Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Echo-Ing the Spirit of the Times: A Polish Canadian Youth Experiment in the 1970s

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Echo-Ing the Spirit of the Times: A Polish Canadian Youth Experiment in the 1970s

Article excerpt


The First National Polish Canadian Youth Convention was held in October, 1969, at York University in Toronto. A major result of this meeting was the creation of Echo as a socio-cultural "Canadian Publication of Polish Youth," which debuted in February, 1970, and lasted until 1975. This paper argues that the historical context of the 1970s is crucial for understanding the generational differences amongst Polish Canadians at the time, questions of identity for the second generation, and the creation, success, and demise of Echo magazine. The staff and content of Echo were in many ways more Canadian than Polish or Polish Canadian because Canadian society was experiencing youth consciousness and ethnic consciousness simultaneously. This context stimulated Polish Canadian youth to create their own voice that was not necessarily deferential to authority in the Polish Canadian community. These youth were not affected by the society around them in the same way as non-ethnic middle-class Canadian youth. Nonetheless, Echo was a successful forum for young Polish Canadians across Canada to debate the meaning of Polish Canadianness and discover themselves in a 1970s context of greater ethnic activism and changing social attitudes.


La premiere convention nationale de la jeunesse canado-polonaise a eu lieu en octobre 1969 a l'Universite de York a Toronto. Une des initiatives les plus importantes de cette reunion fut la creation d'Echo, une <> a vocation socio-culturelle, qui parut de 1970 a 1975. Dans cet article, nous considerons que le contexte historique des annees 1970 joue un r61e crucial pour comprendre les differences generationnelles chez les Canadiens d'origine polonaise de cette epoque-la, les problemes d'identite de la deuxieme generation, ainsi que la creation, le succes et la disparition de la revue Echo. Etant donne que la societe canadienne faisait l'experience d'une prise de conscience a la fois de la jeunesse et de l'ethnicite, le personnel d'Echo fut de bien des manieres plus canadien que polonais ou canado-polonais, ce qui orienta le contenu de la revue. Ce contexte historique a stimule les Canadiens polonais a chercher une voix qui leur serait propre et qui ne se montra pas forcement deferente envers l'autorite au sein de la communaute canado-polonaise. La societe dans laquelle ces jeunes vivaient ne les toucha pas de la meme facon que leurs contemporains canadiens de classe moyenne non-ethnique. Quoiqu'il en soit, pour eux Echo fut un succes d'un bout a l'autre du Canada en tant que forum ou ils purent debattre du sens d'une appartenance canadienne polonaise et se decouvrir eux-meme dans le contexte de l'activisme accru et des attitudes sociales en mutation des annees 1970.


"Young people have less rigid political views than their parents; they are more politically sophisticated in many ways and seem to be more aware of and more sensitive to the contemporary needs within Polonia." (1) What could cause a young Polish Canadian to speak so forcefully and confidently against his elders in 1971? Part of the answer is in the question, but the complete answer first requires some understanding of the history of post-WWII Polish Canadians.

Poles have been coming to Canada in significant numbers since the end of the nineteenth century, but, in political and numerical terms, the twentieth century was the most important time for Poland, the Polish diaspora, and Polish immigration to Canada. (2) Prior to 1914, most Polish immigrants to Canada were sojourning males, and those who settled did so on the Prairies. Indeed, Winnipeg was the centre of Polish Canadian activities until World War I. However, between 1919 and 1931 over 40,000 Poles came to Canada, and Toronto gradually became the centre of Polish Canadian activities. World War II hastened this change, as approximately 5,000 engineers, technicians, skilled workers, and military personnel settled in Canada between 1941 and 1947. …

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