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American Warsaw

The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Polish Chicago

Dominic A. Pacyga

American Warsaw

Dominic A. Pacyga

296 pages | 44 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2019
Cloth $27.00 ISBN: 9780226406619 Published October 2019
E-book $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226406756 Published October 2019
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.”
Introduction: Polish Chicago
1 Meet Me at the Fair: Poland’s Fourth Partition
2 Settling In: Creating Polonia’s Capital
3 Living in Polish Chicago, 1880–1920
4 World War One: A Turning Point
5 Interwar Polonia: Years of Stress and Change
6 Apocalypse Again: World War Two and Its Aftermath
7 The Lost Struggle: Chicago’s Polonia, Communist Poland, and a Changing City
8 A New Polonia
Review Quotes
James S. Pula, author of Polish Americans: An Ethnic Community
“The dean of Chicago historians has fashioned an exceptionally clear, yet nuanced interpretation of one of the city’s largest ethnic groups. American Warsaw is much more than the story of an ethnic community. It is a clearly written, insightful investigation of the internal and external forces that shaped the development of Polish Chicago, its relationship to the broader urban area, and its interaction with its ancestral homeland.”
Anna D. Jaroszynska-Kirchmann, author of The Polish Hearst: Ameryka-Echo and the Public Role of the Immigrant Press
“This highly readable story of Chicago’s Polonia could only have been written by an accomplished social and urban historian, who, as a born and bred Chicagoan, also knows the city in an organic way. Basing his account on the wealth of his previous research, Pacyga presents a comprehensive portrait of an important ethnic community seen through its organizational activities as well as everyday lived experience. American Warsaw, set against the backdrop of both American and Poland’s history, tells the story from the earliest decades of Polish immigration to the United States to the most recent period.”
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