Emigration Museum in Gdynia

Sebastian Tyrakowski

Deputy Director, Emigration Museum in Gdynia

Emigration Museum in Gdynia

Polska 1 81- 339 Gdynia Poland




Gdynia, Poland 

Živa Award 2018 / Best Slavic Museum


We connect people. We connect stories.


The history of humanity is the story of migration. People have been forever changing location in search of better places and conditions to live. It is a natural process. It happens every day. Let us not forget, that a world frozen in its course exists only as a figment of our imagination.

The phenomenon of migration allows us to capture the dynamic nature of human history. We migrate according to our will or against it. The history, both past and present, shows migration as a complex social process, which brings together political, economic and cultural threads. It is a natural human reaction to changes and a way to cope with i.e. hunger, unemployment, overpopulation or war. If not forced, it is intended to increase the quality of life in a number of aspects.

Behind every story of migration is a human being. Various circumstances, courage, strong emotions, success, failure, happiness, tragedy; these are all real factors of migration. Irrespective of the reasons, the face of an emigrant concerned about their own fate and that of their nearest and dearest often shows trepidation over future. These incredible stories and experiences have been the driving force for Emigration Museum since its very beginning.

The Emigration Museum is seated in the city of Gdynia. The history of this young and modern city has been inextricably linked to the migration phenomenon. When Poland regained its independence in 1918 thousands of Poles, from nearly every part of the reborn Poland, came to build the city, which was granted city rights in 1926. 90% of the then inhabitants of Gdynia were immigrants. The port of Gdynia quickly became a gateway to the world for many Poles. The Marine Station, beautiful modernist edifice, was the focal point of the modern emigration infrastructure which enveloped the whole city. From the still existing buildings of the Emigration Camp, through the Quarantine Hospital, to marine and land transport routes – all these elements marked out the standards for similar investments across Europe. From 1933 this was the last image of their homeland which thousands of Poles took with them on their long journey.


Photo by Bogna Kociumbas


The home of Emigration Museum is by no means coincidental, as the now historic Marine Station, which processed emigration traffic for many years, was one of the most modern facilities of its kind in the world. The building of Marine Station remembers famous Polish ocean liners moored and departed, including the Piłsudski, the Chrobry and most importantly the Batory, all of them Polish ambassadors on several continents. It was this location that marked the beginning of many incredible stories or turning points in the biographies of figures familiar to all Poles. We find among them Zbigniew Brzeziński who departed for Canada in 1938 and Witold Gombrowicz for Argentina in 1939.

The Emigration Museum was opened to the public in May 2015. The postal address of the museum is Poland 1 St., and it is very symbolic. It is the first and only museum in Poland which has the enormous privilege to tell and explore the complex history of emigration from Polish lands across the centuries. Over 20 million people of Polish descent from every continent belong to the same community of shared language, tradition and values. Oversees, we are emigrants. At the same time, we are also immigrants in foreign communities. The museum designs and delivers its offer in a global context, taking into account history and current affairs in the migration sphere. It is a platform for both historic and contemporary dialogue and projects.

All the museum’s projects directly correspond to undertaken diagnoses in order to determine the needs and expectations of the audience. We design the offer together, which results in a very important, long term relation with our visitors. This is reflected in everyday activities of the museum, with a particular emphasis on social projects. The museum’s offer is broad and includes permanent and temporary exhibitions, which present the history of emigration and various aspects of Polish diaspora around the world. Innovative and award winning education programme for children, youth, adults and people with disabilities is specifically designed to fit the needs of our visitors. Large scale cultural projects, including audio-visual events, outdoor artistic installations, music, literature and theatre performances, as well as video screenings complement the offer on a daily basis. The museum also delivers research and academic activities, such as annual scientific conferences, in house publications and an interdisciplinary scientific journal. It also undertakes quantitative and qualitative research projects in order to deliver and analyse new data and trends on migration. As mentioned before, migration equals human faces and individual stories to explore. Therefore, the museum runs an ongoing oral history archive, where it collects incredible stories of emigrants, both in a written and audio-visual form. The archive is available at www.archiwumemigranta.pl The museum also digitizes its collections and makes them available to researchers and online visitors at www.zbiory.muzeumemigracji.pl. An innovative software is being used for this purpose. It is available to download for other institutions, free of charge, at the museum's website www.polska1.pl




Photo by Bogna Kociumbas


The ŽIVA 2018 Award for the Best Slavic Museum is the Emigration Museum’s 15th consecutive award within only 4 years of operation. The museum has been recognized globally for its strong first impression, high quality varied programme offer and what is most important – its staff. The museum has been created and is run by a young, very enthusiastic and passionate team. The permanent exhibition delivers a narration in a comprehensive and accessible way. 200 years of emigration from Poland shape the public’s understanding , consciousness and sensitivity through multifaceted account of countless human faces, stories and unprecedented experiences.

The discussion on emigration brings together the basic dilemmas of our modern times - questions about individual, collective identity, as well as multiculturalism and the borderlines between what is domestic and what is foreign. Past as well as current affairs in the field of migration always share human aspects; thoughts, decisions, experiences, various cultures… life. The Emigration Museum is there to provide the platform to explore it. You are invited to experience an intellectual journey into a shared past and memories, in the museum, where we connect people, and we connect their stories.


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