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Armenians in Poland have an important and historical presence going back to the 14th century. 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. Furthermore, it is estimated that as much as 12 percent of the total population of Poland has various degrees of Armenian ancestry.

Origins

About the beginning of the Armenian presence in Poland, Adolf Nowaczyński, a Polish writer, gives us the following sketch of the Armenians of Polandmarker:

Through successive immigrations, the Armenians of Poland gradually formed a colony, comprising 200,000. 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 Lwów 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 Etchmiadzinmarker 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.[425154]

A part of the Lwów émigrés, numbering some 10,000, who had settled in Moldavia, moved from there during the Turko-Polish war in 1671, to Bukowina and Transylvania. In Bukowina, they lived in the city of Suceavamarker and vicinity. In Transylvania they founded two new cities, Erszebetvaros (Elisabethstadt, Dumbrăvenimarker) and Szamos-ujvar (Armenierstadt, Gherlamarker), which, as a special favor, were declared free cities by Charles VI, Emperor of Austria (1711‑1740).

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 Lwówmarker, 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.

Armyani is a historic old town, named after the Armenians, near the Smodrich River

Polish-Armenians in the 20th century

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 Lwówmarker (Lviv), Stanisławów (Ivano-Frankivsk), Brzeżany (Berezhany), Kutymarker, Łysiec (Lysets), Horodenkamarker, Tłumaczmarker (Tlumach) and Śniatynmarker (Sniatyn). Polish-Armenians supported the movement calling for Poland's independence during World War I.

After suffering heavy losses along with the rest of Poland's population in World War II, the Polish Armenian community suffered a second loss. The regions of Polandmarker where Armenians were concentrated such as Eastern Galicia were annexed into the Soviet Unionmarker as part of the agreements reached at the Yalta conferencemarker. As a result the Polish Armenian community became dispersed all over Poland. Many of them were resettled in cities in northern and western Poland such as Krakówmarker, Gliwicemarker, Opolemarker, Wrocławmarker, Poznańmarker, Gdańskmarker, and Warsawmarker.

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

A number of cultural and artifacts of Armenian culture can still be found with Poland's present day borders, particularly in the vicinity of Zamośćmarker and Rzeszówmarker. Additionally a number of Khachkars have been erected in front of several churches in Wrocławmarker, Krakówmarker, and Elblągmarker as memorials to commemorate victims of the Armenian Genocide. It is unknown whether the Polish-Armenians were specific targets of Nazi Germany during World War II, though the Armenians were not scapegoated by the Nazis unlike Jews, Roma people and other minorities during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

Armenians Today

Most Armenians living in Polandmarker today origins are from the post-Soviet emigration rather than the older Armenian community. After the Soviet Unionmarker'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 captured by the Soviets during World War II.

The Armenian Rite Catholic Church which had been historically centered in Galicia as well as in the pre-1939 Polish borderlands in the east, now has two primary centers; one in Gdanskmarker, and the other in Gliwicemarker. A number of its members migrated to Swedenmarker, which holds its own chapter (see Catholic Church in Sweden).

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

Notable Poles of Armenian descent



References

External links




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