Our Story

The Polanie dance group in Ottawa was founded by Dr. Jerzy Dobrowolski, a world-renowned scientist and tireless social activist in the Ottawa Polish community. The group's activities began in 1956, when his initiative pooled the dance talents of young people in the community to study Polish folk dances.

Dr. Dobrowolski took on the role of choreographer, instructor, and group leader. The Polish Combatants’ Association, Branch No. 8, lent their premises free of charge, for the dance group to have a place to rehearse. Since then, Polanie's home has been the Dom Polski SPK in Ottawa at 379 Waverley Street.


On May 25, 1981, Polanie celebrated its 25th anniversary by holding a banquet. It was organized by members of the 25th anniversary planning committee and parents under the leadership of Mr. Tadeusz Olszewski. During the celebration, Dr. Dobrowolski shared memories from the first 25 years of the group and Polanie performed a number of dances as part of the festivities.

After 25 years, Dr. Dobrowolski decided it was time to pass the leadership to the younger generation. The friendships dancers made through the dance group were very important to him and he wanted that atmosphere to continue. Therefore, he wanted the management of the dance group to pass into worthy hands. His successor was a former member of the dance group, just as Dr. Dobrowolski had always hoped.


After 29 years, the dance group still had no official name. A competition was announced and a number of proposals were submitted, such as Polka, Krakowiak, Polanie, Opolanie, Polonaise, Slavs, Wisla, Carpathians, and Wilanow. ”Polanie”, meaning Polish descendant living outside of Poland, was selected and has been used ever since.

1987 - 1988

On October 9-11, 1987, the Ontario Folk Arts Council organized a dance seminar in Ottawa. Two instructors, Jacek & Marek, came from Boston to lead the seminar, which was held at the National Art Centre (NAC) Dance Studios. Participants were given certificates of course completion and all costs were covered by the Ontario Folk Arts Council. Members of Polish communities from all over Ontario attended the seminar.

The senior group returned in January 1988 with 10 new dances added to its repertoire from the dance seminars at the NAC.

Over the years…

The dance group performed about 350 times, not only in Ottawa, but also in many other cities such as Barry's Bay, Arnprior, Renfrew, Sudbury, and Boston. No payments were ever requested for the performances; however, any donations that the dance group received were deposited in the group’s bank account. The dance group also received many donations from Polish organizations. Although not always large sums, they were always greatly appreciated.

The aim of the group was not only to prepare programs for performances but also to help people maintain contact with the Polish language, have the opportunity to experience the culture and customs of previous generations, and cultivate pride in their Polish origins. It is worth noting that the Polanie performances also allowed other ethnic groups in Canada to experience the beauty of Polish culture, dances and folk costumes.

Polanie frequently performed on stage at the Dom Polski SPK and at annual celebrations organized on the occasion of Polish national holidays (i.e., anniversaries of the Constitution of the Third of May, Independence Day, or other important celebrations of national significance). Traditionally, the group also prepared a performance every spring.

The 90’s

One of the biggest events to date, was an evening of song and dance in April 1994 at Ottawa Technical High School. Polanie was accompanied by soloists and a choir led by Mrs. Maria Knapik-Sztramko.

Polanie also represented the Polish community in Ottawa at Polish culture festivals in the capital and surrounding areas as well as the annual “Homelands Mass”. This solemn Holy Mass is celebrated every year at Notre-Dame Cathedral in downtown Ottawa. It begins with a colourful procession of numerous representatives from various ethnic groups dressed in traditional national costumes.

At the time, the dance repertoire of Polanie consisted of dances such as “Czardasz”, “Kujawiak”, “Oberek”, “Chodzony”, “Trojak”, “Cieta Polka”, “Polonaise” and “Krakowiak”. The group also began accepting small children from the age of five. An effort was made to sew small costumes that would fit these new, smaller, dancers.


As the years passed, the youngest dancers gained experience, and advanced to the older group while the oldest members left to pursue higher studies or fulfill other personal obligations. Great emphasis was put on recruiting new dancers in the younger age groups.

In the Autumn of 2000, Ms. Magda Goledzinowska gathered a group of children to perform the “Krakowiak” at the Ottawa Polish Theatre Club’s literary adaptation of “Puss’n Boots” directed by Mrs. Maria Stochaj. This group performance was highlighted with the introduction of the “Lajkonik”, and beautiful, hand-sewn costumes.

