In 1987, with funding from Focus Infinity for a project called “Changing Chicago,” I began photographing in the Polish neighborhoods along Milwaukee Avenue. Initially I shot in commercial places–a bakery, a barbershop–but ultimately the churches and their parishioners captured my interest and held it long past the term of the one-year grant. At church the many groups I had photographed separately came together, often in traditional garb. The people seemed comfortable there, interacting freely and sometimes passionately before and after the service, whether they were socializing or soliciting for a political cause. Once after mass I attended a commemorative program in the basement of Saint Hyacinth Church near Milwaukee and Diversey. The speaker asked the crowd of about 500 to accompany a soprano singing the American national anthem. Only one reedy voice joined her. Then she sang the Polish national anthem and the basement reverberated in a torrent of song.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Richard Younker.