The Polonia Triangle

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By Shannon Smith

       Wicker Park looks like many other neighborhoods in Chicago. On every corner there are franchises such as CVS, Subway and McDonald’s.

Wicker Park used to be a thriving Polish community, but lately, there has been a dramatic decrease in the amount of Poles.

“Gentrification is the main cause,” said Adam Aksnowicz is a 22- year-old docent at the Polish Museum of America. He grew up in Arlington Heights and he earned a history degree from the University of Illinois Chicago.

The older generations of Poles in Wicker Park kept the traditions alive while the younger grew up differently and were more Americanized and that lead to gentrification of the area, Aksnowicz said

Another person trying to keep Polish culture alive is Helena Madej, a 76-year-old owner of Podhalanka restaurant.

“This neighborhood has changed the past 15 years. It is better because before it was very dangerous,” she said.

Madej has lived in Wicker Park for 30 years and she noticed the change in the population of Poles in the area. Wicker Park used to be a dangerous area and that may be the reason for the Polish population leaving, she said.

“Customers change; when I came to the area a lot of Polish people lived here, 15 years, later it changed, Polish people left.” Madej said.

“I am happy though that the neighborhood has changed, it is much safer now.”

 

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