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As a large destination for immigrants over the decades, the United States has often been called a ‘melting pot’ for its plurality of international representation. Certain decades have lead to larger waves of immigrants from certain areas due to cultural, political, and economic shifts that motivated individuals to come to the United States in the first place. The Polish people are no exception to this reality, many of whom settled in similar areas in order to stay connected to the people and culture of their homeland. Many cities in the US today still have large Polish populations, which reflects regional patterns where their communities stayed and grew over time.
This article details the “most polish cities in the US” which in our case, can be categorized as the top 10 cities with the largest proportion of individuals with a Polish heritage.
The first ‘most polish city’ based on the proportion of Polish residents is Cheektowaga, New York. Some 39.9% of residents are recorded to have some portion of Polish ancestry. As a matter of fact, this is the only city in the state of New York to have a sister city in the country of Poland, Lowicz. Interestingly enough, there are more Poles in the city of Cheektowaga than its counterpart. The symbol of Cheektowaga, a crabapple tree, can also be seen on the flag of its sister city. In 1996, the two unanimously and officially joined in an arrangement that sought to exchange cultural capital for financial investment.
New York turned out to be a large destination for Polish immigrants as a result of it housing Ellis Island, one of the busiest and earliest immigrant inspection centers of its time. As a result, some of the most populous Polish cities in the country are still in New York, in fact 4 of the top 10 most Polish cities by proportion of population are in New York. The second largest is West Seneca, New York with some 31% of the population recording to have some portion of Polish ancestry.
The next most populous Polish city in the US is Warren, Michigan with 21% of the population reporting some portion of Polish ancestry. Poles are the second largest ethnic group in the state of Michigan, and the state has the 3rd largest polish population in the entire country behind New York and Illinois. Likewise, Michigan has two cities in the top ten most populous Polish cities, considering the Polish people had significant contributions toward the history of Detroit. The 6th highest city by proportion of individuals with Polish ancestry is Sterling Heights, Michigan (17.35% reporting Polish heritage). This city now houses the ancestors of many individuals who originally immigrated to Hamtramck, Michigan which also happens to be a city with some of the highest rates of original settlement of Polish individuals during their time of original settlement in the country.
Our next most populous US city by proportion of individuals of Polish heritage is New Britain, Connecticut which has a reported Polish population of 19.9%. Similar to our other cities discussed, this city began to attract a large number of Polish immigrants, so much so that by the 1930s, a quarter of the city’s population was of Polish heritage. A specific street by the name of Broad soon became known as “Little Poland” due to the large number of homes and businesses in a centralized area that reflected the cultural presence of the native country itself. While urban decay led to flight from the area in the mid 1900s, restoration efforts led to another wave of Polish individuals inhabiting the area in the 1980s. To this day, of the 100 businesses on Broad Street, it’s estimated that 70% are owned and operated by Polish Americans, a reflection of a bustling center of ethnic celebration.
Parma, Ohio is designated the 5th most populous US city by proportion of Polish individuals, at 18.1%. A designated area named the “Polish Village” received this name in 2011 at the suggestion of the Polish American Congress due to the large proportion of individuals of the respective heritage. There are currently more than 155 Polish American businesses in the village, which hosts a celebration every year at the beginning of May in accordance with Polish constitution day. While the village is distinguished as a Polish village, the area has a presence of a plurality of ethnic restaurants including Chinese, Indian, and Lebanese establishments which all contribute to the rich ethnic diversity of the area.
Our next city of interest is located within the state of Pennsylvania. The Polish population in Scranton, Pennsylvania proportionally represents 14.8% of the population of the city. Immigration to this area came much later in the 1900s, contrary to the other cities discussed in this article. Individuals came to this area to find work in the coal, steal, and iron industries, however the area had a much longer history of Polish involvement due to the founding of the Polish American Journal in Scranton in 1911.
Our final two cities of focus are of the same state that the first two most populous cities by proportion of Poles were, New York. Amherst, New York reports 13% of the population having a Polish background. While Buffalo, New York reports 11.6% of its population having a Polish background. Similar to the previous 2 New York cities discussed, the state of New York saw large amounts of Polish settlements, in large part due to the immigration inspection facilities that saw literally millions of individuals into the country.