If you want a taste of Poland without booking a flight, you don’t have to venture beyond metro Detroit, where pierogi and paczki are as ubiquitous as Faygo.
Polish culture has been steadily influencing life here since the first major wave of Polish immigrants arrived in the late 1800s, drawn by opportunities to secure jobs building railroads and roadways. By the 1900s, the growth of Detroit’s booming auto industry — particularly the 1910 opening of a Dodge Brothers automobile plant in Hamtramck — drew even more Poles to the region. By the 1920s, about 66 percent of Hamtramck residents were Polish-born. A second heavily populated Polish neighborhood, Poletown East, bordered Hamtramck.
As of 2000, Michigan had the third-largest population of people of Polish descent in America, according to U.S. Census data, with most of that population concentrated in the tricounty area of Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland, particularly in Hamtramck, Sterling Heights, and Troy. NPR reported in a 2017 segment that at its peak, Hamtramck was nearly 75 percent Polish, though the city has grown increasingly diverse.
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