Poles in Chicago: Summer Project


A statue of Adam Mickiewicz, a well-known Polish Poet, located in Warsaw, Poland.

Justine Kwak, Staff Writer

This past summer, I had the pleasure of being a teen Historian at the Chicago History Museum. The summer project that I was assigned to was named “Poles in Chicago”. For this project, the teen historians had to interview Polish immigrants that lived in Chicago, or families that have a polish background. The purpose of these interviews were to get information of how Polish immigrants adapted to Chicago, why they came, the difficulties they faced as immigrants, etc. As a part of the 4 teen historians, we conducted 4 interviews at the Chicago History Museum.

Part of this project also included a week trip to Poland. In Poland, we met with 4 other teen historians at the National Museum of Poland. The first two days, we spent time doing activities that would further improve our interviewing skills. The last three days, we conducted 6 interviews with people who had lived in Chicago for a couple years, but returned home. The interviewees were asked questions such as why they moved to Chicago, the difficulties of adapting, and why they returned to Poland. The interviews were all conducted at the National Museum of Poland, in Warsaw, Poland. All interviews were successful and gave us insight into what it was like to be an immigrant in Chicago.

The week we spent in Poland were not only for work purposes. During the week, the museum coordinators in Poland arranged trips that we took around Warsaw, to see the beautiful, historic places. We were able to see the Royal Castle, visit other museums, and go to an escape room. The four of us connected very well with our fellow polish teen historians. We had a blast in Poland, making new friends, conducting interviews, and sightseeing Warsaw.

The interviews conducted throughout this project will serve as bases to make an exhibit in the Chicago History Museum, explaining the Polish Diaspora in Chicago. All the interviews will also be used to help officially build Poland’s National Museum, which will open sometime in 2020.  The project will continue in the summer of 2019, where the 4 Polish teen historians come to Chicago for a week to continue conducting interviews that will help build exhibits for both the Chicago History Museum and the National Museum of Poland.