History of the Polish Radio Program in Edmonton

The attached photo shows the Polish Pionier U2 radio receiver designed and manufactured in Poland after the Secound World War.

History of the Polish Radio Program in Edmonton


On November 21, 1927, the University of Alberta signed on the CKUA AM radio station as the “Voice of the University”. The first broadcast began with an etude by Chopin, as if anticipating the station’s future emphasis on culture. With the passage of time, the initial 500 Watt transmitter gave way to a 10,000 one with a satellite link; by 1987 it covered almost the entire province of Alberta with high-quality cultural, musical, educational, and informational programs. In 1938 John Liss broadcast the first Polish radio program in Edmonton on the CKUA station, thirty minutes once a month.

Since 1946 CKUA (later known as ACCESS-CKUA) has broadcast a number of ethnic programs – twelve in 1987 – in different languages spoken by Albertans. In 1946, Fr. Michał Kałużny from Holy Rosary Church in Edmonton began to broadcast a live Polish program on CKUA. It was a difficult task because of the lack of material and very limited stock of recordings with Polish music and songs. In 1987 Maria Chrzanowska wrote:

It is now difficult to recall all the people who were enthusiastically involved in this important area of Polish culture (Polish radio program). Enormous work was done by Messrs. Chmiel, Karasiński, Hedinger, Koskowski, Henzel, and Mrs. Henzel, Florkowska, Jabłońska and Buska. In late 1950s, it took considerable effort to maintain the program, partly due to certain anxiety of the CKUA management towards multilingual programs. The length of the Polish program was substantially reduced from one hour every Sunday to twenty minutes every other Sunday… It was also more and more difficult to find volunteer managers of the program.

In 1961, Maria Chrzanowska took over direction of the CKUA Polish program and ran it until February 3, 1995, when ethnic programs were discontinued on CKUA. She broadcast a lot of Polish music, not only classical but also folk and popular. To make her programs attractive, she acquired recordings from Poland, the United States and the United Kingdom. CKUA management favoured musical programs over the spoken ones, since music naturally crossed language barriers among the listeners. Nevertheless, in addition to music, she read articles from Polish periodicals published in Poland, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Several authors from the Polish community in Edmonton also read their essays: Romuald Wolikowski, Tadeusz Walkowski, Kossjan Koskowski, Piotr Czartoryski, and Wanda Buska (who read mostly poetry). Fr. Stanley Wachowich, OMI, was the first of the parish priests who took part in the program.

In 1974, the Premier of Alberta, Peter Lougheed, when granting Maria Chrzanowska the “Achievement Award” called her “Maria Chrzanowska, known as the Polish Voice of the radio station CKUA”

The next Polish radio program in Edmonton was made possible thanks to the efforts of Ryszard Makowski, who, for over a year, organized support for the program among Polish organizations, private enterprises, and sponsors in Canada, and agencies promoting artists in Poland. These organizations and individuals wrote letters to the Canadian Radio-Television Commission in Ottawa requesting support for the multicultural programs, in particular the Polish one, applied for by a group led by Roger Charest. The group obtained the licence, and on November 2, 1980, Ryszard Makowski, in cooperation with Franciszek Zalewski, broadcast their first program on the multilingual CKER AM-1480 station. A number of people cooperated with Ryszard Makowski in running the program in those early years: Kazimierz Święch, Tadeusz Fiedler, Joanna and Aleksander Matejko, Jerzy Lechita, Jan Tereszczenko, Wanda Ryszawy, Zbigniew Sawicki, and Fathers Jan Sajewicz OMI, and Stanisław Błaszkowski.

Since 1985, the CKER AM-1480 Polish program has been run by Franciszek Zalewski while Ryszard Makowski has established another Polish program with the University of Alberta radio station CJSR FM-88.5. The program “Polonia” directed by Ryszard Makowski, is broadcast for two hours every Sunday evening. It brings Polish popular music, news (mostly from Poland) commentaries, interviews, announcements of Polish social and church events and advertisements. On the occasion of various holidays, the program also features Polish students who attend the Polish-English Bilingual Program at St. Basil’s School in Edmonton. In recent years, Jan Mamos has been Ryszard Makowski’s co-host. The main contributors to the program are Kazimierz Święch, Maryla Makowska, Joanna and Aleksander Matejko.

In 1988, encouraged by Franciszek Zalewski, Father Jan Sajewicz, OMI, and Władysław Karciarz, OMI, established on CKER a Polish religious radio program called “Anioł Pański” {The Angelus}, realized with the technical assistance of Kazimierz and Elżbieta Pytlak. The program is broadcast for thirty minutes every Sunday afternoon, and provides spiritual care for sick Polish people, liturgy, moral guidance, religious sermons, commentaries, songs and church and charitable announcements. A special emphasis is put on teachings of Pope John Paul II. Since Fr. Sajewicz’s death in 1993, the program was run by Fr. Karciarz, of the Holy Rosary Church in Edmonton and from September 1995 by Fr. Stanisław Kowal, OMI.

Over the years, Polish radio programs have become an important part of the life of the Polish community in the Edmonton area. The program serve as a favourite source of news on Poland, as well as of spiritual assistance and Polish culture.

Jolanta T. Pękacz and Andrzej M. Kobos

Source:  Polonia in Alberta 1895-1995