By Katie Eppley
In the dull glow of distanct lighting a cleaning woman Helena Glinczak methodically cleanses the of photos and ceramics of a time long past. She descends the steps as a hundred painted eyes stare at her she feels as if she’s not alone, not as if there’s someone there but rather, something.
As she finishes her duties and begins to leave see hears the music of Ingnacy Paderewski’s minuet wafting through the still air.
Is it the ghost of a long departed pianist, or rather the memory of a culture long dead?
“The Polish Identity is part of the history.” says Adam Aksnowicz.
The 22-year-old docent and collections care assistant of the National Polish museum of America. He, like his coworkers Ferdinand Furnmor , 25, and Julita Sigel, 39, are passionate about Polish culture.
The National Polish Museum of America, located in Chicago’s Wicker Park, was established in 1935 in the former building for recruitment of Polish soldiers in the First World War and is now the largest collection of artifacts from the 1939 World’s Fair’s Polish Pavilion in the world. This beautiful museum also holds traditional costumes, military medals and uniforms, historic photographs and many artistic masterpieces.
Many of theses relics from the World’s Fair such as the striking pieces like “Poland’s Past”, “Poland’s Future” as well as a large collection of post impressionistic and Polish color style paintings. However, also in the year 1939 Poland was invaded by Germany and returning the art from the Polish pavilion to Europe encompassed a huge risk of their destruction so it was instead sold to the city of Chicago and eventually given to a safe heaven in the Polish Museum of America.
The museum also has annex known as the Paderewski Room in honor of the “Polish Elvis” Ingnacy Paderewski, a famous pianist and spokesman for Polish independence. The Paderewski room is the largest collection of Paderewski memorabilia in the entire world including his practice piano, and the pen, he used to sign the Treaty of Versailles.
But within with this already intriguing collection is a much more intriguing object of the metaphysical variety, the ghost of Paderewski himself is said to haunt this room where his deathbed is displayed. Some of the cleaning staff has heard the sound of his typewriter typing or piano playing. Regardless of weather or not the Polish Museum of America is haunted, it’s a gem of the polish culture in an area where the culture is fading.
According to photography collection curator Julita Sigel, 39, though the Polish culture is less vibrant then it used to be in the Wicker park area you can still find it if you know where to look.
And in her own words “ I would like to see more Polish influence in the community again, to see Poles come here and support the museum…it would be great to have more support from the Polish community”