„O Boże zlituj się nad nami, rozpacz bierze patrząc na cierpienia Polaków”. O pomocy emigracji emigrantom

Janusz Pezda


‘O God, have mercy on us, one is overcome with despair to see the sufferings of the Poles’. On the aid rendered by the émigré community to the émigrés

The émigrés who arrived in France could count on a friendly and compassionate reception from the French, but government aid was not to reach all of them. They had to be mainly self-reliant. The military pay was not sufficient for a decent living, and the money they had brought with them was soon spent. The majority of them had been dispossessed of their patrimonies, deprived of their lands and revenues. The life they had led hitherto was now gone, they had to begin everything from a scratch. The émigrés, determined from the start to survive, sought aid in mutual help as well as assistance from those who – in their opinion – were better off or who, as some thought, because of their social standing had an obligation to help the needy. Charitable assistance was formally organized in the first few years of the emigration, mainly in two societies: The Polish Emigration Funds Commission and The Polish Ladies Charitable Society. On 25 March 1834 The National Committee of Polish Emigration brought into being The Polish Emigration Funds Commission. The aim of the Commission was to organize the collection of funds for fellow-countrymen most in need. It survived until 1866, but was only officially disbanded after the Franco-Prussian War. The Polish Ladies Charitable Society was established at the meeting of 12 March 1834 for the purpose of helping the poor and those in need, regardless of the beneficiaries’ social background. For many years thousands of emigrants benefited from this aid. The Society was still active in the 1930s. Despite various difficulties both institutions accomplished their mission conscientiously, this  being however very often forgotten. It is therefore worthwhile to rediscover anew the commendable pages from the history of the Polish mutual aid.