WBEZ | Poland http://www.wbez.org/tags/poland Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Polish Village hopes immigration reform leads to revival http://www.wbez.org/news/polish-village-hopes-immigration-reform-leads-revival-107990 <p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s Polish Village was once a thriving community, with a cluster of old-fashioned delis open during the day and a hopping club scene at night. Visit the retail corridor along northwest Milwaukee Avenue today, and you still see Polish money exchanges, travel agencies and restaurants. But like a lot of ethnic enclaves that were once initial landing pads for immigrants, the neighborhood has seen better days, Now, some in Polish Village believe the area is ripe for revitalization thanks to immigration reform.</p><p>The recently-passed Senate immigration bill contains a provision that would loosen visa requirements for visitors from several countries, including Poland. It focuses on tweaking the Visa Waiver Program, under which visitors from dozens of countries enjoy fast-lane privileges when they visit the U.S. Right now, Poland is not one of them.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Polish%20Village%203_1.jpg" style="float: right; height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="Many businesses in Polish Village sit closed and vacant. Ski’s Lounge, an unassuming bar, is a recent casualty. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></p><p>&ldquo;You have to sink over $100 just to have the chance to maybe come,&rdquo; explained Dan Pogorzelski, Executive Director of the Greater Avondale Chamber of Commerce. &ldquo;You have an interview process and people have said numerous times that they can ask very invasive, very degrading questions when they&rsquo;re waiting.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, Poles hoping to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days pay a $160 non-refundable visa application fee. After that, the U.S. embassy or Consulate in Poland has full discretion to grant or deny a person&rsquo;s bid to come, based on their assessment of how likely the individual is to attempt overstaying the visa illegally.</p><p>In Chicago, loosening those travel requirements could be a boon to the business district that Pogorzelski represents in Avondale.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Polish%20Village%204%282%29.jpg" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="Peter Bacik’s father once owned a successful deli on Milwaukee Avenue in Polish Village. Now he runs one 10 miles north in Niles. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></p><p>&ldquo;Many of these stores have been closing,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and this is certainly one way that these establishments certainly hope that they can revitalize their business.&rdquo;</p><p>In store after store along Milwaukee Avenue, Polish business owners lament the drop in business they&rsquo;ve seen over the last 25 years. &ldquo;Now it&rsquo;s worse. Much less people than before,&rdquo; said Danna Pluta, owner of the Podlasie Club, a dance venue and bar. &ldquo;Three-quarters less people than there were before.&rdquo;</p><p>Pogorzelski and others attribute Polish Village&rsquo;s decline to three factors. First, many Polish immigrants in Chicago moved to the suburbs once they were more established in their lives. Then in 2004, Poland joined the European Union, opening all of Europe to Polish workers. Finally, the Great Recession of 2008 drove many Poles from Chicago back to Poland for a better economy.</p><p>With less Poles moving to the U.S. for work, Pluta hopes a new Visa Waiver Program will boost tourism and help make up for it. &ldquo;She&rsquo;s like please, save this district. This is so beautiful, this location,&rdquo; Pogorzelski translated for Pluta, &ldquo;she asked me to tell you how good it is, and we need to make sure we save this area.&rdquo;</p><p>But it could be dangerous for Pluta and others to place all their hope in tourism. Immigration reform is not a done deal, and the changes to the Visa Waiver Program might get dropped from the bill. Plus, who can say if Polish tourists will even want to come here?</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Polish%20Village%20%28thumbnail%29.JPG" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Many business owners in Chicago’s Polish Village say the neighborhood’s last hope for revitalization may lie with immigration reform. They hope new legislation will make it easier for Polish tourists to come visit their establishments. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></p><p>&ldquo;Really, to be honest, you have to be very realistic and honest with yourself. You&rsquo;re hoping more than anything else,&rdquo; said Peter Bacik, owner of First Choice Bacik Deli. Bacik worries Polish tourists might visit Polish communities in Connecticut and New York before they think about Chicago.