After a long and fruitless search for a new instructor, Mrs. Emilia Pohl encouraged Mrs. Irene Baker to lead the group of kids. Mrs. Baker, after a long deliberation, agreed, but set a condition that she would receive the musical recordings and Dr. Dobrowolski and Helena Rozanska would show her the basic dance steps. This work was carried out over a couple of evenings and her son recorded the dance steps. Mrs. Baker was in charge of the group aged 5 to 8 years. All the children really liked her. Dr. Dobrowolski agreed to help the group with the 8 to 13 year old children, but only for a short period of time because his health did not allow him to work intensively. His successor was Dorothy Olszewska, a dancer with the group. For some time, there were two groups of about 15-25 dancers.

In the summer of 2008, Polanie was invited to perform in Wilno, Ontario, on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of Polish Settlement in Canada. That year, the group also performed at Greekfest Multicultural Night in August, and at a Catholic Church Fundraising Dinner Dance in Kemptville.

Many people also devoted their time by sewing children’s dance costumes, including petticoats, aprons, skirts and garlands as well as repairing older costumes. That summer, the dance group also ordered 14 pairs of “kierpce” (highlander moccasins).

In 2009 a Spring Gala concert was organized by the dance group at the Dom Polski SPK. The performance, as in all past and future performances, was free, supported only by donations.


During the following years, the dance group continued its activities with an increasing number of dancers. In 2010, there were two groups of children aged 5-8 years and 9-13 years which totaled 28 dancers. The annual gala concert became a renewed tradition and took place at the Dom Polski SPK at the end of April. In addition to increasing its number of dancers, Polanie also acquired four new sets of costumes from the Opoczno region. The acquisition of these costumes and music from the region Opoczno was initiated by Ms. Marta Janczarska.


In 2011, Polanie introduced T-shirts with the Polanie logo. These shirts were used during rehearsals and unofficial meetings. They were sold as part of a fundraising effort by the dance group. That year, the Spring concert was held at the University of Ottawa where all 180 seats were filled.


In 2013, the Polish Combatants’ Association Br. No. 8 officially incorporated the dance group as a youth group of the Association.


In June 2014, the entire dance group participated in the unveiling of a memorial plaque dedicated to the late Dr. J. Dobrowolski at the Polish Section of the Beechwood Cemetery.

Later that year, the dance group received a grant from the Polish Heritage Foundation and allocated that money to subsidize the departure of Joanna Pachulski and Julian Morissette for a three-week choreography course, which takes place every year in Rzeszow, Poland.


In January, Polanie’s costume inventory grew thanks to a donation of new costumes and the efforts to sew many new costumes. Almost all the material and work was done by volunteers.

In 2015, the dance group ordered one pair (male and female) of aristocratic (szlacheckie) costumes from Poland. Polanie is extremely grateful to the Embassy of the Republic of Poland who made this purchase. These costumes were used for the first time on May 3, 2015 at the unveiling of the Polish flag event at Ottawa City Hall organized by the Canadian Polish Congress and Polish Combatants’ Association in Ottawa.


In 2016, the Polanie Dance Group celebrated its 60th anniversary with a Gala Concert in April. At the event, the Badge of Honour was bestowed upon Dr. Andrzej Borowiec by the Ottawa Branch of the Canadian Polish Congress, recognizing his dedication to the dance group for 10 years as well as his work in the Polish Community in Ottawa. A Banquet was later held at the Dom Polski SPK on November 5, 2016 to celebrate Polanie’s 60th anniversary.

Polanie also received a grant from the Canadian Polish Millennium Fund to finance new highland (żywiec) costumes.

During this year, the President of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Andrzej Duda, and his wife, visited Ottawa. Polanie had the honour to meet with the President’s wife at the Dom Polski SPK.


Polanie helped send two more dancers, Ms. Monika Kardyś and Mr. Marcel Podsadowska to the Choreography course in Rzeszow. In the fall of that year, a performance group was created to perform at various events both in and outside of Ottawa.


The group has experienced tremendous growth with almost 60 dancers between the ages of 5 to 46! With this increase in popularity came a higher demand for performances and appearances which the group has been glad to be a part of.


After a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Polanie is ready to perform again! With four beautiful sets of “szlachecki” costumes and all five of Poland's national dances in its repertoire, we are excited to return to the stage. We welcome everyone to our group and look forward to many more great years of dancing!

Our more detailed history can be accessed in the pdf attachments below.

Polanie History - Polish version (1956-2016) : Historia Polan - Polska versja (1956-2016).docx
Polanie History - short English version (1956-2016) : Historia Polan - krotka versja Angielska (1956-2016).docx

See any missing info or dates to correct? Please let us know so we can ensure our history is complete!