Polish History and Konstanty Reynert Chair of Polish History

Up to 1988 Polish history had been ably taught at the University of Toronto by a most interesting individual: the late Professor Peter Brock, an Englishman with a doctorate in Polish history from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, who spoke and wrote Polish fluently and was a great friend of Poland and its history. He was related to General Isaac Brock, who was killed defending Canada from the Americans in 1812.

Professor Brock’s position as teacher of Polish history was to have been terminated with his retirement. The Canadian Polish Congress, under the leadership of its then President, Stanisław Orłowski, launched a funding campaign to preserve the position. The initial project was for a Professorship, for which a sum of $450,000 was needed. A Funding Committee was formed, which by 1994 collected over half a million dollars thanks to the generosity of some 1,200 donors from all over Canada and some from the United States.

In 1995, thanks to a bequest of approximately half a million dollars from the estate of Konstanty Reynert, a former officer in the Polish Navy, the Professorship was converted to a permanent Chair named, in honour of the chief benefactor, the Konstanty Reynert Chair of Polish History. Professor Piotr Wrobel was appointed its first holder. The Chair, being permanently funded, will continue to function in perpetuity.

To the best of our knowledge, this Chair is the only chair of Polish history in all of North America, and we are proud of the fact that it had been funded entirely by the Polish community, without any government assistance.

About one hundred students of the University of Toronto participated in Polish history courses during the academic year 2005-2006.

The generosity of Konstanty Reynert and the many other donors who have contributed to the creation of this Chair is bearing fruit in helping to widen the knowledge among Canadians of all ethnic origins of the richness of Poland’s thousand-year history and its importance on the world scene.