The Kashubians

The Kashubians are descended from an ancient Slavic people which migrated to Poland’s Baltic coast some time after the 7th century AD. Since the Kashubians have never governed themselves, it is more accurate to call them an ethnic group than a nationality. Over the years the Kashubians have been ruled by Germans, Poles, and even Swedes, all of whom dismissed them as farmers and fisherman. In addition, the Germans and the Poles have tried to assimilate the Kashubians or dislodge them, all in vain. The Kashubians have not left a major imprint upon world society because they have always had to fight just to exist. For the same reason, no Kashubian literature appeared until the later 19th century AD.  Yet despite all the odds, the Kashubians have survived. The Kashubian culture thrives in Poland today, thanks to great Kashubians like Hieronim Derdowski, Aleksander Majkowski and Anna Lajming, and to organizations like the Society of Young Kashubians and the Kashubian-Pomeranian Organization. It also lives on in Canada and in the United States, particularly in the city of Winona, Minnesota: the Kashubian Capital of America.


Today, the term “Kashubia” applies to the part of Poland where Kashubian Poles live, rather than any particular area settled by Kashubians. Certain towns such as Bytów (Winona’s sister city), Kościerzyna, and Wiele have large enough Kashubian populations that they are called “Kashubian towns,” but most Kashubian Poles live side by side with other Polish citizens of other ethnic backgrounds. The Kashubian language is recognized by Polish law as separate from the Polish language, and continues to be spoken to this day although it is in danger of passing out of use. Still, if there is one constant theme throughout Kashubian history, it is that while other more famous ethnic groups have become famous only to vanish shortly after, the Kashubians have a genius for survival.




The Kashubians — 13 Comments

  1. A friend of mine is seeking help in translating a letter passed on to him by his father. The letter is dated 1799 and is written in a Polish dialect no longer in use. A fellow engineer working for Whirlpool Corp. in Wroclaw has possession and is trying to find a translator. Anyone having leads about translating hand written documents, please pass them on. Thanks.

  2. Fred, I’d be happy to take a look at a scanned version and let you know if I can be of any help. If the owner of the letter is in Wroclaw, chances are that the letter itself is written in “Silesian Polish.” But just to make sure, I could pass a scanned version on to some Kashubian friends. Let me know. – Joe

  3. I lived in Poland for a few years in the 1990s. Kashubia is a wonderful place where one can spend time amongst history. I am the child of Kasubiain great, great grandparents. I spent time in Gdansk and Wlayslowowo, a wonderful little town on the Baltic. Keep Kashubia alive by reading, bringing to life and exploring its history. It is one of the few places on earth that are yet fully expolored.

  4. My husband I visited Winona and the Polish museum in October last fall and remember the help we received from Dorothy who was working that Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately we had very limited time to assimilate the marvelous collections there but have good memories of the assistance we received while in the Museum.

    We forgot to pick up any free literature which was available. I believe it dealt with the brief history of the Kashubian people as well as some info regarding the Winona museum. If you have such material we would very much like to acquire it. If there are shipping/handling charges inform us and we will pay accordingly.

    Thank you for the favour of a reply to this enquiry !

    Ruth M. Buenting
    106 – 1534 Lawrence Avenue
    Kelowna / British Columbia
    Canada V1Y 6M8

  5. Hello, I recived a message from a lady on Geni (a family history site) mentioning that Mr Joseph Huges, Mr. Stanislaw Frymark and Father Breza all speak Kasubian. I am a Kasubian (3rd generation) since my great granparents immigrated from the Brusy area of Pomerania in the mid 1800’s to Dodge City, Wisconsin and my grandfather came west to Red Lodge, Montana a little before 1900. My father came to Billings when he was 12 and I was born in Billings in 1941.

    I have one specific question and a general one. Our family thrived on “Kasha” a buckwheat groat porraige. Is there an association between ‘Kashubian’ and ‘Kasha’? It just seems a very similar sound.

    My second question is how might I obtain books on history of Kashubian culture and the languate itself. I understand that all three gentlemen mentioned above have working knowledge of, and may have published literature on the Kashubian language.

    Also, my grandmother, Emily Jesse Kasper (Kaspezyck) came to Montana from Winona, Mn. in 1900. Could she also be Kasubian? Her father was Frank (Francz).

    I will look forward to hearing from you. Mana Lesman (Lessman or Leszman)

    • Hi,
      By the way my husband is Kashubian.

