During the late nineteenth century, Polish Ohioans established the community of Warszawa in Cleveland, Ohio. Today, this community is known as Slavic Village.
In 1900, fewer than ten thousand Polish immigrants resided in Ohio. By 1920, their numbers had soared to 67,579 people. Most of these Poles settled along Lake Erie, especially in Cleveland, where they found low-paying jobs in factories, worked as day laborers, or extracted stone from quarries. Other Poles served as strike breakers during the 1880s. More successful immigrants established businesses that supplied their fellow Poles with traditional Polish products. In Cleveland, the Polish immigrants tended to settle in their own communities, preferring to live among people who shared similar cultural beliefs and spoke the same language as they did. One of these Polish communities was Warszawa. Most of the Polish immigrants were followers of the Roman Catholic Church. In Cleveland, which had forty-nine thousand Polish citizens by 1918, the Poles established their own Catholic Church in Warszawa. It was known as St. Stanislaus.
Polish immigrants congregated together partly out of camaraderie but also out of fear. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many native-born Americans feared outsiders. Some of these people objected to the immigrants' religious and cultural beliefs, while others believed that the foreigners would corrupt the morals of United States citizens. These people also contended that the quality of life within the United States would decline, as there were not enough jobs to employ the millions of people migrating to America. Many native-born Americans hoped either to limit immigration or to force foreigners to convert to American customs and beliefs. The leaders of this movement were the Progressives of the late 1800s and the early 1900s. To accomplish their goals, the Progressives implemented numerous reforms, including settlement houses, which taught foreigners American practices. The Progressives also called for laws that would either limit or ban the cultural practices of recently arrived immigrants. It would take several generations before the immigrants became truly accepted by the vast majority of white Ohioans.
In 1978, a group of young Polish Ohioans sought to revitalize the community of Warszawa. Now called Slavic Village, Warszawa experienced a surge in population as these Polish Ohioans rehabilitated numerous homes and businesses. By the early 1980s, Slavic Village mirrored many traditional Eastern European communities in culture and architecture. Unfortunately, economic downturns in the 1980s slowed the continued rehabilitation of the community.
- Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.