Piotr Michał Czartoryski

Piotr Michał Czartoryski 1988



Piotr Michał Czartoryski (right) with Bishop Józef Hemperek the Vice Chancellor of the Catholic University of Lublin and Dean J. A. Bour of the Faculte St. Jean, University of Alberta (left) 1987
Piotr Michał Czartoryski – Champion of Multiculturalism

Piotr Michał Prince Czartoryski was born September 1, 1909 in Pełkinie in eastern Poland. He belonged to the noble Czartoryski family, whose numerous members had served the country for several centuries, not only politically and militarily, but also in the field of art and its preservation.

Piotr Czartoryski studied at the reserve artillery officer school, then philosophy in Leuven, Belgium, and agriculture and economics in Poznań and Warsaw. In September 1939, during the Polish defensive campaign against the Germans, Piotr Michał was wounded. Later, he was arrested by the Germans. He shared his prison cell with Wincenty Witos, the venerated Polish peasant leader. Piotr recalled how he helped the aging and ailing Witos to take off his knee-boots each night. Prisoner Czartoryski was soon exchanged for two race horsed – a family “gift” to a general of the German occupying forces. In 1941 he married Anna Maria Zamoyska from another noble Polish family. The couple had three children: Joanna, Krzysztof, and Monika. During the Nazi occupation, Piotr joined the underground AK.  Several times he was a courier from Poland to Hungary and Austria, and participated in two partisan battles with the Germans in southern Poland. At the end of the war he managed to move his family out of Poland to Slovakia. There he helped Polish refugees from Poland where the new communist terror had been imposed. Later, he served in the Polish 2nd Corps in Italy. He was on special missions, among them one back to Poland. He finished his military service in England as an artillery captain.

In 1949 the Czartoryskis immigrated to Canada. He rented an 8,000-acre cattle farm near Kisbey, Saskatchewan, where the family lived for four years. From 1953 to 1955 he was a uranium and copper prospector in northern Saskatchewan. This proved to be unsuccessful. In 1956 the Czartoryskis moved to Edmonton, where for almost five years, Piotr ran a store with devotional articles and religious books on Jasper Avenue. Between 1970 and 1971 he worked at the University of Alberta Library, where he was instrumental in expanding the collection of Polish books initiated by Colonel Tadeusz Walkowski. In the years 1971-1976 Piotr Czartoryski worked in Edmonton for the provincial and federal governments in departments dealing with ethnic and multicultural issues. Many different ethnic groups benefitted from his extensive experience in human relations. He worked toward closer cooperation of the Poles with other ethnic groups such as the Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, and Italians. His wisdom, good advice, and his work were important for the constitutional development of Canada, particularly the western provinces. His contributions were highly praised both at the government and community levels.

In 1978-84, Piotr Czartoryski was a member of the Senate of the University of Alberta – not the first senatorial post held in the Czartoryski family. He contributed to university courses in ethics. In the years 1976-1985, Piotr Czartoryski was Administrative Director of the Central and East European Studies Society of Alberta, which was conducting research and publishing works on immigration to Alberta from central and eastern Europe. The Society succeeded in accumulating substantial funds which, upon its dissolution, were transferred to the University of Alberta’s East European Studies Fund.

Polish affairs were always important to Piotr Michał Czartoryski, and he was deeply involved in the life of the Polish community. Respect, modesty, understanding, tolerance, patience, and kindness were deeply ingrained in his character and attitude toward others. He was a tireless mediator in the disagreements unavoidable in social organizations. He was an excellent and devoted “ambassador” of Polish interests in federal and provincial ethnic programs, particularly after the federal multiculturalism policy was launched.  In 1973 he was elected Polish representative to the Alberta Cultural Heritage Council. He received a number of decorations from the federal and provincial governments in appreciation of his long work with multiculturalism: the Centennial Medal of Canada in 1967, the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Silver Medal in 1977, and the Alberta Achievements Award in 1984. He was awarded the Order Polonia Restituta from the Polish Governments-in-Exile in London, England.

For two terms (1963-1965 and 1967-1969) Piotr Michał Czartoryski was President of the Canadian Polish Congress, Alberta Branch and of the Polish Culture Society in Edmonton.  Deeply religious, for many years he was Chairman of the Society of the Friends of the Catholic University (KUL) of Lublin, Poland. He and Aleksander Romanko were instrumental in raising funds to assist this University, then the only Catholic university between the Elbe River and Vladivostok.  Several KUL Professors, the Vice-Chancellor included, decorated Piotr Czartoryski with their University’s medals. In 1991 the Catholic University of Lublin bestowed upon Piotr Czartoryski an honorary decorate.

Aristocratic in manners, a nature and poetry lover, Prince Piotr had numerous friends in every echelon of society and the Polish community in particular.

Piotr Michał Czartoryski died in Vancouver on December 16, 1993, and is buried in Calgary next to his wife.

Henryk Wójcicki, Andrzej M. Kobos and Karol Krótki


Source: Polonia in Alberta 1895-1995