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Little Poland


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Jackowo (pronounced yak-sko-vo) means "the neighborhood of Hyacinth," referring to Saint Hyacinth Church at 3636 W. Wolfram. Bounded by Wrightwood, Belmont, Kimball, and Cicero, the neighborhood pulses most along Milwaukee Avenue. Walk that thoroughfare from Diversey to Belmont and you may not hear a word of English, even though the area has gone from nearly 100 percent Polish in 1975 to about 65 percent today (most of the newcomers are Latino). Go into any of the delis--Staropolska, Senkowski's, Andy's, or Bacik's, or the Orbit Restaurant, or any of the taverns--and you may find communication difficult if you don't speak Polish.

Outside, strolling vendors hold up film or medication, announcing, "Kodak, Kodak" or "Advil." Others peddle music tapes, watches, or lingerie from stations on the sidewalk.

Friends greet each other warmly, smiling. "They look upon this neighborhood as the little village from which they came, ignoring the rest of the city, working with other Polish people, and depending on the local agencies to whom they can speak Polish," a recent immigrant remarks.

On Sunday mornings church is so well attended that latecomers stand outdoors during mass. Afterward hundreds of parishioners linger outside, chatting.

One Sunday a man invites me to join his family for a luncheon celebrating his tenth wedding anniversary. "Is very hard," says his wife. "My husband is tuck-pointer during day, and I work factory at night. Then I come home six o'clock, fix children breakfast, send to school before I go to bed."

"She sleeps like a rabbit," says her husband. "You know how rabbit sleeps? Like this--with one eye open," he says, winking.

"I have to watch the two-year-old so she don't do nothing," she says, then lapses into Polish. "To nie jest letko, pan" (it is not easy, mister).

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Richard Younker.

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