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The Wilno Heritage Society new logo with the Kashubian Griffin waving the Canadian Flag

In the summer of 2008, there were many bright yellow banners and buttons and t-shirts and signs emblazoned with that mythical monster, the black griffin, symbol of the Kashubs, waving the Canadian flag. But this ferocious beast,  half lion and half bird of prey, with the paws, body and tail of a lion and the head, beak, wings and claws of an eagle, was not waving a warning to Canadians, but a welcome as the logo of Canada's proud Kashubian community which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2008.

You may be familiar with the Griffin which has appeared on the Kashub Day buttons of the Wilno Heritage Society and which has been paired with the Polish Eagle and the Canadian flag on the hockey jerseys of the local Polish Eagles teams. Look for it also on the Log Shed and the Log Cabin at Wilno Heritage Park.  The Griffin (Gryf - Polish) became the symbol of  Pomorze (in Polish, literally "by the sea"), or Pomerania, the region of land on the southern border of the Baltic Sea and the homeland of the Kashubs, long,  long ago. This mythical rearing beast symbolizes the steadfastness of its bearer, and his having the strength of a lion and the swiftness and courage of an eagle. It is usually also associated with acting as a guardian of a treasure or something valued. So it is no wonder that since the days of the Crusades (11th to 13th centuries), griffins could be found in the early heraldry of many western nations as a symbol of eternal vigilance.  The tradition of the Kashubian Griffin/Gryf goes back to the middle of the 13th century, when the medieval,  east Pomeranian Duke Swietopelk (1200-1266) established the capital of his embryonic Kashub nation at Gdansk, and the griffin was displayed over the main gate of the city - viewed as a guarantee that the Slavic character of the city and region would be protected against the Germanic aggression of the Teutonic Knights and later the increasing power of the State of Brandenburg-Prussia.  The Kashubian Griffin eventually became represented as a black griffin on a yellow-gold ground.       

Aleksander Majkowski, famous writer and tireless promoter of the Kashub people, immortalized the Black Griffin as the emblem of the Kashubs and fixed it forever in the consciousness of the area through his books and his monthly journal, aptly named "The Gryf." The Kashubian Griffin became the symbol of the strength and steadfastness of the Kashub people and it is very appropriate that this symbol would apply to them also in Canada. In the words of Joanna Szymanski, a local writer on the Polish Kashub community:

 "In 1858, the sixteen Kashub families who left their homeland for a better life in Canada, and all the Kashub and Polish families that followed, brought with them the spirit of their Gryf, that ability to survive in the face of overwhelming odds. Strangers in a strange land, these pioneers succeeded at wresting a living from the unforgiving soil of the Madawaska Highlands, and building a close-knit, ever-devout community that has endured for six generations. The Kashubs in this corner of the New World today, with their recent achievements in reviving the cultural traditions of their Polish Kashub forefathers and honouring their pioneer efforts in Canada at  the Polish Kashub Heritage Park and Museum in Wilno and through the Wilno Heritage Society,  are true heirs of the Black Gryf. Vivat!"

Logo designed by
Ed Chippior;

with assistance from Diana Shulist.

T-shirts and other 150th anniversary memorabilia with the logos, still available at the Heritage Store at the Museum in Wilno this summer.

For more information on the Wilno Heritage Society e-mail: