By Judy Carmack Bross
Donald Lassere, Co-Chair Iwona Przonak, and Dr. Pawel Zyzak
The Guild of the Chicago History Museum welcomed guests including leaders of two Polish History Museums, one in Warsaw where the exhibition will travel next and Chicago’s own Polish Museum of America, to the opening of Back Home: Polish Chicago. In addition to the more than 90 artifacts and photos featuring Chicago’s vibrant Polish communities from the mid-1800s to today, Peter Alter, the exhibition’s curator who heads CHM’s Studs Terkel Oral History Center, added stories of ancestors and multiple migrations learned as he “sat in people’s kitchens eating a lot of great Polish food, ” he told the audience.
Bernadette Przybycien viewing exhibition
The Lyra Ensemble Quartet
The beautifully costumed Lyra Ensemble Quartet entertained guests with songs of rivers in both Poland and the United States. The evening’s Honorary Chair Dr. Powel Zyzak, Consul of the Republic of Poland in Chicago, added words of welcome as did History Museum President and CEO Donald Lassere. Zyzak spoke briefly about the Solidarity Movement in Poland the Polish diaspora that settled in Chicago. Lassere pointed out that Chicago has the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw. Robert Kostro, who heads the Polish History Museum in Warsaw and brought along an enthusiastic delegation, paid tribute to CHM’s late Curator Russell Lewis who initiated the idea of the exhibition.
Polish History Museum Delegation
Polish History Museum Director Robert Kostro
The multi-faceted program also featured Alter in conversation with Dominic Pacyga, author of multiple books on Chicago’s Polish community, who addressed what it means to be Polish in Chicago. “Polishness comes from inside,” Pacyga said. “It is the way we respect and still love Poland.”
Following the program, guests feasted on Polish dishes including a delicious beet soup called barszcz, goulash and cabbage rolls, with a trio finale of Polish desserts.
Co-Chair Victoria Granacki with the History Museum’s Michael Anderson
Co-Chairs Vanessa Vergara and Joseph Seliga
Co-chairs Iwona Przonak and Guillermo Garcia
The event’s co-chairs Victoria Granacki, Iwona Przonak and Guillermo Garcia, and Vanessa Vergara and Joseph Seliga led a dynamic planning team composed of Connie Barkley, Virginia Cudecki, Guild President Jill Kirk, Erica Meyer, Susie Stein and Lawrie Weed. Granacki movingly saluted her grandmother who arrived at the corner of Pulaski and Western from Poland “with much courage at just 16 years old.”
Ed Weed, Lawrie Weed, John Darrow and Guild President Jill Kirk
Connie Barkley and Susie Stein
Charles Frank and Karen Peters
Lyssa Piette with Michael Anderson
John and Dora Aalbregtse
Rodger and Janet Owen
Sarah McKeown viewing exhibition
For further information on Back Home: Polish Chicago visit: home.chicagohistory.org