</p><p>Bacik&rsquo;s speaking from experience. His father once owned a deli in Polish Village, but it closed when the neighborhood started changing. &ldquo;Nothing lasts forever,&rdquo; said Bacik. He said local business owners shouldn&rsquo;t count on immigration reform to give Polish Village a boost. Instead, they should worry about finding customers who are already here.</p><p>That&rsquo;s what he and his wife did when they opened their own deli about 20 years ago. They&rsquo;re still on Milwaukee Avenue &mdash; but 10 miles north of Polish Village, in Niles.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef</a> and <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud.</a></em></p></p> Tue, 09 Jul 2013 07:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/polish-village-hopes-immigration-reform-leads-revival-107990 Polish community may get travel perk from immigration reform http://www.wbez.org/news/polish-community-may-get-travel-perk-immigration-reform-107412 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Polish visa waivers.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Many in Chicago&rsquo;s Polish community hope immigration reform will finally deliver a travel perk they&rsquo;ve long been seeking: Poland&rsquo;s inclusion on the list of countries who don&#39;t need visas to travel to the U.S. The visa requirement has long been a gripe among many in Chicago&rsquo;s sizeable Polish-American community, who perceive it as a diplomatic slight. They cite Poland&rsquo;s assistance during U.S. military operations (that were otherwise unpopular in the European Union), and wonder why they&rsquo;re among just a handful of European countries excluded from the Visa Waiver Program.</p><p>&ldquo;U.S. citizens are not required (to have) a Polish visa to come to Poland for 90 days,&rdquo; said Robert Rusiecki, Deputy Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago. &ldquo;And over the years when Poland has been a member of NATO, we proved to be a strong ally for the United States and we were everywhere we were required, including Iraq and Afghanistan.&rdquo;</p><p>Ruscieki said Polish tourists to the U.S. should be treated the same as U.S. tourists to Poland.</p><p>To get a tourist visa to the U.S., prospective Polish visitors have to fill out a <a href="http://travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_4401.html" target="_blank">detailed online application</a>, pay a <a href="http://www.ustraveldocs.com/pl/pl-niv-paymentinfo.asp" target="_blank">non-refundable $160 visa fee</a>, and schedule a screening interview at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw or the U.S. Consulate General in Krakow. In many cases, U.S. officials refuse to issue the visa, which means applicants lose whatever money they spent. By contrast, <a href="http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/business_pleasure/vwp/faq_vwp.xml#GeneralInformationontheVisaWaiverProgram" target="_blank">many of Poland&rsquo;s neighboring countries in the EU</a> are exempt from this process. Their citizens are, like all non-U.S. citizens, simply checked at a U.S. port of entry after they get off their plane.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s long overdue to include Poland in the Visa Waiver Program, especially for a city like Chicago, who probably has the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw,&rdquo; said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois). The <a href="http://factfinder2.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/10_SF4/B01003/312M100US169801714000/popgroup~551" target="_blank">City of Chicago is home to more than 175,000</a> people who claim Polish ancestry, but <a href="http://factfinder2.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/10_SF4/B01003/310M100US16980/popgroup~551" target="_blank">roughly 940,000 are estimated to live in the metro region</a>.</p><p>Quigley has introduced the <a href="http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/490" target="_blank">Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act</a>, along with U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Illinois) and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois). The bill is the latest version of previous legislation that he has introduced in Congress. All have aimed to change the Visa Waiver Program&rsquo;s criteria such that they would allow Poland and some other countries to participate&mdash;and so far, all have died.</p><p>&ldquo;I tell my colleagues this isn&rsquo;t your father&rsquo;s Visa Waiver Program,&rdquo; Quigley said. &ldquo;It gives us so much more information, it actually makes us safer.&rdquo;</p><p>Quigley said his previous attempts to change the Visa Waiver Program hit a wall because some legislators worried it could ease the way for dangerous people to gain entry to the U.S. But he said a tighter, post-9/11 system to capture biometric information&mdash;namely, fingerprints&mdash;from people who enter the U.S. has mitigated that threat.