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The Transportation Room

Although the Polish Museum of America is closed due to Covid-19, you can take a virtual tour. We are happy to present the first in a series of virtual tours highlighting the newly refurbished Transportation Room and our Polish poster collection

Funding for this video project was provided by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.
(Dofinansowano ze środków Ministra Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej)

Produced by The Polish Museum of America: Richard Owsiany, President; Małgorzata Kot, Managing Director

Videography: Jakub Zajaczkowski and Paul Wesolowski

Consultation: Ewa Figurski

The Polish Museum of America | Muzeum Polskie w Ameryce
984 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL. 60642

The Transportation Room

The artifacts that are associated with the ocean and other items presented in this room, mostly come from the Polish Pavilion of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and specifically from the room “Poland on the Sea.” There are 1:100 scale models of the Merchant Navy of the inter-war period sailing under the Polish flag, belonging various shipping lines: Gdynia-America Sailing Lines LTD (GAL), Polish Sailings, Polbryt, and Polskarob.

Among them are models of the twin large transatlantic liners built on the order of GAL. M/S “Piłsudski” and M/S “Batory,” constructed in the years 1935 and 1936 by Italian shipyard workers in Monfalcone, as well as the slightly smaller passenger freighter M/S “Sobieski,” built in 1938 in an English shipyard. The “Piłsudski” was sunk off the English coast, shortly after the outbreak of the war in November of 1939. Whereas “Batory” and “Sobieski” were refitted as troop transports, and took part in many actions of World War II. Among them were the amphibious assaults in the Mediterranean, the landing of Allied troops in Norway, North Africa, Sicily, and southern France. At the end of the war, both ships returned to their passenger runs and sailed under the Polish flag: “Batory” untill 1969, when it was adapted into a floating hotel, subsequently scrapped; “Sobieski” until 1950, then it was transferred to the Soviet Union (it sailed as a resort ship under the name “Gruzja” /Georgia/ until the 1980’s).

The legendary history of these ships, uncommonly colorful and stormy, and full of comic and tragic moments, has been presented many times in popular Polish literature, as well as in educational reading, but mostly in memoirs, of which the most popular were the tales of Captain Karol Olgierd Borchardt, gathered in two books Znaczy kapitan (It Means Captain) and Szaman morski (Shaman of the Sea). Fragments from the ship histories are presented in the form of artifacts, such as: the sailing schedule for the first season in 1936, tickets and passenger lists, as well as travel brochures and programs for passengers organized during the voyage to relieve the tedium of transatlantic sailing. These shows, balls, and life on the ship are presented through original photographs. The Transportation Room also contains a few photos, drawings, and caricatures of Captain Eustachy Borkowski, master of the “Batory” from 1936-1939. Among the photographs, one shows the captain and US Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins during the celebrations of the Polish May 3rd Constitution Day at the Polish Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in 1939.

“Tourism,” model of a yacht designed by architect engineer J. Zaleski

Smaller ships, among them those belonging to Polish Sailings and the Polish-British joint venture shipping lines Polbryt are also shown as models: M/S “Lewant,” S/S “Lech,” S/S “Lublin,” S/S “Lida,” as well the three masted sailing ship “Dar Pomorza” (Gift of Pomerania), which because of its white sails was poetically called, “The White Frigate.” It was built in 1909 in Hamburg, and purchased by the people of Pomerania and presented as a gift (hence the ship’s name) in 1929 to the National Maritime Academy in Tczew (later transferred to Gdynia). For many years, it served as a training ship for generations of sailors. Currently, as a floating museum, it is a decorative part of the President’s Docking Pool in the port of Gdynia. Its training function has been taken over by the “Dar Młodzieży” (Gift of Youth), similar in style, but updated to current needs.

In inter-war Poland, the Polish Scouting Organization (Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego), also had a training flotilla, among the better known was the schooner “Zawisza Czarny,” which sailed on the Baltic and North Seas. However the Scouts also had other yachts, among them the “Poleszuk,” which in the months prior to World War II, crossed the Atlantic and at its outbreak, docked at a port in the United States. The crew of the “Poleszuk” joined the Polish Armed Forces in Exile. The yacht was taken over by the Sea Scouts associated with the Polish Roman Catholic Union. It was renamed the “Orzeł” (Eagle), after the Polish submarine lost on a combat mission in May 1940. After interest in scouting waned in the post-war PRCUA, the yacht was sold. Among the artifacts in the cases are an enlarged picture postcard showing the route of the “Poleszuk” with the faces of the crew superimposed, as well as navigation charts and instruments. A few years ago, one of the former PRCUA Sea Scouts turned over the Log book of the “Poleszuk”/”Orzeł” to the Archives.

The story of the sailing ship “Dal” and Andrzej Bohomolec, is represented by the yellow horseshoe Jim-Buoy personal floating device with the inscription GDYNIA-DAL-POLAND. In the PMA Archives are letters, as well as documents, photographs, and articles connecting the “Dal” with the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America – the PMA’s founding organization, and its attempts to preserve the sailboat. Andrzej Bohomolec story is an inspiration to new generations of sailors, dreamers, and visionaries.

Two train models: the Pm36 and P31 locomotives, made at the locomotive factory in Chrzanów, Poland

Polish Airlines SP-BNE airplane model


  1. Reply
    Michał Kozieł says:

    Thanks for creating and sharing this description and video – it is a great tribute and representation!

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