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Polonia Restituta Medal

Curated Submission
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
18.8 x 3.6
Materials & techniques
Brass, enamel, linen
St. Mark’s Church
Niagara Historical Society and Museum 2013.011.001
The Polonia Restituta medal was established by the Government of Poland in 1921 and was given to individuals whose actions contributed to the restoration of the Polish nation after the First World War. The highest honour that could be bestowed upon a foreigner, this medal was awarded to Canadian citizen Elizabeth Carr Ascher, who worked tirelessly to support the Polish army and government during the war. Over 22,000 American and Canadian men of Polish heritage trained in Ascher’s hometown of Niagara-on-the-Lake to fight overseas with the French army during 1917–18.
An outspoken advocate for the restoration of Poland, Ascher worked to increase awareness and support of the movement to re-establish an independent Polish government. In 1918 a horrific outbreak of Spanish influenza spread among soldiers in Niagara. Ascher risked her life to care for the sick soldiers, earning the moniker “The Angel of Mercy” among the troops. The flu claimed the lives of 24 Polish soldiers in training. Ascher immediately began lobbying for the creation of a Polish Military Cemetery at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Ascher’s humanitarian efforts continued when she organized a fundraising campaign to help the civilian population in Poland; Polish soldiers in Europe were also sent care packages.
In 1922, Ascher was officially recognized for her efforts when she was granted the Polonia Restituta medal. Accolades continued to accumulate for Ascher; she was granted the Medal of Haller, the Medal of Haller’s Swords, the Polish Cross of Merit, and the Polish Medal for Long Service in 1938. Ascher continued to serve the Polish cause until her death in 1941; she is remembered annually on the second Sunday of June at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Representatives of Polish-American communities and organizations gather there, and at the Polish Military Cemetery, to pay homage to the soldiers and to the charitable efforts of Elizabeth Ascher.
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