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re dealing with countries that we have good relationships with, we&rsquo;re getting information about our travelers that&rsquo;s far better than if we don&rsquo;t have a Visa Waiver Program,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Quigley is also a sponsor of the <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113hr1354ih/pdf/BILLS-113hr1354ih.pdf" target="_blank">Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act</a>, introduced by Rep. Joseph Heck (R-Nevada), which emphasizes projected economic gains from increased tourism to the U.S., should more countries be allowed into the Visa Waiver Program. Proponents of the legislation cite figures from the U.S. Travel Association, projecting an additional $7 billion of revenues from visitors coming from additional countries in the program.</p><p>Some believe a good portion of Polish tourist dollars would be spent right here, in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;People in Poland know about this place,&rdquo; said Dan Pogorzelski, Executive Director of the Greater Avondale Chamber of Commerce, whose members include a number of Polish-American businesses. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to brand this neighborhood as a tourist destination to Poles.&rdquo;</p><p>Several of the same principles behind expanding the Visa Waiver Program are also embedded in Section 4506 of the <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/686529-immigration-border-security-economic-opportunity.html" target="_blank">mammoth immigration reform bill</a> under consideration in the U.S. Senate. Quigley, and others in Chicago&rsquo;s Polish-American leadership, believe the momentum of immigration reform may finally propel the effort forward.</p><p>But a <a href="http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-602T" target="_blank">recent report from the Government Accountability Office</a> suggests a possible snag with how the proposed bills would change the program. Currently, countries may participate in the Visa Waiver Program if they have a combination of low overstay rates and very low refusal rates. Overstay rates are the percentage of people who come to the U.S. from a given country, and then stay beyond the valid period of their visas. The refusal rate is the percentage of applicants from a given country that are denied visas. This can be for a variety of reasons, but often the visa is denied on suspicion that the applicant will try to immigrate illegally to the U.S. by overstaying their visa.</p><p>Quigley and other proponents of expanding the Visa Waiver Program champion the idea of lifting the limit on refusal rates if a country has proven to be a good ally of the U.S. This would effectively get Poland in the door. But it also assumes that the U.S. has a good handle on what the overstay rates are from each country. According to the GAO report, that&rsquo;s simply not the case.</p><p>&ldquo;DHS [Department of Homeland Security] has not yet implemented a biometric exit capability, but has planning efforts underway to assess options for such a capability at airports and seaports,&rdquo; the report states.</p><p>Since 1994, DHS and its predecessors have not reported country-by-country overstay rates, though they have been federally required to do so. The department has yet to persuade airports and airlines to implement a systematic procedure to fingerprint travelers just before they board planes to leave the U.S.</p><p>Last month, that meant DHS had upward of 1 million people that it knew had arrived in the U.S., but could not verify whether they had left. The report notes that five of the nine 9/11 hijackers were people who had overstayed their temporary visas.</p><p>&ldquo;It makes no sense to go forward with this without the data system that we need to serve as a sound basis for judging the readiness of some of these countries,&rdquo; said Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies at the conservative Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, DC. &ldquo;The risk is that if the standards that we set are not high enough, we&rsquo;re going to open up a new avenue for illegal immigration to occur, because people are able to come with the presumption that they&rsquo;re going to be eligible.&rdquo;</p><p>Quigley said he&rsquo;s not concerned about the GAO&rsquo;s report on a leaky visa tracking system.</p><p>&ldquo;The processes are in place to improve it, we think that the numbers will be published,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I think Poland was put at a disadvantage by the old criteria, and it was a different time as well.&rdquo;</p><p>In particular, Quigley and many others point to Poland&rsquo;s 2004 inclusion in the EU as a major turning point. They say now that Poles can move freely around Europe for employment, they&rsquo;re much less likely to attempt a risky illegal move to the U.S.</p><p>But Vaughan said that without precise overstay numbers, it&rsquo;s not clear that Poland&mdash;or any country, for that matter&mdash;would qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, even if legislation passes to expand it.