The secret's out: Harvard Magazine discovers Little Poland

Published on Tuesday, 13 March 2018 19:16


NEW BRITAIN - “On a recent visit to Broad Street, the heart of New Britain’s ‘Little Poland,’ not a word of English was heard,” writes Nell Porter Brown, in Harvard Magazine.

“Customers lined up for kielbasa at Krakus Meat Market or for blintzes and cukierki czekoladowe (chocolate candies) at Polmart, and the crowd at Kasia’s Bakery buying babka and puffy donuts called paczki all spoke Polish,” she writes.

The magazine featured New Britain in its March-April edition, headlined “Hidden Treasures, New Britain’s ‘Little Poland’ and Museum of American Art.”

Brown describes the city as “a Colonial-era settlement” that “rose to prominence as a manufacturing center, dubbed the “Hardware City’” in the mid-19th century.

She describes how Poles began arriving in the late 1800s and joined other immigrants working in the booming factories, along with their influence on the city. Brown delves into the roots and mission of the New Britain Museum of American Art and Walnut Hill Park.

However, her article focuses heavily on the city’s role as the Polish cultural center for New England, quoting Adrian Baron, president of the Polonia Business Association, on how the neighborhood has undergone revitalization in the past 20 years.

She explores how Little Poland is thriving in an age when many ethnic neighborhoods that formed during immigrant waves of the past are gone, and how it has inspired current newcomer groups to establish new ethnic enclaves.

New Britain Latino Coalition chairman Carmelo Rodriguez describes New Britain as “a melting pot of cultures,” with “Polish and Central and South Americans, and Laotians and Vietnamese and Yemeni. You name it, we got it. We have seen the fruits of their hard work in Little Poland, and it’s awesome. We are all proud of each other here. It’s not about competitions.”

In the article, former Mayor Lucian Pawlak talks about spearheading renovation and eradicating gang activity in Little Poland during his time in office, from 1995 to 2003.

“He and Baron agree the still emerging transformation has hinged, in large part, on a loyal base of second- and third-generation Polish Americans (and recent immigrants) who patronize the professional businesses, markets, and restaurants - like Belvedere Café, Staropolska, and Polonia Taste - even after they move to nearby communities,” Brown writes.

Brown describes the annual Little Poland Festival (on April 29 this year), “where performances by Polish polka, rock, and jazz bands, by the Polish Language School, and by traditional singers and dancers from southern Poland, among others, now draw thousands of people.”

She closes with Pawlak’s account of arriving in New York Harbor as a boy with his émigré parents in 1956. Knowing no English, they made their way to New Britain where the family had a sponsor, and in a classic immigrant story got their start in America living in a two-family house with eight other families.

To read the full article, visit

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Tuesday, 13 March 2018 19:16. Updated: Tuesday, 13 March 2018 19:19.