Polish Student’s Initiative in Canada

Jakub Lewandowski and Peter Kluz look to the future after having just thought up PISK.



PISK works to meet the following goals for students with Polish ties in Canada:

  1. Provide a platform for the exchange of ideas and opportunities (eg: scholarships, programs, internships).
  2. Provide networking opportunities (eg: conferences, trips, parties).
  3. Connect Polish student clubs across Canada with each other and with other relevant organizations.
  4. Communicate regularly with Canadian student Polonia, disseminating news at a local level.
  5. Assist with the creation of new Polish student clubs.
  6. Promote involvement within the community and a feeling of identity with Polonia among students.
  7. Search for young leaders and foster their development through supporting their taking on leadership roles.
  8. Support efforts benefiting student life and represent student Polonia in matters concerning them.



It all started in August of 2008. It was time to stop daydreaming; summer was almost over, school was about to begin again and ideas and goals for the new year were already starting to form. One fine day in late August an idea came up at Ryerson’s Ram in the Rye. A small group of students sat down to address the problem of dwindling activity within young Polonia evident all around them, both at their local Polish student club as well as in Polish student clubs throughout the region.

Curious, Peter Kluz proposed an idea: What if there was a nationwide, student-led organization promoting and connecting allPolish student initiatives throughout Canada? What if this organization was connected to larger profit and non-profit organizations in the Polish community? What if it lobbied for greater support of students involved in Polish initiatives across the country? What if this organization helped sponsor student exchanges to Poland, scholarships, internships? What if, what if… and the possibilities grew.


The idea was immediately picked up by Jakub Kardynał, Peter’s close friend at Ryerson’s Polish Students’ Association. Together with the Ryerson PSA, Jakub and Peter quickly mobilized themselves and organized an impromptu meeting for executives of Polish student clubs across the region. They realized a grim truth: their generation was the last branch of the last significant wave of Polish immigration. Every “Polish” student coming after them was a little bit weaker in the language, with roots back to Poland that were a little bit foggier. They knew that if something wasn’t done quickly,the Polish footprint in Canada would be reduced to merely a collection of funny-sounding surnames devoid of any deeper meaning.

All told, about 15-20 presidents, vice-presidents and secretaries showed up from Polish student clubs across Ontario, including a small delegation from Montreal to boot. The name of this event? KOSA: Konferencja Ostatnich Studiujących Aktywistów—The Last Remaining Student Activists’ Conference.

The KOSA conference: PISK’s (highly successful) inaugural meeting. Clockwise, from the lower left corner: Kamil Mróz (Ottawa), Paul Sulżycki (Waterloo), Paul Izdebski (York), Kasia Kamińska (York), Jakub Kardynał (Ryerson), Hubert Bibrowski (Western), Peter Kluz (Ryerson). Not sure who the two fellows in the dark clothing are in the upper, right-hand corner of the image, though they might be representatives of local Polonia media.

Upon hearing the idea for this new initiative, the invited delegates immediately saw the potential within this large community, the same community that only recently seemed so small and insignificant when seen from within a campus bubble. The name Polska Inicjatywa Studentów w Kanadzie seemed fitting, both because this organization is very much a Polish Initiative of Students in Canada, and also because its acronym conveniently spelled out the Polish word for “chirp”: PISK—a noise an eaglet might make. This is symbolically significant if you recall that the white eagle is the official emblem of Poland.


As these original PISKers moved on, one voice stayed behind to bolster PISK for the next generation: Paul Sulżycki. He is the face behind this website which he built with with Hubert Bibrowski, one memorable weekend many summers ago, and which he continued managing throughout 2011-2015. Between running PISK.ca and founding the Iskra Project, Paul pushed PISK’s goals of connecting Polonia even further than initially anticipated.


Since our first general election in September of 2009, PISK has quickly gained momentum and moulded the vision of a few with the needs of many to create a strong, vibrant network of Polish students across Canada. Contacts have been forged with both Polish student organizations across the country as well as with the Canadian Polish Congress (which greeted PISK with applause at its General Assemply on October 17, 2009), and with the Polish government through its Canadian consulates and its embassy in Ottawa.

