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Poles in Haiti - Polish legions in the Haitian war of independence (1802-1803)

Located in the Department of Grande Anse and not too far from the Haitian Capital, Port-au-Prince, Cazale (also spelled Cazales/Casale) is a small village in Haiti. It is mainly agricultural. One thing distinctly unique about Cazale is its large Polish influence.

In 1802, the Napoleon army who came to Santo Domingo to fight the slave rebellion, included a Polish legion. There were about 5200 Poles sent to Saint Domingue by Napoleon. The Polish officers were told that there was a revolt in Saint-Domingue; however, upon arrival, the Polish brigade realized that the rebellion that they were informed of by the Napoleon army was actually slaves in the Colony fighting for their freedom.

At that time, there was a similar war going on in Poland. these polish soldiers were fighting back home for the liberation of their own country. In 1772, 1793 and 1795 Russia, Prussia (Germany) and Austria were subsequently invading Poland, resulting in the infamous Partitions of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, when it disappeared from the maps. Many Poles, hopeful of uniting in some way to win back Polish territory, made alliance with France and joined Napoleon’s army, but as distinct Polish units.

Many Polish soldiers decided to leave the French army and join the slave rebellion. They all settled in Casale, La Vallee de Jacmel, Fond des Blancs, La Baleine, Port Salut and St. Jean du Sud. Several Polish soldiers participated in the Haitian revolution of 1804 [read more: the disastrous Haitian campaign]. The Polish soldiers acquired Haitian citizenship after Haiti’s Independence, settled there to never return home. Even today, you can find Haitian Poles, blue eyed, blond, with European features.

Now turning the page into the Duvalier era. Casale became a stronghold for communism and many young intellectuals in the region were in direct conflict with François Duvalier's regime. as a consequence, March 29, 1969 came to be known as the worst day for the people of Casale. With the help of his Tonton Macoute [private army], Duvalier built a barricade around Casale, and murdered many young guys.

Pope John Paul II who visited Haiti in 1983, mentioned the Polish contribution to the Slave rebellion leading to Haiti’s independence. Several Haitian Poles from Cazale, La Vallée-de-Jacmel, Fond-des-Blancs, La Baleine, Port Salut and Saint-Jean-du-Sud were selected by the Duvalier regime to attend the various ceremonies organized for the Pope visit." [text source]

On pictures:

  1. January Suchodolski (1797-1875): “Battle at San Domingo”, 1845. [source]
  2. Visit of the Pope John Paul II in Port-au-Prince, March 1983. Descendants of the Polish soldiers holding an image of the Our Lady of Częstochowa (also called the Black Madonna of Częstochowa), one the holiest paintings of Polish Catholic Church. [source]
  3. Inhabitants of the “Polish village” in Haiti; photographed by Światosław Wojtkowiak. [source]
  4. One of typical houses in Cazale, Haiti - resembling Polish rural architecture in form; photographed by Światosław Wojtkowiak. [source]
  5. Inhabitants of the “Polish village” in Haiti; photographed by Światosław Wojtkowiak. [source]
  6. Joseph Merlo Delice and his cousin, Michel Delice are playing dominoes with a visitor from Poland. One of the few pastimes available in this mountain village; photographed by Światosław Wojtkowiak. [source]
  7. One of houses in Cazale; photographed by Światosław Wojtkowiak. [source]
  8. Mme Exavier Rosandre. Cazale village; photographed by Światosław Wojtkowiak. [source]

To watch // Do obejrzenia:

// Fundacja Polska-Haiti

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Selected photographs from the ‘Algiers, Algeria' 2007 photojournalism series by Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak that chronicles certain facets of daily life in the North African country’s capital city.

With one of those areas being the migrant population in the city, Wojtkowiak highlights the day-to-day struggles faced by these workers in a landscape that’s both unfamiliar to them and at often highly unwelcoming. However, I strongly object to Wojtkowiak referring to the black dark-skinned migrant workers (who hail from other parts of the continent) as ‘Africans’, as if to say that Algerians are not categorized as Africans perhaps due to their geographic proximity to Europe and their skin colour. Perhaps this too is an a reflection of attitudes amongst Algerians.