Yesterday, on the feast of Blessed Mary Angela, God prepared for us a beautiful surprise. Joseph, Yvon’s brother took us to Casale, a small village in Haiti . It is located in the Department of Grande Anse and not too far from the Haitian Capital, Port-au-Prince. Casale is mainly agricultural. The road to get there is very challenging but the nature is beautiful. One thing distinctly unique about Casale is its large Polish influence. When I heard about Poles in Haiti at first it puzzled me. How did Haiti end up with some of its population with a Polish background? Do you know how far Poland is from Haiti? Also, why Casale? Why not Port au-Prince or someplace else in the country?
The history of the town of Casale with its Polish influence dates back to the time of the Haitian revolution. In 1802, the Napoleon army came to Saint Domingo to fight the slave rebellion, this included a Polish legion. There were about 5200 Poles sent to Saint Domingo 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. Polish soldiers were fighting back at home for the liberation of their own country. In 1772 Russia, Prussia and Austria invaded Poland. Many Poles hopeful of uniting in some way to win back Polish territory, made alliance with France and joined Napoleon’s army, but as a 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. The Polish soldiers acquired Haitian citizenship after Haiti’s Independence, and settled there never to return home. Even today, you can find Haitian Poles, blue eyed, blond, with European features.
Pope John Paul II who visited Haiti in 1983, mentioned the Polish contribution to the slave rebellion leading to Haiti’s independence.
As a Pole, hearing about this I desired to visit this place. It was very moving to talk to people who considered themselves as having Polish roots and proud of it. They were happy to have a picture taken with us. The most moving moment of the day was two ladies from Casele showing us the shrine of our Lady of Częstochowa. They pronounced this name very well! There was a woman by the little chapel who comes there every Wednesday and prays with the Scriptures for the whole day. We were blest to meet her. This visit was also a gift and grace for Sister Marilyn who on the feast of Blessed Mary Angela was graced to go deeper into our Polish roots of our Congregation right here in Haiti. For both of us it was a special gift on this feastday that we received the Eucharist in their beautiful church.