Many of the original brainstormers behind PISK are now moving forward with their careers—traveling, catching exciting opportunities, and making names for themselves in their respective fields—but, wherever they are, they are still actively involved in Polonia and still constitute the extended PISK network. If you are looking for a co-op placement, an internship, or even just a buddy to help you out as you’re traveling, PISK can probably help.

The executive committee is constantly working on ideas and initiatives so please do not hesitate to drop us a line if you’d like to get involved. There are nothing but exciting opportunities in store for you, so go ahead—take action and move your proud heritage forward!


Polonia communities are shaped by the people who live in them, and especially by the contributions of extraordinary individuals. We at PISK seek to to recognize individuals who have made a sustained and innovative contribution to our community, demonstrating leadership, initiative, and perseverance. Any person or organization can nominate an individual (eg: last year’s nomination form) for either the Inspiring Young Leader Award or for the Exceptional Mentor Award. Below are past winners.


Inspiring Young Leader Award: Natalia DmuchowskaMEDes (candidate),BA (Calgary, AB) is finishing graduate studies on the interaction between people and space. She was the Chair of QV Calgary, an avid member of ZHR for 15 years, a senior dancer and choreographer with Radość-Joy, and in 2012 completed Warsaw’s prestigious SLP program for young Polonia leaders. She is currently an Events Associate at the Art Gallery of Calgary as well as an Event Coordinator at a snazzy restaurant in downtown Calgary. Natalia is an amateur photographer, lively dancer, skilled squash player and courageous rock climber.

Exceptional Mentor Award: Zenon Kosiniak-Kamysz(Ottawa, ON) completed his undergraduate work in Dresden, after which he worked across Cracow and Leipzig. This was followed by a long, active history in the Polish diplomatic service, including posts in Budapest, Warsaw, Berlin, and Bratislava. Since 2009, he has been serving as the Polish Ambassador to Canada. He currently resides in Ottawa and speaks Polish, German, English, Slovak and Russian.


Exceptional Mentor Award: Professor Walter PerchalPhD, CD (Toronto, ON) teaches at York University, and is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Forces. He concluded his regimental duties as Commanding Officer of the Royal Regiment of Canada and currently serves as Special Advisor to the Canadian Army Commander. Professor Perchal has held various senior appointments over the years in a number of firms. Most recently, he has been the principal in a transdisciplinary consulting group that advises governments and other entities on various transformation issues.

Krystyna Szurlej (Winnipeg, MB) : Recipient, Inspiring Young Leader Award

Marysia Kwapiszewska (Winnipeg, MB) : Recipient, Inspiring Young Leader Award


Inspiring Young Leader Award: Anna V. Barycka (Windsor, ON) co-founded PCSAWand began her political science studies in Ottawa in 2008, during which time she volunteered at various federal ministries. In 2009 she helped organize the first QV conference, bringing it to Windsor in 2010. She then completed an internship with the Polish Senate and opened up her own translating firm, worked as a project assistant for SLP, interned at a French-Polish consulting firm in Toulouse, and worked at the European Parliament in Brussels. Currently, Ania is completing an internship at the European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw.

Exceptional Mentor Award: Jerzy BaryckiP.Eng. (Windsor, ON) is a professional engineer and has been the Vice-President for Polish Affairs in the Canadian Polish Congress since 2006. He was the co-founder and Chairman for “Polish Week in Windsor” in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, a series linked to the celebration of 100 years of Polish settlement in Windsor. Pan Barycki is also the current president of the Polish-Canadian Business and Professional Association of Windsor, and he was a delegate of the Canadian Polish Congress on the 3rd World Congress of Polonia in 2007.

Exceptional Mentor Award: Wojciech Dzięgiel(Toronto, ON) was the vice-consul at the Polish Consulate in Toronto from 2006-11. He served three years as the head of its legal section and took up responibility for Polonia affairs in 2009. He is a graduate of Nicolas Copernicus University, where he specialized in public international law and through which he took part in the Socrates/ERASMUS program at Utrecht University in 2002-3. In 2004, he joined the civil service and began working for federal offices in Warsaw and during 2005-06 he was a student at the National School of Public Administration in Warsaw.