The Polish Cultural Institute and Museum boasts of three beautiful buildings filled with artifacts collected and displayed, laying out the Winona Polish experience for visitors. Founded in 1976 by Father Paul J. Breza whose primary intention was to quickly preserve what was rapidly vanishing. The museum is located at the corner of Second and Liberty streets in Winona, Minn.
The mission of the Polish Cultural Institute and Museum is to collect, exhibit, interpret and disseminate the heritage of the Kashubian Polish Culture. It is filled with memorabilia that represents the Polish experience coming to settle in this river valley. We came from Bytow, Poland and surrounding villages and settled in Winona and its surrounding towns. We came like everyone else, for the dream of prosperity in a new land and to escape Prussian oppression. The museum represents the cultural and religious heritage of the Poles who settled in Winona, and is located in the original offices of the Laird – Norton Lumber Company where many of the newly immigrated Poles worked.
After working long days in the lumber mills, many put their efforts in building St. Stanislaus Catholic Church. That beautiful church was built by its parishioners’ dimes and nickels after feeding their families and became the crowning achievement of their faith community. There is a must see 160 degree mural in our museum annex building that describes with words and incredible pictures the story of the Polish immigration and Winona experience. The museum’s second floor houses a supposedly temporary archive of the Diocese of Winona. It holds many treasures and memories of early Catholicism in the Winona Diocese.
The museum itself is now owned entirely as a corporation gifted to an ever evolving board of directors. Their efforts are all voluntary, and the museum has a tiny budget as compared to other institutions of its size. The museum sponsors events throughout the year including Smaczne Jablka (tasty apple) Fest held the first Sunday in October. We have many vendors, music, children’s games, everything made from apples, outdoor bread oven demonstration and much more. Please come join us October 7 starting at 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. for SMACZNE JABLKA.
We have a gift shop offering a selection of items from Poland including pottery made from the Kashubian region of Poland from which our ancestors immigrated. We are proud to say we are the exclusive importer of this type of pottery in America. I would like to thank all of the visitors that have made the trek to our museum. I would also like to boast about the fact that many come from all over the United States as well as Canada, Poland, Australia and many more countries. If you have not had the chance to visit the museum, please stop in for a tour and discover something new about your past.