Polonia: Where do Poles live in the USA - Polish Chicago II

Read more articles about Polish immigration / emigration - history and distribution of Polonia around the world. This is a continuation of Part I, General Remarks the article that contained immigration statistics and a description of Polonia (Polish immigration) in New York.

Maria Romanowski is studying for the US citizenship exam -on the bottom - the signature from Hillary R. Clinton - photo courtesy of Chris
Chicago is the most known world-wide center of Polish immigration. Poles in Chicago are 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).

It is striking that the main white minorities of Chicago consist of the nationalities prevalently Catholics like Italians, Poles and Irish. The Chicago Police and construction workers consisted mainly of Irish. As for Poles and Italians - they were living in very good relations. Poles were known as butchers and the producers of good food (meat and sausages), on the other hand Italians like good food. So, both communities needed each other. Poles were also known as the builders of big churches. In certain time in the past in Chicago was about 30 big Polish churches.

The majority of Poles immigrated to Chicago in 20-es and 60-es of XX century. The biggest and the most exclusive Polish district was called Bucktown. Poles called it Trojcowo because this was a place of St.Trinity (in Polish "Sw. Trojcy") Parish. This church was the biggest Polish Church in Chicago, even bigger than Chicago Cathedral. The best times of Trojcowo were 40-es and 50-es. Gradually this district was deserted by Poles and settled by African Americans, the St. Trinity Church was deserted and announced as the danger for the public security by Chicago mayor. Chicago Polonia reacted very generous to this situation so that the Church and the belfry were renovated and also new priests were "imported" from Poland. Presently, in spite of the fact that the Church neighborhood is not Polish the St. Trinity Church is still very popular among Polish-Americans.

Polish cultural and economic life is concentrated right now along the Milwaukee and Belmont Streets. Here are many Polish shops and pharmacies as well as offices with Polish or Polish-speaking medicine doctors and lawyers. The Polish quarter Jackowo was created in 70-es. Jackowo took its name after the Polish Church of St. Jacek. In Jackowo and along the Milwaukee street Poles still do not need to know English in order to do shopping or in any business matters.

Nowadays there is a visible trend, Poles leave Bucktown or Jackowo and move out further out of Chicago - to Nortwestern suburbs of Del Plaines, Niles. The richest move to Park Ridge where Hillary Clinton was growing up.
These districts are more spacious and prestigious but also more americanized. Des Planes and Niles are relatively cheap but not homogenous ethnically. Other groups of immigrants like Indians from India and Russian Jews are moving there in growing number also. There is a danger that decentralization of Polish immigrantion life in Chicago would cause gradual loss of Polish identity.

Read the next article about Poles in Detroit and the final remarks about Polish immigration. check the website devoted to Chicago's Polonia.

written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, November 2001 (article #46)

Below are two interesting books about immigration to America:

Polish Immigrants, 1890-1920 (Blue Earth Books: Coming to America) by Rosemary Wallner, John Radzilowski

Scholarly study of some Europeans ethnic groups written by Matthew Frye Jacobson, David Roediger and entitled:
Special Sorrows: The Diasporic Imagination of Irish, Polish, and Jewish Immigrants in the United States

More books are listed below in Amazon selection:

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