Poles slowly disappear in Wicker Park

By Andrew Pendergast

In Chicago’s Wicker Park, a neighborhood of hipsters, there is one woman who clings to the traditions of the old Polish neighborhood. Helen Madej 76, talks about how the neighborhood has changed.

“When I came, a lot of Polish people here, but time goes by, younger people come and make condos,” Madej said.

She also speaks about how the neighborhood has become safer then what it used to be. She also says she came to Chicago because of family and opportunities.

“Because I had family here and my grandfather came in 1905 I came in 1971. Life is a little bit different and different people live here,” Madej said.

Another Pole who has seen the changes in Wicker Park is, Adam Aksnowicz 22, from Arlington Heights says “The Polish population is basically non-existent.”

During the time of the first immigration waves to America from Poland, most came for work and safety. The first wave of immigrants didn’t have much education they didn’t mix too well with the new generation. When the second wave of immigrants came, they didn’t fit in, so they left the Wicker Park area and set up a new Polish community on the far west side of Chicago and in the suburbs.

Aksnowicz also says that there won’t be any more waves of immigration from Poland. The number of Polish people in Wicker Park is pretty low.

Just recently, Poland became part of the European Union, making it easier for people in Poland have more of a chance to make a life in Europe. Most people won’t be immigrating to. Yet the Polish will continue to impact the Wicker Park Area.

“I did see some Polish influence…this neighborhood has changed dramatically…It’s very… diverse,” said Furnmor, 25, “this used to be a very Polish neighborhood…there’s Polish, Latino, African American…that’s what I like about the community. People from different backgrounds coexist together.”

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