers of Ontario (W. K. Bilawski).

Contributions made by some of Polish engineers were so significant that few of them were awarded Order of Canada (A. Garlicki).

Ladies and gentlemen ! I presented to you only some out of many outstanding accomplishments of Polish engineers in Canada. However we should be aware that it is only the tip of an iceberg, There were and there are many engineers of Polish descent in Canada very successful in their profession and there were and there are many, who are not generals but just officers, simply medium level employees and managers in industry, in research and educational institutions as well as owners of dozens of private businesses of various sizes. Their good work, innovative spirit, initiative and entrepreneurship have comprised an important contribution to our common house, called Canada.

The Association whose 70th anniversary we celebrate today has been a kind of silent partner and ally for many of these people, for their activities and for their successes. It has operated in the background, sometimes not very visible, nevertheless its significance not only for Polish engineers but for the whole Polish community in Canada and in this way for various areas of life of Canadians has been absolutely essential. Many individual achievements could never take place if there were no favourable conditions created by the Association for contacts, cooperation and mutual help among people, and if there were no various forms of support available from the Association.

Obviously the needs of Polish engineering community were changing over the years and synchronously with them main accents and directions of the Association programs and actions were changing as well. In the 40-ies and in the 50-ies the most important thing was to help newly arriving engineers to improve or even to learn the language, to find work and to help them accommodate to Canadian society. Such needs practically disappeared during the last few decades. They have been replaced by new directions and forms of activity and new programs. One of them arose when after the collapse of communism Poland joined the family of democratic free countries. It was developing cooperation between engineers and scientists in the area of technology from Poland and Canada, which was realized by Committee for Technological Cooperation with Poland created by our Association.

With time passing, new problems and new challenges have appeared. Nuclear versus renewable energy, combustion versus electrical engines for cars, replacing traditional materials by new composite materials, etc. The Association takes part in looking for solutions for essential problems of facing today’s technology by organizing conferences, where such hot topics are presented and discussed by most knowledgeable and experienced professionals from Canada and from Poland.

This flexibility and responsiveness to changing conditions, needs and tasks, which has been demonstrated over the years by the Association is a source of strength of our organization and we look with confidence and optimism to its future.

A shape, a character of each organization is defined formally by various legal documents like its constitution, bylaws, rules, etc. However, practically the critical factor, which decides about failures and successes of organization are people who work for it. The Association was lucky that during its whole existence, just from the very beginning, from the moment of its foundation, it was awarded by many gifted and dedicated people. People who at various levels of the organization held positions, like presidents, secretaries, treasurers, people, who were members of various bodies like Boards of Directors, Editorial Boards, committees, etc. Volunteers - who devoted their talents and their time to the Association, to realization of its programs and its actions. People, who, by their work for the Association, helped other people and worked for the communities. Without their dedicated service, without their hard work, work - which was performed in parallel with their family and professional duties – the Association would not be able to play such an important role on the Canadian scene, as it has successfully done over the years. All of us owe them, activists of the Association, respect and thanks, which they very much deserve.

The result of their work is 70 years of outstanding service of the Association for Polish engineers, for Polish community, for Canada and for Poland. Congratulating this impressive jubilee we wish the Association for the years to come becoming continuously more valuable part of Canadian landscape of social and professional communities.

Jerzy Bulik