Polish Americans – A Vibrant Ethnic Community in the United States

Today there are many professions and industries in which Poles have become very successful and influential. A widely defined segment of the real estate business is one of the most prominent sectors of the Polish American community. Contractors, subcontractors and developers play a very important and growing role in the local economy—along with architects, engineers, agents and investors. Every third building constructed in Chicago is built by or with the help of Polish and Polish American specialists. Similarly, ownership by Polish Americans of their own residential real estate in the region is estimated to be upwards of 67%.

However, it is not just in the area of real estate that newcomers from Europe have made a great impact on the local economy. Transportation services, financial services, loans, insurance, shipping, and numerous well-known restaurants, pubs and grocery stores are further examples of the strong economic presence of the Polish American community; the stores also sell many products which are imported from Poland. There are also two local banks owned by the Polish National Alliance.

According to recent statistical data, over 820,000 Poles and Polish Americans live in the Chicago metropolitan area, and there are at least 960,000 in the state of Illinois. Their estimated value added to the Gross Regional Product is close to $38 billion. An estimated 18% of local Polish American households earn more than $100,000 annually, while 38% make between $50,000 and $100,000 a year.

There are about 500 doctors of various medical specializations who are members of the Polish American Medical Association, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary. (There are also a few hundred other Polish American doctors who are not involved in this organization.) There are also over 60 law offices in the Chicago area operated by Polish American attorneys.

There are currently three radio stations in the Chicago area which broadcast programs in the Polish language. “Polvision” airs two hours of Polish-language programming every day on local over-the-air television; Private Television (TVP) broadcasts an additional half-hour each day; and there is also service by Telewizja Polska which cooperates with the “Polsat” satellite network. Three Polish-language daily newspapers, and several weekly and monthly publications, are also produced in the Chicago area.

Young people under 29 years of age now comprise about 40% of the population of Polonia, including children of the emigrants from the Solidarity era. Also, close to 60% of the Polish American community in Illinois has received a higher education.

Across the nation, there are also many Polish-Americans who are prominent in public life, such as former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski; former general and ambassador Edward Rowny; Governor Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska); U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)–Frank’s daughter; and Barbara Mikulski (D- Maryland); Congressmen Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois), who recently succeeded his father, Bill Lipinski; and John Dingell (D-Michigan), who has served his district for over 50 years; and former Congressman Ed Derwinski (R-Illinois), who also served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Prominent Polish-American clergymen currently include Cardinal Adam Maida, the Archbishop of Detroit; Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, Ohio; Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida; and Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago.

@ Andrzej Mikolajczyk, Terry Przybylski, Krystyna Teller