ABOUT THIS BOOK
Every May, a sea of 250,000 people decked out in red and white head to Chicago’s Loop to celebrate the Polish Constitution Day Parade. In the city, you can tune in to not one but four different Polish-language radio stations or jam out to the Polkaholics. You can have lunch at pierogi food trucks or pick up pączkis at the grocery store. And if you’re lucky, you get to take off work for Casimir Pulaski Day. For more than a century, Chicago has been home to one of the largest Polish populations outside of Poland, and the group has had enormous influence on the city’s culture and politics. Yet, until now, there has not been a comprehensive history of the Chicago Polonia.
With American Warsaw, award-winning historian and Polish American Dominic A. Pacyga chronicles more than a century of immigration, and later emigration back to Poland, showing how the community has continually redefined what it means to be Polish in Chicago. He takes us from the Civil War era until today, focusing on how three major waves of immigrants, refugees, and fortune seekers shaped and then redefined the Polonia. Pacyga also traces the movement of Polish immigrants from the peasantry to the middle class and from urban working-class districts dominated by major industries to suburbia. He documents Polish Chicago’s alignments and divisions: with other Chicago ethnic groups; with the Catholic Church; with unions, politicians, and city hall; and even among its own members. And he explores the ever-shifting sense of Polskość, or “Polishness.”
Today Chicago is slowly being eclipsed by other Polish immigrant centers, but it remains a vibrant—and sometimes contentious—heart of the Polish American experience. American Warsaw is a sweeping story that expertly depicts a people who are deeply connected to their historical home and, at the same time, fiercely proud of their adopted city. As Pacyga writes, “While we were Americans, we also considered ourselves to be Poles. In that strange Chicago ethnic way, there was no real difference between the two.”