POLISH-AMERICAN COMMUNITY IN SEATTLE
White and Red in Emerald City
For over a century, the vibrant Polish-American community of the Pacific Northwest has been contributing to the local fabric of society while vigorously supporting their homeland throughout its turbulent history.
Over 125,000 residents of Washington State claim Polish ancestry; around 5,000 Poles live in the Seattle area. It may not sound like a lot, but their level of energy and initiative compensates for the numbers.
The oldest local organization, the Polish National Alliance Lodge 156 in Tacoma, was established in 1890 and is still going strong. Other notable organizations from that period were the PNA lodge in Wilkeson and in Seattle, founded in 1899, and the first Polish parish established in Tacoma in 1890. In Seattle, the Polish parish began to form in the 1980s, and was eventually established in 1992.
The first Polish Hall was established in today’s Ballard neighborhood in 1906 and quickly proved to be too small for the growing community. In 1918, the Polish Home Association was created to procure a larger hall, which, after fundraising and a remodel, opened in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in 1920.
The hall, named “Dom Polski” (Polish Home), has been a cornerstone of Polish life in Seattle ever since. After a recent expansion and creation of a new wing to modernize the facility, the Polish Cultural Center, as it was renamed, is still going strong into the 21st century. It serves, as it has been for almost a century, as a place for meetings, celebrations, dances, and festivals for Poles and their friends in the community.
The center provides a home to a choir, a library, and many other organizations that hold their meetings and celebrations there. The boy and girl scouts, book, poetry, and dance clubs meet there on a regular basis. The stage and ballroom welcome not only local dance groups or cabaret performances but also famous visiting guest artists and politicians. The school at the Polish Home has been offering evening Polish language classes to children and adults for the past several years. To accommodate families living on the east side of Lake Washington, another school opened in Bellevue.
For nearly 50 years, the Ladies’ Auxiliary has been organizing the popular Fall and Spring bazaars that bring faithful supporters to the Polish Cultural Center from all over the area. The organization supports many initiatives and community events throughout the year with funds, volunteering, and great homemade food. The Ladies’ Auxiliary have also published a cookbook and organized arts and crafts workshops.
The Seattle-Gdynia Sister City Association (SGSCA), committed to sharing and promoting business, cultural, and academic exchanges between the two cities, has been cooperating with the city of Gdynia for over 25 years. The organization has been awarded many honors for its achievements, including the Best Overall Program, 2006 and 2011, as well as Best Single Project, 2010 for its work with Gdynia Business Week. SGSCA is the organizer and sponsor of the Seattle Polish Film Festival, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Polish language has been taught at the University of Washington for 60 years. To ensure that this tradition continues, a group of volunteers established the UW Polish Studies Endowment Committee (UWPSEC). The organization is raising funds to establish the Chair of Polish Studies, sponsors a Distinguished Polish Speakers Series, provides student scholarships, attracts Fulbright scholars to the UW, and builds partnerships with community organizations.
The Polish Home Foundation (PHF) is a non-profit organization that promotes Polish heritage in the Pacific Northwest by sponsoring local events involving Polish culture and arts and by assisting Polish-American organizations in the area. During the last decade, it raised funds to make improvements to the 100-year-old building hosting the Polish Home and provided financial and organizational assistance to cultural and art events. Most famous is the annual Pierogi Fest at the Polish Cultural Center. Building on this success, this year, the PHF produced and sponsored the first-ever Polish Festival at Seattle Center, an event enthusiastically received by the city of Seattle.
The Polish-American Chamber of Commerce Pacific Northwest (PACCPNW) promotes Polish-American industry, entrepreneurship, and innovation. With the mission to facilitate cooperation and exchange between Polish and American businesses, it promotes economic development, hosts trade delegations, and holds seminars related to business opportunities between Poland and the Pacific Northwest. The chamber builds partnerships with local organizations and raises support for important issues, such as the visa waiver program for Poles.
To keep the community and public informed about current events in Poland and in the local Polish community, Seattle Polish News reaches over a thousand recipients via internet every week. The PHA publishes a quarterly magazine, Nasz Dom, and an internet podcast, Radio Wisła, keeps subscribers informed about events in the community and in Poland.
The Polish-American community in the Pacific Northwest is well represented among the ranks of Boeing, Amazon, and Microsoft. Polish scientists and professors teach at local universities and work in the medical industry. Many small businesses and companies owned by Poles are spread across the region. Over the years, we have seen an amazing impact made by Polish men and women pursuing their dreams and passions, and carrying on their culture of courage, honor, hard work and tradition.
For some of us, Seattle has been home for decades and for others only a few years. No matter how long we have lived here, we continue our predecessors’ tradition of contributing to our Polish and American culture. We love our city of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest – the climate, the majestic nature, the appreciation of education, science, technology, music and art – which remind us of our home country.