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 10:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/polish-community-may-get-travel-perk-immigration-reform-107412 How the NATO peoples helped settle Chicago, Part 2 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-05/how-nato-peoples-helped-settle-chicago-part-2-99028 <p><p>Today we continue the capsule stories of how people from the 28 NATO countries helped build Chicago. The final part will be posted tomorrow.</p><p><strong>Albania</strong>—Chicago has never had a large Albanian population, and no real Albanian neighborhoods. The most prominent local person of Albanian ancestry was probably comedian John Belushi, who grew up in Wheaton.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ZZ-Albania-St.%20Nicholas.JPG" title="St. Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church--2701 N. Narragansett Ave."></div><p><strong>Croatia</strong>—Because Croatia didn’t become independent until 1991, Chicago’s Croatians were commonly classified as “Yugoslavians.” Most of the local community life was centered around a few parishes, such as St. Jerome’s in Armour Square. Mayor Michael Bilandic and Alderman Ed Vrdolyak are the city’s most famous Croatians.</p><p><strong>Denmark</strong>—Most of the Chicago’s earliest Danish immigrants settled along the axis of Milwaukee Avenue, close to other Scandinavians. By 1910 there were nearly 20,000 Danes in the city, the majority of them located near North Avenue in Humboldt Park. From there the newer generations moved northwest and gradually dispersed.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ZZ-Denmark-Danish%20Home.jpg" title="The Danish Home--5656 N. Newcastle Ave."></div><p><strong>Greece</strong>—Greeks began arriving in the city as early as 1840. By the turn of the 20<sup>th</sup> Century, a thriving community called the Delta was established around the area of Harrison and Halsted. Unlike most other ethnic groups, a large percentage of Greek immigrants remained in America only long enough to make their fortune, then returned to their native land. But enough of them stayed to make Chicago’s Greek settlement one of the country’s biggest.</p><p>Today over 100,000 people of Greek descent live in metro Chicago. During the 1960s, the new University of Illinois campus displaced many residents, and the Greek community dispersed to such areas as Lincoln Square. However, a remnant of the city’s historic Greektown remains on the Near West Side, along Halsted just north of the university. &nbsp;</p><p><strong>Iceland</strong>—In all the years I’ve been in Chicago, I’ve only known one person of Icelandic descent. It was the early 1970s, and she lived near Diversey and Central—which you might say made Cragin the city’s Icelandic neighborhood. If there are any more Icelanders out there, let me know.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ZZ-Norway-Rockne%20%28LofC%29.jpg" style="float: right; height: 339px; width: 250px;" title="A Norwegian immigrant to Chicago: Knute Rockne (Library of Congress)"></div><p><strong>Norway</strong>—Norwegians were among the earliest immigrants to put down roots in Chicago. They lived along Milwaukee Avenue, mainly in Logan Square. By 1900 there were over 40,000 Norwegians in Chicago, including future football legend Knute Rockne. Though the community is no longer concentrated in one area, a Norwegian Constitution Day Parade is staged annually in Park Ridge.</p><p><strong>Poland</strong>—Chicago’s first wave of Polish immigrants started arriving in the 1850s. They settled on the near Northwest Side. St. Stanislaus Kostka parish was founded in 1864, and as more people came, other churches were built. Business, cultural, and political organizations sprang up. The area near Milwaukee and Division became known as Polish Downtown.</p><p>During the 20<sup>th</sup> century, Poles began moving up Milwaukee Avenue toward Niles. Meanwhile, Polish enclaves developed in Back of the Yards, South Chicago, Hegewisch, and other areas. The Poles became the city’s largest ethnic group, and Chicago was said to be "the second biggest Polish city in the world."</p><p>Today the Chicago area counts about 1.5 million people of Polish ancestry. The community has dispersed, though many Poles still live along the Milwaukee Avenue corridor. The Polish Museum of America is located near the onetime Polish Downtown.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ZZ-Poland-family%20group%2C%201907.jpg" title="Polish family group, 1907. (Author's collection)"></div><p><strong>Portugal</strong>—Portugal sent an official delegation to the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Yet as late as 1940 there were only 47 Portuguese residents in all of Cook County. The current metro population is said to be about 3,000.</p><p><strong>Spain</strong>—Though Chicago’s Hispanic community is large, the number of ethnic Spaniards has always been very small. The latest estimate puts the number of Spaniards in the Chicago metro area at about 500.