Women and Leadership Archives Celebrates Polish American Heritage Month 

President of the Polish American Librarians Association Ewa Barczyk discussed her book at Loyola during a Women and Leadership Archives event.

Loyola hosted Ewa Barczyk, editor of the book “Footprints of Polonia: Polish Historical Sites Across North America” Oct. 24 to celebrate Polish American Heritage Month and American Archives Month.

The event, held in McCormick Lounge in Coffey Hall, included Barzyk’s presentation, discussion, refreshments, a 50/50 raffle and guest gift bags. 

The event was sponsored by the Women and Leadership Archives, University Libraries and Branch Z-211 of the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association. The event was also in collaboration with Bozena McLees, head of the Polish studies department and University Libraries.

The book highlights Polish monuments, churches and other Polish sites across North America — covering 47 states, Canada and Mexico — from information she received from over 200 volunteers, according to Barczyk.

“I did think that once it’s published I’m done,” Barczyk said. “I didn’t realize that all of the sudden it’s getting a lot of book reviews, various publications, and I’m getting requests to come and speak. So I guess it’s taken on a second life.”

Barczyk said she was born to Polish parents and is president of the Polish American Librarians Association and emerita associate provost at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Barczyk is a 1971 Loyola alum who studied psychology and Italian. 

Barczyk said she started this project of the book at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic about three and a half years ago. A smaller, older version of the book had existed but is outdated and no longer in print, according to Barczyk.

Emily Reiher, director of the Women and Leadership Archives at Loyola, said she invited Barczyk to speak in celebration of October being National Archives Month and Polish American Heritage Month. 

“Tonight’s event is really about celebrating Polish culture and also Polish history,” Reiher said. “What better way to celebrate Polish American Heritage Month and National Archives Month than to have this kind of event together?”

Barczyk said she wants Polish descendents to care and attend to their heritage.

“For Polish people, I hope that they have pride in their heritage when they see what their predecessors have created,” Barczyk said. “And also make sure it’s in good condition and then take a look at who’s not represented.”

In discussion with Barczyk and the crowd, the vital role of Polish people in the history of the United States was highlighted.

“Poles were here before Chicago was even established,” Trela said. “Poles really were essential in building up Chicago.”

While Barczyk’s book doesn’t focus solely on Polish women’s contributions, her presentation did because of her collaboration, she said. She said sees Polish-American women as underrepresented.

The Women and Leadership Archives houses collections from the Polish Women’s Alliance of America, part of which were displayed at the event as historical pictures on the wall and copies of translations of the Polish Women’s Voice on the tables, according to Reiner.

“We wanted to be able to take those collections between some of the collections that we have here and some of the work that Ms. Barczyk has done with her work,” Reiher said.

This event was open to the public as well as the Loyola community. Marin Burke, a graduate student studying public history, said she attended to celebrate her Polish ancestry. 

Antoinette Trela, a branch secretary for the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association, said her group has been jointly working with the Women and Leadership Archives since 2006.

“We can’t tell you how blessed we are, because we see what they have done, and we have done our part with funding to preserve our legacy,” Trela said. “We couldn’t have found a better partner.”

At the end of the event, the prize raffle and 50/50 were drawn. All profits went to the Women and Leadership Archives and the Polish Women’s Alliance of America. Over $250 was raised from the event, according to an email sent out by the Women and Leadership Archives following the event.

Trela said she got all of the traditional Polish prizes including glass and cloth from an open market in Krakow, Poland called Sukiennice.

Featured Image by Ryan Pittman / The Phoenix

Zoe Smith

Zoe Smith