“Quo Vadis is not a goal; Quo Vadis is the process. Where are you going Polonia?”
The idea behind Quo Vadis originated in September of 2008 when five students from the University of Ottawa decided to organize a conference for their Polish-Canadian peers. The conference was themed after Henryk Sienkiewicz’s historical novel “Quo Vadis”, which translates from Latin to “Where are you going?”
The goal of the conference was to address the future of Polonia in Canada and to shape the identity of Polish-Canadian youth between the ages of 18 and 35. The conference stemmed from a concern that the complete assimilation of Polish culture into mainstream society would result in the loss of our rich heritage, traditions, and language. The driving motivation of the conference was to bring together Polish students and young professionals, and to ultimately strengthen the Polish-Canadian community.
The first ever Quo Vadis took place in Ottawa in May of 2009, and the conference was titled “Quo Vadis? Polish-Canadian Youth Leadership Challenge”. This event gathered 117 delegates in Canada’s capital city, where delegates were able to hone their leadership skills, but also build a network of like-minded youth activists, senior leaders, and prominent Polish-Canadians. The conference was proven a success and it was considered to be a vital and historical event for today’s Polonia. The first conference fostered a sense of heritage, leadership, and unity, which to this day, continue to be the founding pillars of Quo Vadis young leaders conferences.
The second Quo Vadis took place in May of 2010 in Windsor, Ontario, and was titled “Building Bridges, Building Leaders”. The conference expanded its geographical horizons, as for the very first time, delegates attended from both Canada and the United States. The keynote address was delivered by His Excellency, Bogdan Borusewicz, Speaker of the Polish Senate. The famous Polish rock band, Budka Suflera, made a special performance for the 150 delegates.
The conference continued with its tradition in May of 2011, and “Quo Vadis III: Tools for Success” took place in Toronto, Ontario. With over 200 delegates attending the conference from 16 countries, the Quo Vadis movement gained international acclaim and momentum. The conference was held at the University of Toronto and delegates were treated to an excursion to the eighth wonder of the world, Niagara Falls. Key note speakers included Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Immigration Citizenship and Multiculturalism, and Honourable Marek Sawicki, Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Poland.
In August of 2012, the Quo Vadis conference series moved out of the province of Ontario for the first time. The fourth conference was held in Calgary, Alberta. This conference was titled “Integration” and in addition to professional networking and social events, it addressed ways that young Polonia can engage in and integrate with their local Polish-Canadian communities.
Later that same month, in August of 2012, Quo Vadis was held in Chicago, Illinois. This was the very first American edition of the conference. The Chicago conference was titled “Modern Leaders: Own Your Identity” and it drew delegates from all over the world. The aim of the conference was to educate Polish youth about their cultural history, as it was premised on the idea that Polish youth first need to learn about their culture and develop their identity before they may effectively impact their community.
2013 marked an important milestone for Quo Vadis, as it was the fifth consecutive year that the conference was organized. That year, Quo Vadis continued to expand its reach, as not only was it held in Canada and the United States, but also in Australia. The host cities in 2013 included New Britain, Connecticut, Montreal, Quebec, and Sydney, New South Wales. The remarkable nature of this achievement cannot be understated, as this was likely the very first occasion in history that the international Polish Diaspora was connected.
Following the success of the previous conferences, Vancouver, British Columbia was chosen as the host city for the 2014 Canadian conference, and Melbourne, Victoria was chosen for the Australian conference. The theme of the conferences included connecting, strengthening, and creating a future for young Polonia. The focus of the Vancouver conference was not only on the Polish roots of the delegates, but also on how their heritage interplays with their Canadian identity.
There continued to be a strong desire for the millennial Polish diaspora to connect, exchange ideas, and to strengthen the community. In response, the Canadian Polish Congress-Youth Committee and the newly established Quo Vadis Conferences Canada Inc., along with a dedicated group of community leaders, organized the eleventh Quo Vadis conference, titled “Nowa Fala“, which took place in Burlington, Ontario from October 13th to 14th, 2017.