Wiarus (Winona, Minn.) 1886-1893 Browse the title
Katolik (Winona, Minn.) 1893-1895 Browse the title
Wiarus (Winona, Minn.) 1895-1919 Browse the title
On February 11, 1886, the first issue of the Wiarus (“Veteran Defender”) was published in Winona, an early center of Polish immigration in Minnesota. The first editorial notes that despite the large Polish population, earlier Polish-language newspapers in Winona, such as Przyjaciel Ludu (“People’s Friend”) and Kurjer Winonski (“Winona Courier”) never survived beyond a second issue due to lack of local support. In contrast, the well-organized Wiarus had the support of a board of enthusiastic Polish-American citizens whose slogan was “Boze zbaw Polske” or “God Save Polonia.” Its members expressed their “…wish to unify our forces so as to be firm against our adversities, to preserve our holy faith in its purest form, to save our ethnic traditions, to educate our youth, and to secure for ourselves a respectable position in the United States in political and ethnic fields.” Located on the Mississippi river in southeastern Minnesota, Winona was an early entry point for Polish immigrants. With steamboats and later railroads serving the city, lumber and milling industries developed, as well as farming on both the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the Mississippi River. Over time, the Polish-American families in and around Winona sought to build churches and schools for their community, just as interest also grew in having a Polish-language newspaper.
Despite the ambitions of its board, the Wiarus had a difficult start. After losing two editors in ten issues, including an alleged Russian spy who filled the newspaper with anti-Polish sentiment, the Wiarus somewhat begrudgingly hired Hieronim Derdowski, the former editor of the Detroit newspaper Pielgrzeym Polski (“Polish Pilgrim”). A poet and activist who often found himself censored and jailed in Prussian-occupied Poland, Derdowski’s reputation for combative relationships with newspaper publishers preceded him. However, despite his lack of family connections in Winona, he was of Kashubian origin. An ethnic group from Northern Poland, the Kashubians immigrated to Minnesota in large numbers. With this background in common, Derdowski quickly ingratiated himself with the settlers in Winona through his knowledge of the local dialect. By promoting Polish identity through language and education, and by acclimating Polish ideals to American living, Derdowski’s forceful patriotism and notable literary achievements were so successful that on September 19, 1889 he was able to acquire the Wiarus, from Franciszek Gryglaszewski, a censor for the Polish National Alliance who had previously purchased the title from the original editorial board.
As the circulation of the Wiarus broadened across the entire Midwest, it also became susceptible to a public outcry from other Polish communities who took issue with Derdowski’s often didactic editorializing and his personal attacks on public figures. After being renamed Katolik on June 1, 1893, the paper found itself the subject of public demonstrations started by Reverend Vincent Barzynski and his Chicago daily Dziennik Chicagoski (“Chicago Daily News”), who protested Derdowski’s personal attacks. Though both men shared much in common, Derdowski’s affiliations alternated during this period between the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, which favored American Catholic hierarchy and building cultural awareness locally, and the Polish National Alliance, which considered all Polish people part of a global community and which favored the more radical goal of reconstituting Poland, which Father Barzynski strongly opposed. Tensions over cultural identity and church leadership may be of interest to researchers as they center during this period around Winona’s Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish. A rotating cast of pastors between 1890 and 1894 were met with either vocal support or harsh criticism until Father Jakub W. J. Pacholski finally assumed the position of pastor and at Saint Stanislaus forcefully led the Kashubian community in Winona. It was also Pacholski who suggested that the Katolik’s name be changed back to Wiarus in 1895.
Derdowski suffered a stroke in 1896 which considerably tempered his energy. Though the Wiarus remained popular, Derdowski’s death in 1902 was barely mentioned in the Polish press. His widow, Joanna Derdowska continued the Wiarus, which reflected the perspectives of her late husband, until 1915 when she finally sold her interests in the paper. A decline in the readership of Polish-language newspapers led to the suspension of publication of the Wiarus on December 17, 1919.