      The is no association between Kashubian and kasha.
      One version of the name Kashubian says that it comes from word “szuba” the kind of coat.
      Kasha was one of dishes in Kashubia and was served for example with rolled beef and sauce.
      The name of dish was “rolada z krepami”.
      Kasha in Kashubian language means “krepe”
      Poridge was made of different kind of corn than “kasha”.
      It was made of oat.
      “Kasha” in brown colour was (and is) made of buckwheat.
      Popular was also kasha made of barley.
      Very popular were potatoes boiled in the skin named “pulki”.
      “Pulki” were served mainly with fishes and in Northern parts of Kashubia with herrings in cream.
      Kind regards
      Malgorzata Mazur

  6. I had no clue what a Kashubian was until I watched a PBS program called Focus on Europe
    which had a segment dedicated to Kashubian life in Poland. Sufficiently intrigued, I researched a few Internet articles and learned more about these wonderful people. I was truly surprised that so many live in Winona, Minnesota! Ancient minority groups are a connection to the past and must be cherished and preserved.

    • Thanks for your kind remarks, Claire. It goes without saying that we here at the Polish Museum completely agree with you! If you are not a Kashubian yourself, you can always be an honorary Kashubian instead.

  7. Hello, thank you for this page. I found it while trying to learn if my family through my paternal grandmother, whose surname is Wanat, are of Kashubian heritage, as she had told me (RIP) that her/our family came from Gdynia. If anyone should perhaps know more about this, and is willing to share what they may know, I would be very grateful to hear it. Many thanks.

  8. I believe my family could be Kashubian, and came over during the great migration. It has been hard to trace my family prior to 1900, and that was even difficult since on every census record, the spelling of our last name changed greatly through the years, as did a lot of the facts (mother/father land of origin, etc.) I was able to trace back to the 1900 census which states that My Great Grand father (spelled Johann Keizer on the census record) and great grand mother (Albertina Keizer) came over with their 5 children (Ferdinand, Amelia, Bertha, Chaz, John) in 1900 from Poland, Russia. They settled in Hennepin, Minnesota, and then later on in Cady, Wisconsin. in 1910 the name was spelled Kyzer, 1920, Kaiser (this is when they said they were from Germany) and then in 1930 Keiser. This is where the trail stops. I’ve tried to find their immigration records, but cannot. Any information on my family lineage would be most helpful. As time in my family progressed, the named changed to Kaiser, Keiser, and Kieser (all the same household). They also changed their birth home from Poland/Russia to Germany. Every woman in my family on this side has tested positive for the brcca1 gene, and has gotten cancer. This leads me to believe that we are part Ashkenazi Jewish coming from Poland, vrs. Being German as we have always been told. Any help would be appreciated!

  9. I just found out I am part kashubian . My reatives settled around Chicago when they immigrated . I found out one of ancestors of Kashubian descent was a Polish Hussars and his portrait is in a museum in Poland.

  10. Greetings, to all the Kashubs in the U.S.A. I am a fifth generation Canadian Kashubs and my Kashubian ancestors came to Canada from Kashubia Europe, West Prussia in the year 1858. My first language is Kashubian and I still speak the language very well.In my 20 years of Kashubian research of Kashubian history and my eight visits to the Kashub homeland of Kashubia, I got to find out many things that most of us Kashubs do not know. First, Kashubia is the home and native land of the Kashubs. It is the place where the Kashubian language was created and all their cultural traditions. Before 1294, Kashubia was on its own and was ruled by Kashubian Dukes according to a document written by Pope Gregory IX on March 19 1238. They were a nation on their own. I am finding out that there are a few things constant about the Kashub people and their nation. #1 – they are Kashubian – #2 They are Slavic – #3 They are European – They have always been Kashubian, Slavic and European. They are today and they will always be. What is not constant today is the government who rules over them since 1294 when they lost their independances. It has been ruled, governed and conrolled by Germany, Poland, Sweden, & Prussia Germany. We do not know who will govern them in the future,but one thing is very certain and that is Kashubia Europe is their home and native land. The Fatherland as they call it. Their National anthem is called “Zemia Rodno” ( Native Land) Their national flag is Black and Gold. Their Coat of Arms or Emblem is the Kashubian Griffin.Their Slavic language is called Kashubian. Gunter Grass, a noble peace prize winner said it the best, ” Kashubs are Kashubs, not German enough for the Germans and not Polish enough for the Poles. Kashubs are Kashubs, they have always been, they are today and they will always be Kashubs.

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