America Immigration: Poland--Chronology


Figure 1.--Here we see a photo of a Polish mother and her three sons after having just arrived in New York City in 1948. Father probably took the photograph. The boy on the right seems to be wearing a Polish Army cap. Notice that the two older boys (aged about 7-10 years old) are both wearing short pants with suspenders and long black stockings with Strapleibchen (bodices with hose supporters). The garter clasps are clearly visiible. Polish boys wore the same style of clothes as German boys during the 1940s. We don't know the name of the family, but they settled in Rensselaer, Indiana, after landing in New York. Ellis Island was still opperating at the time. Life in Poland in 1948 was extremely stressful after the devistation of World War II and Communist domination. We are not sure if they came from Poland or a DP camp in Germany. These children probably do not look very well dressed to modern readers, but look at the shoes. Not very many Polish boys at the time would have had such substantial shoes. They look brand new.

Very few Poles immigrated to the United states durfing the early- and mid-9th century. Polish immigration to America exploded in the late-19th century, mostly after 1880. A major factor was thge abolition of serfdom providing greater mobility to the rural population. They described themselves as "za chlebem" ("for bread") immigrants. country of origin, meaning mostly Russia. Census records are the best available source and by 1910 about 0.9 million Poles had reached America. Polish immigration declined after World war I, both because Poland gained its independence and the United States resticted immigration. Available estimates suggest that 2 million Poles had immigrated by the 1920s. There were two subsequent waves of Polish immigration, but with smaller munbers. Poland suffered terribly during World War II. About 6 million of its 35 million people were killed, about half Jews. Enormous damade was done to the country, cities tows and villzages were destroyed are badly damages. Most busineeses were no longer functioning. If that was not bad enough, the Soviets proceeded to deport Poles in former eastern Poland. The Soviet Union then proceeded to install a Communist goverment. The KGB arrested and executed many Poles who had fought the NAZIS. Many Poles who had escaped NAZI occupztion and fought with the West were relictant to return to a Communist dictatorship with good reason, although a clear understanding of Communist policies was often not available. Enough was availzble to cause caution. Some families also got out before the Iron Curtain went up. Individuals varied on their understanding of the dangers. The people who came to America at this time included both the Poles who had fought in the West and solme who were able to escspe Communisdt Poland. They included surviving political prisoners, dissidents, and intellectuals who were cared for in refugee camps all over Europe. Unlike the first wave, many were very well educated. Many when they arrived were more interested in assimilating into American culture than joining working-class Polish ethnic communities. A third wave of Polish immigrants came in the 1980s. The Communist Polish Government to prevent a Soviet invasion, declared martial law (December 1981). They were another groupm of highly educated immigrants. Some entered the country illegally.


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Created: 12:54 AM 3/27/2011
Last updated: 12:54 AM 3/27/2011