The Emigration Museum in the former Maritime Station in Gdynia

The historic Maritime Station is currently the seat of the Gdynia Emigration Museum. The building was erected in the modernist style in 1933 at the French Quay. From the beginning, the building was called the port station due to its location. It was located at the main entrance to the port of Gdynia.

It served as the home base of the transatlantic fleet. The station also had its own railway siding. The tracks were on both sides of the building. On the one hand, they were intended for passenger traffic for the purpose of emigration, and on the other hand, for transit, cargo and storage services in the port. It was from here that thousands of Poles embarked on transatlantic ships to emigrate in search of a better life.

Gdynia Maritime Station

In the interwar period, the station building served as the center of life not only related to the travel of residents and visitors to Gdynia. It opened its doors to Sunday services for employees of the port and Gdynia Maritime Office. The port had its own priest.

The spacious New Year’s Eve balls for the social elite of the time were held in the spacious main hall of the station. There was enough space for folk games, sports competitions, rallies and mass performances. It was a bustling place, full of various initiatives, aspirations and desires, filled with the hopes of many people who did not wait, but acted. Gdynia flourished and developed at a dizzying pace.

Emigration Museum, photo: Pomorskie Travel

Emigration Museum, photo: Pomorskie Travel

The station served mainly the overseas trips to New York and South American ports. The famous ships MS Batory, MS Sobieski, MS Chrobry and TSS Stefan Batory sailed here.

The cruise to the USA lasted (depending on weather conditions) 8 or 9 days. The Batory Trail started in Gdynia, at the French Quay. The first stop was Copenhagen, the next was New York. On the way back, the ship entered the port of Halifax in Canada and picked up travelers returning to Europe.

On July 29, 1939, Witold Gombrowicz sail from the Gdynia Maritime Station to Argentina on the MS Chrobry ship. The writer lived in Buenos Aires for 23 years, and the journey impressed him so much that it inspired him to write „Trans-Atlantic”. How was Gombrowicz’s voyage? We find notes in his diary kept by the author himself:

“When I was sailing from Poland to Argentina, I was completely demoralized – never (except perhaps the period spent in Paris many years before) was I in such a relaxed state. Literature? I didn’t care about anything, after publishing Ferdydurke I decided to rest […]. And when I passed the German, French and English shores on the “Chrobry”, all those lands of Europe, frozen in fear of unborn crime, in a climate that suffocated expectations, seemed to shout: be reckless, you mean nothing, you will not accomplish anything, the only thing left for you is drunkenness! So I got drunk in my own way, that is, not necessarily with alcohol – but I swam drunk, almost completely intoxicated…”

Luxury like on the Batory Ship

MS Batory was 160 meters long and took 760 passengers on board. The crew consisted of over 300 sailors, mechanics, cooks and stewards. The elegant design of the interiors, excellent service and rich menu made a great impression on the travelers. After the renovation, an additional 76 seats were created in the first class, which was the peak of luxury travel at the time. More than 1,000 people sailed on the ship at one time!

There is no other such famous and legendary ship sailing under the Polish flag as MS Batory. For exactly 33 years (from 1936 to 1969) it served as a link between the port of Gdynia and New York, Montreal, Mumbai and ports around the world. She run regular lines, cruise and occasional cruises. In August 1952, she transported to the capital of Finland – Helsinki, a team of Polish Olympians with coaches and medical staff. It was used by party elites to cruise to the Mediterranean during their summer holidays.

Emigration Museum, photo: Pomorskie Travel

Emigration Museum, photo: Pomorskie Travel

Almost everyone who visited Gdynia at that time asked if Batory was there? When a ship set sail or landed in port, people would gather on the wharf. They wanted to see and feel at least a breath of distant travel. Excitement and exciety were shared by everyone. The event was accompanied by cheers and tears of emotion. The Polish Film Chronicle kept up to date with visits of transatlantic ships in the port, as well as life on the ship. A full-time photographer was employed on Batory, who documented all the events and moods on the ship among the travelers and the crew.

The old, worn-out MS Batory has been replaced with a new version: TSS Stefan Batory. In the years 1968-1988, it was the flagship of the Polish Ocean Lines PLO and the successor of the famous transatlantic liner. To this day, the people of Gdynia and Gdansk say “luxury, as in Batory” to brightly lit places, parties, galas, and this is considered a great compliment!

Gdynia - the gateway to Poland for Poles

For Poles from poverty-stricken regions of the country, Gdynia was a window to the world and sometimes the only chance to change their fate. They could not afford luxury dishes from the menu at Batory’s restaurant. Today it is difficult to imagine the experiences of people leaving their homeland.

They were going into the unknown, without money, without family. Their fears, hopes, as well as the causes and effects of emigration leave their mark on contemporary history. Who of the inhabitants of southern Poland does not have an aunt or uncle in America? People set off on a journey across the ocean, and their decision was part of civilization and economic transformations. Gdynia Maritime Station is a special place on the map of Poland. Visitors to this place can feel this atmosphere and understand much more.

Emigration Museum, photo: Pomorskie Travel

Emigration Museum, photo: Pomorskie Travel

The end of the transatlantic era - the beginning of the Emigration Museum

Regular liner transatlantic shipping was suspended in 1987. Ship travel has been replaced by ocean flights. By plane, you can get from Warsaw to New York in one night instead of the previously mentioned 8 days. The Maritime Station ceased to fulfill its original role and became an ordinary office building.

Port companies and institutions, many of which began to be established during the political transformation, had their headquarters there. Soon, the revitalization of the building began, and in May 2013, renovation started, which restored the original shape of the building. The adaptation of the station for the needs of the Gdynia Emigration Museum, which is  presenting the fate of Poles leaving overseas. The exhibition presents a model of the Batory ship, which is a symbol of emigration.

After the renovation, the museum gained 2.9 thousand meters of exhibition space. The façade on the water side has changed. Originally there was a brick wall, which was replaced by a glass pane. The steel structure of the original viewing poin, the glazed tunnel, coming out of the Transit Warehouse, was also erected. The footbridge is both an architectural and symbolic reference to the gangway used by passengers to board ships. Reliefs of eagles have returned to the front façade. A part of the building destroyed during the war by a bomb explosion was also rebuilt. The Emigration Museum was officially opened on May 16, 2015.

Emigration Museum, photo: Pomorskie Travel

The Emigration Museum in Gdynia

The Emigration Museum in Gdynia, as the first in Poland, collects the items concerning the emigration of Poles and the achievements of the Polish community abroad. The idea of the museum was brought by the Mayor of Gdynia, Mr. Wojciech Szczurek.

Shortly after the opening of the Emigration Museum in Gdynia, it acquired a collection of 220 photographs, which for 20 years (from 1947 to 1967) were taken by a full-time photojournalist, Florian Staszewski, working in Batory. They are unique documents of that era. The paintings, diverse in tone and mood, present a chapter in the history of Polish culture.

Emigration Museum in Gdynia – A visit to the Emigration Museum in Gdynia will provide a lot of information and let you feel the atmosphere of those times. For young people and children, it is a unique history lesson created by real people. Emigration Museum at Polska Street is located in the historic Maritime Station in Gdynia. It is located in the area of ​​the Port of Gdynia, at the French Quay, in the immediate vicinity of the Gdynia Harbor Master’s Office.



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