</p></p> Wed, 16 May 2012 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-05/how-nato-peoples-helped-settle-chicago-part-2-99028 Chicago festival highlights evolving Polish cinema http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-08/chicago-festival-highlights-evolving-polish-cinema-93857 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-08/poland1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last weekend, the 23rd annual <a href="http://www.pffamerica.com/tickets.htm" target="_blank">Polish Film Festival of America</a> kicked off in Chicago with the premiere of In Darkness, the new film by Agnieszka Holland. Considered a leading figure in Poland's New Wave, Agnieszka's films include Europa Europa and The Secret Garden.</p><p>Holland came to Chicago for the debut of In Darkness. Worldview film contributor Milos Stehlik sat down with her to discuss the importance of the festival and Polish film.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.pffamerica.com/tickets.htm" target="_blank">The Polish Film Festival</a>, the largest festival of its kind outside of Poland, runs in Chicago and the surrounding area through November 20.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 17:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-08/chicago-festival-highlights-evolving-polish-cinema-93857 Worldview 11.8.11 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-11811-0 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2011-november/2011-11-08/occupy2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As the Occupy movement raises concerns about income inequality, we talk to British epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson, co-author of <em><a href="http://www.bloomsburypress.com/books/catalog/spirit_level_hc_362" target="_blank">The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger</a></em>. His research suggests that people from countries without huge income gaps live longer and generally better lives. And, the new film <em><a href="http://www.pffamerica.com/2011press1_en.htm" target="_blank"><em>In Darkness</em></a></em><em> </em>by acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland tells the unlikely story of a Polish crook who rescues Jews during World War II. It just premiered in Chicago at the Polish Film Festival of America. <em>Worldview </em>film contributor <a href="http://www.wbez.org/contributor/milos-stehlik" target="_self">Milos Stehlik</a> chats with Holland about Polish cinema and why the festival matters.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>You may have heard <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-28/oligarchy-history-how-super-rich-defend-their-wealth-93577" target="_blank">our recent conversation</a> with political economist Jeffrey Winters, who shared his provocative theories on Occupy Wall Street and how the super-rich defend their wealth. Tomorrow, he returns to take your calls.</strong></p></p> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 15:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-11811-0 No progress in Smolensk crash investigation, says suburban woman http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-07/no-progress-smolensk-crash-investigation-says-suburban-woman-92938 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-07/AP110410010026.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than a year ago, a plane carrying Poland’s president and many Polish dignitaries crashed in Smolensk, Russia, killing everyone on board. The airplane was heading to the Katyn Forest to recognize the 70th anniversary of the Russian massacre of 22,000 Poles during World War II. Among the dead was Chicago sculptor Wojciech Seweryn. He’s known locally for his sculpture in a Niles cemetery that honors the Katyn Massacre.</p><p>Wojciech’s daughter, Anna Wojtowicz, also lives in the Chicago area. She says the investigation of the Smolensk plane crash left a lot of unanswered questions. In a recent conversation, Wojtowicz explains her thwarted efforts to find out what happened to her father.</p></p> Fri, 07 Oct 2011 16:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-07/no-progress-smolensk-crash-investigation-says-suburban-woman-92938 Worldview 10.7.11 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-10711 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2011-october/2011-10-07/crimson-autum-ural-tansykbaev-1931.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Thousands of Polish people in the U.S. will vote this weekend in Poland's general elections. Among their presidential choices is a prominent Chicago suburban radio host. WBEZ’s Lynette Kalsnes reports. Also, in 2010, a plane carrying Poland’s president and Polish dignitaries crashed in Smolensk, Russia, killing all on board, including Chicago sculptor Wojciech Seweryn. When trying to reclaim the remains, family members like Seweryn’s daughter, suburban resident Anna Wojtowicz, were sent locked coffins. Wojtowicz tells us about her thwarted efforts to get a full account of what happened in Smolensk. Then, the documentary film <a href="http://www.desertofforbiddenart.com/"><em>Desert of Forbidden Art</em></a> tells of how an entire chapter of art history wound up in an unkempt museum in the Uzbekistan desert. Shortly after the 1917 Russian Revolution, a failed artist named Igor Savitsky began collecting works by some of the Russian avant-garde’s great unknown painters. We’ll speak with the film’s co-directors.