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Following immigrants back to Poland

The Polish have long been one of the largest immigrant groups in Chicago. They worked in the stockyards and steel mills, and helped make Chicago the city it is today. And so when a Chicago Tribune editor heard Polish immigrants had begun to move back to Poland, nearly everyone agreed that we would have to write a story.

The assignment would take Tribune photographer Zbigniew Bzdak and me all the way to Krakow, Poland, where three friends who had come to the United States in the 1990s had returned to re-establish new lives. My story about their journey appeared in Sunday's Chicago Tribune.

After weeks of reporting both in Poland and in Chicago, the assignment left me with a deep respect for how global economic trends shape the lives of thousands of people and lead them to make decisions that have profound impacts on, not only their lives, but the lives of their families.

For decades, Poland’s weak economy meant parents in Poland would have to say goodbye to their children, who crossed an ocean to find opportunity in America.

Now, one woman I wrote about, Monika Nowak, has returned to Poland.

She lives in the same apartment building as her parents, brings them their newspaper every day, and makes sure that they are OK. All of this is possible because Poland’s economy has been on the rise.

Monika’s mother didn’t speak much English, but when I asked her how she felt about her daughter coming home, she smiled wide and said: “Very, very happy!”

-- Colleen Mastony

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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