50 wards in 50 Weekdays: 36th Ward’s Eliza Puchalski just wants a stoplight

June 29, 2012

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Eliza Puchalski stops with her mother at a yard sale. She's not buying what they're selling.

Updated at 9:57 p.m.

The Irving Woods neighborhood is a nice, quiet place for Eliza Puchalski to take her children for a walk. But she has a problem, and you know that if this is a problem for Puchalski, it’s a problem for others, as well.

 

"When I want to cross the Irving Park [Road], there is no stoplights and the cars are driving like crazy,” Puchalski says. “So I have to wait with [my] children for like 10 minutes, 20 minutes.”

“I call the city [a] few times, but no response,” she says about her hopes for a stop sign or stoplight. “It would help, because…I am mother of four children and when they take the bikes, you know, it’s dangerous to cross the street.”

Her kids and her family are clearly important for Puchalski, as is her Catholic faith. When I ask her what she likes in her neighborhood, her answer is her church.

 

“The St. Francis Borgia Church. They have Adoration Chapel, [which] means they have Blessed Sacrament [from the early morning] to 11 p.m., so [it’s open] whenever you feel like to go and rest and be in peace,” she says. “I am a Catholic so…I believe that Jesus is present there. So I may really rest there. It’s wonderful place.”

Puchalski met her husband through a different church in the city, and they moved to Irving Woods. They met in Chicago, but are both from Poland.

“I finished my [economics] master’s degree in Poland and I came here,” Puchalski says. That was 1996. “I start working and then I start a family, and I am hoping I will get back to work.”

She is also hoping to get back to Poland. When I ask how she feels about Chicago, she pauses.

 

“If I could, I would go back to my country,” she says, laughing. “Especially, I don’t know…I like the trees, flowers, you know, in my country. It’s kind of sentimental value for me.”

But her husband likes it here. So do her kids, a point driven home on a family trip to Poland.

“When we went for vacation, they were asking, ‘When are we going back home?’ I am asking, ‘What home?’ ‘To Chicago,’ [they replied]. So, they were born here and they like it here.”

We are chatting at a yard sale in the neighborhood, which Puchalski stopped at for the benefit of her mother, who is visiting from Poland.

 

“I prefer to go to outlets,” she laughs. “To buy new things and, you know, because when I buy something [used], then I throw it away and it’s not – for me, it’s not worth it.”

I ask Puchalski about local politics, and she says she has no interest. She sees no difference no matter who Chicago’s mayor is, but does have a message for politicians – Rahm Emanuel or any others.

 

“I want them to focus on family values,” Puchalski says. “I would like the [politicians] to focus on this…’cause it’s getting crazy about this education in school, about this sexual education in school. The kids are small. We want to transmit them our values. And it’s getting really odd.”

Puchalski chuckles a bit, but she’s serious. Serious about her faith, and serious about that stoplight.