Friday, May 3, 2013

Colonia Santa Rosa, A Polish Refugee Camp In Mexico

Shortly after Poland became involved in World War Two, the Soviets invaded and took over the eastern part of Poland.  Many Poles were subsequently expelled to Siberia, especially from the former eastern part of Poland that is known as the Kresy Wschodnie or "Eastern Borderlands" that was annexed by the Soviets and has comprised a large portion of mostly Ukraine and Belarus since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

But some Poles were relocated to...Mexico.  There was an unlikely refugee camp called Colonia Santa Rosa that was located in the Mexican state of Guanajuato and was populated by people forcibly removed from Poland.  Some of the refugees were only given a half an hour to gather their belongings before their odyssey that deposited them in an unfamiliar land across the ocean.

Most of the Polish refugees who were sent to the camp were moved to Mexico in 1943.  The first refugees were relocated from Polish refugee camps that had formed in India, many of them arriving via Iran, with a stopoff in Australia.  The first arrivals were originally transported to California, but due to the desire of the United Stated to maintain good relations with Stalin's regime, they were hastily relocated to Mexico.  A large component of Colonia Santa Rosa was made up of orphans and there was a Catholic orphanage that was set up at the site with hundreds of children.  The camp was financed by Polish-American relief organizations to avoid a financial burden on Mexico, and Poles were restricted to the camp's boundaries and not allowed to leave.  Still, their standard of living at the Mexican camp was much better than many other Polish refugee camps around the world due to the support of the Polish-Americans.  The camp became a microcosm of Polish cuture and there was a great deal of effort devoted to preserving the Polish way of life even though the refugees were physically thousands of miles away from their homeland.  Colonia Santa Rosa existed as a Polish refugee camp until 1945, whereupon it dispersed and the refugees scattered to different regions.  Many of them relocated in the United States, Canada or Great Britain, and some eventually returned to Poland.


  1. My mother Anna along with her three sisters and their mother Katarzyna Gibala lived in the Colonia Santa Rosa. Thank you for sharing their history!!!

    1. two very interesting web pages that mention the Poles from Santa Rosa