Polish Americans - Where do Poles live in the USA - Statistics, Poles in NYC - I

We were talking about Early Immigration History and about The main waves of Polish Immigration. The last article in this series described Polish Assassin of President McKinley .

Below we analyze Centers of Polish life in the USA.

Less and less Poles live in the traditional Polish centers. Is it good or bad?

Poles live predominantly in Northeast and in Chicago but there is no place in the USA where they can not be found. Check the information about the distribution and the number of Polish Americans in the USA according to census 2000.

I recently moved to Idaho Falls (January 2001) Eastern Idaho. Our town - the gate to Yellowstone is located near the boarder with Utah. This area is strongly influenced by LDS (Mormon) community of Western European descend. Nevertheless I was able to become a friend with several Polish families and my next door neighbor quite by accident, happened to be a Polish woman of second generation (her parents were Polish immigrants to Canada).

Lets go back to statistics, Census 2000 shows a slight decrease in a number of people claiming Polish nationality as compared to Census 1990 from 9.35 millions people down to 9.05 millions. Poles are the 7th after Germans, English, Irish, Italians etc. Number of Poles is decreasing in traditional Polish centers like NYC or Chicago but increasing in the regions were Poles were underrepresented like the American West. This means that Poles leave traditionally Polish centers and ghettos and spread out to different regions.

This phenomenon has good and bad consequences. It is good that people of Polish descend explore new territories spreading Polish culture and tradition but on the other hand this may lead to the fall of traditionally Polish centers with Polish schools, shops and Polish cultural life. Poles surrounded by people of other descend will easier mingle and be absorbed into typical American life but on the other hand their children will probably easier forget about their origin not being able to attend Polish schools, listen to Polish TV or communicate with other people of the same descend.
According to the census the biggest amount of Poles can be found in New York state, especially in New York City. How is it that we do not really hear about these Poles as much as about Poles in Chicago? NYC is like a small world, one can find there representatives of any nations, Poles although numerous are outnumbered by other ethnic groups like Jews, Chinese and Italians. NYC guidebooks do not contain any special information about Polish oasis of Brooklyn in New York called Greenpoint. It is a pity because Greenpoint looks like a small and calm place not far from the NYC easily reached by a subway (green line, Nassau Av.). Greenbelt has Polish groceries, bakeries, shops with Polish music records, tapes, CDs and restaurants. It has of course the big Polish Catholic Church. The food is very good and not expensive in NYC standards. But people are living sometimes in difficult conditions and the rent is expensive like everywhere in NYC.

Chicago is the most known center of Polish immigration. Poles in Chicago are a more visible and spectacular group than the Poles in NYC. Even on the airport O'Hare in Chicago one can hear announcements in Polish quite often. Many custom officers are caring the badges with the information "Mowimy po Polsku" (We are speaking Polish).

Read more articles about Polish immigration / emigration - history and distribution of Polonia around the world. Read the next article which describes the Polish centers in Chicago.

written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, article #45

I recommend a book about immigration to America: Polish Immigrants, 1890-1920 (Blue Earth Books: Coming to America) by Rosemary Wallner, John Radzilowski

The most famous book about Polish history is written by Norman Davies and it is entitled
God's Playground, Volume 1
God's Playground, Volume 2

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