cover of book

Poles in Illinois
by John Radzilowski and Ann Hetzel Gunkel
Southern Illinois University Press, 2020
Paper: 978-0-8093-3723-1 | eISBN: 978-0-8093-3724-8
Library of Congress Classification F550.P7R33 2020
Dewey Decimal Classification 977.30049185

Illinois boasts one of the most visible concentrations of Poles in the United States. Chicago is home to one of the largest Polish ethnic communities outside Poland itself. Yet no one has told the full story of our state’s large and varied Polish community—until now. Poles in Illinois is the first comprehensive history to trace the abundance and diversity of this ethnic group throughout the state from the 1800s to the present.
Authors John Radzilowski and Ann Hetzel Gunkel look at family life among Polish immigrants, their role in the economic development of the state, the working conditions they experienced, and the development of their labor activism. Close-knit Polish American communities were often centered on parish churches but also focused on fraternal and social groups and cultural organizations. Polish Americans, including waves of political refugees during World War II and the Cold War, helped shape the history and culture of not only Chicago, the “capital” of Polish America, but also the rest of Illinois with their music, theater, literature, food.
With forty-seven photographs and an ample number of extensive excerpts from first-person accounts and Polish newspaper articles, this captivating, highly readable book illustrates important and often overlooked stories of this ethnic group in Illinois and the changing nature of Polish ethnicity in the state over the past two hundred years. Illinoisans and Midwesterners celebrating their connections to Poland will treasure this rich and important part of the state’s history.
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