A Polish “Miasteczko” in America, “Little Poland” in New Britain, Connecticut – traveling during the 4th of July weekend.
By Małgorzata Margo Schulz
It is an American tradition to travel the long weekends, like Independence Day. This 4th of July weekend “Little Poland” in New Britain, Connecticut is a place to visit to reconnect with your Polish heritage.
In the late 19th Century, Polish immigrants started arriving in New Britain in large numbers to begin new lives working in the city’s many factories. Consequently, by 1930, one-quarter of the city’s population was of Polish ancestry. The majority settled in and around the Broad Street area, near Sacred Heart Church, and set up homes and businesses that created a strong cultural, social, and religious community. Just about a mile long, this section of Broad Street became known by residents as “Little Poland.”
As the 20th century progressed and factories closed or moved out of the city, urban decay took hold of the area and by the 1980s Broad Street became a place many avoided.
By the late 1990s, The Broad Street area became safer due to more police presence.
A new wave of immigrants from Poland established businesses in the people who settled on Broad Street neighborhood. Approximately 100 retail stores, restaurants, and professional offices.
In 2008 the city of New Britain officially designated the Broad Street area “Little Poland.” Recently, the city allocated millions of dollars to improve the Broad Street’s infrastructure, like historical markers to inform visitors about the neighborhood’s history.
Polish Chicago, Polish Green Point, Brooklyn New York City and Little Poland in New Britain Connecticut all evoke aspects of Poland.
When I arrived in New Britain last month for the Little Poland festival, I felt like I was in “miasteczko”, a little Polish town.
On the first Sunday of June, the 9th edition of the New Britain Polish Festival took place
Thousands of people came to taste Polish food, listen to live music, see performances of Polish dance groups, and spend time with family and friends.
Local and State elected officials participated in the Festival. New Britain Mayor Erin E. Stewart welcomed everybody. United States Senator Richard Blumenthal and Connecticut’s Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz delivered speeches which described the achievements of the Nutmeg State’s Polish Americans. Readers recall that Polish, with Portuguese, Spanish, and English are the official languages of Connecticut.
Robert Stefanowski, who is running for governor visited booths and spoke to his future constituents. Connecticut Congresswoman Jahana Hayes was present.
The event was opened by the organizer, Katarzyna Nowak, who welcomed guests, among whom was Adrian Baron, an attorney from New Britain.
There were over seventy exhibitions at the festival, with attractions for adults and children. New Britain has one of the largest concentrations of Polish Americans in America. Approximately 100 companies provide services to the residents of New Britain’s “Little Poland”
The festival was organized by the ‘Polonia Business Association, and The Association of Polonia Entrepreneurs. All enjoyed the performances of: The Polonia Chór Paderewskiego (Polonia Paderewski Choir), the Teatr Novum, the Dance Group of the Polish Language Supplementary School of New Britain, the RBO Polka Band, and the Folk-Dance Ensemble “Polanie.” Not only Poles, but many Americans came to the festival. A resident of New Britain praised the festival and told me: “I live in New Britain and I am delighted, I am on Broad Street several times a week, my friend lives here, and I like Polish food very much.”
Some came from neighboring states, like Adrian Cieplinski, who is Grand Marshal of the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut General Pulaski Memorial Parade Committee, which is preparing our march up Fifth Avenue in New York City this October: “I am very grateful that Polish culture is cultivated in the USA. I was born and raised in Connecticut and appreciate the Polish traditions which I strongly support. I value my heritage and my upbringing; I am very happy to be here, especially after the pandemic break. We are looking forward to this year’s Pulaski parade in New York, which will take place in October,” said Cieplinski.
A tourist from Florida said: “I’m here on vacation and my favorite Polish food is dumplings and potato balls.”
The second and third generations have not forgotten their Polish roots. They are proud that America and Poland are partners in freedom.
“We’re having a lot of fun, I was born and raised in America, and. I currently live in East Hampton, but I came here because I still cultivate Polish traditions, especially during the holidays,” said a granddaughter of Polish immigrants.
Sources: Photo credit Małgorzata Margo Schulz
History of New Britain portal.