Beyond the Big Water. Emigration from Galicia: Introduction.

Many of our ancestors  left the old continent and decided to start a new life beyond the Big Water: in America. There was an explosion of emigration in the whole of Europe, but in Galicia (the part of old Poland which was under Austrian partition) this phenomenon was enormous.

Why did they decide to leave? How did they prepare for the journey? It was a social, economical and political problem, and for a group of people it was an enormous business. Who made profits on emigration?  The whole emigration phenomenon has also its dark side: swindlers, cheating, taking advantage of emigrants, corruption and violence. The emigration phenomenon helps to have a broad view on Galicia’s history.

Picture source:

Table of contents (below chapters will be published soon on our blog):

  • Reasons of the emigration.
  • The journey through the Big Water and its destinations.
  • The dark side of the emigration: the ?Emigration Hyenas?.
  • The authorities towards the emigration.

The sources for the article were historical and sociological publications, emigrant diaries, memories and reports of travel written in 19th and the beginning of 20th century.



  • Pollack, Martin. Cesarz Ameryki. Wielka ucieczka z Galicji. Wołowiec, 2011.
  • Dziembowska, Janina, ed. Pamiętniki emigrantów. Warsaw, 1977.
  • Plichta, Andrzej. Ed. Emigracja z ziem polskich w czasach nowożytnych i najnowszych (Emigration from Polish Lands in Modern the Most Recent Times 18th-20th century). Warsaw, 1984.
  • Caro, Leopold. Wychodźstwo polskie. Kraków, 1911.
  • Chałasiński, Józef  “Emigracja jako zjawisko społeczne”, Przegląd Socjologiczny. V.4: 1936.
  • Pilch, Andrzej. “Emigration From the Territories under Austrian Partition (since the middle of 19th century until the year of 1918)”. Emigracja z ziem polskich w czasach nowożytnych i najnowszych. Ed. Plichta A..Warsaw, 1984.
  • Siemiradzki, Józef. Szlakiem wychodźców. Wspomnienia z podróży do Brazylii, odbytej z polecenia Galicyjskiego Wydziału Krajowego. Warsaw, 1900.
  • Kowalski, Grzegorz. Przestępstwa emigracyjne w Galicji 1897-1918: z badań nad dziejami polskiego wychodźstwa. Kraków, 2003.

Interesting websites about emigration:

Emigration section on PolishOrigins Forum

As an introduction to the article, we invite you to watch the Award winning movie by Charles Guggenheim: “Island of Hope –  Island of Tears” (movie from 1989):

Aga Pawlus
PolishOrigins Team

Special thanks to Shellie, James and Ute for proofreading and language revision.

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