</p></p> Fri, 07 Oct 2011 15:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-10711 Prominent radio host runs for office — in Poland http://www.wbez.org/story/prominent-radio-host-runs-office-%E2%80%94-poland-92908 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-06/polish and defamation 015.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cable TV news is already full with coverage of the upcoming presidential race, which happens to be more than a year away still. But for thousands of Chicagoans, one important election season ends this very weekend. Polish people living in the U.S. are voting in their general election Saturday. Among their choices is a prominent suburban radio host.</p><p>Sylwester Skora sits comfortably behind the microphone at WPNA in Oak Park, radio dials at the ready.&nbsp;Skora’s a household name in many Polish circles – he’s hosted a news and information show on the Polish language station for 21 years.&nbsp;He hopes that familiarity will help him win a seat in Poland’s lower house of Parliament.</p><p>SKORA: If you work with five people for 25 years and have a family and a couple of friends, it is not a good beginning for a political career. But if you are a person associated in a different way with many, many people, businesses, organizations, and whatsoever, you are almost in.</p><p><img alt="Candidate Sylwester Skora huddles with his campaign advisers at a Lombard banque" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-07/Poland1.jpg" style="margin: 10px; float: left; width: 325px; height: 217px;" title="Candidate Sylwester Skora huddles with his campaign advisers at a Lombard banquet hall. (Photo by David Pierini)">Skora hopes to follow in the footsteps of other Chicagoans who won office in their native lands. A Hinsdale man who’d fled Lithuania during the Soviet invasion became president of his home country. Another Chicago Polish radio personality, Andrzej Czuma, won a seat in Poland's Parliament and briefly served as Minister of Justice.</p><p>Skora is targeting voters who live outside of Poland, especially here in Chicago.</p><p>SKORA: Polonia does not get enough deserved attention from Poland. We are just mainly the source of economic support. They as our motherland and authorities are not aware of our needs, of our potential, of our expectation, of our pride to be here, a lot of different issues.</p><p>Skora says Poles who’ve worked in both the U.S. and Poland are finding their Social Security benefits cut because of their Polish pensions. He says there are too many restrictions on people who want to invest or do business in Poland.</p><p>SKORA:&nbsp;The solutions which are good for Poles living in Poland are not exactly good for those who live in the United States.</p><p>Skora’s been campaigning all over the region. He rates his chances as good if enough people here register to vote.</p><p><img alt="Sylwester Skora does an interview with Polish TV. (David Pierini)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-07/poland2.jpg" style="margin: 10px; float: right; width: 325px; height: 217px;" title="Sylwester Skora does an interview with Polish TV. (David Pierini)">By Thursday morning, about 12,000 people had done so. Polish Consul General Zygmunt Matynia predicts the numbers will be lower this year. The reason? He says the U.S. economy is weak, and Poles are going back to Poland.</p><p>Matynia says even though Skora lives in the U.S., he can run for office in Warsaw. The Polish Peasants’ Party, which is strong in rural areas, recruited famous Poles living abroad to try to pick up seats in Warsaw.</p><p>MATYNIA:&nbsp;This is some kind of experiment, I would say.</p><p>Skora has to draw strong support in Chicago to have any kind of chance. Yet Matynia says Polish people in Chicago tend to be conservative, and vote the Law and Justice party, not the minority Peasant Party.</p><p>MATYNIA: We will see. They think that Polonia, which is a big Polish Diaspora living abroad, should have representatives in the Parliament. Polonia likes this idea because it means that for Poland living in Poland, (the) Polish Diaspora is important.</p><p><img alt="Sylwester Skora put up campaign literature at a Lombard banquet hall. (David Pie" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-07/poland3.jpg" style="margin: 10px; float: right; width: 325px; height: 217px;" title="Sylwester Skora put up campaign literature at a Lombard banquet hall. (David Pierini)">DOBRZYCKI: It seems no matter where you live in the world, you still have that pull to be back in Poland.</p><p>Mark Dobrzycki directs the Polish National Alliance’s Polish Information Center. He says people in Chicago join regional clubs to provide funding to parish churches and build monuments in their hometowns.