Back Home Polish Chicago Benefit




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


Karen Zupko


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: