Poles of the world - 5 interesting facts

Did you know that Poles live in all corners of the world from Argentina to Zimbabwe? According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, today’s Polish diaspora is estimated at approximately 20 million people.

Here are 5 interesting facts about Poles abroad, who you can – most likely – come across in your very own neighbourhood, wherever in the world you live.

1. Although, unsurprisingly, Warsaw is the world’s city with the highest concentration of Poles (2 million residents), coming in second is… Chicago! It is estimated that 1.5-1.8 million Poles and people of Polish origin live permanently in the so-called Windy City. Outside Poland, the United States remains the country with the largest Polish community in the world as more than 9 million Poles live there!

2. Probably the most significant Polish migration movement was the Great Emigration in the first half of the 19th century. It was a politically motivated exile, and its immediate cause was the failed November Uprising against the Russian rule in partitioned Poland. The political emigrés – mainly members of the aristocracy and the intelligentsia such as Czartoryski, Mickiewicz, Chopin and Bem – spread out through Western Europe and contributed extensively to the maintenance of Polish cultural values supressed in Poland by the occupying powers.

3. At the turn of the 19th and 20th century, Poles migrated en masse "for bread.” Many opted for South America and the United States, others – enticed by the tsarist administration – headed deep into the Russian territories. In 1910, Polish settlers arrived in Vershina, located 130 kilometers from Irkutsk. As promised, they received land and money, but no one had warned them about the harsh Siberian climate… Today, almost the entire population of Vershina (approx. 500 people) is of Polish descent.

4. Polish communities in Poland’s neighbouring countries, especially in the east, came to be as a result of the partitions, and more recently of border shifts and the Soviet aggression of 1939. Today, many Poles live in the regions of Vilnius (Lithuania), Lviv and Zhytomyr (Ukraine), as well as Grodno (Belarus), even though they are not officially part of the Polish diaspora since they, or their ancestors, did not emigrate from Poland but found themselves outside the Polish territory due to changing borders.

5. According to the British Office for National Statistics, Poles are the largest minority in the United Kingdom. In 2016, the number of Polish citizens permanently residing in the UK exceeded 1 million, but the tradition of Polish migrations to Great Britain goes back as far as the Middle Ages! Polish wartime migration to the British Isles also plays a special role in our history. The government-in-exile, formed after German Nazi invasion, moved to London in 1940. Together with it came Polish political and social institutions, schools and.

If you want to know more, visit the Emigration Museum in Gdynia next time you come to Poland. Housed in the historical building of the Maritime Station, which in the past saw Polish transatlantic ships departing for the western hemisphere, the museum tells the story of Polish migration.