</p><p>Voting, he says:</p><p>DOBRZYCKI:&nbsp;It’s an avenue for the individuals who have made America either their homes or the place where they reside to connect with Poland, with their homeland, and this way they’re able to influence &nbsp;what occurs in their country of birth.</p><p>Poles will head to voting booths at the Polish Consulate and in Polish churches and agencies on Saturday.</p></p> Fri, 07 Oct 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/prominent-radio-host-runs-office-%E2%80%94-poland-92908 Polish immigrant recounts her journey to Chicago http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-28/polish-immigrant-recounts-her-journey-chicago-89751 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-28/5067912967_a0a2cc1269_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Regardless of actual status, many immigrants share a common goal – they moved to make a better life for themselves and their families. Writer Karolina Stepek Faraci knew all too well the joy and the pain of starting over. Stepek, now a Chicago resident, shared her story with <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>.</p><p>In the early ‘90s our family lived in coastal Poland, in an old house with no bathroom; only cold water running. We’d use a large electric heater submerged in a bucket to heat up the water. We washed ourselves in an aluminum bowl that stood on a wooden stand in the kitchen. Every Saturday we would bathe in a blue plastic tub that my mom would bring down from the attic.</p><p><br> We peed and pooped in another bucket – this one with a lid that was hidden under the sink, opposite the small kitchen. I dreamt of a real toilet; not typical for a fifteen year old.</p><p><br> My friends’ fathers, they all worked in the West: Berlin, Dusseldorf, Munich. Illegal construction work for the most part, but they also sold vodka, silver and amber out on the streets. But the luckiest ones had families in the States who could send out invitations for them to get visas; a golden key to the Eden on Earth: America.&nbsp; Living in damp basements, they ate nothing and saved everything. And it didn’t matter that their pride was all damaged; they were post-communist, Eastern Block peasants; half humans, half-creations of the former system of terror and dictatorship, now made to serve the capitalists. It didn’t matter because the deutche marks and American dollars tasted sweater than strawberries picked at dawn.<br> There was nothing in Poland: no jobs, no money, no prospects. The collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which ended the Communist era in Europe, had brought the wealth of the West a little closer but it was far from peachy-keen. There were Snickers and Marlboro cigarettes in stores now, but no one had money to buy it. It was like licking a lollipop through a Plexiglas.</p><p><br> The money my father brought home as a fisherman didn’t get us far. But he was too proud to serve the capitalists, as he’d say, “I thought he was either too lazy or too drunk” because he was always against the communists.</p><p><br> He would say, “I’m never going to work for capitalists! Never!” And then he would pick the remote control and turn the volume up, as this was the end of discussion. My mother, who every night sat at the chair across from him, would bark, “You dumbass! You alcoholic!” and then she’d light up a cigarette and walk away to the kitchen where she’d toss pots and pans, making noise.</p><p><br> I dreamt of nothing but to escape this place. Escape to the almighty, colorful, neon-lit, well-fed America, where people are happy, have jingle bell-like laughs, and strong, white teeth and smell like fabric softener. I dreamt I’d leave the coastal hole behind me with the stench of half-digested alcohol on my father’s breath; leave behind my nerve-wracked, chain-smoking mother, who no longer remembered how to speak calmly to anyone; my little sister who would still wet her bed, traumatized from the night my father beat my mother with a leather belt in front of us.</p><p><br> I dreamt of it all, not knowing that eight years from then I would be waving goodbye to my mom, my aunt and my uncle from an ascending escalator at the Frederic Chopin Airport in Warsaw to take my very first flight ever—flight to America. They looked up at me and I looked down at them, and this was the picture my memory preserved until six years later when I got the ultimate golden ticket – the Green Card – and saw them again on the Polish soil.</p><p><br> I live in Chicago now; torn between the place where I no longer belong and a place where I never will. But every time I speak to my grandmother on the phone, she says, “Stay, dziecko; stay. It is just easier to live there.” And I stay.&nbsp; Because she’s right: Where else in the world would I be able to purchase a plain ticket overseas with two-weeks worth of babysitting? Even now my father says working for capitalists isn’t that bad.</p></p> Thu, 28 Jul 2011 13:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-28/polish-immigrant-recounts-her-journey-chicago-89751