What are the themes of post-WW2 Polish immigration to the United States? What was life like for this immigrant community?

  • I am sorry I voted to close even though I made an answer. Here needs some your own research to some extent, and even after that and if there is still question, people tend to ask their question. – user12387 Apr 7 '20 at 21:52

Since I had a girlfriend who was living in Poland for years and I went to Poland too, Poland is a bit familiar to me. So let me make an answer.

The Wikipedia explains,

The history of Poles in the United States dates to the American Colonial era. Poles have lived in present-day United States territories for over 400 years—since 1608. There are 10 million Americans of Polish descent in the U.S. today, making it the largest diaspora of Poles in the world. Polish Americans have always been the largest group of Slavic origin in the United States.

Historians divide Polish American immigration into three "waves", the largest from 1870 to 1914, a second after World War II, and a third after Poland's independence in 1989.

Their life in general was

Most Polish Americans are descended from the first wave, when millions of Poles fled Polish districts of Germany, Russia, and Austria. This group is often called the za chlebem (for bread) immigrants because most were peasants in Poland who did not own land and lacked basic subsistence. The Austrian Poles were from Galicia, unarguably the most destitute region in Europe at the time. Up to a third of the Poles returned to Poland after living in the United States for a few years, but the majority stayed. Substantial research and sociological works such as The Polish Peasant in Europe and America found that many Polish immigrants shared a common objective of someday owning land in the U.S. or back in Poland.

And their motivation to go to the U.S was,

Immigrants in all three waves were attracted by the high wages and ample job opportunities for unskilled manual labor in the United States, and were driven to jobs in American mining, meatpacking, construction, steelwork, and heavy industry—in many cases dominating these fields until the mid-20th century.

But today,

The Polish today are well assimilated into American society. Average incomes have increased from well below average to above average today, and Poles continue to expand into white-collar professional and managerial roles. Poles are still well represented in blue collar construction and industrial trades, and many live in or near urban cities. They are well dispersed throughout the United States, intermarry at high levels, and have a very low rate of language fluency (less than 5% can speak Polish).

For the people of the "second wave", please read the "World War2" part.

Thank you.


Much would depend on the individuals and where they settled. In Chicago there were /are neighborhoods where Polish was the language, where I expect they would be very welcome. On the other hand , Lithuanians moved into our 2-flat in a non-ethnic neighborhood (I was a kid) , they did not talk to anyone ,except "good morning", etc, and no one talked to them. They both worked and in a few years saved enough to but a house and moved ( my parents said).

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