The Kashubians are descended from an ancient Slavic people which migrated to Poland’s Baltic coast some time after the 7th century AD. Since the Kashubians have never governed themselves, it is more accurate to call them an ethnic group than a nationality. Over the years the Kashubians have been ruled by Germans, Poles, and even Swedes, all of whom dismissed them as farmers and fisherman. In addition, the Germans and the Poles have tried to assimilate the Kashubians or dislodge them, all in vain. The Kashubians have not left a major imprint upon world history because they have always had to fight just to exist. For the same reason, no Kashubian literature appeared until the later 19th century AD. Yet despite all the odds, the Kashubians have survived. Some Kashubians emigrated to North America, South America, and Australia. In Poland, the Kashubian culture thrives today, thanks to great Kashubians like Hieronim Derdowski, Aleksander Majkowski and Anna Lajming, and to organizations like the Society of Young Kashubians and the Kashubian-Pomeranian Organization. It also lives on in Canada and in the United States, particularly in the city of Winona, Minnesota: the Kashubian Capital of America.
Today, the term “Kashubia” applies to the part of Poland where Kashubian Poles live, rather than any particular area settled by Kashubians. Certain towns such as Bytów (Winona’s sister city), Kościerzyna, and Wiele have large enough Kashubian populations that they are called “Kashubian towns,” but most Kashubian Poles live side by side with other Polish citizens of Polish and other backgrounds. The Kashubian language is recognized by Polish law as separate from the Polish language, and has formally been declared a second language of Poland. It continues to be spoken to this day although it is in danger of passing out of use. Still, if there is one constant theme throughout Kashubian history, it is that while other more famous ethnic groups have become famous only to vanish shortly after, the Kashubians have a genius for survival.